By Dan Pompei, Tribune reporter
9:51 AM CDT, May 1, 2013
What do you envision being the biggest position battles going into training camp? -- @JBiuhoosiers, from Twitter
Interesting question. Despite the fact that the Bears have a brand new coaching staff, I do not anticipate that we will have a lot of legitimate battles for starting jobs in training camp. The starting lineup looks pretty clear cut to me already, barring injuries. The two areas where there will be some obvious completion will be right tackle, where I anticipate J’Marcus Webb duking it out with Jonathan Scott, and one of the guard spots, probably left — where Matt Slausen will try to hold off Gabe Carimi and James Brown.
I think that if Kyle Long would have been allowed to play another season of college ball, he would have been the Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel, Lane Johnson of next year, possibly going in the top 5. What do you think? -- Jim Pedigo, Chicago
We are way into the land of hypothetical here, but there is no denying Long’s stock with NFL teams starting shooting up like a rocket ship once he got on the field. And so there is reason to believe it could have continued to shoot up had he had more opportunities to play. Of course, sometimes it works the other way -- the more a prospect is exposed, the more flaws are focused on. But I don’t think that would have been the case with Long. I don’t think there is any doubt the best is yet to come with him.
With Kyle Long and Jordan Mills coming in along with the already signed free agents, do you like the roster chances of Gabe Carimi or James Brown better? -- @GermanBearsFan, from Twitter
If it’s the Carimi of 2012, I like the chances of Brown better. If it’s the Carimi of 2011, I like Carimi’s chances better. Carimi has a few things going in his favor. He has better positional versatility than Brown. He was a former first round pick. And cutting him would have terrible salary cap implications. But there is no question Carimi’s roster spot could be in danger if he does not pick it up. I also think there is a scenario in which both could make the team, even if neither is starting.
What’s the plan for the fifth round tackle Jordan Mills? Supposed to be a right tackle. That's five right tackles but only one left. -- @kodymcbanks, from Twitter
There is no argument the Bears have right tackle overload. I don’t think it was by design. What clearly happened is the Bears saw a value in Mills in the fifth round they felt was too good to pass up. Here is one way the Bears can look at it. Carimi could be strictly a guard moving forward, unless he is needed elsewhere. If Webb is the starting right tackle, he also can be the first backup at left tackle in case Jermon Bushrod can’t play. That makes Jonathan Scott the backup right tackle, and puts Mills in a developmental role as a rookie.
With all the additions to the line, is center now the weak spot? Will Roberto Garza keep this job for 2013? -- @mattbud, from Twitter
Not only do I think Garza will keep the job, I think he will have a fine year. With better players around him, Garza will be better. It’s easy for a center to look bad when he has to lunge to make up for the mistake of a player lined up next to him. I also think he will have a chance to be a stronger leader with this group.
If Marquess Wilson proves he can be a team player, does he make the 53 man roster? -- @BPspeak, from Twitter
I think he can do more than make the 53-man roster. I think he can contribute as a rookie. Look, if this kid didn’t make a very questionable decision and go off on his coaches at Washington State, he could have been a third round draft pick. He ran a 4.45 40 yard dash at 6-3. He has been a producer in a big time conference. There is nothing he lacks physically. We will see if he has learned from his mistake and has grown up.
What do you think we have at TE? After Martellus Bennett do we have that depth? Do we have that unknown second weapon that could rise in camp as a contributor? Obviously passing on Tyler Eifert brings up this question. -- Andrew Molina
If you are asking if the Bears have a second tight end who is the caliber of Aaron Hernandez, the answer is no. But if you are asking if the Bears have some tight ends who have potential to develop as passing game contributors, the answer is yes. Evan Rodriguez, the fullback/tight end hybrid, is the most likely candidate to be the second leading receiver among tight ends. And there are a couple of dark horses in the race. Fendi Onobun, signed in the offseason, is the fastest tight end on the roster. Remember the name. And Gabe Miller, who was on the practice squad last year, has come on strong. He left an impression during minicamp. Miller, incidentally, was a fifth round draft pick of the Chiefs when Phil Emery was their director of college scouting.
How involved if you think Marc Trestman was in draft room? Was it surprise the first year offensive coach didn't get more weapons? -- @TomLoxas, From Twitter
I think he was very involved in terms of the draft process being a team effort. But I wouldn’t suggest that he was imposing his will in any way. Trestman is not that kind of guy, and that isn’t his place on this team. From what I can tell, Emery, Trestman, college scouting director Marty Barrett, the scouts and the assistant coaches worked together very harmoniously. I believe there was a lot of solid discourse and give and take, and it seems the Bears came away a draft everyone was very pleased with. In terms of not getting more weapons, I don’t believe getting more skill position players on offense was a need or a priority in this draft.
Do you see Khaseem Greene or Jon Bostic having a better chance to start in 2013, and why? -- @Trestmanstache, from Twitter
I really doubt either will be an opening day starter, but I think Bostic is more NFL-ready. Greene is a former safety who still is figuring out the linebacker position. It may take him a little longer to get where he needs to be. The bigger issue with either player starting is both have established veterans playing in front of them. If James Anderson is healthy, he’s going to be very difficult to beat out. He’s a pretty good player. And if D.J. Williams can get back to where he was prior to the 2012 season, he will be difficult to beat out as well. He still has the athleticism, and his knowledge level is so much greater than any rookie’s could be. Both rookie linebackers should start the season as core special teamers.
How many of their draft picks do you think will end the season starting? Long, Bostic? Mills have a legit shot at RT? -- @Pixel Mage, from Twitter
Asking who will end the season as a starter is different from asking who will begin the season as a starter. I expect Long will be a starter all season if he is healthy. D.J. Williams soon will be 31 years old. He has missed time the last two seasons. He has made questionable off-field decisions in the past. History says chances are good that he will not start 16 games for the Bears this year. If he misses time, Bostic will have an opportunity. And he could make the most of it and turn Williams into Wally Pip. Bostic also could get a chance at one of the other linebacker positions in the event of an injury. So there is a decent chance Bostic ends the season as a starter. I would think every other draft pick would be a long shot to end the season as a starter.
Which UFAs do like best? Which draft pick? -- @blaizablaize88, from Twitter
I think as many as three undrafted players could have a future on the Bears. The first is running back Michael Ford. He ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at the combine. He can return kicks. If he had stayed at Louisiana State for his senior year, he would have had a chance at being drafted in 2014 maybe in the third through fifth rounds. He is the biggest threat to make the 53-man roster as a change of pace back. One of the two undrafted receivers also will have a shot. The way I see it, Mark Harrison, Josh Lenz and seventh round pick Marquess Wilson could be competing with Joe Anderson and other young guys for one roster spot. There also is likely to be a practice squad spot for a young receiver. Harrison’s measurables are off the charts. He is 6-3, 231, and ran a 4.37 40 at the combine. He can perform spectacularly at times, but he has been inconsistent. He also was involved in a combine controversy because the hotel room he was staying in was trashed. Harrison has denied involvement. Lenz was a late riser after running a 4.39 and vertical jumping 38 ½ inches at his pro day. And the Bears also could keep an undrafted defensive tackle. Right now, the position is a little thin, and both Zach Minter and Brent Russell have some potential. Minter was a productive player at Montana State, and he had a nice workout. Russell, in the opinion of a couple of front office men I spoke with pre-draft, had enough talent to be drafted. He plays with great effort and had 25 career sacks. He is known for being a little too aggressive, on and off the field. As for draft picks, I really like the potential of Long and Greene. And I think Greene was a really good value in the fourth round.
Dan what do you say of your critics that say your relationship with the Bears prevents you from being negative towards them? -- @jermaine611, from Twitter
I probably hear from about the same number of critics who ask me why I am so hard on the Bears as critics who ask why I am so easy on the Bears. I figure those questions say more about said critics than me. I don’t try to be positive. I don’t try to be negative. I try to be fair and honest. I understand that anytime I express any opinion, a good number of people will disagree. Heck, even my wife disagrees with some of my opinions. And I take the fact that I get critics on both sides of the fence as a sign I’m probably doing something right.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC