"Five weeks!? You mean we have to wait five weeks for Chicago Bears training camp?"
It's a familiar refrain from Bears fans at this time of the year, when the doldrums of the offseason become almost unbearable (no pun intended). Luckily for hockey fans, the Chicago Blackhawks have helped keep us entertained but, if you're like me, you're ready for some football.
To help us stay occupied for the next month-plus, we'll begin our 2013 Bears Depth Chart series. Throughout the offseason programs, Bear Report has been privy to 12 practices: three at voluntary minicamp, three at rookie minicamp, three at OTAs and three at veteran minicamp. From those 12 sessions, we have been able to piece together Chicago's unofficial depth chart.
In our first installment, we'll lay out the depth chart as it stands heading into training camp. Then, as camp progresses, we'll update our chart each week, or as changes are made, whichever come first. In this way, we can track the development of Chicago's 53-man roster heading into the 2013 season.
Notes: Like last year, the Bears will only keep two quarterbacks on the roster. The club likes Matt Blanchard as a developmental player and will stash him on the practice squad again. And if injuries befall Cutler or McCown, expect the team to bring in J'Marcus Russell or Trent Edwards, as Blanchard just isn't ready for prime time.
Notes: Allen will beat out rookie Michael Ford for the third RB spot due to his ability as a pass catcher. Yet running backs are always injured, so expect the Bears to stash Ford on the practice squad, as he has added value as a kick returner.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty
Notes: Beyond the top three, there are a lot of question marks with this receiving corps. Anderson has looked great and will easily make the team if he continues on his current pace. Yet down the line, Weems is a more of a special teams player and the rest of the guys are far from locks. For those reasons, the Bears will go with seven wideouts, keeping the two big-bodied guys, Toliver (6-5) and Aromashodu (6-4), to fill out the roster.
Notes: Bennett is a lock, Onobun has the size to be a weapon down the seams and in the red zone, and Maneri is an accomplished blocker. Kyle Adams is the odd man out here but he could overtake Maneri with a strong training camp.
Notes: Starters coming out of camp will be: LT Bushrod, LG Sluason, C Garza, RG Long, RT Webb. Williams makes the team because he's the only backup center on the roster. Brown will serve as the swing guard and Mills, a rookie the team is very high on, will be the swing tackle. If Bushrod goes down, Webb will move to left tackle, so there's no chance Mills will be protecting the blindside.
Notes: The Bears have a serious lack of depth at defensive tackle. Sedrick Ellis was brought in during veteran minicamp but we can't say for sure how he'll perform in camp. If he doesn't shine, I don't believe the Bears will hesitate to keep just three defensive tackles and add an extra defensive end. Throughout the offseason, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has been using his DEs inside and won't be afraid to continue to do so if Ellis, or one of the other DTs on the roster, fail to step up in Bourbonnais. But for our purposes, we'll assume Ellis isn't a total bust and will fill the fourth DT spot.
Notes: Here we have the five defensive ends. Heading into camp, Ozougwu, Kyle Moore and Turk McBride are all in a dead heat. I predict Ozougwu as the winner because of his speed off the edge, which neither Moore nor McBride can replicate. If the club keeps a sixth DE, McBride has the edge due to his run-stopping ability. Washington is a bit raw but he has shown flashes of potential, so the Bears will hang on to him. With these five defensive ends, expect Peppers, McClellin and Wootton to take turns rotating at defensive tackle.
Notes: This is the easiest position group to predict. The starters are set, with the two rookies waiting in the wings. The only question mark is the sixth LB spot, but that will easily go to Costanzo due to his ability on special teams. If injuries pile up, Patrick Trahan and J.T. Thomas are the frontrunners for the final spot.
Notes: The starters are set, while Bowman and McManis have value on special teams. Yet the Bears will keep a sixth corner due to Frey's development as a nickelback. He looked good in the slot during the offseason. If he continues to show improvement, he'll play his way onto the final 53.
Notes: It is truly 50/50 right now between Walters and Hardin. Neither guy has stepped up this offseason and that could continue throughout camp. As a result the Bears will keep them both, giving them extra talent on special teams in the process.
Notes: Way, who was booming the ball in minicamp, beats out Adam Podlesh, who just isn't the same punter he was in Jacksonville. The Bears want Devin Hester to be the returner he once was yet that may never happen. Historically, 30-year-old kick returners experience a dramatic drop off in production. We predict Hester will be part of the final cuts and Weems, a Pro Bowl returner in his own right, will take over as Chicago's primary punt and kick returner.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.