When the Bears reported to training camp last July, there really wasn’t a whole lot of competition at a couple of significant position groups. The linebackers were set with Lance Briggs, Nick Roach and Brian Urlacher. The offensive line was generally in place with Gabe Carimi back at right tackle, J’Marcus Webb at left, and the interior of Chris Spencer, Lance Louis and Roberto Garza in place from 2011.
This year, those two areas are likely to have competitions bordering on blood feuds.
Never mind that the organization signed tackle Jermon Bushrod and guards Eben Britton and Matt Slauson as free agents. Or that barely a month ago the move was to sign presumptive starting linebackers James Anderson and D.J. Williams to one-year contracts.
Of the Bears’ first four picks in the 2013 draft, two went for offensive linemen: guard Kyle Long No. 1 and tackle Jordan Mills in the fifth round. Bushrod, Slauson and Garza are presumed in place, but Mills will go to right tackle where J’Marcus Webb and Jonathan Scott already are in a competition for one job.
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Long goes into a maelstrom with James Brown and Carimi, neither of whom played well enough in 2012 to have any true job security.
In between the Long and Mills selections, a second-round pick was spent for middle linebacker Jon Bostic and the fourth-rounder was used to land outside linebacker Khaseem Greene. Anderson and Williams should already be hearing footsteps.
“Isn’t competition wonderful?” general manager Phil Emery enthused. “Competition makes you better. It’s a little bit of a re-do in terms of adding new people to the mix. We feel very good about the people we added and we feel very good about the kind of response we’ll get from the veteran players.”
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At defensive end, the Bears used a sixth-round pick for Cornelius Washington from Georgia. Normally a sixth-rounder would cause little excitement or even competition, but Washington will challenge Shea McClellin and Corey Wootton for time in the nickel pass-rush package. And Emery did not rule out a return of Israel Idonije, although that would require Idonije to accept a deal close to the veteran minimum, which he has shown no interest in doing.
“Right now, Izzy is not a member of our team,” Emery said. “If he comes in, obviously, it would be a great competition, if we ended up signing him some day. But right now, he’s not a member of the Bears.”