Competition matters: A look at Bears’ roster battles after draft

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Bears coach John Fox and GM Ryan Pace. (AP)

Conviction and confidence. Those are the Bears’ buzzwords after general manager Ryan Pace’s moves in free agency and the draft.

“Everybody is getting pushed,” Pace said.

But some players are more than others.

The Bears will sign their share of undrafted free agents, but that will help only to a certain extent. That said, here’s our look at the most intriguing position battles:

Quarterbacks

Starter: Jay Cutler.

Reserves: Brian Hoyer, David Fales, Matt Blanchard.

Main competition: Hoyer vs. Fales. Pace wanted an experienced backup behind Cutler, but he still thought enough of Fales to prevent the Ravens from signing him off the Bears’ practice squad late last season. Fales, a sixth-round pick in 2014, has an edge to him, and this might be his last chance with the team.

Running backs

Starter: Jeremy Langford.

Reserves: Ka’Deem Carey, Jordan Howard, Jacquizz Rodgers, Senorise Perry, Paul Lasike (fullback).

Main competition: Carey vs. Howard. They have similar running styles, but Howard’s bigger build makes a difference. Carey dealt with a concussion last season. He also will have to prove himself on special teams again with Rodgers and Perry returning from injuries.

Wide receivers

Starters: Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, Eddie Royal.

Reserves: Marquess Wilson, Josh Bellamy, Marc Mariani, Cameron Meredith, Deonte Thompson, Daniel Braverman, Nate Palmer.

Main competition: Jeffery, White vs. themselves. White is out to prove he was worth the seventh overall pick last year after missing his entire rookie season due to shin surgery. The Bears still are speaking with Jeffery about a long-term deal, but if it doesn’t happen, he will have to prove he can stay healthy, while excelling with White.

Meanwhile, Braverman, a seventh-round selection, is the only true slot receiver. His development and integration is worth monitoring at training camp. Braverman may also push Mariani at punt returner. Thompson remains the top threat for kickoffs.

Tight ends

Starter: Zach Miller.

Reserves: Khari Lee, Rob Housler, Gannon Sinclair, Marcus Lucas.

Main competition: There isn’t one. Miller is by far the team’s best tight end. The thought here is that the Bears will be looking for some veteran help later this year when teams start trimming their rosters.

Offensive line

Starters: Left tackle Charles Leno Jr., left guard Cody Whitehair, center Hroniss Grasu, right guard Kyle Long, right tackle Bobby Massie.

Reserves: guard Ted Larsen, guard/center Manny Ramirez, tackle Nick Becton, tackle Tayo Fabuluje, tackle Jason Weaver, center Cornelius Edison, tackle Martin Wallace.

Main competition: There are two to watch: Larsen vs. Whitehair and Grasu vs. Ramirez. The youngsters are considered the starters here because that’s what the team ideally wants. Whitehair and Grasu are valued for their athleticism, but they won’t be handed the starting jobs. Grasu needs to make a big jump after struggling to stay healthy last season.

Defensive line

Starters: Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Jonathan Bullard.

Reserves: Ego Ferguson, Mitch Unrein, Will Sutton, Bruce Gaston, Cornelius Washington, Greg Scruggs, Keith Browner, Terry Williams.

Main competition: Bullard vs. the field. Unrein has the coaching staff’s confidence, but figures to be a rotational player. This is an important year for Ferguson and Sutton, who were drafted by ex-GM Phil Emery. Neither player is guaranteed a spot. Ferguson, who spent most of 2015 on injured reserve with a knee injury, appears to be on the right path. Pace and coach John Fox have praised Ferguson for his work this offseason.

Outside linebackers

Starters: Pernell McPhee, Willie Young.

Reserves: Lamarr Houston, Leonard Floyd, Sam Acho, Lamin Barrow.

Main competition: Floyd vs. Young and Houston. Young is penciled in as the starter opposite McPhee after he started eight games in 2015. Houston and Young excelled over the second half and combined for 14½ sacks. But Floyd’s speed is a quality the Bears were missing, and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio likely will give him a role immediately. Young, who is in a contract year, is on the hot seat.

Inside linebackers

Starters: Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman.

Reserves: Nick Kwiatkoski, John Timu, Jonathan Anderson, Christian Jones, Danny Mason.

Main competition: There isn’t one. Kwiatkoski could push Freeman, who is 30, in 2017, but right now, the fourth-round pick will compete with the rest of the group for special-teams snaps.

Cornerbacks

Starters: Tracy Porter, Kyle Fuller.

Reserves: Bryce Callahan, Deiondre’ Hall, Sherrick McManis, Jacoby Glenn, De’Vante Bausby.

Main competition: Hall vs. everyone. Hall’s technique and footwork require work, but the Bears do have Ed Donatell, one of the league’s best secondary coaches. Hall’s freakish arm length and knack for big plays could show up throughout the summer. If they do, the Bears won’t hesitate to play the fourth-round pick. Callahan, an undrafted free-agent signing last year, became the nickelback after standing out in practice. He’s quick, but also significantly smaller than Hall.

Safeties

Starters: Adrian Amos, Harold Jones-Quartey.

Reserves: Omar Bolden, Chris Prosinski, Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Demontre Hurst, Anthony Jefferson.

Main competition: Jones-Quartey vs. the rookies, Bush and Houston-Carson. All three players fit the hard-hitting mold that Fangio and Donatell want for their safeties. But the team needs a playmaker back there. As good as Amos was last year, he struggled to make plays on the ball. Jones-Quartey started four games, including the final two, as an undrafted free agent. He broke up three passes and made an interception in a win at Tampa Bay.

Specialists

Starters: Kicker Robbie Gould, punter Pat O’Donnell, long snapper Aaron Brewer.

Reserve: Long snapper Patrick Scales.

Main competition: The long snappers vs. Patrick Mannelly’s ghost. Replacing Mannelly has been more than problematic the last two years. Scales surprisingly replaced Thomas Gafford late last season. It seems to be Brewer’s job to lose. Signed in March, he was previously special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers’ snapper for three seasons in Denver.

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