Training Camp kicks off in Bourbonnais this week and there are a few position battles that are important to watch for during camp and preseason. A few on the defensive side of the ball which struggled last year, but now a revamped defense is ready to take the step the Bears offense took in improving.
One of the biggest struggles came from both safety positions and going into camp, the battles seem to be wide open.
The Bears brought back Chris Conte to battle for a starting spot but an injury has set him back. Conte decided to get surgery on his shoulder in the off-season so the advantage goes to rookie Brock Vereen who took reps with the first team at mini-camp.
With Conte missing at least the first preseason game with his injury, this opens up the door for veteran Adrian Wilson who was signed in the off-season. Both Phil Emery and Marc Trestman spoke highly of Wilson and said he will compete for both safety positions.
Add in former Green Bay Packer M.D. Jennings and it’s going to be an interesting battle for the free safety job.
As far as the strong safety position goes, it seems like Ryan Mundy is the favorite to win it. Mundy was also taking first team reps in mini-camp, paired up with Vereen. Wilson should challenge Mundy in camp, which will be another battle to look for. We will have some sort of clue by the end of the first preseason game on which player has the advantage.
Emery made it clear that Lance Briggs was the only linebacker to be guaranteed a starting spot, barring an injury. With Briggs at the weakside position, that leaves the middle and strongside positions open for a few players.
The battle that is going to be very interesting to watch is Jon Bostic and D.J. Williams competing for the MIKE position. Bostic will start camp with the first-team, while Williams seems upset that he has to compete. The veteran linebacker was playing very well before an injury costed him most of the season last year.
The strongside battle will feature newly-converted linebacker Shea McClellin who is coming over from the defensive end position. Shea knows this is his last chance with the team but will he fit? If Bostic can’t beat out Williams, he will have a shot at the strongside position as well. The heat is on for Shea, who needs a good camp to show he belongs.
Williams could be the odd man out for the Bears if he losses the middle linebacker competition to Bostic, leaving the Bears with an interesting decision to make.
The most important part of the defensive rebuild wasn’t addressed with additions in free agency. The Bears chose to
address the defensive tackle position via 2nd and 3rd round picks Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton.
Besides re-signing Jeremiah Ratliff and Nate Collins, along with holdover Stephen Paea, the defensive tackle spot in training camp is wide open with the Bears choosing not to re-sign Henry Melton in the offseason.
Throughout training camp, it will be important to watch Ferguson and Sutton to see which player gets more time in the defensive tackle rotation. The Bears plan on both players contributing immediately and their performances in practices and games will determine who gets most of the playing time between defensive tackles.
One of the problems the Bears encountered last year was the lack of quality depth at defensive tackle. From the outset, it appears that general manager Phil Emery has effectively addressed that glaring need.
The backup running back job will be a battle between Michael Ford and rookie Ka’Deem Carey. Ford was the Bears third string running back last season but Carey is expected to have the inside edge.
The final competitor for the backup RB spot is hometown hero, converted Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch. It will be tough for Lynch to earn a spot on the roster, seemingly having to beat out Ford or Carey so special teams might be his best option.
With Matt Forte getting a majority of the snaps in the regular season, it will be important for the backups to spell Forte in the situations needed.
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