We are into the single digits of days remaining as we count down to the start of the NFL regular season. Luckily for Chicago Bears fans, they will open up the league’s 100th season next Thursday against the Green Bay Packers.
Life is about to be good, but before we can get to that, we have one final preseason game and a multitude of roster moves to get through first. In my opinion, this will be one of the final fourth preseason games we’ll ever see. Once the new NFL CBA is agreed to, that fourth game should be eliminated and there will be less waiting time from the start of training camp to the start of the regular season.
Even so, let’s take a crack at figuring out the final roster ahead of next Thursday’s opener.
Quarterback (2): Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel
Despite Daniel’s horrific preseason, his money and overall status with head coach Matt Nagy keeps him on the roster for his final year in 2019. I don’t see any scenario where they’ll keep Tyler Bray as well, especially since he has one final year of practice squad eligibility.
Running Back (4): David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Mike Davis, Kerrith Whyte Jr.
Before the start of training camp, I did this exact exercise. I came up with the same four names and I’m going to stick with them.
It’s possible that the team could opt to keep just three backs and keep one or two on the practice squad. The main issue with that is that it wouldn’t shock me if a team sees enough value in Whyte’s speed and ceiling to make a claim. That’s a risk I’m not sure the Bears are willing to take. Even if he’s not a contributing running back, his return ability and overall special teams value is something that makes for a good final roster spot.
Nall has been impressive, but he’s also someone I believe they can easily stash on the practice squad again.
Wide Receiver (6): Allen Robinson II, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Riley Ridley, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims
To me, this is a position that seems very cut and dry. We all know that the top five are locked into the roster and I would say Wims has done more than enough to earn a spot as well.
Originally, I felt like they would keep seven names. I expected that final spot to come down between Emanuel Hall and Marvin Hall. A month later, Emanuel is no longer on the roster and frankly, Marvin has done next to nothing. This seems too easy for me, which means it’ll probably be wrong.
Tight End (5): Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, Bradley Sowell, Ian Bunting
The top three names are locked in. There’s no doubt about that. If anything, the health of Burton and Shaheen are more in question.
With that in mind, the Bears must decide two things:
- How many tight ends do they want to keep?
- How much does preseason production factor into all of this?
It’s been an uneven preseason for the challengers so far. Sowell has done next to nothing, in my opinion, but I also believe he was a virtual lock for the roster once he moved from tackle to tight end. Bunting has been the most impressive out of the four undrafted tight ends, but he’s been inconsistent as well.
Dax Raymond seemed like a prized undrafted addition, but so far he’s been underwhelming if not disappointing. My guess is that they go with five (again) and go with Sowell and Bunting.
Offensive Line (8): Charles Leno Jr., Cody Whitehair, James Daniels, Kyle Long, Bobby Massie, Rashaad Coward, Ted Larsen, Alex Bars
This is where things could get interesting. As of right now, this is all we know when looking at the offensive line depth:
- Larsen is locked in as the primary interior backup. He can play all three spots there.
- Bars is a Harry Heistand product and they’ve played him at both guard and tackle. That says a lot for an undrafted free agent that most had a mid-round grade on.
- Coward and T.J. Clemmings both have what could be serious injuries, but the Bears have been limited in their updates.
If neither Coward or Clemmings are ready for Week 1, I would assume the Bears will look at outside help. Not that they’ll find anything worthwhile, but Cornelius Lucas has been horrid and is not worth keeping. Regardless of the other two tackle’s health statuses.
Defensive Line (5): Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris, Nick Williams
The top four names are set in stone. Hicks, Goldman and Nichols will start and Robertson-Harris will spell the five-techniques on pass rushing downs. As far as the starters and first man off the bench goes, they are in good shape.
Then it comes down to whether or not they still want to bet on upside with former third round pick Jonathan Bullard or keep the more disruptive player in Williams. To put it bluntly, Bullard has done next to nothing in his first three years, including this preseason. I’ll probably be wrong here, but I’m taking Williams, who can also provide depth at nose tackle.
Edge Rusher (5): Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Aaron Lynch, Isaiah Irving, James Vaughters
Much like the defensive line, the starters and rotational piece are in place. After that, it’s all about projected upside and value to the roster. Ultimately this comes down to three players and I would assume that because of the uncertainty these names bring, they keep two of the three.
Irving and Vaughters have been far away the best depth pieces at the position this preseason, namely Vaughters who had two strip sacks. Then there’s 2018 sixth round pick Kylie Fitts who has done next to nothing. It’s possible they could keep Fitts due to his draft status, but if they are keeping the two best players, Irving and Vaughters are it and that’s exactly what I would do.
Inside Linebacker (5): Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan, Nick Kwiatkoski, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Josh Woods
In terms of depth, I’m not sure there’s another position on the roster that offers as much as inside linebacker. They’ve got six different players you could make a strong case for. Kwiatkoski is lock, despite being poor in pass coverage. I find it hard to believe they’ll give up on “Iggy” so quick, despite being up and down and lastly Woods is someone they’ve liked for a really long time.
It’s possible Kevin Pierre-Louis could push for a roster spot due to his veteran status and special teams ability, but at this point youth may win out.
Cornerback (5): Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Buster Skrine, Kevin Toliver II, Duke Shelley
The real debate here isn’t going to be whether these five names are locked in, but more about will they keep a sixth?
Seventh round pick Stephen Denmark hasn’t played a preseason snap due to injury, so my guess is that they’ll give him a redshirt with an Injured Reserve designation. There’s Clifton Duck and Jonathan Franklin III that are prime practice squad candidates, but it’s possible one of these two names could in theory make the final roster. With that in mind, my selections at safety may make keeping five corners a little easier to understand.
Safety (5): Eddie Jackson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson and Sherrick McManis
Like I referenced above, this is why keeping five cornerbacks makes sense:
- Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano loves to use multiple defensive backs.
- McManis’ versatility allows him to play both spots.
- Versatility is a key on the back end of this safety depth chart.
Houston-Carson and McManis are both special teams aces. They also can play both safety and in the slot. Not to mention, I believe we’ll see Bush in big nickel situations quite often, as he has had a very impressive training camp and preseason.
I would expect a pair of defensive backs to land on the practice squad as well.
Specialists (3): P Pat O’Donnell, LS Patrick Scales, K Eddy Pineiro
And the winner is… Pineiro.
After almost eight months of kicker talk, it’s time we put this entire situation behind us. At one point, the Bears had four kickers on the roster. They brought in over 20 different legs on four different tryouts and rostered five different kickers as a whole.
At last, we have our answer. The former Florida Gator has really turned things up since he became the only kicker and his performance in Week 3 was enough to convince me he is the guy.
Yes, they could go out & trade a pick for someone like Joey Slye. But what more has Slye proved than Pineiro so far? Absolutely nothing.
Barring a setback on Thursday, this is Pineiro’s job to own.
Oh and O’Donnell and Scales appear to be givens at this point, especially O’Donnell.
Practice Squad (10): QB Tyler Bray, CB Jonathan Franklin III, G/C Sam Mustipher, RB Ryan Nall, TE Dax Raymond, DL Abdullah Anderson, OLB Kylie Fitts, CB Clifton Duck, WR Thomas Ives, OT Blake Blackmar