There is throwing darts against the wall, taking a stab at something, giving it the ol' college try and taking a shot in the dark.
Somewhere amongst those exercises falls my effort to select the Bears' 53-man roster before it is selected by the men who make the decisions--Jerry Angelo, Lovie Smith and their staffs. The best guess after evaluating training camp, preseason, past history and everything else that goes into trying to enter another man's mind will appear in Thursday's edition of the Sun-Times. We'll lay it out here on Thursday for continued discussion, a much worthier topic than what you're actually looking forward to seeing in the preseason finale vs. the Cleveland Browns. Final cuts, by the way, are due to the league office by 5 p.m. Saturday.
But I'll list some bubble players here, some that made my 53 and others who didn't:
Adrian Peterson: A coach once called the veteran running back a security blanket for his ability to stick around. He doesn't do anything particularly well where he jumps out at you, but he does everything the right way and is about as reliable a player as you will find on the roster. In my estimation, a roster spot comes down to him and tight end Michael Gaines (more on that in a little bit). Peterson ran hard and ran well last Sunday in Denver, prompting one scout from another organization to inquire about what kind of guy he is. If the Bears let Peterson go, he's likely to find work elsewhere. The obvious plus to keeping a player like Peterson is his ability on special teams, but he wasn't quite as strong in that phase last season as he was in previous years.
Devin Aromashodu: From the looks of things there are three wide receiver battling for two roster spots. Yes, it strikes me as odd that the team that gets off the bus running is going to keep six wide receivers, but that's what happens when they draft three and plan to keep two--Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox. Aromashodu has the least special teams value of the wide receivers on the bubble, at least based on his use in preseason. But he's a big target who Jay Cutler started referencing early in training camp before anyone knew who he was. When Aromashodu is on the field, Cutler looks his way. if the quarterbacks gets a vote, and boy we know he'd like one, he sticks.
Rashied Davis: Of the wideouts who circulate through with the first team, none got less action than Davis. He's trying to regain some momentum after a 2008 season in which he was used completely out of position by the coaching staff. Davis simply hasn't done much on offense and Cutler has not thrown a pass to him in preseason. But if you were starting to cross him off your list, he made tackles on the first two special teams plays of the game at Denver. Davis also has experience in the slot, even if Earl Bennett is getting most of the work there right now, especially in some of the packages where tight end Greg Olsen is flexed out wide.
Brandon Rideau: He opened the preseason as the No. 3 wide receiver on the depth chart and he's remained in that spot as he was the first one off the sideline when the Bears went to three at Denver. But Cutler has not looked his way like he has Aromashodu. Rideau, however, scores points because he's been more active on special teams than Aromashodu. They are both about the same size and offer something different for the quarterback in the system.
Michael Gaines: Signed to be a blocking tight end and an H-back who could also line up in the backfield, Gaines just hasn't gotten a lot of action in preseason. It's hard to justify keeping four tight ends on the roster unless there is going to be a specific duty for each one on Sundays. Typically, the Bears keep a fourth tight end for practice purposes on the practice squad, and the expectation is they will do that again this year. Gaines could help, though, because Jason McKie is the only fullback expected to make the roster. Having Gaines would give the team some flexibility if they needed help at the position during a game.
Lance Louis: The seventh-round draft pick has proven to be as athletic as the Bears said he was when they drafted him. He's gotten a little bit of work at left tackle but is too short to play there. He's got a tough, nasty demeanor and that always helps linemen. Might be a developmental player at guard but he can't play center like projected backup guards Josh Beekman and Dan Buenning can. However, the risk in trying to slide him to the practice squad is the Bears would subject him to waivers where someone could scoop him up.
Ervin Baldwin: A seventh-round pick from a year ago, Baldwin was added to the 53-man roster during the season when the Kansas City Chiefs tried to sign him away to their active roster. He hasn't done a whole lot but the Bears saw potential in him at one time. Looks like Henry Melton has replaced him as the defensive end with the "potential" tag.
Henry Melton: Rookie fourth-round pick is a converted running back who is raw. Usually the Bears don't go for projects that early in the draft unless it's someone like Devin Hester. He confirmed the raw part in training camp, and has been battling an ankle injury. I don't think he'll be launched, but you never know, and the defensive line isn't a place where the Bears can stash too many projects. They need production here.
Matt Toeaina: Defensive tackle could slide into the rotation but might not be a lock to make the roster and he does have practice squad eligibility remaining. He benefitted most from the loss of Dusty Dvoracek.
Marcus Freeman: Fifth-round pick from Ohio State didn't flash during training camp and hasn't done much in preseason, although he did manage to pick a pass off at Denver. Freeman just hasn't looked very instinctual on the field and that's something the Bears usually find in their linebackers. But, Freeman possesses the one thing money can't buy--draft status--and Angelo typically holds on to his draft picks that are above the seventh round.
Hunter Hillenmeyer: Former starter at strong side has battled injuries for about a year but looks to be holding up now. He played well in the preseason opener at Buffalo and is a natural fit as a backup to Brian Urlacher in the middle. Hillenmeyer is earning $1.5 million this season and is probably an average contributor on special teams. That's good money to be paying a backup.
Kevin Malast: The undrafted free agent from Rutgers has led the team in tackles in preseason and has gotten his fair share of work with the second team in camp and preseason because of some of the injuries sweeping through the position. He's a tough, hard-nosed player who picked up the scheme quickly because they used similar cover-two principals in school. Malast has proven to be a contributor on special teams and is a bright guy. He's at least ticketed for the practice squad, but as in the case of Louis, do the Bears risk trying to put him through waivers where a team like St. Louis might pounce on him?
Darrell McClover: Bears brought back the Commando prior to the Denver game in order to energize special teams. That's what he does. He's not a contributor on defense but the Bears usually give special teams coordinator Dave Toub one player on the roster to be a designated core special teams guy. McClover could have arrived in the nick of time.
Rod Hood: Veteran cornerback just arrived on the scene and the Bears got some help just in time. That's if he makes the team. Hood doesn't know the defense and will have to get a crash course. He's been a decent cover man in the past but you have to wonder about Arizona and Cleveland bailing on him in the last six months. Still, there isn't a lot of experience and the Bears can ill afford to get caught short handed here.
Trumaine McBride: He was praised for his play in the preseason opener at Buffalo but all of that unraveled at Denver. McBride is undersized and the Bears drafted an even more undersized corner in D.J. Moore. They can't have too many short guys at the position here, not when everyone is looking for size. At least you wouldn't think so. McBride does offer some experience, however.
Josh Bullocks: He might have made more plays on the ball than any other safety during the first three preseason games but from Day 1 it's looked like the deck has been stacked against him. If Bullocks was viewed as a better special teams player than Craig Steltz, and I don't know what the evaluation is on that, maybe he sticks around. Steltz has his draft card to play on the table though.
We'll get to Part II when the projected 53 comes out. Have at it for now.