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Emma's Bears Depth Chart: Competition Will Be Aplenty

By Chris Emma--

(CBS) With their second draft in the books, Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox stood confident in what they accomplished.

While Pace and Fox addressed their draft, there was a common theme, something mentioned with each name and position: competition.

"This is like horse racing," Fox said of the depth chart. "Like I said, it's a fluid process. Right now, I think we've helped build competition between our football (players)."

The Bears may have surprised some with the second-round selection of Kansas State guard Cody Whitehair, though he was deemed to be the best man on the board. Whitehair was seen as a can't-miss pick and a starting guard of the Bears' future. To follow that up, guard Matt Slauson was cut one day later in another surprising move.

Veteran safety Antrel Rolle was also cut that same day, with his replacement looking to be another Miami Hurricane safety, fourth-round pick Deon Bush. Earlier in the offseason, running back Matt Forte was allowed to walk and tackle Jermon Bushrod was also let loose. More cuts could be coming before training camp.

Pace and Fox are building the Bears roster to their vision -- better, younger and more athletic. They've been bold along the way, even going so far as cutting a Pro Bowl-caliber player like Slauson.

Following a busy offseason, the Bears depth chart appears talented and deep enough to contend this season. Pace found ways to revamp the roster he inherited from Phil Emery a little more than a year ago.

What's in store for this Bears team? Let's look at each position.


Starter: Jay Cutler

Reserves: Brian Hoyer, David Fales, Matt Blanchard

Pace claims to have a philosophy to take a developmental quarterback in each draft. So far, he's 0-for-2 in doing so, skipping out on this quarterback class that saw a record 15 selected.

Instead, the Bears solidified their quarterback position by signing the free agent Hoyer to back up Cutler. Now, the Bears have arguably the best backup option in the league, with Hoyer coming off a strong regular season with the Texans in 2015.

The Bears have built their offense around Cutler, even promoting quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains to replace Adam Gase as offensive coordinator. Cutler's the center of this offense in 2016 and a key leader for the Bears, though his long-term future remains in doubt beyond this final year of guaranteed money.

Running back

Starter: Jeremy Langford

Reserves: Jordan Howard, Ka'Deem Carey, Jacquizz Rodgers, Senorise Perry, Paul Lasike

The decorated Bears career of Forte is over. Management allowed the eight-year veteran -- who stands second to only Walter Payton in most rushing categories in franchise history -- to walk away and sign with the New York Jets this offseason. Pace said that the Bears' move was a sign of trust in their young backs.

Now, the Bears move forward with Langford as their feature back and Howard, Carey and Rodgers battling for their backup reps. Still, Langford will have to become a more proven commodity to hold onto that starting role.

Howard was selected in the fifth round of this draft to push Langford for the starting job.


Staters: Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, Eddie Royal

Reserves: Marc Mariani, Josh Bellamy, Marquess Wilson, Cameron Meredith, Daniel Braverman, Deonte Thompson, Derek Keaton, Nathan Palmer, Darrin Peterson, Marcus Lucas

The Bears could have a really good starting trio at receiver, though nobody would know it just yet. Jeffery, White and Royal missed a combined 30 games lat season, with White not playing at all as a rookie.

Still, the Bears enter Fox's second season in Chicago with Jeffery and White planned as the deep threats on the outside and Royal serving as that slot man. All they can hope is for good health.

Chicago attempted to maintain depth with insurance policies, returning Mariani and Thompson while drafting Braverman in the seventh round. The Bears can only hope Cutler has reliable options in some form.

Tight end

Starter: Zach Miller

Reserves: Rob Housler, Khari Lee, Ben Braunecker, Greg Scruggs, Gannon Sinclair, Joe Sommers

Martellus Bennett was dealt to the Patriots in a move that was a long time coming and one that was made realistic in part because they locked Miller up to a two-year deal.

Miller earned his way back to Chicago by taking over that role from the injured Bennett last season, though he has seen an injury-filled career of his own that leaves plenty of questions. The Bears don't have a great backup option behind Miller, with Housler serving as more of a run-blocking option.

Perhaps undrafted free agent signings Braunecker or Sommers, both touted prospects, could become a pass-catching threat, because the Bears need more from that position.


Starters: Charles Leno (left), Bobby Massie (right)

Reserves: Tayo Fabuluje, Martin Wallace, Jason Weaver, John Kling

The Kyle Long project at right tackle appears to be over, despite a Pro Bowl appearance in 2015. The Bears are moving forward with the newly signed Massie at right tackle and Leno at left tackle.

Leno settled into his role at left tackle last season, showing a much greater comfort than when he was forced to the right side. Changes could come at tackle, though the Bears appear to be set for now on each end.


Starters: Cody Whitehair (left), Kyle Long (right)

Reserves: Manny Ramirez, Ted Larsen, Nick Becton, Dan Buchholz

Say goodbye to Slauson, the Chargers' new center, and hello to Whitehair, the Bears' new left guard. That's the move that the Bears elected to make in the second round, trusting the Kansas State standout early in the draft, despite a strong fit with Slauson.

Whitehair will start at left guard and Long at right guard, with solid veteran backup options in Ramirez and Larsen. The Bears are in good shape in terms of depth at guard.


Starter: Hroniss Grasu

Reserves: Manny Ramirez, Cornelius Edison

The pressure's on Grasu, the second-year center out of Oregon. To lock down that starting spot this season, he must be more consistent, because the Bears have a reliable option behind him in Ramirez, though they want him to be a backup, not the necessary starter.

Defensive line

Staters: Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks, Jonathan Bullard

Reserves: Mitch Unrein, Ego Ferguson, Bruce Gaston, Will Sutton, Cornelius Washington, Keith Browner, Terry Williams

The Bears have a solid rotation to be worked up front, with steady competition set to begin. Goldman's the anchor of the line, with Hicks and Bullard likely to take the end roles. Players like Unrein, Ferguson, Gaston and Sutton will battle it out for their places in the rotation.

In short time, the Bears have brought in the kind of athletes whom coordinator Vic Fangio desires on his defensive line.

Outside linebacker

Starters: Pernell McPhee, Leonard Floyd

Reserves: Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, Sam Acho, Roy Robertson-Harris

One of the biggest stories for this offseason, beginning with this weekend's rookie mini-camp, will be how Floyd develops into an NFL edge rusher. The Bears took a chance by taking the Georgia linebacker with the No. 9 pick of the draft, but they believe in what he can do.

If Floyd isn't ready to play, the Bears have good options in Young and Houston to line up opposite McPhee.

Inside linebacker

Starters: Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman

Reserves: Nick Kwiatkoski, John Timu, Christian Jones, Jonathan Anderson, Lamin Barrow, Danny Mason, Don Cherry

Last season, the Bears lined up Jones and Shea McClellin as their starting inside linebackers. This year, it will be Trevathan and Freeman, each massive upgrades at the position. Now, the Bears have one of the best inside duos in football, bringing Fangio's defense two reliable presences.

Kwiatkoski, Timu, Jones and Anderson will battle it out for the chance to be the backups.


Starters: Kyle Fuller, Tracy Porter, Bryce Callahan

Reserves: Jacoby Glenn, Sherrick McManis, Deiondre' Hall, Kevin Peterson, De'Vante Bausby

One of the greatest concerns on this Bears roster comes at cornerback, where Fuller and Porter were both inconsistent last season. There aren't many better alternatives at this weak link position, with Callahan and McManis more suited to be at nickelback. The Bears have to hope for good health.

A rookie out of Northern Iowa, Hall has potential to be a steal at cornerback.


Starters: Adrian Amos, Harold Jones-Quartey

Reserves: Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Omar Bolden, Chris Prosinski, Anthony Jefferson

A fifth-round pick last season, Amos earned his way into a starting role, leading the Bears in tackles and starting each game at safety. Amos hardly missed any snaps. The question is who will be lining up next to him. Jones-Quartey, an undrafted rookie last season, played well enough to get a shot, but Bush and Houston-Carson could push him for the job.

Bolden and Prosinski are capable though would seem better served to primarily be special teams contributors.

Chris Emma covers the Chicago sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.


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