Gabe Carimi, Roberto Garza, Lance Louis, Chris Spencer, J’Marcus Webb, Chris Williams, Chilo Rachal, Edwin Williams
Analysis: The top eight have never been in question and it’s a matter of whether a ninth lineman is worthy of a roster spot. Many believe it is a necessity but the fact is No. 9 will not contribute to victories this season. James Brown, an undrafted tackle from Troy, has gotten some attention. But even though he had a mid-round grade entering the draft, the Bears didn’t have to beat doors down to sign him for a modest bonus of $5,000. The point is there is a chance he could be re-signed to the practice squad. Of course, exposing him to waivers always introduces an element of risk. But Brown isn’t going to be the difference between wins and losses this season, nor will any other bottom-of-the-roster lineman who has gotten looks like Cory Brandon. That being said, there could be as many as three who make the practice squad, especially if the Bears have only eight on the 53.
Ends: Israel Idonije, Julius Peppers, Shea McClellin, Corey Wootton. Tackles: Henry Melton, Stephen Paea, Matt Toeaina, Nate Collins, Brian Price.
Analysis: Don’t discount the possibility the club could keep 10 linemen. Ten might seem like a lot but Smith loves to collect defensive linemen and so does coordinator Rod Marinelli. At the start of the 2008 season when Marinelli was head coach in Detroit, the Lions kept 11 defensive linemen at final cuts and only six offensive skill players -- four receivers and two running backs. But for the Bears to keep 10 linemen it would likely mean a fifth end. The competition for that spot would be between Chauncey Davis, a veteran who knows the ropes, and Thaddeus Gibson, who has more pass-rush ability. Cheta Ozougwu has shown some burst off the edge but he also has three roughing-the-passer penalties in two weeks. Pass-rush ability is what got Nick Reed and Mario Addison jobs at the start of last season. Scouts from other NFL teams have asked about Gibson. Those scouts believe Collins will make the Bears and if he doesn’t he won’t be out of work. Price is a developmental player the Bears will work with after trading a seventh-round draft pick to the Buccaneers. More on him a little later on.
Linebackers (7 projected, 5 on 2011 Opening Weekend roster)
Lance Briggs, Nick Roach, Brian Urlacher, Geno Hayes, Blake Costanzo, Dom DeCicco, J.T. Thomas
Analysis: The increase in numbers here is more about core help on special teams than it is cover for Urlacher in the event his left knee remains problematic. Costanzo was signed to anchor Dave Toub’s unit and has been better than expected on defense. Thomas, who missed his entire rookie season last year with a back injury, has shown well with special teams opportunities created by DeCicco’s absence with a groin injury. It wasn’t a minor injury for DeCicco but he might be able to return in the next few weeks so it’s impossible to count him out for the roster at this point. It looks like a minimum of six linebackers make the roster and this could be a position where the Bears take a close look at the waiver wire.
Cornerbacks (6 projected, 5 on 2011 Opening Weekend roster)
Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, D.J. Moore, Kelvin Hayden, Jonathan Wilhite, Isaiah Frey
Analysis: Provided he remains healthy, and that has been an issue for him the last few seasons, Hayden provides a real boost to the depth chart and would likely be the first man up if another body is needed outside. Moore will have an expanded role on special teams this season. Frey has been more impressive than fellow rookie draft pick Greg McCoy. We’ll see how attached Emery is to his draft picks when final cuts roll along. A final choice could come down to McCoy and Wilhite.
Safeties (4 projected, 6 on 2011 Opening Weekend roster)
Chris Conte, Major Wright, Craig Steltz, Anthony Walters
Analysis: It’s difficult at this point to say if rookie third-round pick Brandon Hardin will be on the 53-man roster after suffering a neck injury against the Redskins. In this projection, he heads to injured reserve but he’s one of the wild cards that will be discussed below. Walters has improved since last season and should merit a role on special teams. The hope has to be that injuries do not thin out the depth chart but six made it for opening weekend last year because of the late addition of Brandon Meriweather and because Winston Venable was a special teams selection. There could be a fifth safety for the final roster that is not currently on the roster.
Specialists (3 projected, 3 on 2011 Opening Weekend roster)
Robbie Gould, Pat Mannelly, Adam Podlesh
Analysis: This could change if Podlesh’s left hip flexor injury is not improved and the club has been bracing for the possibility of having to replace him, at least early in the season. Ryan Quigley did plenty to help his cause Friday night if that need arrives.
Wild cards: Injuries in training camp and preseason will shape decisions and affect the final few players to make the roster more than anything else. For example, if the team determines Podlesh will not be ready for a month –- and this is just for the purpose of an example, not a timeline for his return -– the Bears will have to carry two punters on the 53-man roster. That will cost someone a job at another position. Injuries to Urlacher, DeCicco and Hardin need to be monitored, especially if the team faces the prospect of being without two linebackers for any stretch of time. One more note, defensive tackle Nate Collins has a one-game suspension and therefore he would not count against the 53-man roster to begin the season. That would free up a roster spot for one week before a move would have to be made to bring him back from the reserve/suspended list. So, 54 players can make the cut for the first week if Collins is moved to the suspended list.
2. It is anyone’s guess when the Bears will get around to announcing their starting offensive line. The team returns to practice at Halas Hall on Sunday. The guess here is J’Marcus Webb will be the starting left tackle and Chris Spencer will be the left guard.
Asked if he thought he performed well and felt good he would be the starter, Webb highlighted his day for reporters. After posting a video during training camp of himself swinging through the drive-thru lane at McDonald’s, it’s fair to wonder if Ronald will be upset Webb went another direction.