By Adam Hoge-
HALAS HALL (CBS) Sixteen guys competing for seven spots.
That’s how I see the competition breaking down as the Bears cut their roster down to 53 by Saturday.
There’s been a lot of talk about the Bears having to make concessions to keep a certain number of “special teamers” on the roster. The reality, however, is that it really isn’t that hard to keep Devin Hester, Eric Weems and Sherrick McManis on this team at the expense of another promising player.
Let’s take a closer look.
Right now I have 37 “locks” on the 53-man roster. By lock, I mean a guy I have absolutely zero doubt will make the team. I don’t sit in personnel meetings, so I’m bound to be wrong about some of these bubble guys, but I’d be shocked if I’m wrong about the 37 locks.
There are also 14 players who I believe will definitely get cut. The roster is currently at 76 so if you take those 14 away, that leaves 62 players on a roster that needs to be cut down to 53 by Saturday.
That leaves 25 players who I don’t consider to be “locks” left on the roster. It also leaves 16 spots open. Thus, nine cuts need to be made.
The reality, however, is that there really aren’t that many spots open. The Bears have already decided on a lot of these guys, we just don’t know about it yet. But if I had to guess, I would say that WR Marquess Wilson, WR Eric Weems, WR Joe Anderson, CB Sherrick McManis, DT Zach Minter, DE Cornelius Washington, DT Corvey Irvin, WR Earl Bennett and TE Steve Maneri will make the team. Those are all guys who I don’t consider “locks” at this point, but feel pretty good about.
That leaves 16 guys competing for seven spots. So where will the nine cuts be made? Again, I don’t sit in the meetings, so I’m bound to be wrong about one or two, but here’s how I see it right now:
1. Third-string quarterback: This is really between Jordan Palmer and Matt Blanchard, who is hurt. There’s a chance Blanchard could sneak onto the practice squad if he is cut, but if his hand injury isn’t too bad, the Bears probably like him enough to keep him as the third quarterback right away, even if he misses a couple weeks to start the season.
2. Third-string running back: Armando Allen or Michael Ford? Allen is back practicing fully and this could be one of the few battles that really goes down to Thursday’s preseason finale.
3 and 4. Demonte Hurst and C.J. Wilson: Both undrafted cornerbacks have shown promise, but I still feel like both will be let go with the Bears hoping they can get one or both back on the practice squad.
5. S Brandon Hardin: Cutting the third-round pick from a year ago would only leave four safeties on the roster, but that’s not uncommon. Hardin still has one last chance to prove himself Thursday, but this seems like a logical cut right now.
6. Offensive line: Jonathan Scott is still not practicing, but between him, J’Marcus Webb and Eben Britton, one has to go. This is a toss-up as far as I’m concerned. The Bears really like Scott and they know more about the status of his knee than they have made public.
7. WR Terrance Toliver: Toliver actually had a nice training camp and got a look with the first-team in Oakland, but if the Bears are going to keep Wilson, Toliver will likely be the odd man out.
8. Fullback/H-back: Between fullback Tony Fiammetta and tight ends Fendi Onobun and Kyle Adams, I think one goes. Fiammetta looked pretty good in Oakland and keeping him allows the Bears to be even more versatile in their formations, going with a true fullback. Ultimately I think the Bears choose between Onobun and Adams, and as long as they feel comfortable with Onobun’s blocking, I think they keep his potential over Adams, who they’ve had for three preseasons now.
9. Cheta Ozougwu or J.T. Thomas: The Bears have said all along that they’ll keep the best 53 players. In this case, Ozougwu is probably the better player, not to mention that the Bears need the depth on the defensive line more than at linebacker.
While I’ll likely be off on one or two of these projected cuts, the larger point is that these decisions have little to no impact on keeping six wide receivers and Devin Hester. It really isn’t a problem.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.