We'll get in one more positional breakdown before we switch gears from this analysis for a few days and get into some other material we hope you find interesting, including Four Down Territory on Friday. Up this morning are the fullbacks.
Projected starter: Jason McKie, 5-11, 247, 8th year, Temple
Jason Davis, 5-10, 242, 2nd year, Illinois
Will Ta'ufo'ou, 5-11, 247, Rookie, Cal
Projected depth chart
2009 salary cap numbers
Jason Davis $390,200
Jason McKie $995,000
Will Ta'ufo'ou $311,666
Number of fullbacks on 2008 roster at start of the season: 1
Projected number of fullbacks on 2009 roster at start of the season: 1
The skinny: The Bears got a pretty good look at another player in Davis when a quad muscle injury knocked McKie out after 11 games. McKie has been a pretty durable performer appearing in 15 or more games in three of the last five seasons. A torn pectoral muscle kept him out for half of the year in 2005. He's a dependable player who has become a bit of a threat in the red zone, rushing for two touchdowns last season and catching another pass for a score to give him seven touchdowns over the last three seasons. Davis proved to be a nice find when he joined the practice squad at the start of the season and the Bears were lucky to get him back after the brief mid-season stint he had in Oakland. He's got the talent to play in the league but is in a numbers crunch after tight end Michael Gaines was signed. The Bears talked with Gaines about using him as an H-back on occasion and lining him up in the backfield and that kind of versatility could put the squeeze on Davis and lead the Bears to keep just one fullback on the 53-man roster as they did at the start of last season. Gaines could get them through a game in an emergency if something happened to McKie. Of course, second year tight end Kellen Davis also figures into the equation. If the Bears only keep three tight ends, it increases the chance that an extra running back or fullback make the roster. Kellen Davis has draft status, though, and Jason Davis does not. Given the addition of Jay Cutler at quarterback and the trend last season with offensive coordinator Ron Turner and the fullback position, we're also inclined to believe that only one fullback will make the roster. The Bears relied less on the fullback in 2008, with playing time dropping to 34.88 percent of the plays down from 41.15 percent in 2007. The drop was due in large part to the expansion of double tight end formations. Ta'ufo'ou was an interesting guy going into the draft but his stock dipped and he would up being signed as an undrafted free agent. He might not be the listed height of 5-11 and faces a real uphill battle to crack the roster.
The upside: McKie paves the way in an encore season for running back Matt Forte and enjoys a little success out of the backfield as a safety valve receiver while playing in 16 games for just the second time in his career.
The downside: Turner falls in love with McKie in short yardage situations as he has in the past and the calls blow up in his face. More seriously, injuries happen. It's a difficult position to keep healthy.
On the hot seat: McKie. Someone has to be on the hot seat, right? Might as well be the guy projected to make the roster. He's signed through 2011 and needs to have a good season for job security but we can write that about nearly everyone.
Final thought: If the Bears go with just one fullback there's almost certain to be one on the practice squad. Keep an eye on Ta'ufo'ou. Maybe he will carve out a niche for himself.