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updated: 7/25/2014 6:44 AM

Bears have 4 position battles worth watching

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  • Bears linebacker Jon Bostic, grabbing an interception in front of Ravens tight end Dallas Clark last season, will get reps this preseason at middle linebacker and on the strong side.

      Bears linebacker Jon Bostic, grabbing an interception in front of Ravens tight end Dallas Clark last season, will get reps this preseason at middle linebacker and on the strong side.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 

There are competitions in every training camp. But Bears general manager Phil Emery is especially excited about the position battles this year, which begin with Friday's first practice.

The reason that Emery's interest is piqued is the belief this year's individual contests will be fought among players who have a higher level of talent than in the past two seasons.

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By the time the Bears break camp Aug. 13, some outcomes may be decided, while others could go right up until the season opener. Following are four of the more entertaining competitions.

Linebacker

Seven-time Pro Bowler Lance Briggs remains a fixture on the weak side. The other two positions are up for grabs.

D.J. Williams begins camp as "the top dog" at middle linebacker, according to coach Marc Trestman. But 2013 second-round draft pick Jon Bostic will get reps there and on the strong side, where Shea McClellin will contend for a job after moving from defensive end.

Khaseem Greene, drafted two rounds after Bostic last year, also is a contender after starting four games last season when Briggs was hurt.

"Lot of unsettled positions," Emery said. "Lance Briggs is the only declared starter. The rest of the group are going to fight it out among themselves. There's quality athletes there. They all can play various roles in different situations; in sub situations vs. run, or pass personnel, or all three downs. Some rush better, some cover better."

Change is to be expected during camp and could continue throughout the preseason.

"I will guarantee you this," Emery said, "however it lines up the first day (of practice) probably won't be how it lines up the first (preseason) game, the second game or the third game, and it may not be how it lines up against our first (regular-season) opponent, the Buffalo Bills."

• Best guess: Williams starts in the middle and McClellin and Bostic end up in some type of job share on the strong side.

Safety

Only Chris Conte and Craig Steltz remain from last year's disappointing final line of defense.

Four unrestricted free agents -- Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings, Danny McCray and 34-year-old five-time Pro Bowler Adrian Wilson, who was signed just a month ago -- along with rookies Brock Vereen (fourth-round pick) and Marcus Trice (undrafted) make this a free-for-all.

Conte (shoulder surgery) could miss all of camp, while Steltz (groin) should be good to go.

"A wide-open battle," Emery said. "A number of players that have been here, a number of players that we have brought in. There's no declared winners, and don't be surprised who lines up the first day of practice. It could all be different (when the regular season starts)."

If Wilson is even close to 100 percent after missing all of last season with a foot injury, he would be a steal.

"When we brought Adrian in for a workout, it was obvious he still has a very good burst," Emery said. "He still has a very good set of hands, and he still wants to play football."

• Best guess: Mundy can play both free and strong and should grab one of the starting spots. A healthy Wilson makes the other decision easy, but if he's not 100 percent, Vereen could sneak in.

Backup running back

Matt Forte's all-around excellence usually leaves no more than table scraps for the non-starters. The Bears are a better team when he's on the field.

The only significant injury in his career, a knee late in 2011, proved his value. The Bears were 7-4 before Forte was hurt early in Game 12. They lost that one and three of the next four to blow a playoff shot.

Fourth-round rookie Ka'Deem Carey will get a long look. Michael Ford, undrafted out of LSU last year, returns after contributing on special teams as a rookie. Undrafted rookies Jordan Lynch and Senorise Perry are in the mix, as is second-year man Shaun Draughn.

"Very unsettled in terms of who the backup running back is," Emery said.

And it's so wide open that Perry, who already has beaten long odds to make it to training camp as a tryout player earlier in the summer, "is just as much in the mix," as Lynch, Ford or Carey," according to Emery.

Lynch, who's making the conversion from quarterback at NIU, impressed the Bears' GM throughout the off-season program.

"From my perspective, everything I saw of him is that he worked his tail off," Emery said. "The guy has good hands; he has good feet. He's got a good competition on his hands. But I like what we've seen from Jordan in terms of his competitiveness, his level of athletic ability and his hands."

• Best guess: As a draft pick, Carey has the inside track, and Lynch's versatility and attitude will make him difficult to cut.

No. 3 wide receiver

After Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Forte and Martellus Bennett combined for 328 receptions last season there wasn't much left. But since-departed Earl Bennett still caught 32 balls, so there are a few leftovers for whoever claims the third wideout spot.

Marquess Wilson has youth and potential on his side, while Josh Morgan has experience and production. More competition could come from a group that also will be in the mix for kick-returning gigs: former CFL star Chris Williams and veterans Michael Spurlock, Armanti Edwards and Eric Weems.

"Marquess Wilson has a really good level of talent," Emery said. "Now we're going to see if Marquess puts it all together. But he is in a competition with Josh. He's in a competition with all of those guys. No one has claimed it."

• Best guess: The future is now -- Wilson.

 Follow Bob's Bears and NFL reports on Twitter @BobLeGere.

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