As I sat down to start “predicting” what the Bears’ 53-man roster would be when final cuts are made in the next few days, it occurred to me that it’d be more worth my time to assemble my 53-man roster if I were in general manager Phil Emery’s shoes.
While it’s possible to come close to picking the exact final roster the Bears end up with, it’s also impossible to know what the organization is thinking about the health of Earl Bennett following rumors of trade speculation for the concussed receiver. Or what they’re thinking about recently-signed quarterbacks Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards. Or what the new coaching staff feels about last year’s third-round pick, safety Brandon Hardin.
So, without further ado, here is what my selection of the 53-man roster would look like.
(3) Jay Cutler, Josh McCown, Jordan Palmer/Free Agent
I know that Marc Trestman is considered the “Quarterback Whisperer” and that he’s even stated he’d like to keep three quarterbacks so that he might be able to develop one behind starter Jay Cutler. I’m not so sure that either Palmer or Edwards is the answer. We’ll get a better idea after the Browns game, I guess. But expect a third quarterback on the opening-day roster, perhaps from outside the organization.
(4) Matt Forte, Michael Bush, Michael Ford, Tony Fiammetta
Forte is going to have a big year for the Bears and Bush will have his goal line and short-yardage opportunities. I really like what I’ve seen from Ford with his special teams performance and his moves out of the backfield. I think he has more upside than Armando Allen, who just hasn’t shown me much this preseason and has battled a hamstring injury. Fiammetta is on the bubble with me. He’s shown some promise with some solid blocking at times but he could easily be expendable.
(3) Martellus Bennett, Steve Maneri, Kyle Adams
The Black Unicorn (or Orange Dinosaur), Bennett, has not shown much in three games in the preseason and had problems holding on to the ball last week against the Raiders. But he’ll be a weapon during the regular season. Maneri is the blocking tight end of the bunch. The battle comes down to the #3 spot where Adams and Fendi Onobun are battling it out. It really comes down to whether the roster needs another blocker or another set of hands. I’d prefer to go with the latter and keep Adams.
(6) Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Earl Bennett, Eric Weems, Joe Anderson, Marquess Wilson
This is one of the most intriguing roster battles on the team, and also a position filled with uncertainty. Marshall has made headlines this week for interesting comments he made about his role in this offense and his health, prompting the Bears to give him until Sunday off. I have a small concern about the health of his hip, but I think he’s going to be just fine. Jeffery is primed for a big second year and will create a matchup problem for opposing defenses. Bennett is the wild card here. The team reportedly looked to trade him this week … was that a sign that they’re looking to cut him and wanted to try to get something for him first? He’s had a history of concussions and there’s concern he might not return. But if he can resume playing, he’s a solid #3 receiver. Eric Weems is a dependable veteran primarily as a special teams player. Joe Anderson was the talk of training camp but hasn’t flashed much since. I feel he’d be the most expendable of the bunch, but he’s worth keeping for his special teams ability and upside. And as for the rookie Wilson, he has too much potential to dump because he won’t make it back to the practice squad. Some other team would pick him up.
(8) Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza, Kyle Long, Jordan Mills, James Brown, Jonathan Scott, Edwin Williams
The starting five has looked pretty solid this preseason, for what that’s worth. Bushrod is a cornerstone on the left side of the line with veteran Slauson anchoring in next to him. Garza has been a reliable, consistent starter for many years. Long has been the surprise of the preseason — pretty much around the league. Teams have taken notice with how well he’s settling into his role as a rookie starter. And Mills could have a good future as a solid pro as long as he can adjust to what defenses will throw at him. Brown is a solid guard and worth keeping around. Scott is a veteran and can play both tackles and he’s much more valuable to the team than J’Marcus Webb. And Williams would be the ideal backup center to Garza and he can also play either guard position.
(9) Julius Peppers, Henry Melton, Stephen Paea, Corey Wootton, Shea McClellin, Nate Collins, Cornelius Washington, Cheta Ozougwu, Zach Minter
With two Pro Bowlers on the line and a budding playmaker in Wootton, the Bears ought to be solid up front. Paea really needs to take the next step this year and use his brute strength to cave in the middle of opposing offensive lines. Nate Collins is a solid inside pass rusher and McClellin is a nice change of pace end in passing situations. Washington and Minter, end and tackle, respectively, are both intriguing prospects. Washington has raw skills and needs to fine-tune them but has potential. Minter has flashed some abilities in the preseason and I like him better than the other tackles vying for a roster spot. Ozougwu, last year’s training camp darling, still has some good pass rushing skills and is intriguing.
(6) Lance Briggs, Jon Bostic, James Anderson, Khaseem Greene, D.J. Williams, Blake Costanzo
Briggs is now the leader of the defense without Urlacher, a role he’s wanted for years. I think Anderson is going to be a better player for the Bears than Nick Roach was last year. The success of the defense will really depend a lot upon how rookie starter Jon Bostic fares. The other rookie backer, Greene, has played really well this year and has a good future with the team if he can continue developing. Williams has been out all training camp and presumably lost his starting job to Bostic, but he’s a talented playmaker and will fill in nicely if needed. Costanzo is the special teams ace.
(5) Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Isaiah Frey, Zack Bowman, Sherrick McManis
What more could you ask for than last year’s NFC Pro Bowl starting cornerbacks? Both are playmakers, Tillman with his ball punch and Jennings with his strong ball skills the past few years. Frey, the second-year corner, has had a great training camp and solid preseason. He’ll get the look at nickel back and let’s hope he holds down the fort as well as D.J. Moore used to. Bowman is a strong backup cornerback and McManis is a contributor on special teams.
(5) Chris Conte, Major Wright, Craig Steltz, Anthony Walters, Brandon Hardin
Conte is really developing at free safety and is becoming a playmaker and leader back there. Wright scares me at times with his tackling and his injury past, but he’s been a dependable starter at strong safety. Steltz is a solid veteran backup and Walters has flashed ability to contribute if thrown into the fire because of injury. And here’s where differences could develop with my opinion and the Bears’. I like Brandon Hardin and I’m not ready to give up on him yet. If it were up to me, I would keep him around and continue to develop him. But I think the Bears see him differently and he might not stick around.
(4) Devin Hester, Robbie Gould, Adam Podlesh, Patrick Mannelly
Hester officially moves from the receiver depth chart to “specialist.” That’s where he’s belonged all along, actually. I think in a limited role, he should have a great rebound season as a returner. Gould is fighting to feed his apparently large, starving family this season and the accurate kicker should have a great season. I need to see more out of Podlesh as he’s been somewhat a disappointment as the replacement for the veteran Brad Maynard. And Mannelly has missed time this preseason due to injury but he’ll return and be his solid self.