With just two days to go until their first preseason game of the NFL season, the Chicago Bears released their first, unofficial, depth chart of 2014. Though most of the lineup consisted of returning veterans, there were some definite surprises and a few smart decisions as the team continues to take form heading into the new season.
DJ Williams and Jonathan Bostic both named first string middle linebackers: In what could be the tightest position competition on the team (second string QB and starting free safety also come to mind) the Bears seem to be at an impasse, after writing both DJ Williams and Jonathan Bostic in as their starting middle linebackers to begin the preseason.
Williams won the job outright in 2013, and after signing one-year contracts with the Bears in consecutive offseasons it appears he has found a new home in Chicago following a rough falling out with the Broncos. Unfortunately, an injury in 2013 cost him most of the season, and his replacement, Jonathan Bostic, is determined to make that move permanent in 2014. As a 4-3 defense only one middle linebacker can start in Chicago, which one it will be remains to be seen.
Josh Morgan listed as the sixth wide receiver: After what I thought was one of the team’s most underrated moves of the offseason, signing Josh Morgan to a one-year deal, the Bears don’t seem to want to cash in, listing him behind Eric Weems and Josh Bellamy in the depth chart.
Though Morgan is obviously not a star, the 29-year-old receiver has shown an ability to adapt and adjust after posting over 500 yards in a season with both of his former teams. After short stints with the San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins, he remains the most explored veteran receiver on the roster, aside from Brandon Marshall, despite his position on the depth chart. However, you can expect Morgan to make moves up the rotation, after Marquess Wilson was carted off the field at Training Camp.
Shaun Draughn named the second starter/Ka’Deem Carey not among top three running backs listed: Of the positions lacking depth on the Bears roster, none may be more problematic than running back. An injury to Matt Forte and the offense will be in serious trouble.
As of right now, Shaun Draughn is listed as the team’s number two back, but with just 63 rushing attempts in three seasons, the undrafted veteran provides little help or insurance for the man who finished third in the NFL in yards from scrimmage in 2013. Ka’Deem Carey was expected to contribute immediately when the team picked him in the fourth round back in May, but after he failed to be named among the team’s top three backs it’s unclear whether he’ll make an impact in 2014.
Rookie Brock Vereen is the starting Free Safety: As the preseason gets underway one player that I will definitely be keeping my eye on throughout the exhibition contests is Brock Vereen. The 21-year-old has been receiving rave reviews from the Bears coaching staff since the start minicamp and though at this point it’s not much of a surprise to see him named to the first unit, it’s certainly encouraging to see a fourth round pick among the starters. Clearly, the real smart decision was picking Vereen with the 117th selection in the 2014 Draft.
Adrian Wilson and Chris Conte (IR) named third stringers: Spring surgery on his shoulder has Conte sidelined for four to five months and if the depth chart is any indication, the team has decided to move forward without him. As far as I’m concerned, after his performance a year ago the 2011 third round pick should remain on the sidelines. Opponents had a completion percentage of 55.3 percent on passes of more than 15 yards, a number the Bears cannot repeat if the team hopes to contend in 2014. Adding five-time Pro Bowler Adrian Wilson certainly provides some veteran direction and leadership for a young group of safeties, but expecting much from a 34-year old recovering from ACL surgery isn’t very realistic. Both players deserve to be on the team, but should remain at the bottom of the depth chart.