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Hub Arkush: Youth matters for Bears’ roster cuts

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Updated: September 27, 2013 6:32AM



The roads to final NFL rosters each August are paved with mean streets. For NFL veterans in their third or fourth stop and hoping for one last grasp at glory, the ride all too often ends with the gruesome sound of the ax dropping on their pro-football careers.

Such was the fate of Bears veterans Devin Aromashodu, Tom Zbikowski, Kyle Moore, Leonard Pope when the Bears announced their first round of training-camp cuts on their way to the 75-player roster limit.

What is particularly painful for these four is the knowledge they weren’t axed because the Bears have better players at their positions. They took the fall because the Bears have younger and lesser-known players on the roster.

Anyone who’s been with the team since training camp began knows it would be wrong to say Marquess Wilson and Joe Anderson are clearly better than Aromashodu. Brandon Hardin might not even be as good as Zbikowski. Cornelius Washington clearly is not as prepared to contribute as Moore; and Fendi Onobun, Steve Maneri and Kyle Adams could all learn a lesson or two from Pope.

The reason these veterans got their walking papers is because their “ceilings” have been reached and we know we’ve seen the best that each has to offer.

The younger players they leave behind had two big advantages over the veterans in their roster battles and the older guys knew it from the time camp began. Every one of the younger guys might still have a higher, perhaps much higher, ceiling.

If they’re not as good as the veterans who have been sent away, there still is the chance they will be better than those players ever were with more time to develop.

To be clear any of Wilson, Anderson, Harden, Washington, Onobun, Maneri and Adams could be sent packing as soon as this Friday or Saturday. But even if it’s just a few more days, the organization’s investment of time and resources is better spent on them than the veterans they’ve outlasted.

The second advantage for many in the younger group is this coaching staff and front office has an investment in them it did not have in the others. Phil Emery spent draft choices on Hardin, Washington and Wilson and as such they will get extra consideration. As an undrafted gem discovered by Emery last year, Anderson will get the benefit of the doubt as well.

Fair or not, that’s life in the NFL. I asked Aromashodu the other day if having been through the process multiple times makes it any easier.

“You get to understand the process a little better,” he said. “I guess you can cope with whatever happens a little better from having been through it, but it’s pretty much the same feeling, you just understand it better.”

I couldn’t shake the feeling he saw the handwriting on the wall when I asked him how the competition looks and he told me that “Marquess Wilson is definitely doing a god job as a young player. He’s stepping up and doing what the coaches expect of him.”

Therein lies the rub. The younger, less experienced players just need to do what’s expected of them to hang around. Journeymen veterans have to make themselves indispensable and Aromashodu, Zbikowski, Moore and Pope couldn’t.

Moore appeared to have the best chance of sticking, consistently running with the twos and at times the ones in practice. But Washington is a freak of an athlete and classic underachiever in college. If the light goes on, he could eventually be a difference maker. Moore was never going to beat him out if all he offered was a dependable, but not spectacular, number four at defensive end.

Could any of the four veterans catch on elsewhere? Sure, there’s always a chance. But the outcome is likely to be the same while the young Bears they leave behind can still dream big, at least for a few more days.

Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at harkush@shawmedia.com.



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