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Chicago Bears: Predicting the 53-man roster

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A look at who has the inside track to a roster spot heading into the third preseason game.

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The Chicago Bears are quickly approaching the halfway point of their preseason activities. They are also in the midst of two key games that start Saturday night, which will go a long way in deciding the rest of the team’s final roster.

Each preseason game that passes, gives the Bears more tools to evaluate to make the right decisions. With that in mind, these projections may be a slight overreaction to what happens on a week-to-week basis. Even so, they are fun to do.

Without further interruption, let’s dive into game three’s final roster projection.

Quarterback (2): Mitchell Trubisky and Chase Daniel

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It’s possible they could opt to keep all three, but roster spots for a young team are very valuable. Tyler Bray has looked to be the better of the two backups so far, but with Daniel’s $5 million guaranteed he’s not going anywhere.

Not to mention, if Trubisky goes down, the Bears are in a world of trouble regardless of how many backup quarterbacks they keep on the final roster.

Running Back (4): Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham and Michael Burton

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Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs carried three running backs, a fullback and six receivers into week one. While it’s worth noting that they kept DeAnthony Thomas as a sixth receiver, he also had the ability to play running back as well.

The biggest key here is if there will be a fourth actually running back worth keeping. Ryan Nall had a strong second game but I’m not sure Nall or Taquan Mizzell are truly worth keeping to start the season, especially with other tough decisions to make down the list.

Right now, I think the edge goes to the fullback Burton, judging by his time with the first team offense in preseason thus far.

Wide Receiver (6): Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Kevin White, Josh Bellamy and Javon Wims

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I’m going to premise this projection by saying this- If there’s one receiver of these six that might be in the most jeopardy of losing their job, it has to be White. Yes, there’s been plenty of training camp hype (some of which, I believe to be completely unwarranted) but I’ve seen nothing that leads me to believe he has enough value to be a “lock” on the roster yet.

There’s also a good argument to be made that Bellamy has proven to be the overall better NFL receiver than White, in addition to more special teams value.

Tanner Gentry, Bennie Fowler and Demarcus Ayers are the three players that could push for a spot if they decide to part ways with White.

Tight End (4): Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Dion Sims and Daniel Brown

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It’s amazing how deep of a position this has become for the team over a year’s span.

Sims is the only true blocking tight end on the current roster, so expect him to see a decent amount of time this season.

Outside of that, the Bears currently have a host a pass catchers that should give them plenty of different looks during the regular season.

Burton’s $8 million per year average salary gives him the easy starting nod but don’t sleep on Shaheen. The 6’6” monster appears to finally have his NFL legs under him. Not only has he looked more athletic in and out of his routes, but his after the catch ability looks to be real this season. Shaheen’s red zone ability also remains his biggest value, even if his role is limited at times.

Brown’s my clubhouse leader for the final spot, but Ben Braunecker isn’t too far behind.

Offensive Line (9): Charles Leno, James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long, Bobby Massie, Eric Kush, Bradley Sowell, Earl Watford, Rashaad Coward

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Ideally, the Bears would only be forced to keep eight offensive linemen but at this point, Coward may force them to keep nine.

A few things to note here.

  • I believe Daniels is a better fit at center but the team seems hellbent on keeping Whitehair there.
  • I’d prefer to keep the younger player in Jordan Morgan over Watford but judging by playing time so far, the veteran has the big leg up.
  • Coward is a player that is proving to be a great developmental investment but also one who has advanced so well, that he’s not likely to make it to the practice squad.

Defensive Line (6): Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Jonathan Bullard, Roy Robertson-Harris, Bilal Nichols and John Jenkins

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As much as I like Cavon Walker, he’s a player that is safely stored on the practice squad for at least the first few weeks of the season.

Outside of that, these six players feel like almost a no-brainer. Biggest question is who will start at the other five technique position? Either way, depth and overall quality appears to be very good.

Inside Linebacker (4): Danny Trevathan, Nick Kwiatkoski, Roquan Smith, Joel Iyiegbuniwe

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Hidden behind all of the Roquan drama has been this- When healthy, this one of the deeper groups on the roster.

Smith will sign at some point, likely before the regular season. While it’s probable that he won’t start right away, it’s also worth noting that they have three starting caliber players heading into week one.

It’s possible that they could carry five, depending on when Smith’s deal gets done but they likely need to keep five outside linebackers due to the lack of overall quality there.

Outside Linebacker (5): Leonard Floyd, Sam Acho, Isaiah Irving, Aaron Lynch and Kylie Fitts

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This position group has a very high disaster potential. Maybe even more than last year’s receiving group.

Minor injuries have already been a problem but to this point. I’m not sure who takes Lynch’s spot, even though he still has not practiced this camp. The former 49er is far from a lock at heading into game three but until we see someone step up in his place, he’ll likely stay.

In a more likely scenario, general manager Ryan Pace is forced to get creative by adding an outside option but for the sake of this exercise, I won’t project a trade or waiver wire move.

One thing is clear. Somebody better step up and it needs to be quickly.

Cornerback (6): Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Bryce Callahan, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Kevin Toliver II, Sherrick McManis

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The team’s starting group is set, as well as McManis being all but locked in due to special teams value. LeBlanc also appears to be firmly entrenched as the team’s primary backup nickel, which likely leaves one spot but an important spot, at that.

The primary backup boundary position is a key spot and one that appears very up in the air. Marcus Cooper was cut and re-signed and to this point, he’s been pretty bad. The biggest question is who will dethrone him? While I have little evidence on the field to back this up yet, I think Toliver will be that guy.

Keep an eye on Michael Joseph and Doran Grant as other options if Toliver fails to capitalize.

Safety (4): Eddie Jackson, Adrian Amos, Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson

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The depth at safety has been one of the more pleasant surprises so far and it appears the coaching staff will have to make a tough decision.

It’s possible that they could decide to carry five at the position due to Deiondre Hall’s versatility. But because of the roster crunch, I’m going to project four with Houston-Carson grabbing that final spot due to his impressive preseason thus far.

Special Teams (3): Cody Parkey, Patrick O’Donnell and Patrick Scales

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The only spot truly in question is punter and even at that, O’Donnell appears to have a firm grasp on that job. Undrafted rookie punter Ryan Winslow has seen time sparingly and was also the holder for the missed 52-yard kick from Parkey.

Practice Squad (10): OL Jordan Morgan, CB Michael Joseph, DB Deiondre Hall, RB Ryan Nall, WR Demarcus Ayers, TE Ben Braunecker, DL Cavon Walker, ILB Jonathan Anderson, OLB Elijah Norris, WR Tanner Gentry.

The Bears will have plenty of tough decisions to make, which may lead to a “stacked” practice squad. The biggest surprise on this list is their 2017 fifth round pick in Morgan but there’s just too much depth and more proven talent on the interior for him to make it with an injury. Walker and Joseph are two players that could see early call ups.