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updated: 8/8/2014 9:54 AM

4 Bears' offensive position battles to watch tonight

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  • Bears coach Marc Trestman gets his first opportunity this summer to do some serious game-situation evaluations Friday night when the Bears open the preseason against the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field.

      Bears coach Marc Trestman gets his first opportunity this summer to do some serious game-situation evaluations Friday night when the Bears open the preseason against the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field.
    Associated Press

 
 

BOURBONNAIS -- There's only so much football players can do during intrasquad training-camp practices to make an impression on coaches.

The Bears have been doing that since July 25, but Friday night they get their opportunities to audition under the bright lights of Soldier Field when they face the Philadelphia Eagles.

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It's what players do in those game-type situations that are most important to coaches who will make the final evaluations when the current 90-man roster is sliced to 53 (plus an eight-man practice squad) at the end of the month.

On a veteran offense like the Bears', all the starters are in place, but several positions will feature interesting battles for backup spots. Some worth watching include:

Running back:

Fourth-round pick Ka'Deem Carey would have to do something awful not to make the final 53.

That probably leaves just one spot to be determined among Shaun Draughn, who was undrafted in 2011 and has played for the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens; undrafted rookies Jordan Lynch and Senorise Perry; and Michael Ford, an undrafted rookie last year who contributed on special teams in 2013.

"He's been consistent throughout the course of camp," coach Marc Trestman said of Draughn. "He's a veteran. He understands the game. He's played in systems similar to ours. I think that's helped him.

"And he's been very effective in the mental part of his game and learning his assignments. He's certainly one of those guys that we're going to look hard at in these games."

Because starter Matt Forte has been such a durable workhorse, the Bears are unlikely to keep more than three running backs. Unless the fourth player is a major contributor on special teams, which appears to be Lynch's best shot at a roster spot.

Tight end:

Martellus Bennett's suspension of undetermined length has given all the contenders more reps, and that will continue against the Eagles.

Dante Rosario played in 15 games last season for the Bears, mainly as a reliable special-teams guy, but three other veterans are in the mix for backup roles: Matthew Mulligan, Zach Minter and Jeron Mastrud.

The 6-foot-5, 236-pound Miller caught 33 passes for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2010 and is the most gifted receiver of the contenders. But he has played in just four games the last three years because of knee, foot and shoulder injuries.

The 6-4, 267-pound Mulligan and the 6-6, 255-pound Mastrud are primarily blockers. But that's a role that sixth-year veteran Mulligan doesn't mind playing.

"Obviously I had only (2) catches last year (for the New England Patriots) and (16) for my career," he said. "So it's not like I'm a receiving tight end. As you get going along, guys fall into molds. They fall into what they do best. For me it's blocking. If the ball is thrown to me, 'Hold on to that baby and get upfield.' "

Offensive line:

It's possible that there are only two or three openings, if versatile Eben Britton and experienced center Brian de la Puente are ensconced behind the starting five. Taylor Boggs, like de la Puente, is primarily a center, but both probably will have to prove they also can fill in at guard in order to lock up a spot.

Michael Ola is versatile and has the advantage of having played for Trestman with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.

"He's competitive not only at the guard position (but also tackle), and his flexibility and his athleticism allows us to move him around both on the left and right side," Trestman said of Ola. "We're excited about having him here."

But there are some veterans with extensive experience challenging for jobs, including 32-year-old Dylan Gandy inside and 31-year-old, 6-9 Dennis Roland outside.

Coaches like seventh-round pick Charles Leno Jr.'s ability to play left and right tackle, and versatile James Brown has been with the Bears the past two seasons, starting the final three games in 2012 at left guard.

Wide receiver:

Marquess Wilson had all but nailed down the No. 3 slot, but when he sustained a fractured clavicle Monday, it created a free-for-all everywhere behind the starters on the depth chart.

"We want to see guys who can make plays and take care of the ball, protect the ball, know what to do and how to do it at the right time," coach Marc Trestman said. "We'll see what happens."

Undersized Eric Weems and Chris Williams came into camp considered more as kick returners than receivers, but both have shown more speed and quickness than the bigger contenders, such as veterans Armanti Edwards and Micheal Spurlock, who also have made major contributions as return specialists in the past.

Veteran Josh Morgan has the most impressive resume as a receiver, with 199 catches for 2,488 yards in six seasons.

None of the contenders can provide exactly the skills that the rangy, 6-4 Wilson added to the offense, but some of them have to pick up the slack until he returns, which might not be until October.

"They all have their differences," Trestman said. "With Marquess out, they're getting reps against guys that are 1s, and that's a good thing.

"Just keep watching them."

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

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