By Adam Hoge-
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (CBS) — With their first preseason game Friday in Charlotte, the Bears released their first depth chart of the season Monday.
For the most part, there are few surprises, but there are some significant developments. Here are some initial thoughts:
The most significant battle continues to be at right guard between second-year undrafted free agent James Brown and rookie first-round pick Kyle Long. They were listed as co-starters on Monday’s depth chart and continue to split reps with the 1s in practice. The good news for the Bears is that this has been a competitive battle. In recent years, the offensive line battles have rarely been “won”. Instead, they’ve mainly been given to a player by default.
The other co-starters on the depth chart are defensive ends Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin. Wootton has received the majority of first team reps, but he also gets moved inside in nickel packages, giving McClellin plenty of playing time. Expect this to continue into the season.
Interesting Wide Receiver Battle
NFL depth charts always need to be looked at with some skepticism (in fact, our projected depth chart still has some differences from the one the Bears released Monday), but it’s hard to ignore that Eric Weems sits behind at least six other wide receivers. He wasn’t a major factor in the offense a year ago and his special teams ability might not be enough to keep him on the roster.
As expected, seventh round pick Marquess Wilson and veteran Devin Aromashodu sit ahead of Weems. The Bears will keep five or six wide receivers so they could potentially both make it, or one of them will fall short.
What Is Going On At Tight End?
Behind clear-cut starter Martellus Bennett, it gets a little confusing. Steve Maneri is listed as the No. 2 tight end and continues to work as the primary blocking end despite some inconsistencies in practice. Listed behind Maneri are Kyle Adams and Gabe Miller. What’s surprising is that Fendi Onobun is listed as the fifth tight end despite getting a good amount of work with the first team. It’s pretty obvious Onobun is favored in the offense and has a higher ceiling than all of the tight ends except Bennett.
Then there is newcomer Leonard Pope. When the team signed Pope over the weekend, it seemed like he could push Maneri hard for his job, but so far the newest addition has worked with the third team and was listed last among the tight ends on the depth chart. This could just be a result of getting used to the offense and only having two practices with the team so far. Keep an eye on him.
Frey Moving Up
Second-year cornerback Isaiah Frey is still listed on the third team, but he’s supplanted himself as the No. 2 nickel back and appears likely to make the team. After getting selected in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Frey spent last season on the practice squad and has made pretty significant strides going into this second season.
“It seems like the ball is kind of a magnet towards me right now,” Frey said Monday. “I’ve just got to keep making the plays.”
With Kelvin Hayden nursing a hamstring injury right now, Frey is taking the No. 1 nickel back reps and performing well.
Offensive Line Shuffle
Other than the first team, the offensive line listed on the Bears’ depth chart doesn’t really jive with what we’ve seen in practice, mostly due to injuries. What the Bears’ have listed is probably what they would like it to be, but it hasn’t been reality with Jermon Bushrod and Jonathan Scott missing practice time.
Eben Britton has worked primarily at tackle and can play both sides, which means he is pushing Jonathan Scott to be the seventh offensive lineman dressing on game days.
Elsewhere, rookie Jordan Mills has looked adequate and seems like a practice squad kind of guy right now. Also, Taylor Boggs has been pushing Edwin Williams for the backup center job and could get it. Cory Brandon is slipping at tackle and receiving less reps each day.
Other Notable Depth Chart Observations:
– 2012 third round draft pick Brandon Hardin sits behind Anthony Walters and Craig Steltz on the depth chart. He hasn’t really played football in over two years because of injuries and could be in danger of not making the team. The preseason games will be very important for him.
– Undrafted free agent Zach Minter continues to get opportunities to shine at nose tackle and has shown a good motor. He’s currently third on the depth chart behind Stephen Paea and Nate Collins.
– Defensive end Kyle Moore is listed behind Cheta Ozougwu, but has received mostly second team reps and appears ahead of Ozougwu. Cornelius Washington is listed on the second team behind Wootton and McClellin.
– It’s always fun to see who the backup long snapper is. In this case, starting strong side linebacker James Anderson is listed behind Patrick Mannelly at the position.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.