Chicago Bears: Khalil Bell

Five Things We Learned: Bears-Browns

September, 2, 2011

CHICAGO -- Here are five things we learned following the Chicago Bears' 24-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns:

[+] EnlargeCaleb Hanie
Jerry Lai/US PresswireCaleb Hanie completed 7-of-10 passes for 83 yards with a touchdown and a 128.3 QB rating against the Browns.
1. Caleb Hanie is a legit No. 2 QB: The Bears' backup quarterback debate was one of the silliest of the summer. Hanie is a Sunday player, or in this case a Thursday night player. He might not always look great in practice, but he almost always turns it on during games, like he did against Cleveland to the tune of a 128.3 QB rating. For whatever reason, the coaches (Mike Martz in particular) have been ultra-critical of Hanie during camp, almost to the point of being borderline over the top with their comments. Leading the Bears on two scoring drives in two possessions should prove to Martz that Hanie deserves to be the unquestioned No. 2 quarterback. Rookie Nathan Enderle has potential but isn't NFL ready. After watching the preseason finale, even Martz has to admit Hanie is the obvious choice to replace Jay Cutler in an emergency situation.

2. Calling Chester Taylor back to facility a good move: Ironic that only a few days after veteran Chester Taylor thought he was cut and left Halas Hall (only to later return), Bears running back Kahlil Bell suffered a right ankle injury in the second quarter. This comes on the heels of No. 2 rusher Marion Barber missing the contest with a bad calf which raises the question: Should the Bears consider keeping Taylor after all? It might not be a bad idea, especially if either Bell or Barber is questionable for the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons. Although Taylor averaged only 2.4 yards per carry last season, he's still a good blocker, an above average receiver and has plenty of experience (33 career starts). Robert Hughes opened a few eyes in the final exhibition game and deserves at least practice squad consideration. This just goes to show that anything can happen in the NFL. What a crazy league.

3. Depth at safety is a concern: The Bears were already a bit thin at safety, but injuries to Craig Steltz (hip) and Chris Conte (head) raise a big red flag heading into the regular season. Rookie Winston Venable made a strong push to make the 53-man roster, but he delivered a vicious blow and was flagged for unnecessary roughness in the second half. The play will no doubt be reviewed by the league, so let's hope Venable doesn't face any further discipline. Given how often the Bears have made changes at safety under Lovie Smith, the injuries to Steltz and Conte (both had solid training camps) comes at a terrible time for the defense, and for special teams coordinator Dave Toub. Steltz and Conte are expected to be contributors on special teams, so if they are forced to miss any time in the regular season, it would hurt the team in a variety of ways.

[+] EnlargeDane Sanzenbacher
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhDan Sanzenbacher had four catches for 50 yards against the Browns on Thursday.
4. A few rookies might have solidified roster spots: Wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher probably already made the team before Thursday night, but his play on offense (four catches for 50 yards) and in the return game (65-yard punt return touchdown called back due to a holding penalty) should limit the suspense heading into the final cuts. Defensive ends Mario Addison and Nick Reed should be proud of their efforts, although Addison probably gets the nod at the third defensive end spot because of his athleticism. Keeping Venable around makes sense because of his strong preseason and the health concern at safety, and Kyle Adams looks to be in good shape at the fullback/H-back role. However, it's unclear what the Bears will do at linebacker. Dom DeCicco has a chance to earn one of the final slots, but the team could still look to go in a different direction or sign a veteran or two when players begin to get released.

5. Roy Williams needs the "fireworks" to start going off: Raise your hand if you were a little surprised Williams was given the night off. It's not a huge deal, but I felt the receiver could have benefitted by playing at least a series and perhaps catching a pass or two. Johnny Knox certainly got better Thursday night. He made a beautiful touchdown grab between two defenders on a well thrown ball by Hanie in the first quarter. The Bears decision to sit Williams is meaningless if the veteran comes out next weekend and performs well against Atlanta. However, if he is slow coming out of the gate, you could make an argument the Bears wasted an opportunity to build the veteran's confidence after a mediocre preseason.

Bell, Steltz injured against Browns

September, 1, 2011
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears running back Kahlil Bell left Thursday's game with an ankle injury in the first half of Thursday's preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns, while safety Craig Steltz hobbled off the field with a hip injury.

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Marcus Harrison on Bears' inactive list

September, 12, 2010
CHICAGO -- Defensive tackle Marcus Harrison headlines the list of Bears’ inactives for Sunday’s season opener against Detroit.

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Cards game important for bubble players

August, 26, 2010
[+] EnlargeGarrett Wolfe
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireWith Khalil Bell excelling on special teams, Garrett Wolfe's roster spot may be in jeopardy.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- With final cuts lurking a week from Saturday, only a few chances remain for players on the bubble to impress the coaching staff. Since the organization usually knows the final-53 man roster before the final preseason game is played, this weekend's matchup against Arizona is pivotal.

Here is quick look at three players fighting to earn a roster spot.

Jarron Gilbert: It doesn't look good for Gilbert, especially after general manager Jerry Angelo publicly challenged the 2009 third-round pick before the second preseason game.

"I use that as motivation, definitely, but I put pressure on myself as well," Gilbert said of Angelo's comments. "If I feel I'm not performing, I always feel that pressure to step it up."

But Gilbert wasn't able to participate against Oakland, and is likely behind both Henry Melton and rookie Corey Wootton on the depth chart at defensive end.

"He's one of the guys fighting for a spot that needs to make some plays, simple as that," Bears head coach Lovie Smith said. "The guys that have an opportunity to play, we'll put them out on the field and let them show us they belong on the 53- or 61-man roster."

"I feel like I can show them more, definitely," Gilbert said.

Garrett Wolfe: Khalil Bell is built like a more complete back, but Wolfe always had the edge in the special teams department. However, Bell performed well on special teams during the first preseason game, and if that continues, Wolfe may be pushed off the roster.

"It's not something that we discussed or sat down in a round table type of setting," Wolfe said of his roster status. "We just discuss going out and competing and just letting the cards fall as they may. That's all I'm concerned with. [I] just want to go out and compete and control what I can control, and that's just going out and going hard."

Wolfe received more touches on offense last weekend, and if he hits on a big play or two in the next game, maybe he can change some minds at Halas Hall.

Tim Shaw: Here is where the NFL becomes a cold business. Despite recording 30 special teams tackles last year, Shaw is still on the bubble, because in order to keep an additional specialist, that player must be able to make the gameday 45-man roster.

"I didn't pick up where I left off [in terms of special teams], but I've definitely had big improvement from Game 1 or Game 2," Shaw said. "It's just a matter of getting comfortable again to the speed. This week I'm going to improve even more in the game, and I'm excited to get back to where I was last year. It actually took me a little while to get going last year, but that's why I need these preseason games to get back to speed."

Further complicating matters for Shaw was the addition of Todd Collins. With the Bears expected to keep three quarterbacks, that leaves one fewer spot for those players on the bubble.

"If I'm supposed to be here, I'll be here," Shaw said.

If the most talented 53 players make the final roster, Shaw will be here. But that's not always the case in the NFL.