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.
OT Cody Balogh
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OT Cody BaloghIt'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 KinderA 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.
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 MeltonNot 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 RiveraFans 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.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.
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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.