Camp Battles to Watch: Offense

We are still a way's away from Bourbonnais for the start of training camp, but the Chicago Bears can begin assembling the depth chart at this weekend's veteran minicamp. Offensively, there are battles yet to be won at quarterback, wide receiver, and guard. How will it all shake out at Halas Hall?

Quarterback

The skinny:
The seemingly never-ending search for a signal-caller in the Windy City still goes on, as the Monsters of the Midway haven't had a Pro Bowler at the game's most important position since Jim McMahon in 1985. The three-headed monster of Rex Grossman, Brian Griese, and Kyle Orton threw 21 interceptions, got sacked 42 times, and, most significantly, lost nine games this past season.

The favorite: Head coach Lovie Smith continues to say publicly that both Grossman and Orton will enter training camp on equal ground for the starting job, but there is every reason to assume Grossman is who the organization wants to line up under center in Week 1 at Indianapolis. Smith and Co. have always felt that their first-round golden boy is the most talented passer on the roster, so Orton would probably have to outperform Grossman significantly in order to get the nod.


QB Kyle Orton
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The dark horse: While he will rarely wow you with eye-popping statistics or highlight-reel throws, it's hard to ignore the fact that Orton is 12-6 as a starter in his three-year NFL career. He was the only Bears QB to post a positive touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2007, so his ability to avoid catastrophic mistakes might be a better fit for this team than Grossman's gun-slinging antics assuming the defense returns to form and the special teams continue their scintillating success in the return game.

The prediction: Grossman always looks great in 7-on-7 drills when he's not being rushed, so expect him to impress the coaching staff with his strong arm and be given the benefit of the doubt once again. In order for Orton to wrestle the job away from him, he'll have to prove that he can be more of a play-maker and not just a game-manager.

Wide Receiver

The skinny:
The Bears will have to replace both of their starting wideouts from a year ago, as the speedy Bernard Berrian left for Minnesota in free agency and the veteran Muhsin Muhammad was released back in February. There are several candidates to take over atop the depth chart, but a legitimate No. 1 option is still yet to emerge.

The favorites: Marty Booker was a Pro Bowl pass-catcher for this team once upon a time, so he was brought back to town after a four-year stint in Miami. Brandon Lloyd was beginning to emerge as a dangerous threat in San Francisco before wearing out his welcome, and now the former Illini star returns to the Prairie State after a pair of unproductive and unwelcome campaigns in Washington.


WR Devin Hester
Jim Mone/AP Images

The dark horses: Mark Bradley has all the talent in the world and looked like a future star as a rookie before tearing his ACL, but now the former second-rounder is questionable for the start of training camp after another knee procedure last week to clean out a little scar tissue. And speaking of talent, Devin Hester did some good things his first year catching passes instead of defending them and is nothing short of electrifying in the open field.

The prediction: While Bradley offers the best size-and-speed combination and Hester is simply magical with the ball in his hands, Bradley can't stay away from the injury bug and Hester is too valuable on special teams. Neither Booker nor Lloyd has enough speed to make enemy cornerbacks nervous, but Booker is still a sure-handed possession target and Lloyd can be a scoring threat in the red zone.

Left Guard

The skinny:
Ruben Brown has been to nine Pro Bowls and might end up in the Hall of Fame one day, but a bum shoulder made him a liability last season and ultimately forced him to injured reserve. John St. Clair closed out the schedule as the starting left guard, although the team would prefer to keep him as the swing tackle this year and find a more suitable replacement for Brown.

The favorite: Even though he was benched in favor of St. Clair – a career tackle – by Week 15, Terrence Metcalf opened the offseason training program with the first team. There has been some recent rumors that Metcalf suffered a broken hand which may have contributed to his less-than-spectacular play, although it sounds like the spin cycle is on overdrive at Halas Hall since the 2002 third-round draft pick was never on the injury report with any sort of hand problem.


G Terrence Metcalf
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The dark horse: Josh Beekman had all the makings of a solid selection in last April's draft as a reserve guard and center, but he was active for a grand total of one game and didn't get a chance despite all the offensive line problems this team experienced. He has spent the last year or so getting his body ready for the week-in-and-week-out battle associated with trench warfare on Sunday, so it will be interesting to see if Beekman can give Metcalf a run for his money.

The prediction: Choosing between the likes of Metcalf and Beekman isn't much of a choice when a team is trying to get back to the Super Bowl, although either would benefit from Olin Kreutz returning to All-Pro form at center and rookie Chris Williams being an instant success at left tackle. And don't rule out St. Clair just yet, especially if both Metcalf and Beekman struggle significantly in Bourbonnais.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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