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The Bears have made it official with a series of moves today to reach the 53-man roster limit before proceeding to the start of the 2009 season. The players will get back to work with practice Monday at Halas Hall. Here are the moves reported on the team's Web site:

CB Charles Tillman was promoted from the physically unable to perform list to the active roster

RB Kevin Jones was placed on inured reserve with a torn ligament in his left ankle

DE Henry Melton was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury

S Dahna Deleston was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury

Melton's ankle injury was not believed to be serious and it could be a way to stash the fourth-round pick from Texas on the squad for a year. The problem is he cannot practice while on IR so the only work he can do is in the classroom and weight room. This marks the third time in four years the Bears have placed at least one draft pick on IR prior to the opening of the season. It could be concerns about depth on the interior of the line cost him a spot as the Bears kept tackle Matt Toeaina, who right now figures to be third in the rotation at nose tackle.

Here are the official cuts:

QB Brett Basanez
FB Jason Davis
FB Will Ta'ufo,ou
WR Eric Peterman
WR Brandon Rideau
G Johan Asiata
OT Cody Balogh
G Dan Buenning
C Donovan Raiola
DE Ervin Baldwin
DE Joe Clermond
LB Marcus Freeman
LB Kevin Malast
LB Darrell McClover
LB Mike Rivera
CB Rudy Burgess
CB Rod Hood
CB Marcus Hamilton
CB Woodny Turenne

The following players have been informed they will be released:

G Dan Buenning
C Donovan Raiola
FB Jason Davis
DE Joe Clermond
WR Eric Peterman
CB Rod Hood
WR Brandon Rideau
LB Kevin Malast
LB Darrell McClover
LB Mike Rivera
LB Marcus Freeman
G Johan Asiata
OT Cody Balogh
FB Will Ta'ufo'ou

Check back for updates. Names will be added to this list when they are confirmed.

Choosing the 53-man roster is not an exact science.

Figuring out the practice squad, well, that is a pure guessing game. But that won't stop me from giving it a shot here. Final cuts are due to the league office by 5 p.m. on Saturday. Clubs can begin assembling an eight-man practice squad at 11 a.m. Sunday. Teams will let players now when they are waiving them that they would like to make them a priority to add to their practice squad.

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo has a history of identifying about four or five players he wants to keep the entire season, or most of the season on the practice squad. He uses the other three or four spots in a revolving manner, bringing in players for a look that might last a week to a month. Then, he filters them out and brings in new players. It allows the Bears to look at more than a dozen players over the course of the season.

Typically, he will keep two offensive linemen, at least one defensive lineman, a linebacker, a tight end and a fullback. The Bears are also expected to place a quarterback on the practice squad this season. They generally fill about five slots from within and then go out and sign players they liked heading into the draft who are cut loose elsewhere.

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Saving the biggest puzzle for last, we conclude our position-by-position training camp previews with, what else, the wide receivers.

Projected starters: Devin Hester, 5-11, 190, 4th season, Miami; Earl Bennett, 6-0, 204, 2nd season, Vanderbilt

Others

Devin Aromashodu, 6-2, 201, 3rd season, Auburn
John Broussard, 6-1, 181, 2nd season, San Jose State
Rashied Davis, 5-9, 187, 5th season, San Jose State
Juaquin Iglesias, 6-1, 205, Rookie, Oklahoma
Derek Kinder, 6-1, 202, Rookie, Pittsburgh
Johnny Knox, 6-0, 185, Rookie, Abilene Christian
Eric Peterman, 6-1, 202, Rookie Northwestern
Brandon Rideau, 6-3, 198, 3rd season, Kansas

Projected depth chart

WR: Hester, Davis, Knox
WR: Bennett, Iglesias, Rideau

2009 salary cap numbers

Devin Aromashodu $465,200
Earl Bennett $595,409
John Broussard $390,200
Rashied Davis $1,581,666
Devin Hester $6,885,833
Juaquin Iglesias $554,900
Derek Kinder $319,416
Johnny Knox $361,060
Eric Peterman $310,666
Brandon Rideau $465,200

Number of wide receivers on the roster at the start of the 2008 season: 6

Projected number of wide receivers on 2009 roster at start of the season: 6

The skinny: From general manager Jerry Angelo on down the Bears know they don't have this position where it needs to be. Angelo acknowledged the Bears would have used their first-round draft pick on a wide receiver had they not traded the pick to acquire Jay Cutler. Then, he tried to trade for Anquan Boldin when the draft began. Finally, the Bears did enough snooping around on Plaxico Burress to earn their Jr. Inspector Clouseau badge. Think right about now Burress wishes now he'd done his couple months in the pokey? It looks highly unlikely that Burress will help Cutler and the Bears this season and that puts the onus on Cutler to make some of these players better. Ideally, the Bears would be in a situation where they would only keep five receivers on the roster, but if Iglesias (third round) and Knox (fifth round) earn roster spots, as expected, they'll probably need to try to cover for the inexperience with numbers. Say what you want, and we're not demeaning any of the players at this position, but it's a quantity over quality matter here. Quite frankly, that could help Rideau in his bid to win a job.



So how much better can Cutler make the Bears' receivers? There is certainly something to a quarterback making a wide receiver better but he's not the difference between Eddie Royal's 91 catches as a rookie last season in Denver and Bennett's 0 catches as a rookie last season. Cutler isn't going to clone Brandon Marshall in the Olivet Nazarene dorm rooms, either. He can make the receivers better and that starts with them developing a trust and a rapport. Cutler has to know what the receiver is going to do before he does it. That comes with reps, lots of them.

Who says you need a Pro Bowl wide receiver to win the Super Bowl?

Not Rick Gosselin, that is for sure.

The veteran Dallas Morning News' scribe did an interesting breakdown of Super Bowl winners from 1991 to present and how the makeup of offenses has changed. History proves you don't need an elite receiver to win the Big Game, not anymore any way. It's good news for the Bears, right? They have nine wideouts on their roster right now and two of them have more than seven career catches--Devin Hester and Rashied Davis. The other seven--Devin Aromashodu (7), John Broussard (4), Earl Bennett (0), Juaquin Iglesias (0), Johnny Knox (0), Derek Kinder (0) and Eric Peterman (0)--have 11 combined receptions. Yes, more than half of the receivers on the roster have not caught a pass in the NFL making position coach Darryl Drake's job about as important as anyone's entering this season.

"Neither of the last two Super Bowl champions - Pittsburgh in 2008 or the New York Giants in 2007 - had a Pro Bowl wide receiver that season. Neither had a Pro Bowl quarterback, for that matter. The Steelers finished 17th in the NFL in passing and the Giants were 21st.


"When the New England Patriots won back-to-back titles in the 2003 and 2004 seasons, their top wideouts failed to crack the NFL's top 30 in receiving those seasons. Deion Branch finished 42nd in 2003 and David Givens 40th in 2004. Baltimore's top wideout in its 2000 championship season was Qadry Ismail, who finished 68th in the NFL.


"Only two NFL champions in the 2000 decade lined up a Pro Bowl wide receiver in their Super Bowl seasons - Troy Brown for the Patriots in 2001 and Marvin Harrison for the Indianapolis Colts in 2006. The rest preferred quantity over quality on the flank."

Gosselin provides a chart comparing the top wideout for the Super Bowl champs from 2000 through 2008 to the top wideout for the Super Bowl champs from 1991 through 1999. Five wideouts from the 1991 to 1999 group made Pro Bowls. Two in the more recent group were selected, including Harrison for Indianapolis in 2006, the year the Colts defeated the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

There are some key points made in this story but the question right now is not if the Bears have an elite wide receiver for new quarterback Jay Cutler. The burning question is whether or not the Bears have enough wide receivers worthy of regular playing time in the NFL? I doesn't matter if you have Cutler or Kyle Orton at quarterback, you're not going to make a living pushing the ball downfield to tight ends and running backs.

What can a dominant receiver mean in the postseason? Consider Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, whose four-game postseason run included 30 receptions for 546 yards and seven touchdowns. To put that in perspective, Hester was the only Bears wide receiver with more yards in 2008, and the Bears haven't had a wideout score that many times since Marty Booker had eight touchdowns in 2001.

Pittsburgh's Santonio Holmes was the third wide receiver to claim Super Bowl MVP honors in the last five years. You might not need a Pro Bowl wide receiver, but you have to have one who can perform big on the sport's grandest stage. It's been 12 years since a running back was named Super Bowl MVP.


*** Over at the National Football Post, Matt Bowen likes the addition of strong-side linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa to the Bears' defense, but the thing that jumps out from this read is his assessment of new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.

"I doubt they'll disappoint with new D-line coach Rod Marinelli, who's gotten rave reviews from former players I've talked to as well as Bears GM Jerry Angelo. "The best teaching coach in the league," I've heard more than once.''

The Bears injected a little youth into the line with third-round pick Jarron Gilbert and fourth-round selection Henry Melton, but otherwise they're hoping to rediscover their swagger of 2005 and 2006 with virtually the same personnel. Some have questioned the ability of Marinelli to come in, wave a magic wand and make it happen. Bowen and other league insiders believe Marinelli can make it happen, and everyone knows the hard work Marinelli has ahead for the linemen. We've written it before, we'll write it again, pay attention to the individual D-line drills in training camp.

*** It seems that the last month or so has been one projection followed by one list followed by another projection. Well, here's another list ... this time ESPN's John Clayton puts together the top five general manager-coach combinations in the NFL. He ranks Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith fourth.

"Lovie Smith-Jerry Angelo, Chicago Bears: This one might surprise some because Angelo isn't a vocal general manager and the Bears, as a team, usually slip under the radar. They stay in contention most years in the NFC North, and made it to the Super Bowl in 2006. Angelo made one of the biggest moves of the offseason, acquiring quarterback Jay Cutler, who could take the Bears to 11 wins. In the meantime, Smith has taken over the play-calling duties on defense and expects an improved, more aggressive unit this fall."


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The Bears are adamant their corps of wide receivers is going to turn out to be far more productive than anyone expects even if they don't venture out into free agency and make a move for someone with proven credentials like Plaxico Burress.

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner quickly turned the conversation to what his team does have, not what it doesn't have when asked about the prospect of pursuing Burress.

"I don't even want to get into that,'' Turner said. "I'm excited about the guys we have right now. I think our group of receivers can be a lot better than what people think. I'm excited about where we are going offensively. We just need to come out and try to get better every day."

The reservation being held for this group is that there is so little experience that it's impossible to count on anything. Just ask general manager Jerry Angelo how rookie wide receivers pan out in their first season. Four of the Bears' 10 wide receivers are rookies, and three of them are draft picks. Seven of the wideouts have never started. Here is a look at the roster, career starts and career receptions:

Rashied Davis 15 career starts, 74 receptions
Devin Hester 8 career starts, 71 receptions
Devin Aromashodu 1 career start, 7 receptions
John Broussard 0 career starts, 4 receptions
Earl Bennett 0 career starts, 0 receptions
Brandon Rideau 0 career starts, 0 receptions
Juaquin Iglesias, rookie
Johnny Knox, rookie
Derek Kinder, rookie
Eric Peterman, rookie

With just 24 career starts at the position, it looks like the Bears are in need of help, at least from the outside looking in. On the inside, Brandon Rideau is doing everything he can to prove he's a big target who can be a productive player in his third season with the organization. Rideau, who spent much of the last two seasons on the practice squad, stands out at 6-3, 198 pounds. He's the biggest target at the position.

He was upset to not make the 53-man roster at the end of the summer last season. After all, Rideau felt he had shown everything he needed to, leading the NFL in touchdowns in preseason with three. Of course, nearly all of his production came in the final minutes against third-stringers who weren't long for their teams' rosters.

"He couldn't control [when he was playing],'' Turner said. "But he's taking care of what he controls and that's his opportunities. He's getting opportunities and so far he's making the most of them."

Rideau was promoted to the active roster in the second half of the season and dressed for two games but saw little action. Quietly, he is getting time with the first team during the voluntary offseason program. The more work he gets with the starters, the better his chances are of seeing time there in training camp. The Bears will keep five wide receivers, six if someone states a strong case to make the final roster. With Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Rashied Davis and rookie draft picks Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox, they have five likely candidates. Right now, two months from camp, Rideau figures to be the guy who will have to force Angelo to consider keeping a sixth.

It's difficult to tell much from rookie minicamp.

The Bears had nine draft picks running around with nine undrafted free agents and 25 tryout players. General manager Jerry Angelo said after the draft that it was realistic for six draft picks to make the 53-man roster but that all nine had the qualities and attributes that made them a real possibility.

If an undrafted free agent makes the roster, it probably won't be more than one. So of the 43 players hustling through drills for the first time as part of a professional football team, maybe seven will be there come September. Here are a few observations:

*** Wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias looks the part. He has good size and catches the ball well with his hands. But if skill position players don't stand out in 7-on-7 drills and drills vs. air, well, then you have a real problem on your hands.

*** Cornerback D.J. Moore broke on the ball well and was praised by coach Lovie Smith afterward.

After a series of phone calls across the league we have put together a list, no doubt partial, of the free agents the Bears have agreed to terms with on contracts. The club holds a three-day rookie minicap starting Friday and they like to have it run as close to a normal camp setting as possible, so that means lots of players on the field. With only nine draft picks, expect for dozens more to show up at Halas Hall. Some come on a tryout basis, some are priority free agents and some get nothing to sign.

Here are the eight names we have tracked down this far:

Eric Peterman, WR, Northwestern. Peterman had a terrific pro day back in March and ran himself into an opportunity with a 40-yard dash time under 4.5 seconds. He'll look to punch his ticket by proving he can make a difference on special teams.

Mike Rivera, LB, Kansas. Rivera didn't perform as well during his senior year at Kansas as he did in previous seasons but he had a good showing at his pro day when Bears scout Teddy Monago was in attendance. At 6-2, 245 pounds, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.63 seconds and his 38 1/2 inch vertical jump was eye opening. Rivera had interest from other teams but chose the Bears for the opportunity. Perhaps he could get in the mix on the strong side if he really excels.

Dahna Deleston, SS, UConn. Deleston isn't going to solve any issues at free safety but agent Ed Wasielewski said he has the ability to make an impact on special teams quickly.

Will Taufoou, FB, Cal. The Bears landed one of the better fullbacks that was in this draft. Taufoou had interest from more than half of the teams in the league, including some with money offers, but chose the Bears because he liked the opportunity on the roster. Check out this video of him catching a pass out of the backfield.

UPDATED TO CORRECT OUR ERROR The Bears drafted two three wide receivers on Sunday, grabbing Oklahoma's Juaquin Iglesias in the third round, Abilene Christian's Johnny Knox in the fifth round and Pitt's Derek Kinder in the seventh round, and a league source tells the Sun-Times that Northwestern's Eric Peterman will sign a free-agent deal.

Peterman ran a sub-4.5 40-yard dash in his pro day at school.

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Eric Peterman pretty much expected to run a sub-4.5 time in the 40-yard dash at Northwestern's pro day on Thursday.

Maybe it was the 17 NFL scouts in attendance that were not necessarily expecting that. The WIldcats wide receiver created quite a buzz for himself afterward with times of 4.45 seconds and 4.47 seconds to go with a nifty three cone drill time of 6.58. As one source said, he could have run himself straight into the draft.

"It's kind of what I've been doing,'' Peterman said. ``That's right at what I've been running, maybe just a little bit better.''

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Pat Fitzgerald had a brief stint in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys so the Northwestern coach knows what the league's initial stand for--``Not for long.''

But he and the nine Wildcats who worked out Thursday on campus during the school's pro day are holding out hope, and there was reason to be hopeful as representatives from 17 schools showed up, including Jeff Shiver, the Bears' Midwest scout and Cleveland director of player personnel Bill Rees. Previously, he served as the Bears' college scouting director.

Running back Tyrell Sutton (above being measured for his height), the only Wildcat invited to the scouting combine last month, helped himself in the 40-yard dash. Clocked at 4.68 seconds in Indianapolis, one scout had him at 4.57 and 4.67 on a slow artificial indoor surface. With his left wrist in a brace from the injury that kept him out of the final four regular-season games last year, he put up 12 reps on the bench at 225 pounds, clearly affected by the injury.

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