Bears have few spots for aspiring wide receivers
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BOURBONNAIS — Most of the wide receivers currently on the roster won't be when the regular season begins.
Twelve players are vying for four, maybe five spots.
Since Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett are locks, that leaves nine players competing for one or two spots, and that doesn't include Devin Hester who is strictly a return specialist until further notice.
Joe Anderson has shown up in practices more often than the others and Devin Aromashodu has the most NFL experience. But game production trumps everything else, and the Bears play three preseason games before the cutdown to 75 on Aug. 27. The final cut to 53 players is two days after the final preseason game Aug. 29.
"We watch the tape everyday, and we've got guys making plays," said Bears coach Marc Trestman. "(But) for receivers, the preseason games bring an added value. (You) see the guys who can win the contested battles (when they're) thrown into games. If they're stepping up in practice, we get them enough opportunities to make a play and show that they can be that guy in the games as well.
"Those guys are going to get a lot of playing time over the next two to three weeks. They're going to get a lot of reps in games, and we're going to know a lot more. But it's important to them to know that, No. 1, they know where to line up; know where to go. Quarterbacks, and all of us, have to be confident that they know what to do. They have to be able to adjust. When there's a contested throw, we're hopeful they're making the play. Those are the things we're looking at specifically, and we want to see them blocking the perimeter."
The depth chart lists Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin as co-starters at left end, which essentially means nothing.
"It doesn't matter at all," McClellin said. "We're out there competing with each other, but at the end of the day we're both going to play the same amount of time and we're going to be rotating in and out. All it is, is a title, and I don't think either of us really care about it."
Both players are expected to provide pass-rush pressure opposite seven-time Pro Bowl right end Julius Peppers. McClellin had just 2½ sacks last season as a rookie but was third on the team with 14 quarterback pressures. The first-round draft pick is looking to take a big step this season after what he considers a mediocre debut and has flashed more quickness to the quarterback in training camp practices.
"I definitely feel much more comfortable than last year," McClellin said. "I feel like I'm getting better, and that was my goal and what I want to continue to do."
No numbers safety:
The competition at safety features a full field of eight, only half of whom are likely to stick, leaving two spots after starters Major Wright and Chris Conte. Sixth-year veteran Craig Steltz stepped in with the first team at Wednesday's practice when Conte was sidelined with a tight hamstring.
That leaves Brandon Hardin, the Bears' 2012 third-round pick, with an uphill battle, along with former Arlington Heights natives and middle school teammates Tom Zbikowski and Tom Nelson.
Hardin hasn't played in a regular-season game since 2010 at Oregon State. He missed his senior season with a shoulder injury and his rookie season with the Bears after a preseason neck injury.
"He's in a competition, and we've done everything we can to get him the reps in practice that he needs," coach Marc Trestman said. "But certainly the games are going to be critical to the evaluation of all of our safeties, also for Major and Chris and so on."
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