2013 Chicago Bears Depth Chart
Even with their preseason opener this Friday in Carolina rapidly approaching the Bears still have 90 players on the active roster in training camp. But barring a few preseason breakout performances, the vast majority of the 53-man roster the Bears will bring into the regular season has already been decided. Here’s a look at the Bears’ projected depth chart.
The Bears have just released their official preseason depth chart, which can be seen here, but our depth chart shows who we believe is most likely to be starting in the regular season. With minimal difference between the depth charts, the following players are the ones who we believe will start in the season opener September 8th against Cincinnati.
Quarterback — #6 Jay Cutler. Cutler, 30, is entering his fifth season with the Bears and eighth in the NFL. He still hasn’t come close to matching his career high in passing yards, 4,526, which he recorded with the Broncos in 2008. While 2013 was fairly mediocre for him (3,033 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions), there’s no doubting he has raw talent as a quarterback in a strong arm and decent mobility to get out of the pocket. New coach Marc Trestman was brought in with the assumption that he will develop a system that works with Jay, but critics say his lackadaisical will get in the way. With an expiring contract Jay will have his Bears career on the line this season.
Running Back #1 — #22 Matt Forte. Forte, 27, may never lead the league in rushing or come close to it, but has quietly put together five solid NFL seasons. The constant change in offensive scheme has drastically varied Forte’s role in the offense, but the facts remain that he’s a reliable power rusher and an even better pass-catching back. But since scoring 12 total touchdowns his 2008 rookie year, he hasn’t scored more than nine since as goal-line backs Marion Barber and Michael Bush have taken the short-yardage touchdowns in recent years. Still, the Bears have a more-than-capable back in Forte.
Wide Receiver #1 – #15 Brandon Marshall. It’s certainly rare to have a receiver with 1,508 receiving yards (good for 3rd in the NFL) to play in an offense that ends up ranked 29th in the NFL in passing yards overall. But that just speaks to Marshall’s immense value on this team. Cutler and Marshall clicked perfectly as hoped just as they did in Denver. Acquiring Marshall from Miami for two third-round picks is already looking to be one of GM Phil Emery’s biggest steals. Marshall shattered the single-season records of his own career and the Bears’ franchise.
Wide Receiver #2 — #17 Alshon Jeffery. This second-year South Carolina product, 23, showed flashes of being a standout wide receiver in his rookie season, which will likely earn him the starting job across from Marshall over fan favorite Earl Bennett. Jeffery’s nagging finger injury left him with just 24 receptions and 367 yards to show for the 2012 season, but the second-round pick was a huge success in college and should increase production significantly this fall.
Tight End – #83 Martellus Bennett. Bennett, 26, a longtime, little-known Cowboy, broke free last year in his only season as a Giant. In four years with the Cowboys he totaled 85 receptions and 846 yards before racking up 55 receptions for 626 yards last season alone. But this guy isn’t just an underrated fantasy pickup. His personality should lighten up the locker room and he fills a huge void for the Bears in a pass-catching tight end. Bears fans will no longer have to suffer through Matt Speath going invisible in the passing game and boneheaded drops from Kellen Davis.
Running Back #2/Fullback – #29 Michael Bush. Veteran Michael Bush, 29, is a beefy, 6-1, 245-pound bruiser. In his first season with the Bears he averaged only 3.6 yards per carry but he was only utilized in short yardage situations like goal line carries. He scored five touchdowns, angering Forte fantasy owners but giving the Bears nice flexibility on the roster and keeping Forte fresh for long, ground-pound drives. He is a decent receiver for a running back although the Bears haven’t utilized that as much as the Raiders did. It will be interesting to see how Bush is used in Trestman’s playbook.
Offensive Line —
- Left tackle – #74 Jermon Bushrod. Bushrod, 28, is currently dealing with a right calf injury but should be ready to go for the regular season. The major free agent signee was a Pro Bowler in 2011 and represents the most aggressive move yet to fix the catastrophe that has been Cutler’s protection the last three years.
- Left guard — #68 Matt Slauson. Slauson, 27, played for the Jets for three years before signing with the Bears this offseason. Slauson doesn’t come in with the same pedigree as Bushrod but is a solid guard who definitely represents an improvement over any incumbent the Bears could throw out there.
- Center — #63 Roberto Garza. Garza, 34, is one of the longest-tenured Bears on the roster. He’s an out-of-position right guard who took over when longtime center Olin Kruetz departed. Throughout periods of struggle for his unit, Garza has been a rare bright spot and is consistent as ever.
- Right guard – #75 Kyle Long. The drafting of Long, 24, reaffirmed Emery’s commitment to rebuilding the offensive line, even if it meant passing on Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert, among others. Long is a tall beast who’s an athletic standout among linemen but unproven having played only one season with Oregon.
- Right tackle – #73 J’Marcus Webb. Webb, 24, has had an up-and-down NFL career so far. A 2010 7th-round pick, J-Webb earned a starting role quickly out of desperation for quarterback protection but had some high-profile mishaps protecting Cutler’s blind side. But with the signing of Bushrod he will slide over to the right side which should relieve some of the pressure.
Defensive Line —
- Left Defensive End – #98 Corey Wootton. Wootton, 26, got his first major playing time last season. The Northwestern product recorded seven sacks and should help the Bears get over losing Israel Idonije. Wootton has always played well and is a rising pass rusher in the league.
- Left Defensive Tackle — #69 Henry Melton. Melton, 26, has exceeded his NFL expectations with the Bears. A solid six-sack season forced the team to hang on to Melton with the franchise tag.
- Right Defensive Tackle — #92 Stephen Paea. Second-round pick Paea, 25, hasn’t lived up to NFL expectations so far. In two seasons, including 14 starts last year, he has 4.5 sacks. The Oregon State product is undoubtedly working with defensive coordinator Mel Tucker to increase the pressure.
- Right Defensive End — #90 Julius Peppers. Peppers, 33, has been extremely consistent in three years with the Bears. Not only has he totaled 30.5 sacks in three years with constant quarterback hurries and hits, he’s been a model D-lineman for the young group around him.
- Left Outside Linebacker (LOLB) — #55 Lance Briggs. Briggs, 32, is on his own as the de-facto captain of the defense. He is still one of the best linebackers in the NFL, role model for the defense, and interesting guy to hear on TV. And as he showed in Dallas on Monday Night Football last year on an pick-six, he hasn’t lost a step or two from age, unlike Brian Urlacher. Briggs occasionally gets in for sacks but is better known for exceptional quarterback reading and quick-reflex tackling.
- Middle Linebacker (MLB) — #58 DJ Williams. For more than a decade this was Urlacher’s stomping ground. But not anymore. Williams, 31, is a solid linebacker who has played his entire career with the Broncos. He’s had some great seasons too, like 2010 with 119 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Williams is more of a pass rusher than Briggs or Urlacher ever were. He’ll also be tasked with tutoring young Jon Bostic, the middle linebacker of the future out of Florida.
- Right Outside Linebacker (ROLB) – #50 James Anderson. Much like Williams, Anderson, 29, is a temporary solution at linebacker until more permanent ones are found. But he’s a good one. His breakout 2011 season showed his potential with 145 tackles. But with breakout linebacker Luke Kuechly taking over Carolina they probably thought Anderson was a bit more expendable. With Briggs, Williams, and Anderson, the Bears are in different but good hands at linebacker.
- Left Cornerback – #26 Tim Jennings. Jennings, 29, made a name for himself in the Bears’ huge upset win over the Packers in 2010 Week 3 (which, by the way, was their last win over the Packers). But Jennings took it to a whole new level last year with nine interceptions, leading the NFL. His late blooming couldn’t come at a better time for the Bears who are a bit thin with today’s news that Kelvin Hayden is out for the year, leaving just Jennings, Charles Tillman, and Zack Bowman as CBs with experience.
- Strong Safety – #21 Major Wright. The safety revolving door has slowed a bit with the development of Wright, a 25-year-old fourth-year Florida product who is living up to third-round pick. Wright got four interceptions and 71 tackles last year and could build on those numbers this fall. An anchor at safety would go a long way towards preventing big pass plays which have caused trouble for the Bears recently.
- Free Safety – #47 Chris Conte. Conte, 24, and Wright complete a formidable safety duo. The hard-hitting Conte has gotten better both seasons in the NFL and is another young member of the Bears’ rebuilding defense.
- Right Cornerback — #33 Charles Tillman. One of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, Tillman, 32, doesn’t shine in preventing completions so much as he does through turnovers. Tillman is now the godfather in punching the ball out from a receiver’s grasp (10 forced fumbles last year) and is always good for at least a few interceptions every year. A great family man and teammate, Tillman is as essential to this defense as anyone else.
Kick/Punt Returner – #23 Devin Hester. After six years, 217 receptions, 2,807 receiving yards, 14 touchdowns, and a whole lot of pass interference flags (on both sides) the Hester wide receiver experiment is over. Hester, 30, does have 12 career punt return TDs, five career kick return TDs, and one missed field goal return TD. 2012 was a bad year for Hester in the return game but a total focus on return strategy should help him return to the explosive Hester Bears fans love. An expiring contract should give him even more motivation.
Kicker — #9 Robbie Gould. The Bears couldn’t ask for more out of Gould, 31, who enters his ninth season with a career 85.6% field goal percentage (4th-best in NFL history) and 208 career field goals. In recent years he ‘s improved his long-range game, which was thought to be a weakness of his, and he hasn’t missed an extra point in more than 250 tries. Gould is near automatic from within 40 yards, and Bears offenses over the years have needed every point they can get. The offense should be better this season, but it still helps to cash in on every opportunity for points. With Gould lining up, the Bears can be sure they will.
Punter — #8 Adam Podlesh. The most unappreciated starter on the team, fans simply don’t want to see the punter come on the field. But when Podlesh comes out he pins the opponent deep in their own territory. In 81 punts he put the other team within their own 20 yard line 34 times, a career high and a big increase from 21 the year before. He also had the second-highest net yards total, but again, more punts can also mean a more inept offense. Hopefully Podlesh won’t come out too often this fall but when he does, he makes it very tough for the opponent to get a rally going.
Other Key Contributors
#99 DE Shea McClellin
#38 CB Zack Bowman
#31 CB Isaiah Frey
#57 MLB Jon Bostic
#60 ROLB Khaseem Greene
#45 FB Harvey Unga
#80 WR Earl Bennett
#36 SS Tom Zbikowski
#35 FS Brandon Hardin
The Bears definitely have enough talent on paper to be competitive. But big question marks remain with Coach Trestman, his offensive playbook, and whether or not the defense will be strong while in transition. This is not a season to miss. Gold Coast Tickets can get you the best deals on Bears tickets!
Photo Source: Matt Koch/Chicago Bears