Matt Forte and Michael Bush will likely sit out or play extremely limited snaps. The battle for the third running back spot behind them should come down to Lorenzo Booker through the first three preseason games, each player has ten carries. Allen has rushed for 14 yards and Booker 27. Allen has five catches for 31 yards, while Booker has four for 30. It could come down to what is the most important deciding factor for the third string running back. Vaughn McClure of the Tribune reported that Allen has had more success at picking up the blitz. Booker has made a big impact on special teams this preseason. He has two returns over 40 yards including a 105 yard return for a touchdown against Washington in week two.
How Many Tight Ends will the Bears Keep?
The prevailing wisdom seems to be four. That could be high, but the Bears have a lot of depth at Tight End. Kellen Davis is listed as the starter according to ESPN. The backups behind him in order are listed as Max Spaeth, Kyle Adams and Evan Rodriguez. Its hard to gauge the Bears tight ends since former offensive coordinator Mike Martz did not believe in them as anything more than blockers. None of the players on the current roster has ever caught more than 20 passes or five touchdowns in a single season. The Bears seems high on both Adams and Rodriguez. Davis and Spaeth should see limited time in Cleveland as the Bears get good looks at Adams and Rodriguez.
This is probably the most depth the Bears have had at Wide Receiver in franchise history. The trade for Brandon Marshall and drafting of Alshon Jeffery two Red Zone targets that the Bears have not had in recent memory.
McClure reported that the Bears kept six Wide Receivers last season and are likely to keep six again this year. Rashied Davis’ release on Tuesday put the Bears at six seemingly making Dane Sanzenbacher safe. Sanzenbacher had 27 receptions for 276 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie in 2011. Quarterback Jay Cutler and Special Teams Coach Dave Toub are both in the sure handed receiver’s corner according to McClure.
Toub was impressed with Sazenbacher’s toughness on punt returns against the Giants last week.
With the starters resting in Cleveland, Sazenbacher and Eric Weems will get plenty of opportunity to show what they bring to the table tomorrow night.
Safety in Numbers?
The Bears seems to draft a safety every year. Brandon Hardin, Major Wright and Chris Conte have all been drafted in recent years. Conte is currently out with a separated shoulder and Hardin is out for the season with a neck injury sustained against Washington.
Craig Steltz and Major Wright appear to be the opening day starters if Conte can’t go. Anthony Walters and Mark LeGree are both in their second seasons in the NFL and trying to prove they should receive more playing time. Walters played in four games for the Bears on special teams in 2011 and LeGree did not play in a regular season game after spending time with the Cardinals, Seahawks and Jets in last season.
Who will step up in Brian Urlacher can’t go week one? Nick Roach has been playing the middle, but someone will have to take Roach’s place in the starting lineup. According to Dan Pompei of the Tribune, the Bears might keep both Patrick Trahan and Jabara Williams because or Urlacher’s injury.
Geno Hayes who was signed as a free agent in the offseason from Tampa Bay is the likely starter week one against Indianapolis. Hayes has taken Roach’s position at strong side linebacker when he slid to the middle to replace Urlacher. Blake Costanzo is more of a special teams player at this point. J.T. Thomas has had a solid preseason and bears watching.
The Offensive Line
There has not been much talk about how much the starters and their challengers will play against Cleveland. The Battles between J’Marcus Webb and Chris Williams at left tackle and Chris Spencer and Chilo Rachal at left guard will continue to be the topic of conversation during and after the game.
At this point the positions seem to be Webb and Spencer’s jobs to lose. It might be more of a case of who does more to lose the job than how well they play to win it.
Punter is not usually a position to watch in any football game, preseason or otherwise. With Bears Punter Adam Podlesh sidelined and not a certainty for week one, the Bears brought in six punters this week. Rookie Ryan Quigley has average 41.8 yards per punt on 12 kicks with three inside the 20 so far. He impressed Lovie Smith last week against the Giants. If he hopes to be the punter with Podlesh out, he will likely need another strong performance.