The bottom of the roster is a bit complicated, and there’s certainly going to be a few tough decisions to be made, but here are five spots to keep an eye out on Saturday that could make an impact on Tuesday’s decisions.
PJ Walker vs Tyson Bagent
The Bears could keep both of these players on the 53-man roster and Nathan Peterman on the practice squad and safely keep all four quarterbacks. But if Tyson Bagent has another strong performance and the Bears are comfortable with Bagent as their QB2, they could release Walker and open up another spot on the 53-man roster for someone else.
Bagent has played well, Walker has been anything but, but the Bears guaranteed him $2 million so if they are going to make the decision to release Walker, they need to be damn sure that Bagent is their guy. If Walker’s play improves, that will certainly help his case to stick around.
After Richard Hightower said Velus Jones is the best kick returner in the NFL, I have a hard time believing they are going to cut him, but they still need someone reliable on punt returns. Who is that going to be? Who will the Bears be trying out there on Saturday? DJ Moore has even taken some punt return reps in practice, and that seems like a terrible idea.
I assume the Bears are going to allow Jones to be the punt returner on this team and just cross their fingers that he can get it done, but it’s a little unnerving that something this important is still totally up for grabs this close to the beginning of the season.
This is another position that has left the water murky. Trevis Gipson and Terrell Lewis have outperformed Rasheem Green and Dominique Robinson in preseason games, but both Green and Robinson have started both times with DeMarcus Walker and Yannick Ngakoue missing those games. That certainly gives you the idea that both those players are safe. Would the Bears keep six defensive ends? That seems a little over the top with some of the other decisions with their position groups but if the plan is to keep five, someone is losing a spot on the roster, and this game against Buffalo could help decide that.
Doug Kramer vs Alex Leatherwood
The Bears offensive line is already having injury issues and this is opening the door for players to make the roster that you wouldn’t expect. Teven Jenkins is out, which may cement Alex Leatherwood’s spot on the 53, but at the same time, Cody Whitehair has a hand injury that is preventing him from snapping. If Whitehair can’t snap, the Bears need a second center on the 53-man roster that isn’t Lucas Patrick. Doug Kramer seems to be that guy. Keeping an eye on both these two (they’ll be playing with each other and right next to each other) to see how they perform as either one of them could end up staying on the 53, but almost certainly not both.
Baskerville has been a nice surprise for the Bears this training camp and preseason. Baskerville signed as an undrafted free agent out of LSU and hasn’t disappointed the faith the Bears put in him. He’s quite undersized as a linebacker, but he has a nose for the ball and has played well in his opportunities. Ryan Poles has put a lot of focus at the bottom of the linebacker group and Baskerville is absolutely in the mix for a spot on the 53-man roster.
The Bears know the top 4 linebackers, but the last one or two spots on the 53 are up for grabs. Keep an eye on Baskerville, if he has another good game, the Bears may keep him on the 53 rather than try to stash him on the practice squad.
I’ll have my 53-man roster projection out tomorrow (with practice squad), but check out Lester’s right here.