After a few surprise cuts, the Chicago Bears 53-man roster is here. Familiar stars such as linebacker Khalil Mack, safety Eddie Jackson, and receiver Allen Robinson II return to the Bears and will retain their starting roles. New faces, such as tight end Jimmy Graham and linebacker Robert Quinn, have starting experience and signed contracts indicating they should start from day one. Position by position, let’s look at the projected starters for Week 1 against the Detroit Lions.
*Note: This will be updated as new cuts and signings are added leading up to the Week 1 matchup
Starter: Mitchell Trubisky
Reserve: Nick Foles
This is a fairly easy call, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that Trubisky won the position battle for the starting quarterback role. Trubisky struggled in 2019, posting a 63.2% completion rating and a paltry 5.9 adjusted yards per attempt. The team opted to bring in competition for the starting role, and the training camp narrative was dominated by the daily results of who performed better. This is Trubisky’s last year on his rookie deal, and with the team declining his 5th-year option, he can either turn it around or be off the roster by this time next year.
Starter: Tarik Cohen, David Montgomery
Rotational: Cordarrelle Patterson
Reserve: Ryan Nall
The Bears listed Cohen and Montgomery both as “starters” multiple times in 2019, with Cohen picking up 11 official starts and Monty logging 8. Nagy’s playbook requires pre-snap movements, where Cohen excels. Montgomery is a more traditional shotgun back to sit in beside the quarterback and threaten in both the run and pass game. While he’s questionable for week one against the Lions, he should slot into the starting spot when healthy. Patterson had more rushing yards than Ryan Nall in 2019 despite being officially listed as a wide receiver. There’s no reason to doubt that will change now that Patterson is officially a running back.
Starters: Allen Robinson II, Anthony Miller
Rotational: Ted Ginn Jr., Javon Wims, Darnell Mooney
Reserve: Riley Ridley
Robinson enters 2020 on the last year of his 3 year, 42 million dollar contract he signed before the 2018 season. He remains the only Bears player worth starting in most fantasy leagues, and was a Pro Bowl snub in 2019. Anthony Miller lead all Bears receivers with 7 touchdowns in 2018, and despite struggling through 2019 he should retain his starting role. Ted Ginn has starting experience, and despite being 35 years old he still possesses burning speed and should be the first receiver off the bench for the Bears, specifically when Robinson moves to the slot. Javon Wims has been with the team long enough to know the offense, and reports are that Darnell Mooney had an excellent camp. With Ridley struggling just to suit up in 2019, expect he will remain a common healthy scratch.
Starter: Jimmy Graham
Rotational: Cole Kmet, J.P. Holtz, Demetrius Harris
Reserve: Eric Saubert
Former all-pro tight end Jimmy Graham comes to Chicago on a two-year, 16 million dollar contract and will be part of a “revamped” tight end group also featuring 2nd-round draft pick Cole Kmet. The two could be featured in red zone packages together, with Kmet as the “Y” tight end off the offensive tackle and Graham as the “U” lined up away from the offensive line. Traditionally at tight end, Harris is familiar enough with the offense that he would likely be the first off the bench in the case of injury, but J.P. Holtz was featured at fullback in 2019 when the Bears opted to run the old-school I formation. With the success they had in this package, look for them to play with this set more. Eric Saubert is the wild card here; the Bears poached him off the Raiders practice squad last year after injuries to the front depth at tight end. He made the roster over another player who was promoted from the 2019 practice squad, Jesper Horsted.
Starters: Charles Leno Jr., James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Germain Ifedi, Bobby Massie
Rotational: Rashaad Coward, Jason Spriggs
Reserve: Alex Bars, Arlington Hambright
The Bears return 4 out of 5 starters at offensive line after Kyle Long retired this past offseason. To fill his role at right guard, they signed Seattle Seahawks first round pick Germain Ifedi to a one year deal. Ifedi played guard in college, but was moved to the right tackle position in Seattle and has started 60 games in his career. To fill the interior, James Daniels and Cody Whitehair appear set at the positions they are most comfortable at after a failed experiment in 2019. Leno and Massie return after underwhelming last year. Rashaad Coward filled in for injuries last year in multiple positions, and Jason Spriggs has starting experience at left tackle. Alex Bars and Arlington Hambright are emergency fill pieces.
Starters: Akiem Hicks, Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris
Rotational: John Jenkins, Brent Urban, Mario Edwards
Starting nose tackle Eddie Goldman opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns over COVID-19, and reports are that Bilal Nichols has been stuffing “A” gaps in his place. Nichols has started both beside, and in place of Akiem Hicks, and the former should be expected to start from day one. Robertson-Harris has experience starting as well, but in relief of injured players. Expect multiple run-defense packages featuring Jenkins lined up over center and Nichols shifting away to the “B” gaps, and Urban in goal line packages with 4 defensive linemen.
Starters: Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn
Rotational: Barkevious Mingo, Trevis Gipson
Reserve: James Vaughters
Khalil Mack needs no introduction. The Bears most talented and highest paid player should play as many snaps as any linebacker in the NFL. This past offseason, the Bears spent money on a prized free agent signing Robert Quinn. The latter has started 106 games in his career and should slot in at the starting spot vacated by Leonard Floyd’s departure. Coming off the bench, 8-year pro Barkevious Mingo and 5th-round draft pick Trevis Gipson should compete for playing time, with the veteran featured in more run defense packages and the rookie filling in when Mack or Quinn need a breather. Vaughters, a former CFL player who was signed to the practice squad last year, was a surprise addition to this group. If the Bears make more moves to sign players, his spot could be in jeopardy.
Starters: Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan
Rotational: Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Josh Woods
The Bears return 7 out of 11 defensive starters, and there may not be a more important position for stability than dead center of this star-studded defense. Former top-10 draft pick Roquan Smith is entering his 3rd year with the club, and Trevathan his 5th after signing a well-deserve contract extension in the offseason. The major unknown is the depth, with “Iggy” and Woods both expected to come off the bench and the major question is who will be filling in if an injury occurs. The Bears should look to sign a free agent if either starter goes down long term, but after being drafted in the 4th round and playing sparingly save for special teams, Iyiegbuniwe should be featured in packages that use his speed and athletic ability.
Starters: Kyle Fuller, Buster Skrine, Jaylon Johnson
Rotational: Duke Shelley
Reserve: Kindle Vildor
Kyle Fuller has finally come into his own under this current Bears regime, making the pro bowl in each of the last two season, including earning 1st team All-Pro honors in 2018. He’s a lockdown corner and teams often scheme around him. Opposite Fuller, the Bears had a tough decision to make. Many projected Kevin Toliver to be the starter, although he was a surprise cut when trimming the 53-man roster and he is eligible for the practice squad. Skrine has primarily played the nickel-corner position in Chicago, but he has plenty of experience playing outside as well during his career. The Bears will be in nickel over 50% of the time, though, so expect 2nd-round pick Jaylon Johnson to nearly match Skrine’s snap count. Shelley enters his second year with the team and should see his snap count tick up with Prince Amukumara and Kevin Toliver out of the way. Fifth-round draft pick Kindle Vildor will have time to learn the playbook before seeing the field.
Starters: Eddie Jackson, Tashaun Gipson
Rotational: Deon Bush, Sherrick McManis
Reserve: DeAndre Houston-Carson
Eddie Jackson enters his 4th year in the NFL as one of the highest paid safeties in the league, and deservedly so. He was the Saturday Spotlight here this week, and like Khalil Mack he should see as many snaps as any other players in the league at his position. His 2019 counterpart at safety, Ha-Sean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix, departed in free agency and the Bears signed veteran safety Tashaun Gipson. The newcomer has started 104 games in his career and should be expected to start from day one. Bush has filled in at both safety positions for injured players in years past, and he should see playing time on both special teams and defense in every game he’s healthy this year. McManis is a special teamer who converted from cornerback to safety, and he’s been with the Bears since 2012. He can fill multiple roles in the defensive backfield and should see playing time on both special teams and defense. Houston-Carson enters his 5th year with the team and is a special teamer, nothing more nothing less.
Kicker: Eddy Pineiro
Punter: Pat O’Donnell
Long snapper: Patrick Scales
Pineiro won the roller-coaster ride of a kicking competition leading up to the 2019 season. He underwhelmed, especially as the weather worsened, but he returns to the Bears securely in the starting kicker spot. Partly due to a minor groin injury, and also in staying cautious over COVID-19 uncertainty, the Bears signed a familiar face in Cairo Santos to the camp squad. If they’re serious about taking precautions for COVID-19, they will keep Santos or another kicker on the practice squad ready to call up if Pineiro has to quarantine. O’Donnell enters his 7th year with the Bears and is a league-average punter. Retaining all three positions is the most important, so the comfort level between the 3 players on field goal attempts can carry over.