Chicago Bears Position Battles To Watch for 2013 NFL Season
With the Blackhawks having preserved 2013 from another year without championships, all eyes will turn to the Chicago Bears and the high hopes surrounding their new coaching staff and new roster. One thing that should draw attention in training camp and the preseason are the positional battles, both decide who starts and who makes the roster. Given the fresh eyes up at Halas Hall it figures to come with plenty of unexpected surprises.
Isaiah Frey and C.J. Wilson - Reserve cornerback
No Bears fan wants to talk about next year but it is hard to ignore. No less than five Chicago corners, including Pro Bowlers Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman, could become free agents. That makes solidifying the depth chart with young talent a must for defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. Two names that are sure to garner attention are Isaiah Frey and C.J. Wilson. Frey is a sixth round pick from 2012 who flashed a lot of athletic potential but couldn't crack the roster last season, spending his year on the practice squad. Wilson is an undrafted free agent out of N.C.State who showed a knack for making big plays in college and put up some impressive stats at his pro day before the draft. Coaches like what they've seen from in practice so far too. That means Frey has work to do if he doesn't want to lose his chance again.
Josh McCown and Matt Blanchard - Backup quarterback
Few teams have proven the importance of having a quality backup quarterback quite like the Bears. Every time starter Jay Cutler has gone down over the past three seasons the backup play has looked spotty to horrendous. That is why the ensuing battle between veteran Josh McCown and second-year man Matt Blanchard could get more attention than usual. Blanchard has drawn a lot of interest from fans because of his unexpected rise from a Division III quarterback at Wisconsin Whitewater to legitimate threat to make the active roster. He measures out well with good height, a solid arm and tight spiral. Where improvement is needed is in his mechanics and ability to read defenses. McCown on the other hand is a favorite of Cutler, has experience, mobility and a decent arm. It may come down to who takes in the teaching of head coach Marc Trestman quicker.
Earl Bennett and Devin Aromashadu - Slot receiver
For the first part of the off-season there was really nothing to sniff at as far as interest with the top of the Bears receiving corps. It was basically All-Pro Brandon Marshall on one side, talented second-year man Alshon Jeffery on the other, with Cutler favorite Earl Bennett manning the slot. That mold took an interesting turn when, almost like a squirrel plucking a nut from the ground at night, Chicago scooped up Devin Aromashadu in free agency. He, like Bennett, has a history of success with Cutler back in 2009 and unlike Bennett is taller, faster and more durable. If he gets off to a good start in training camp will the coaches move him up to take over in the slot where everybody thought Bennett was untouchable? Cutler may or may not like it, but if it can help the offense function better than let the battle begin.
D.J. Williams and Jon Bostic - Middle Linebacker
There is no doubt the position every fan, expert and coach will watch in 2013 is middle linebacker. That is the area former All-Pro Brian Urlacher manned for 13 seasons en route to a possible Hall of Fame enshrinement. Whomever replaces him this coming season will unfortunately draw instant comparisons, fair or not. The big question is who will do it. The Bears brought in veteran D.J. Williams from Denver who has played in the middle before with success. It didn't take long for him to get comfortable with the idea of replacing Urlacher when Chicago took Florida linebacker Jon Bostic in the second round of the draft. These two should showcase their talents throughout the off-season and it will come down to who makes more plays (or stays healthy).
Kyle Long and James Brown - Right guard
Normally guards don't get the attention from fans or media simply because of the position they play. It is not that glamorous nor bathed in stats. Yet the reality is it could prove highly interesting since the Bears made Oregon guard Kyle Long their first overall pick. Experts questioned the pick not because of potential but experience. Long only started four games for the Ducks in 2012. People want to see if he can send a message by earning the starting right guard job heading into the season, what with veteran Matt Slauson slotted for the left side. That said, somebody is out to spoil the fun. James Brown, an undrafted free agent last season who eventually became a starter has made an early statement in minicamps, impressing coaches with his development. If that continues Long may have to view his first NFL season from the bench. Then again, if his athletic potential is as high as believed, that won't happen.