QuarterbackStarter: Jay Cutler
Backup: Caleb Hanie
Teams with Pro Bowl quarterbacks that don't get hurt very often are afforded the luxury of only keeping two quarterbacks on the active roster, and all of a sudden the Monsters of the Midway are one of those teams after trading for Cutler during the offseason. Cutler's arm strength is as good as advertised, but it's his accuracy that makes him so effective at the game's most important position – his unapologetic swagger helps, too.
Hanie has been terrific for two consecutive preseasons, which has endeared him to the fan base and given the coaching staff every reason to believe he can get the job done if needed.
Running BackStarters: Matt Forte, Jason McKie
Backups: Garrett Wolfe, Adrian Peterson
The injury to Kevin Jones is going to alter the game plan to some degree because he was supposed to take a lot of the Atlas-like burden off Forte's shoulders, so it will be interesting to see if general manager Jerry Angelo stands pat with a pair of special teamers in Wolfe and Peterson backing up his bell cow. One way or another, Forte is a star on the rise in this league and won't face nearly as many eight-man fronts now with Cutler at the controls.
McKie proved to be the only fullback worth keeping on the 53-man roster, which also made it easier to hold on to an extra receiver and tight end – depth is required at those two positions since they're on the field much more than the fullback.
Wide ReceiverStarters: Devin Hester, Earl Bennett
Backups: Devin Aromashodu, Rashied Davis, Juaquin Iglesias, Johnny Knox
Nobody is expecting starters Hester and Bennett to instantly develop into a pair of 1,000-yard threats overnight, but both looked pretty good in training camp and made a few plays during the preseason – aside from that stinkbomb in Buffalo to open the exhibition schedule. Unlucky Brandon Rideau ultimately proved to be expendable because he's not nearly the special teamer Davis is, and each rookie, Iglesias and Knox, showed flashes of potential for the future.
The big winner here is Aromashodu, who unpacked his bags in Bourbonnais a relative unknown to most fans, earned Cutler's confidence slowly but surely and eventually became the No. 3 option in the receiving corps.
Tight EndStarter: Greg Olsen
Backups: Desmond Clark, Kellen Davis, Michael Gaines
It's rare for an NFL team to keep four tight ends on the active roster, but the Midway Monsters are quite deep at that position and feature as many two- and three-tight end sets as any team in football. Olsen and Clark are still going to be in the huddle together quite often, even though they've flip-flopped on the depth chart, while Davis worked his way out of the dog house and Gaines showed enough as a pass catcher – his ability to push defenders around in the running game was never in doubt.
While Olsen is the odds-on favorite to lead the ballclub in receptions and can make a convincing case for his first Pro Bowl, Clark still plays a pivotal role in the passing game and might catch 40-plus balls for the fourth year in a row.
Offensive LineStarters: Orlando Pace, Frank Omiyale, Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza, Chris Williams
Backups: Josh Beekman, Kevin Shaffer, Lance Louis
The addition of Pace at left tackle is every bit as important to the success of the Chicago offense in 2009 as the acquisition of Cutler, plus Williams seems to have embraced his switch to right tackle and has played with a chip on his shoulder since arriving at training camp. Money dictated Beekman's demotion in favor of free-agent signee Omiyale, but Beekman could very well be the center of the future since Kreutz isn't going back to the Pro Bowl any time soon – his contract expires in 2010.
Both Beekman and Shaffer have been quality starters at the game's highest level and give the line a little depth, although Louis is still new to the tackle position and figures to be a game-day inactive more often than not.
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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.
53-Man Roster Analysis: Offense
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