The Bears have a ton of questions at wide receiver and tight end.
And while there is no doubt that Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett will be the starters in those spots in Week 1 against the Bengals, who the other three or four wide receivers and two or three tight ends are is anybody’s guess.
The first two preseason games have done little or nothing to separate the players competing for those spots, and when you realize the starters should play well into the third quarter against the Raiders, there is little game time left for guys to earn those roster spots.
That means practice will be an important factor in rounding out the group. Wide receivers coach Mike Groh said it was more of a Marc Trestman and/or Phil Emery question, but also added:
“You have to base a lot off what we see in practice, and I think that’s the way it is in the NFL right now based on the CBA. I don’t think it’s unique to the Bears, I think it’s an NFL issue.”
Devin Aromashodu is a wideout clearly on the bubble, probably sitting anywhere between Nos. 5 and 7 on a depth chart that most likely will only feature six.
He is also a veteran who’s been through this before, and that experience maye be helping him this time around.
“It’s the same feeling, but you get to understand the process a little better,” Aromashodu said. “I guess you can cope with whatever happens a little better from having been through it.”
He also told me one guy who has impressed him is rookie Marquess Wilson.
“He’s definitely doing a good job as a rookie, and he’s doing a good job of doing what the coaches expect of him,” Aromashodu added.
Eric Weems would appear to have a leg up on other wideouts because of his contributions on special teams, but he admitted learning Trestman’s new offense has added to the challenge at receiver.
“It’s still coming along with the new coaching staff,” Weems said, “and we’re still trying to get a feel for each other so they [coaches] can find a feel and put me where I need to be.”
Aromashodu, Wilson, Weems, Earl Bennett and Joe Anderson appear to be the five primary candidates for either three or four spots behind Marshall and Jeffery, with many believing Anderson and Wilson could have two of those spots locked up.
Steve Maneri appeared to have an inside track on the backup tight end spot coming into camp, but that’s no longer clear. He does feel like he knows what he needs to do to earn the job, though.
“I’m not beating anyone down the field,” Maneri said, “so I’m a blocking tight end and I’m doing everything I can to be the best I can be at that – and anything else is gravy.”
Fendi Onobun, on the other hand, is a college basketball player trying to make it as a tight end. He takes exception to the thought he’s just an athlete and pass-catcher who can’t block well enough to earn a tight end job.
“The aspect of my game I’ve been working on a lot is being able to block,” Onobun said. “There’s a stigma saying that basketball players are soft or basketball players can’t block. It’s not that I don’t want to block or aren’t willing to block; I’m willing to block, and I want to become a better blocker and be a complete tight end. It’s definitely one aspect of my game I’m trying to improve, and I’m starting to see the improvement on film.”
Maneri, Onobun, Kyle Adams, Leonard Pope and Gabe Miller are all fighting for two spots, although Onobun or Adams might qualify as an H-back, creating another spot in addition to three tight ends. This race is impossible to handicap right now, although Onobun does seem to be the one most consistently on coaches’ minds.