Observations from the 53-man Roster…Part 1 – Offense
And….we are back baby. Its that wonderful, exciting time of the NFL season—where every team is undefeated and healthy. For me, it is about 50 percent excitement and 50 percent nervousness. Nervous because the Bears historically have followed good seasons with injury-plagued disappointing ones; Excited because we had the ball at the end of the NFC Championship Game with a chance to win the game against the eventual Super Bowl Champions—all with our third-string quarterback. So we are not that far off, right? Anyways, on to the analysis. We wil start the season off by analyzing our final 53-man roster we will head into the season with.
Due to some of the quirky rules regarding cap space and league minimum salaries in this strike-altered season, there is a good chance the 53-man roster today will notbe the 53-man roster one week from today; or even by the first game against the Falcons on Sunday afternoon (Since Saturday, when the Bears released their first 53-man roster, FS Brandon Meriweather has been signed and CB Josh Moore has been released). With this in mind, a few thoughts about the roster decisions as we head into the opening weekend of the regular season:
(starters in bold)
QB: #6 Jay Cutler; #12 Caleb Hanie; #10 Nathan Enderle
No real surprises here. Cutler is entrenched as the starter; Hanie solidified his grip as a capable backup after his performance in the NFC Championship Game and a solid preseason; and you had a feeling the Bears were not going to risk losing Enderle by putting him on waivers and signing him to the practice squad, after losing Dan Lefevour in the same manner last year. I think I can speak for all Bears fans when I say if we NEVER see Todd Collins (last year’s backup) again, it will be too soon. While on the subject, let me take this time to say that Cutler looks stronger, physically and mentally–not to mention smoother in the pocket and with his reads— than he did last season and I think he is going to make alot of believers this year.
Running Backs: #22 Matt Forte; #24 Marion Barber; #32 Kahlil Bell
You have to figure that: a) Matt Forte is not going to have a worse year than last year, in his quest for a big money, long-term deal; b) that a tandem of Marion Barber and Kahlil Bell will average better than Chester Taylor’s 2.4 yard per carry when Forte needs a breather. I will go a step further and say that I think Marion Barber will revert back to his 2007, pre-injury form when he ran all over us to close out a Cowboys win on Sunday Night Football—as long as the Bears limit him to a short-yardage, goal-line, and 4th-quarter-eat-up-the-clock role.
Fullbacks / Tight Ends: #87 Kellen Davis; #89 Matt Speath; #86 Kyle Adams; #44 Will Ta’ufo’ou
Kellen Davis will be listed as the starter here, but I think you will see alot of Matt Spaeth at the start of games—especially on running downs. Spaeth showed a remarkable ability to seal the edge on outside runs and should definitely open up alot of holes for Forte and Barber. The Bears showed in the trading of Greg Olsen that they do not see a drop-off in the pass-catching abilities of Kellen Davis compared to Olsen; and I tend to agree with them. Davis’ size and attitude should make him a beast in the red zone. Kyle Adams was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Purdue, and—if the preseason was any indication—looks like he may be a future star. Ta’ufo’ou is on the team for special teams and goal-line situations—the Bears do not use too much fullback in their offense.
UPDATE: Bears announced Tuesday (9-6-11) that they have released FB Will Ta’ufo’ou, and have listed TE Kyle Adams as the starting FB on the updated depth chart.
Wide Receivers: #23 Devin Hester; #11 Roy Williams; #13 Johnny Knox; #80 Earl Bennett; #18 Dane Sanzenbacher; #81 Sam Hurd
Hester and Knox look like they both used the lockout time off to bulk up and improve their route running—both looked impressive to me in the preseason. Roy Williams was signed due to his familiarity with the “Martz System”, and was brought in to bring a more physical presence to the Bears’ passing attack. I am not sure if Williams is too out of shape, or forgot the offense, or forgot how to catch a football—but his acclamation to the Bears has not been as smooth as I, or the Bears’ coaching staff for that matter, would have hoped. However, the raw talent of Hester, Knox, and Bennett cannot be questioned; and if by bringing in Williams the Bears’ front office motivated those three to step up and play to their abilites, then the signing of Williams was a success, in my book. Sanzenbacher looks like a keeper. Hurd is there for special teams—if he plays any substantial time at reciever this year, we have a big problem.
Offensive Line: #73 J’marcus Webb; #74 Chris Williams; #63 Roberto Garza; #60 Lance Louis; #72 Gabe Carimi; #67 Chris Spencer; #68 Frank Omiyale; #70 Edwin Williams
You will notice two major trends when looking at the offensive linemen on our roster. One, our front office knew we had to get bigger long the offensive line. That’s what happens when you are going to face Suh, Fairley, Kevin Williams, and BJ Raji six times per year. By replacing Olin Kruetz and Frank Omiyale with Lance Louis and rookie Gabe Carimi, we added roughly 10 pounds per lineman—not to mention alot more nastiness and physicality. Two, you see alot of interchangeable parts. LT J’marcus Webb can play either tackle spot; Chris Williams can play LG or either tackle spot; and C Roberto Garza has started at RG for the last five years. Reserve lineman Frank Omiyale can play either tackle or LG; and Chris Spencer and Edwin Williams can play guard or center. This allows us to have starter-quality depth at all 5 spots without having to allocate 10 roster spots for the offensive line.