Pre-season football is back on the air in Chicago today as the Bears take on Philadelphia at Soldier Field. The starters will likely play somewhere between 1-2 series, which means the vast majority of the game will have either 2nd or 3rd stringers flying around. This is good though. Especially with the 2014 Bears. Lots of battles going on in camp. Pre-season football can be a little bit maddening, so let me spotlight a few.
Backup QB- Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen are both competing for the #2 spot behind Jay Cutler. Palmer has been in the system since the off-season and played the last pre-season game in 2013. He has also helped rookie QB David Fales get ready for the 2014 NFL draft. Clausen has had 10 starts as a rookie in Carolina but wasn’t too productive there. He didn’t exactly have a solid team around him.
WR3- “Slot” receiver is now open for competition since 2nd year receiver Marquess Wilson broke his collarbone in practice the other day. Top contenders are: veteran WR Josh Morgan, special teams ace Eric Weems and Canadian footballer and rookie–Chris Williams.
#2 RB- Matt Forte will need a rest now and then to stay fresh for the pounding that is the life of the NFL running back. There is a lot of competition for this spot in 2014. Michael Ford, a 2nd year RB, rookie Ka’Deem Carey and veteran Shaun Draughn are all in the mix. This might be the most interesting thing to watch as all three should get some time tonight. Ford had a good showing last preseason but Carey is a draft pick and has some speed and quickness.
Safety- Both Strong-side and Free Safety are up for grabs after last season’s disappointing campaign. The Bears made an interesting and perhaps cagy move in signing Free-Agent veteran Adrian Wilson, who has a decorated resume and plays a more like a Linebacker. He’s coming off an injury, so it will be interesting to see if he can regain his form. Rookie Brock Vereen, brother of Patriot RB Shane Vereen will compete with Ryan Mundy and MD Jennings for one of the spots as well.
Linebacker- The main battle is at Strong-Side or “Sam” backer. Veteran DJ Williams is probably the early leader for the Middle or “Mike” backer. Converted Defensive end and former 1st round draft pick, Shea McClellin will battle 2nd year LB Jon Bostic. The word on the street is that Bostic might be better suited to back up veteran Lance Briggs over at the Weak side or “Will” position. McClellin is the interesting story here as he “remade” his physique in the off-season and is switching from DE or LB, which isn’t that easy. Bostic flashed early last year with a big hit and and interception for TD but then faded when pressed into duty.
Special Teams- The battle for punter and Kick Returner will be interesting. Gone is veteran Adam Podlesh. Tress Way and rookie Pat O’Donnell are battling to see who will be the new “leg in town”. O’Donnell is a 6th round pick and in addition to having a strong leg is 6’4″ 220 lbs. Tress Way was with the Bears last season so he has that going for him.
At Kick Returner, veteran Eric Weems and CFL star Chris Williams will vie for the job. No pressure here as they try to fill the shoes of possible Hall of Famer Devin Hester.
The defensive line doesn’t really have any battles as the only real position belongs to veteran Defensive End Jared Allen. There will be a rotation involving the rest of the lineman. Whether you start or not, in today’s pass-happy NFL, you will get lots of time and opportunities to be out on the field. GM Phil Emery did a good job and added several players to the mix including: Willie Young and Lamarr Houston. Defensive Tackle Nate Collins is coming off of an ACL injury and Jerimiah Ratliff returns along with Steven Paea. I’m hoping 2nd year DE David Bass takes his game to the next level too. Bass flashed last year when he picked off Joe Flacco and ran it in for a score.
So there you go. A lot of interesting story lines and position battles as we go into the first game of the pre-season.