Who Makes the Practice Squad?

After breaking down the roster and deciding which 53 players the Chicago Bears are likely to keep for 2009, now we need to find the eight prospects that deserve time to develop on the practice squad. JC looks into his crystal ball again and comes up with eight names. And they are ...

S Al Afalava

General manager Jerry Angelo selected Afalava in the sixth round of the NFL Draft in April because he believed the former Oregon State Beaver could play both strong and free safety. After rookie minicamp and the offseason program, Afalava has played well but seems like a more natural fit at strong safety. With Corey Graham now challenging for a starting job after being moved from corner, there is one less safety spot available on the 53-man roster than was originally anticipated.

Afalava could make a case for the big club in Week 1 if he proves to be indispensible on special teams, although Dave Toub has many more options right now.

DE Ervin Baldwin

A cult hero on the BearReport.com message boards, Baldwin was elevated from the practice squad to the active roster in Week 11 this past season. However, the former Michigan State Spartan was a game-day inactive seven straight contests, so he is yet to see live action on Sunday. Baldwin had to prove himself in junior college before getting a shot in East Lansing, and he might have to go a similar route to get on the field in Chicago.

If he can stick around the organization another year, 2010 could be Baldwin's time to make an impact since both Adewale Ogunleye and Mark Anderson have their deals expire after '09.

OT Cody Balogh
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OT Cody Balogh

It's never a bad idea to keep young offensive linemen stashed away on the practice squad, as the Bears did last year with Balogh. Originally an undrafted free agent, the former Montana Grizzly looked like he could make the roster after John Tait retired and John St. Clair left for Cleveland in free agency. But after Angelo signed Orlando Pace, Kevin Shaffer, and Frank Omiyale this offseason, Balogh will have to bide his time behind the veterans once again.

The Monsters of the Midway are very heavy at tackle right now, meaning Balogh may have to at least think about a switch inside to guard.

WR Derek Kinder

A one-time candidate for the Biletnikoff Award, Kinder wrecked his knee before the 2007 season and wasn't quite the same player once he came back in '08. But the former Pittsburgh Panther has some talent and plays a position where the Bears are especially weak, so it wouldn't be unheard of if Kinder got a chance at the active roster at some point this year. His path is being blocked by fellow draftees Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox, both of whom have done well in offseason workouts.

While Kinder wasn't especially impressive during rookie minicamp, he's looking more comfortable every week in OTAs.

G Lance Louis

Originally a tight end when he got to school, Louis developed into an athletic offensive lineman later in his collegiate career. The former San Diego State Aztec wowed Angelo with a 40-yard dash time that would have made most tight ends proud during a private workout, and Angelo toyed with the idea of moving Louis back to his original position after taking him in Round 7. But he has played nothing but guard and tackle so far at Halas Hall, so that experiment appears to be over.

Louis is a better fit at left than right since that's the more athletic of the two guard spots, meaning his future could hinge on how well Omiyale makes the transition from tackle.

DE Henry Melton
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DE Henry Melton

Not even invited to the Scouting Combine this past February, Melton was all the rage at his Pro Day in Austin and forced Angelo to choose him a round or so earlier than he had originally anticipated. The former Texas Longhorn came to school as a running back and even scored 10 touchdowns as a freshman, so he's still a work in progress at defensive end and needs practice reps. Like Baldwin, the Bears might have to stash him away for a year since both Ogunleye and Anderson could be gone after 2009.

That being said, because Melton is an intriguing talent, getting him through waivers and past the other 31 teams in the league won't be easy.

LB Mike Rivera

Fans of the Midway Monsters need to face a sobering reality: Brian Urlacher is not going to be the middle linebacker forever. Having already been left off the NFC Pro Bowl squad two years in a row now, it's reasonable to assume that Urlacher is past his prime and no longer an annual candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Rivera has been getting reps with the second and third team in the middle, and he may stick there one day since Angelo always seems to target smaller and quicker outside linebackers in the draft.

The former Kansas Jayhawk makes up for his perceived lack of athleticism with smarts and instincts, which is exactly what it takes to succeed at the Mike position.

CB Woodny Turenne

One of the few non-roster invitees at rookie minicamp to get noticed by the coaching staff, Turenne continues to command attention during the offseason program. The former Louisville Cardinal has been seeing some time with the second-team defense during OTAs, and he's made more plays than veterans like Trumaine McBride and Marcus Hamilton. He's no threat to make a jump to the 53-man roster right away, but he's built like a Cover-2 corner at 6-1 and 182 pounds and plays very hard.

If Charles Tillman needs to be moved to safety one day and Nathan Vasher can't recapture the magic he showed earlier in his career, Turenne may be a contributor down the road.

To go back and review who JC actually has making the 53-man roster, CLICK HERE.

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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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