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Some battles are worth watching as Bears open camp

We know who are No. 1 and No. 2 on the depth chart at both quarterback and halfback. Many of the key players on defense and special teams are unchanged from last year.

Putting aside the high expectations, this is one of the least intriguing training camps I can remember the Bears opening. For once, the No. 1 options at quarterback, running back and wide receiver are all clear cut. Realistically, only a handful of starting spots — and only a few spots on the 53-man roster — will be determined in the next few weeks in Bourbonnais.

There are, as there always are, a few position battles that could be of consequence to the Bears' Super Bowl dreams in 2012. Here are the ones on which I'll be keeping tabs.

Left tackle

It's ironic that I consider J'Marcus Webb a higher-ceilinged player than Chris Williams, considering the former was a seventh-round pick and the latter a first-rounder. I liked Webb's potential when he entered the league in 2010, but his growth has been slow if existent. Unlike Webb, Williams seemed to get better in 2011. Whether him getting better means he can be a starting left tackle in the NFL remains to be seen. He might, at this point, be the safer of the two options, though I think his ceiling is mediocre starter.


Another draft came and went, and the Bears enter camp with yet another mid-round rookie in their safety mix. There will certainly be opportunity for Brandon Hardin to earn playing time. I liked what Chris Conte showed as a rookie, though I do have to question how hard it is to not get beat deep when you're playing 75 yards off the line of scrimmage. In any case, Conte and the underwhelming Major Wright are probably the two most likely starters, though Hardin, Craig Steltz and Anthony Walters will compete.

No. 2 receiver

Earl Bennett is my favorite Bears receiver not named Brandon Marshall, but he's very likely to stay in the slot as the de facto No. 3 guy. That probably means it'll come down to Devin Hester and Alshon Jeffery to start opposite Marshall. In a perfect world, Jeffery has a great camp, wins the job easily and relegates Hester to the role of full-time returner and situational deep threat many fans have long wanted for him. I'd bet that the Bears coaching staff won't just hand Jeffery the job, however.

Left defensive end (or right, depending on Julius Peppers' mood)

Israel Idonije is a nice piece on the defensive line. He's not a game-breaker, nor is he a source of a consistent pass rush. Shea McClellin could be both of those things, and if he is, it could invigorate a defense whose best days appear to be behind it. McClellin winning the job could be a big deal in a number of ways. It's not as if Idonije would be relegated to non-factor status — he'd still be part of the rotation on the defensive line, and maybe would be able to contribute inside, where the Bears aren't exactly teeming with depth.

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