Throughout June and the first few weeks of July, Fanball.com will be taking a team-by-team training camp tour with fantasy previews for each NFL squad. We'll detail the key offseason moves, position battles to watch, and other things to keep an eye as the clubs prepare for the season ahead.
Notable Offseason Moves: Thank goodness they finally did something about their ugly quarterback situation. Last year’s threesome was less effective than SPF 1 sun block. Toward the end of last season, General manager Jerry Angelo all but promised that Jim Miller, Chris Chandler, and Henry Burris wouldn’t be around in 2003. We’re saying there’s a chance. Miller is rehabbing his worn-out wing down in Tampa, waiting for a chance to win the Buccaneers’ backup job. Burris is on his way out the door after the drafting of Rex Grossman. And even Chandler isn’t a sure bet to stick around after calls were placed to Brian Griese last week to see if he was interested in being the Bears’ backup.
Of course the biggest change is at the top of the quarterback depth chart, where Kordell Stewart has a lock on the starting job. The Bears are re-working the playbook to customize their offense to Kordell’s strengths, namely his ability to run and create plays. If their flirtation with Griese is any indication, they’re unsettled after Kordell and still might pick up a player to supplant the fragile Chandler.
The Bears subtracted one receiver and added another this offseason. Wideout Marcus Robinson was released and signed with Baltimore, while tight end Desmond Clark was added via free agency. Clark is a pretty deep sleeper. He’s shown in the past that he knows how to catch, and Kordell may look his way frequently with safe dump offs as they both learn the new offense.
Position Battles: There aren’t many starting running back jobs that have a chance of changing hands this preseason, but the Bears have one of them. Anthony Thomas turned in a very disappointing sophomore season that left many in the Bears’ front office questioning whether he was the answer at halfback. No one was clamoring to bring back James Allen or Curtis Enis, but no one was singing the praises of Chi-town’s A-Train either. A broken finger thankfully ended Train’s season early and gave coach Jauron a chance to get a look at Adrian Peterson; he really liked what he saw. Peterson became lauded almost as much as Thomas was being doubted.
Offensive coordinator John Shoop refers to the two backs as 1 and 1a. "Is it an 'open competition'? Well…I promise you, whoever we think is the best ball carrier will be carrying it,” a non-committal Shoop told the Chicago Tribune last month. “Let's say Anthony's our No. 1 guy right now and Adrian's working like heck."
The early word is that Thomas has reshaped his physique through strenuous offseason workouts and is meeting the challenge from Peterson head on. That’s great news for fantasy players. If Peterson lights a fire under Train and brings out the best in him…we won’t complain.