Some of the offseason pieces have started to fall into place and the Chicago Bears roster is starting to take shape. Of course, there could be a few more free agent pickups, but they’re unlikely to be the big name, impact type of players. The draft is also less than a month away and Bears fans hope that Phil Emery can add a few vital pieces but for the most part, I think there are enough of the key cogs in place to project the Chicago Bears 2013 starters. Let’s start with the offense:
Quarterback – Jay Cutler
Duh. I’ll start off with a no-brainer. This is a make or break season for Cutler. The Bears brought in renowned quarterback guru Marc Trestman to work with Cutty and see if he can get the most out of him. It’s worth noting that the only other QB presently on the Bears’ roster is undrafted free agent Matt Blanchard, who earned himself a spot on the practice square with a nice rookie camp. Keep an eye on this position as the offseason progresses.
Running Back – Matt Forte
Forte had a down year by his standards after signing his big free agent deal. Look for big things from him in Marc Trestman’s West Coast offense. Michael Bush will handle the short yardage and goal line duties and could spell Forte if he suffers another untimely injury. Armando Allen will compete for reps as change-of-pace back because the Bears will certainly bring some bodies in for camp.
Wide Receiver – Brandon Marshall
Marshall sets all sorts of Bears receiving records in his first year with the team and expectations are sky high. If he can continue to keep his cool on and off the field, he could have an even bigger year in Marc Trestman’s offense.
Wide Receiver – Alshon Jeffery
It looks like the Devin Hester experiment is over and the second year man is expected to step into the starting role. He had an up and down season in 2012, getting bogged down by injuries and having a really rough outing against the Packers late in the season, but he showed why Emery traded up in the second round to take him. If he can stay healthy, he should have a big year. Earl Bennett could sneak into this spot if Jeffery struggles to pick up the new offense. Eric Weems and Joe Anderson could vie for time when they’re not working on special teams.
Tight End – Martellus Bennett
The Black Unicorn (as he calls himself) will ride at Soldier Field. There are big expectations for the free agent acquisition. He was stuck in the shadows behind Jason Witten in Dallas but emerged into the spotlight in his first season as the top tight end for the Giants. TE is a big position in the West Coast Offense, so look for big things from Bennett. Free agent Steve Maneri was brought in to be primarily and blocking tight end while second year man Evan Rodriguez projects to play more H-back. Kyle Adams will compete for Brodie Eldridge and Fendi Onobun for a roster spot.
Fullback – Evan Rodriguez
Rodriguez projects as the Bears’ starting H-back/fullback. He’ll do a little blocking, he’ll do a little pass catching out of the backfield and whatever he needs to see the field. The 2012 fourth round draft pick was pushed into obscurity in 2012 thanks to the coaching staff’s ineptitude to put together a game plan and wasn’t able to catch passes because he was stuck blocking most of the time when he was on the field. He could be a sneaky contributor in 2013 for Tresty. Maybe Harvey Unga catches on as a fullback?
Left Tackle – Jermon Bushrod
Bushrod was brought in to play left tackle and anchor the Bears’ offensive line. The two-time Pro Bowler offers an immediate upgrade to a position that has struggled for years. There are still some questions about his pass protection, but anyone who can get it done for Drew Brees can’t be all bad.
Left Guard – Larry Warford*
Here’s the lone rookie starter for the Bears offense. I see the Bears going defense (namely Linebacker) in the first round, but Warford would be a great second round selection. He grades out a rung below the Chance Warmack and Jonathan Coopers of the world. He’s known as a mauler and maybe a little slower, so it’s possible he could project better as a right guard but in any case, I don’t believe the Bears’ starting left guard is on the roster today.
Center – Roberto Garza
Garza is on the downside of his career and I feel like his days in Chicago could be numbered, but I’ll pencil him in as the starter if only because I don’t believe his replacement is on the roster yet and since I am projecting a new starter at left guard, I don’t want to count on too many new offensive linemen to step in and start right out of the gate. That said, there are a lot of good centers that the Bears could pick up late in the draft that can be groomed to succeed Garza. Keep an eye on Alabama standout Barrett Jones, who’s coming off foot surgery, in the middle rounds of the draft.
Right Guard – Gabe Carimi
Don’t count the Bear Jew out just yet. Carimi’s meltdown last season was well documented, but by many accounts, he played last season on one leg, never fully recovering from the knee injury that ended his 2011 season before it really began. Carimi played well in spots when injuries forced him into the right guard spot late in 2012. If he is fixable, new OC and O-line coach Aaron Kromer will fix him. It’s possible the Bears could bring back Lance Louis, who blew out his ACL after a cheap shot from Jared Allen, though he might not be ready to go for the start of the season.
Right Tackle – J’Marcus Webb
J’Webb will beat out Carimi and Jonathan Scott to win the right tackle job. I think his drug bust will make him take his job a little more seriously and with a new coaching staff in place, he will have to put his best foot forward in training camp. Webb stepped in as a rookie and played right tackle, so he’s got experience and all accounts say he has the physical tools. For him, it’s all upstairs. I expect it to finally click. If it doesn’t, the Bears brought back Jonathan Scott to compete for the job. James Brown could be a project as well.
So what do you think Bears fans? What did I get right? Where are the weaknesses? How do you like the new look offense?