QuarterbackJay Cutler, Josh McCown
As they did last year, the Chicago Bears chose to go with just two quarterbacks. In fact, 14 NFL teams pared their rosters down to two signal callers. After Jordan Palmer's performance in the preseason finale, many believed he might stick. Yet it appears he'll be on Marc Trestman's speed dial if an injury befalls either Cutler or McCown.
Cutler is in a contract year and could absolutely light it up this year in Trestman's offense. Yet he could just as easily fall apart, and McCown isn't going to bring home a title. Chicago's defense looks good and there are weapons all over the offense, but this team will go as far as Cutler takes them, plain and simple.
Running BackMatt Forte, Michael Bush, Michael Ford, Tony Fiammetta
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty
Heading into the preseason, Armando Allen had a firm grip on the No. 3 running back role. Then he hurt his hamstring and Ford took advantage of the opportunity. Ford flashed as a ball carrier, which included a rumbling touchdown run in the third preseason game, one during which he broke three tackles on his way to the end zone. He also holds value as a kick returner and will likely serve as the primary backup to Devin Hester this season. Fiammetta will be the club's main lead blocker.
As we've said all offseason, Forte will be the centerpiece of this offense and will likely have a career year, barring injury. Also, expect Bush to be much better than he was last season, when he dealt with a painful shoulder injury for most of the campaign. He should be able to more adequately fill his role this year as the club's short-yardage back, and actually earn his $3.5 million yearly salary.
Wide ReceiverBrandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Earl Bennett, Eric Weems, Joe Anderson, Marquess Wilson
Question marks litter this positional group. Starting at the top, Marshall is still recovering from offseason hip surgery and said this week he's frustrated at not being 100 percent. Bennett hasn't taken a single preseason snap and has been on the mend from a concussion since the second week of training camp. And Weems caught two passes for the Bears last season and is really nothing more than a special teams player.
Rounding out the group are two untested kids, Anderson and Wilson. Anderson has looked outstanding for most of the offseason and preseason, and should be able to fill in for Bennett in the slot if need be. Wilson has shown serious playmaking potential yet he's still raw. It's doubtful Trestman will want to use Wilson much early in the campaign but if he keeps progressing, he could develop into a part-time contributor last in the season.
The only Bears receiver who isn't surrounded by question marks is Jeffery, who is on the verge of taking his game to the next level. Jeffery was unstoppable at times during training camp and the preseason. Cutler has grown in confidence with the second-year player and it appears Jeffery is going to be 1B to Marshall's 1A in this passing attack.
Tight EndMartellus Bennett, Steve Maneri, Kyle Adams
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty
Bennett will be a major upgrade for the starting offense this year. Not only is he a weapon as a receiver, giving Cutler a reliable target in the middle of the field, but Bennett is also the best blocking tight end on the roster. Maneri doesn't offer anything as a receiver and will fill the blocking role of Matt Speath last season.
Fendi Onobun was given every opportunity to earn a roster spot this preseason. Yet his sketchy hands – he dropped four passes in four games, one of which was a wide-open touchdown and another that resulted in a pick-six for the opposition – made him too unreliable to keep. That opened the door for Adams, who is a very average player. If Bennett goes down with injury, the drop off to Adams in the passing game will be significant. I expect the Bears to look at the free agent market to add a tight end in the near future.
Offensive LineJermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza, Kyle Long, Jordan Mills, Taylor Boggs, James Brown, Eben Britton, Jonathan Scott
The Bears kept nine O-linemen, although they could pare it down to eight when Scott recovers from his knee injury. This group carries just one player, Garza, who was on Chicago's 53-man roster to start last season. You wanted a new offensive line and you got it. The new front five features four new starters, with two rookies on the right side. Yet the new group looked good in the preseason and will surely be an upgrade over last year's starters, in both the run game and in pass protection.
Brown will serve as the swing guard, as he has experience playing both sides of the line. Britton will initially serve as the swing tackle but it will be interesting to see if he keeps his roster spot once Scott returns. The team likes Scott as a backup and keeping four tackles isn't ideal. Boggs, who is likely the 53rd man on the 53-man roster, barely snuck in and, for the time being, will serve as Garza's backup. Boggs, a former undrafted rookie, came on late in the preseason. He'll need to continue to improve if he wants to keep his roster spot.
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.