Football is almost back. The Chicago Bears will officially report to training camp on Thursday (July 25) and they’ll be kicking off their preseason opener in two and a half weeks (August 8). It’s been a long wait for most Bears fans after Cody Parkey’s missed 43-yarder in the NFC Wild Card game.
Luckily, that wait is almost over. While we are still over 40 days from the NFL’s season opener, football activities will begin to pick up in a big.
Turning our attention to the Bears, this appears the be the most complete roster they’ve had since the 2005-2006 run, which resulted in a Super Bowl appearance. Could this same team follow in their footsteps for 2019? It seems very possible. But, first things first, the Bears must evaluate and complete their roster over the next several weeks. That starts this weekend, as the team kicks off practice.
Quarterback (2): Mitch Trubisky, Chase Daniel
Out of all the spots on the roster, this is probably the easiest position to project. Trubisky is clearly the starter and Daniel is clearly the backup. The only other arm on the roster is Tyler Bray and let’s be honest, in today’s NFL, roster spots are too valuable to waste one on a third quarterback.
Running Back (4): David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Mike Davis, Kerrith Whyte
The top three are clear-cut. Montgomery, Cohen and Davis are all locks and are all expected to have sizable impacts on this roster. Cohen has seen the majority of the first-team snaps in off-season workouts, but we know his role is much more complex than simply a running back.
I would expect Davis to have the initial leg up on Montgomery as camp opens, but don’t be surprised if the rookie starts to steal reps early and often. Each game will feature a new “lead back,” but expect both to be heavily involved, assuming they still healthy.
The last spot comes down to either Whyte or Ryan Nall, but judging by their obvious value in speed this off-season and special teams value, I expect Whyte to get the nod. That is assuming they keep four traditional running backs.
Wide Receiver (7): Allen Robinson II, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Riley Ridley, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims, Marvin Hall
At least for me, receiver is the deepest position on this roster. Which is wild to even think about considering where they left off at the end of 2017. Robinson, Gabriel, Miller, Ridley and Patterson are all locks for this roster. Then it will come down to how many other open positions there are on this roster, which is likely either one or two.
For those final three spots, you’ll see four primary names battling it out. Wims, Hall, Emanuel Hall and camp hero Tanner Gentry. Ultimately, I think this comes down to a battle of the Halls, with Marvin having the initial edge. Ideally, you’d like to see Emanuel take off and win the spot, but this could be a simple ploy of a Year 1 red shirt. Only time will, but Wims seems the safest out of these three, at least heading in.
Tight End (4): Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, Dax Raymond
Noticing a theme here? Once again, the majority of these roster spots are already spoken for. Barring injury, of course. Burton, Shaheen and Braunecker are locked in. All three have long-term contracts and should see sizable snaps either on offense or on special teams.
It’s possible the Bears could opt to keep an extra tight end and I would fully expect that to be Bradley Sowell, but with a roster crunch, I don’t think they can afford to keep a converted offensive linemen for blocking purposes only.
Raymond and Sowell will likely fight for the final roster spot, but keep an eye on the rookie. He impressed during OTAs and mini-camp and could find himself on the 53-man roster when Week 1 finally arrives.
Offensive Line (8): Charles Leno Jr., Cody Whitehair, James Daniels, Kyle Long, Bobby Massie, Rashaad Coward, Ted Larsen, Alex Bars
Oh, look. Yet another position where all but one spot is locked up. The Bears will return their entire 2018 starting offensive line. That’s rarely a bad thing and barring health, should help drastically with continuity in Year 2 of Matt Nagy’s system as a whole.
With Sowell transitioning to tight end, Coward becomes a virtual lock as the swing tackle. Larsen is likely the first option off the bench at any of the interior positions as well. Which leaves one likely spot.
That’ll come down between Bars, T.J. Clemmings and Cornelius Lucas. It’s possible they could opt to go with someone like Clemmings or Lucas for more depth at tackle because Coward can play both inside and out, but Bars is a guy that if healthy, o-line coach Harry Heistand is likely going to endorse him. Bars could have been a mid-rounder if he was healthy during the draft process and has a very nice ceiling. Not much mystery here overall, though.
Defensive Line (5): Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris, Jonathan Bullard
The first four on this list are locked in. Nichols and Robertson-Harris will continue to split reps in base packages and also spell Hicks on occasion. Of course Hicks and Goldman are both studs and big pieces on this defense.
Outside of that, they’ve got Bullard, Nick Williams and maybe an undrafted free agent like Jonathan Harris who could push for that final roster spot. All in all, I don’t see a need for them to keep six bodies, so five is my magic number here.
Edge Rusher (5): Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Aaron Lynch, Isaiah Irving, Chuck Harris
This is a position where things get a little interesting. Especially after Mack, Floyd and Lynch.
Purely going off of what I saw last year, Irving is the only returning player that should have an inside track at a roster spot. To put it simply, I was not remotely impressed with Kylie Fitts. He looked slow and just out of place. A Year 2 jump is always possible, but not likely.
That leaves the final spot between a host of unproven names in Fitts, Harris and maybe even Canadian star Matt Betts. My personal take; give me the player with the highest ceiling and that’s Harris. All three of these names are prime practice squad candidates, so it shouldn’t be a big worry trying to sneak one or two of them through if they choose to.
Inside Linebacker (5): Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan, Nick Kwiatkoski, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Josh Woods
Did I get a little weird here? It kind of feels like I did.
Limit amount of roster spots available and I’m keeping an extra inside linebacker over an extra defensive back? Here’s why I think it makes sense- The Bears really like Woods. He’s a stud special teamer and the team loves how he’s progressed making the transition from safety in college.
The other four spots are locked down, so it’s just a matter of how they actually like Woods.
Cornerback (6): Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Buster Skrine, Kevin Toliver II, Duke Shelley, Stephen Denmark
There’s a few schools of thought on this position- Surround your starters with as much reliable depth as possible or protect one of your draft picks with a roster spot he may not actually be ready for.
For me, I’m giving Denmark some protection because he’s exactly the type of player a bad team would be willing to pick up on waivers in late August. He’s raw and still transitioning from receiver, but at 6’3, he’s drawn some preliminary (situational and size comparisons) to Richard Sherman.
If I’m the Bears, I try everything I can to make sure you don’t risk losing someone like that, just in case. Because there’s a good chance this is Amukamara’s last year in Chicago due to money.
Safety (4): Eddie Jackson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Deon Bush and Sherrick McManis
One of the lesser talked about moves this off-season has been McManis’ transition from nickel corner to safety. It’s worked well for former Bear Corey Graham and could give the veteran special teamer some extra added value.
The first three names on the depth chart are locked in and ultimately the last roster spot may come down between DeAndre Houston-Carson and someone like Denmark. That’ll be something to monitor over the next month-plus.
Specialists (3): P Patrick O’Donnell, LS Patrick Scales, K Outside Addition
O’Donnell and Scales are virtually locked in. I think that’s safe to say at this point.
The real focus here is going to be the kicking spot that seems to continue to plague a Super Bowl caliber team. After four separate tryouts this off-season and over 20 kickers in and out of the building, this appears to be a situation that is not any closer to a resolution than it was in January when they originally signed Redford Jones to a futures deal.
Can Eddy Pineiro or Elliot Fry win the job convincingly? I have my doubts and I’m sure many others, including this coaching staff, do as well. If that’s the case, expect an outside name to be added at some point.
Kaare Vedvik (Ravens) will be a top target for any kicker needy team. Current free agent veterans like Matt Bryant (8/8 career at Soldier Field) or Kai Forbath could also make sense as a last-ditch effort. Keep an eye on both the Browns and Buccaneers kicking competitions as well. Both Austin Seibert (who the Bears liked pre-draft) and Matt Gay appear to have a 50/50 chance of winning their jobs during the pre-season.