Anyone concerned that the Bears will automatically be doomed to mediocrity because they could start three rookies opening day – middle linebacker Jonathan Bostic, right tackle Jordan Mills and right guard Kyle Long – needn’t worry.
An infusion of youth doesn’t necessarily mean a team will struggle through growing pains. It’s possible to be very young and very competitive.
I thought there were a few interesting tidbits from the Bears' first "unofficial" depth chart of the season, although keep in mind much of the "information" means very little at this point in training camp.
* James Brown and Kyle Long are listed as co-starters at right guard. Long was getting more reps with the ones about a week ago, but lately Brown has taken the majority, while Long works mostly with the twos.
* Arlington Heights natives Tom Zbikowski (strong safety) and Tom Nelson (free safety) are both on the fourth team. Brandon Hardin, who hasn't played regular-season football in two years because of injuries, and Cyhl (pronounced Kyle) Quarles a first-year player from Wake Forest are the third-team strong and free safeties, respectively.
Any talk of the Bears running the read-option with Jay Cutler at quarterback is a waste of time.
Not gonna happen.
Cutler’s too valuable to expose him to injury by using him for a few plays a game the way the 49ers do with Colin Kaepernick. First of all, although Cutler’s an excellent athlete with good movement skills for a big quarterback, Kaepernick’s a lot faster and a lot more athletic. Even more important, he’s a lot younger.
A few observations after the Bears' first four training camp practices:
* Julius Peppers is still a physical freak. It's incredible how fast and fluidly a 33-year-old, 290-pound man can move after 11 years in the NFL trenches. He can still run down skill-position players from behind.
* Martellus Bennett should be the Bears' best all-around tight end since Mike Ditka, and he could be a fixture for a long time, considering he's only 26 years old. That being said, he doesn't have the pass-catching skills of Greg Olsen.
* Corey Wootton will emerge this season as a legitimate complement to Peppers and a potential double-digit sack threat. He plays bigger than 270 pounds and moves like a much smaller man.
The Bears are scheduled to pick 18th in today's second round (50th overall), which begins at 5:30 p.m.
They're still hoping to trade down and add more picks, but there doesn't figure to be a lot of demand for their pick. The good news is that there are still a lot of players remaining who are capable of contributing to an NFL team right away.
Best guess is that the Bears target a linebacker, although it would be a shock if Manti Te'o were still on the board when the Bears are on the clock.
There is also an excellent group of wide receivers still available, but expect a run early. At least 2-3 quarterbacks should come off the board pretty quickly as well.
Below are 22 players, possibly in order, who should be gone before the third round begins.
LB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
The Bears have hosted Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, and they need an infusion of youth at the position, but that doesn’t mean they’re locked on to him with their first-round pick, the 20th overall.
NFL teams are allowed to host 30 players for individual predraft visits, and the Bears currently have just five picks in the draft. They don’t ever draft every player they invite to Halas Hall for a personal visit, so the odds are at least 6-1 they won’t take Te’o.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. thinks the Bears should take Manti Te’o with the 20th overall pick in the draft later this month. But he thinks they have to be wary of the NFC North rival Vikings jumping ahead of them to steal the Notre Dame linebacker, if he is the player they have targeted.
The Vikings have the 23rd and 25th picks in the first round, and they also have a need for a middle linebacker. So, if they identify Te’o as their man, they may need to jump ahead of the Bears, as well as the Giants, who are at No. 19 and also could use a middle linebacker.
Brian Urlacher made some acrimonious comments after the split between the eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker and the Bears last month.
Among other things, Urlacher said he would have appreciated a call from someone in the organization, especially someone from the McCaskey family.
But Bears chairman George McCaskey said that’s not the player he’s come to know over the previous 13 years. And McCaskey did talk to Urlacher -- after a cooling-off period.
As efficient as G.M. Phil Emery has been at plugging leaks this off-season – offensive tackle, tight end and linebacker – another one sprang up Tuesday night, this time at quarterback.
The Browns signed last year’s veteran backup, Jason Campbell, to a two-year deal. In Cleveland, Campbell will have a much better chance of winning playing time from Brandon Weeden than he would from Jay Cutler had he re-signed with the Bears.
Good for Campbell. He had been a starter for most of the six years before he joined the Bears in 2012, and he’s still just 31 and still has the tools to start for some team -- just not the Bears.
The Ravens have lost a good chunk of their Super Bowl championship team, and the turnstile in Miami that has drastically changed the look of the Dolphins.
Major additions have made by the Lions, Colts, Eagles, Browns, Rams and even the Bears and Broncos different teams.
All of that will affect how the draft plays out, so here’s an updated forecast of what the first round might look like.
1. Chiefs, DT Star Lotulelei, Utah – Tagged OT Brandon Albert.
2. Jaguars, OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M – Safe pick.
3. Raiders, DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida – Lost UFA Desmond Bryant.
4. Eagles, OT Eric Fisher,CMU – Added defense in UFA.
5. Lions, CB Dee Milliner, Alabama – Continue DB makeover.
6. Browns, OG Chance Warmack, Alabama – Added defense in UFA.