Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011
Posted: 5:38 p.m.
CSNChicago.com BearsInsider Follow@CSNMoonMullin
Earlier today I noted that the Bears, despite being an NFC Championship finalist, have uprooted more than one-third of their roster from last season, which likely ranks among the more sweeping makeovers ever for a conference runner-up.
Some specifics came into focus this afternoon when the team put out its first regular-season depth chart.
Didnt like the anemic offense that ranked 30th in yardage and 21st in points last year? Neither did the Bears apparently, because only four of the positions on offense have the same player starting there that started the NFC title game: quarterback Jay Cutler, running back Matt Forte, wide receiver Devin Hester and left guard Chris Williams.
The first-string fullback has the same number (86) as last years guy but that is about the only similarity between this years No. 1, rookie Kyle Adams and last years one-man jumbo package, Brandon Manumaleuna. The Bears further showed how they regard Adams when they waived fullback Will Taufoou Tuesday, presumably to clear a roster spot for a signee at linebacker, their thinnest spot.
Roberto Garza and JMarcus Webb are still starters on the offensive line. But both are in new positions, and if Webb isnt an exponentially different player than he was last year, the Bears have a bit of a problem.
Notably, newly signed Brandon Meriweather isnt being handed a starting job the way Roy Williams was on offense. Meriweather is behind Major Wright at free safety; for how long, youll probably know from what you see on the field.
Henry Melton has replaced Tommie Harris, but thats about it as far as change to a defense that mocks critics by annually ranking among the NFLs best. Nick Roach is the starter at strong-side linebacker instead of Pisa Tinoisamoa, but Roach started six of the last seven regular-season games and 18 of the last 22 at SLB, so that doesnt count as a change.
Because there are four phases to special teams (kickoff returncover, punt returncover), IDing all of the changes there would take a long, long time. Suffice it to say, coordinator Dave Toub have implemented perhaps more total personnel changes than both offense and defense combined.
The good news: No one in the NFL has done a better job than Toub of staffing and choreographing those dance troupes.
Last year CSNChicago.com noted that Melton, subbing with increasing frequency at defensive tackle, was switching positions with Julius Peppers. The two had the go-ahead to switch if the All-Pro end determined an advantage to dropping down inside in pass-rush situations. Melton was comfortable at end, having been drafted at that spot out of Texas. Look for that shuffle to continue in selected situations.
How secure are those starting positions? Lovie Smiths track record of accountability says that he will make a permanent change as early as a halftime. Mike Tice directed five different offensive line combinations in the first seven weeks last season. You dont perform? Youre movin out.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.