Bears main position battles start in the trenches

5 camp battles to follow for the Bears

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OFFENSIVE GUARD

The Bears’ most competitive competition in Bourbonnais will be at offensive guard, where Kyle Long is locked in on the right side, if he is healthy enough to be on the field, but there is no clarity as to whether Eric Kush, James Daniels, Earl Watford or Jordan Morgan will claim the starting left guard spot, or if perhaps an undrafted rookie free agent like the massive Jeremi Hall might come out of nowhere to claim the spot.

After playing just eight and nine games over the past two seasons respectively, Long is rehabbing three separate surgeries he underwent this offseason and has been a nonparticipant in all of the team’s offseason activities.

There is no question the right guard position is Long’s if he can go, but if he can’t the team will be looking for two starting guards, as the left guard spot is as unsettled as right guard is set.

As the 39th player taken in the draft, rookie James Daniels is expected by many to claim the starting job. But the smart money is on Kush, who was extremely solid replacing Long in 2016 before missing all of last season due to an Achilles injury, to be there on opening day, allowing Daniels a little time to learn the ropes at the next level.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

Like with Long at guard, one of these spots is Leonard Floyd’s if he’s healthy enough to hang onto it. Floyd needs to become a better football player, but he won’t be told to take a seat for anything he does on the field — his tangibles are too great and he’ll be given whatever time he needs to develop them. He just needs to stay healthy.

But the other spot is as unsettled as left guard, with the smart money on Aaron Lynch, but Sam Acho, Kylie Fitts, Isaiah Irving, Jonathan Anderson and Kasim Edebali all looking to take it away from him.

Other than Floyd, Lynch easily is the most talented outside linebacker on the roster and might even rival him for pure natural ability. But while Lynch has the pedigree, many question whether he has the character and if he’s ready to maximize his own tremendous abilities.

Acho will get plenty of playing time and will be part of a three-man rotation, but while extremely dependable, he doesn’t appear to have difference-making traits.

If you’re looking for a longshot, keep an eye on Irving, who flashed a few times late last season when Floyd was down for the count.

WIDE RECEIVER

Allen Robinson is a lock at one of the wideout spots when he’s ready to go. The free agent was signed and paid to be the Bears’ No. 1 receiver and is clearly the most talented on the roster. But he will be a little less than 12 months removed from ACL surgery on opening day, and with the investment they’ve made in him, the Bears are unlikely to push him.

Taylor Gabriel is another expensive free agent, but he appears to be best suited to the third wideout spot and not a player you want on the field if you’re running the ball.

The Bears paid a steep price for second-round pick Anthony Miller and would love to reap some immediate dividends, but can he pick up the offense quickly enough to be an opening-day starter across from Robinson, or possibly even a lesser-talented top target if Robinson’s not ready to go?

Bennie Fowler and Josh Bellamy will make the team, but neither is a serious threat to claim a starting spot, so what can we make at this point of Kevin White?

White is going to be a Bear for at least one more season because of all the money the Bears owe him, but can he stay healthy and, if he does, can he play?

White may very well prove to be one of the most interesting Bears in camp this season.

TIGHT END

This is a different kind of competition as Dion Sims, Adam Shaheen and free agent Trey Burton are all going to make the team, and all will get significant playing time, unless Shaheen can make serious enough strides in training camp to make Sims expendable.

Sims is an in-line run blocker, while Burton is primarily a slot or move tight end who was signed to a lucrative contract to catch passes, not block.

Only Shaheen has the size and skills to do both, but is he ready to do either?

FIVE-TECHNIQUE

With Mitch Unrein gone, Jonathan Bullard is the heir apparent across from Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman, and Bullard’s steady improvement the second half of last season is one of the reasons the Bears allowed Unrein to leave for Tampa.

But Bullard is undersized for the position, and when Roy Robertson-Harris has been healthy, he’s actually displayed more big-play ability than Bullard.

Most aren’t expecting a real competition here, but don’t be surprised if Robertson-Harris forces one.

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