Grading Out

The Bears didn't do anything to greatly improve themselves during the off-season, but they didn't hurt themselves, either. The Bears lost seven players during free agency, but only cornerback Walt Harris (signed by Indianapolis) and safety Tony Parrish (San Francisco) were starters.

To replace them, they will turn to key reserves from a season ago: Jerry Azumah will fill Harris' shoes and third-year player Mike Green replaces Parrish.

At less than 180 pounds, however, the verdict is out on whether Green can be a physical presence for 16 games. The Bears wisely kept their critical unrestricted free agents, center Olin Kreutz and quarterback Jim Miller. They also re-signed restricted free agents Marty Booker, Rosevelt Colvin and Warrick Holdman. Booker caught 100 passes last season while Colvin and Holdman flank Brian Urlacher to give the Bears one of the leagues best linebacking corps.

That group became even deeper with the addition of Philadelphia starter Mike Caldwell. The Bears think he can play all three linebacking positions, giving them quality depth in case a starter goes down. To add a pass-rushing presence, the Bears signed ex-Packer Keith McKenzie. He will battle rookie Alex Brown for that third-down role. Ex-Buccaneer Rabih Abdullah could wind up as the starter at fullback.

The most interesting move, however, was the acquisition of Atlanta's Chris Chandler. Chandler, as the Packers will tell you from first-hand experience, has plenty of ability left in his aging, injury-prone tank. The Falcons phased him out, however, as they have handed the reins to Michael Vick.

Miller goes into training camp as the starter, even though Chandler has more talent and experience.

The top training camp battle will be at right tackle, where first-rounder Marco Colombo will battle Bernard Robertson, a fifth-rounder a year ago. Robertson, a reserve guard last season, will enter training camp as the starter.

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