The National Football League’s regular season is approaching and it’s expected to be a newsworthy time around the league. Texans’ pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney and Washington offensive tackle Trent Williams could be on the move prior to week one. Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon haven’t reported to their respective teams either and Jacoby Brissett is about to take over the reins in Indianapolis following the sudden retirement of quarterback Andrew Luck.
Matt Nagy and the Bears will close out their pre-season slate at Soldier Field on Thursday when they host the Tennessee Titans junior varsity on the lakefront. While the starters have already begun to prep for Green Bay, the reserves and players trying to fill a spot are preparing for Thursday’s exhibition.
The Chicago Bears are a legitimate threat to reach the Super Bowl in 2019 and are about to attempt an encore to their 12-4 season. Coming off a first round playoff loss that devastated the city, this is the most talented pre-season roster assembled by Ryan Pace and his lieutenants.
Permanent locker space at Halas Hall is at a premium and there aren’t many roster spots up for grabs. Will they keep a 6th cornerback? Maybe the staff will decide that they need a 7th wide receiver or a 5th tight end. Is there enough depth at offensive tackle and inside linebacker? Do they feel comfortable with the depth behind Defensive Player of the Year Candidate Khalil Mack? These are all questions which will be answered this weekend after the final roster is announced.
Here’s my final projection for how the 53-man roster will shake out.
Trubisky hasn’t played very much in the pre-season but the coaching staff doesn’t see that as a concern and they’re pleased with the evolving progress shown by the 3rd year pro. It’s the former #2 overall pick’s 2nd year in the Matt Nagy system and he’ll need to improve on his inconsistent performance of a season ago. The Bears Super Bowl hopes likely rest on that performance.
Chase Daniel has struggled in the pre-season playing with backups but he’s a solid resource for Trubisky and the offense in general. He’s best served holding a clipboard throughout the season but could likely win a game if necessary.
Typical to the rest of the league, the Bears are unlikely to carry a 3rd quarterback on their roster. Veteran Tyler Bray has practice squad eligibility remaining and he’ll likely fill that role unless Pace and the scouting staff go with younger option on that front.
Running Back (4)
Mike Davis was given a contract in free agency prior to the selection of Iowa State’s David Montgomery. Davis will provide depth at the position and offers some special teams versatility as well as pass catching ability out of the backfield. I’d be tempted to release him and recoup a compensatory pick in 2020 though.
David Montgomery has looked the part in training camp and during his brief stint of pre-season football. He’s a true three-down back and could be one of the most important players on the team this year. Tarik Cohen returns as one of the most dynamic playmakers and return men in the sport. He may not line up in the backfield as often but he’s still classified at this position for now.
The final running back spot likely comes down to Kerrith Whyte Jr. and 2nd year runner Ryan Nall. Nall has impressed in the pre-season once again and he looks like a potential NFL player. Whyte was a 7th round draft pick this year though and speed is his carrying tool. He’s a dynamic return man that has flashed some on offense. I think he’ll be a priority over the former Oregon State bell cow.
Wide Receiver (7)
Allen Robinson is fully healthy and has looked the part of a #1 receiver all summer. Fans should be expecting a huge year from AR12. Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller return in their roles as well. Miller has struggled some according to reports but he brings it up a notch with the lights on.
Riley Ridley is a roster lock after being a 4th round selection in the most recent draft. He’s battled an injury but is seemingly healthy and ready to go. Javon Wims is a fan favorite and pre-season hero but he’s done enough to lock up a spot on this opening day roster.
Cordarrelle Patterson has his own package and he’s an underrated addition to the 2019 Bears’ offense. His Trojan personnel grouping places him all over the field and he provides a dynamic element to Matt Nagy’s offense. Marvin Hall is one the roster bubble but I have him winning a spot due to his speed and special teams ability.
Tight End (5)
In Matt Nagy’s offense, there are two types of tight ends. Burton fills the role of the U while Adam Shaheen slots in as a traditional Y. This is a big season for Shaheen in year three on the team and he’s trying to prove to be a worthy contributor. Neither guy has played in the pre-season so we’ll need to wait for them to be unleashed.
Ben Braunecker is a valuable member of the team because he can play both tight end spots and is a big performer on multiple special teams. Bradley Sowell has begun his transition from swing tackle to tight end and he likely ends up on the roster because of it.
Dax Raymond out of Utah State appeared to be a solid addition in undrafted free agency in late April. He had a slow start in camp while fellow UDFA TE Ian Bunting had time to shine. That has swung a bit of late and if the Bears keep five players at the position, I would bet on Raymond as of now.
Offensive Line (8)
The Bears return all five starters to their standout offensive line in 2019. The only change is James Daniels moving to his best position at center while Cody Whitehair goes back to guard. Charles Leno has turned himself into a really solid left tackle and Bobby Massie has improved his game as well. Kyle Long is looking to stay healthy which has been a rarity for the veteran mauler.
The depth isn’t great and there’s not a true swing tackle on this roster. Rashaad Coward is injured and his status is unknown but Harry Hiestand is familiar with him and orchestrated his move from the defensive line after being signed as an UDFA out of Old Dominion years ago. Ted Larsen is a roster lock as the primary reserve at center and guard. He has a mean streak and lots of experience in the league.
Alex Bars was one of the most heralded undrafted free agent signings around the league let alone with the Bears. The 6’6″ 313 pounder from Notre Dame looked like a top 100 type selection early in the 2018 college season. In the 5th game for the Irish, Bars tore his ACL and MCL in his knee and it pushed him to priority free agent status. He was once a disciple of Hiestand in South Bend and that contributed to him landing in Chicago. Bars has played well in the pre-season and seems like a roster lock at this point. He’s played some tackle of late in addition to his responsibilities at guard.
The Bears could look to add offensive line depth on the waiver wire this weekend but they’re 25th in the pecking order and that will likely be a tall task.
Defensive Line (5)
Akiem Hicks was a borderline All-Pro last year and played in his first Pro Bowl. He’s one of the anchors of a defense looking to repeat as the best unit in the sport. Eddie Goldman received a contract extension last off-season and it was much deserved. The former 2nd rounder out of Florida State is one of Ryan Pace’s best draft picks and he’s a very important cog in this unit.
Bilal Nichols contributed in a big way to the 2018 team after being selected in the 5th round out of Delaware. The former Blue Hen served as Hicks’ understudy last year really took to the coaching of returning defensive line coach Jay Rodgers. Nichols should be even better this year. Robertson-Harris has stuck around after signing with the Bears as an UDFA out of UTEP back in 2016. He’s a standout performer on special teams and serves as a pass rush specialist on the interior.
Jonathan Bullard was a 3rd round pick of the Bears back in 2016 out of Florida. He has underachieved in Chicago but played in a rotation for the last three years. Bullard is firmly on the roster bubble right now and should play in the club’s 4th pre-season game. Nick Williams makes the team and takes the 5th roster spot in this projection. Williams was a 7th round pick by the Steelers out of Samford in 2013. He played for the Bears last year as well.
EDGE Rusher (4)
The Bears are thin at the outside linebacker position but may have the best player in the league. Khalil Mack is an absolute game-wrecker and should be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. Leonard Floyd hasn’t lived up to his draft status as the 9th overall pick back in 2016. Floyd is a solid all around edge defender but the pass rush statistics haven’t shown up quite yet. He’s trying to earn a new contract with the team.
Aaron Lynch has battled some lingering injuries throughout his career but is pretty effective as a 3rd piece in an edge rotation. He can play with his hand in the dirt or up in a two-point stance. Isaiah Irving has some juice off the edge and contributes on special teams as well. Kylie Fitts is firmly on the roster bubble. The 2018 6th rounder is a practice squad candidate along with Chuck Harris from Buffalo.
James Vaughters is a 26-year-old that was signed out of the CFL. He has played well in the pre-season and could be in the mix for a roster spot if the coaching staff decides to keep a 5th edge rusher. He’s also a practice squad candidate.
Inside Linebacker (5)
Trevathan and Smith will form one of the best inside linebacker duos in the entire league. Smith has had a fantastic off-season and looks primed to reach his first Pro Bowl with an All Pro nod a distinct possibility. Trevathan has been very good for a long time and is a perfect fit alongside last year’s first rounder. Inside linebacker is one area where the team is lacking depth however and it could be a focus going forward.
Nick Kwiatkoski enters what is likely his final season with the team and he’s a solid backup with special teams contributions as well. Joel Iyiegbuniwe was a 4th round pick in 2018 and also contributes on multiple teams units. Kevin Pierre-Louis has a history with Matt Nagy and inside linebacker’s coach Mark Deleone. They could decide to keep 4 at this position and Josh Woods is a name to keep an eye on in this spot as well.
Kyle Fuller has looked great all off-season and he’s trying to repeat his 2018 as an All-Pro defender. Prince Amukamara is a solid veteran and fits well opposite Fuller. Bryce Callahan left the team to take a deal in Denver with the Broncos and veteran Buster Skrine will fill his vacated spot. Skrine will be protected in this defense with a stellar supporting cast that he’s not accustomed to. Reports of his play have been positive.
Duke Shelley was a 6th round selection out of Kansas State this year and he will play primarily in the nickel. Kevin Toliver III got some run last year and is likely the #1 backup at outside corner again this year. Young defenders like Michael Joseph, Clifton Duck and John Franklin III have flashed in camp and during pre-season and any of them could land practice squad spots.
Jackson was a First Team All-Pro last year and is one of the best young safeties in the entire league. Clinton-Dix has seen better days but is hoping to rekindle the flame with the best defense in the sport. The two players were teammates at Alabama and should form an excellent tandem. Clinton-Dix came via a one year deal so he has a lot to prove in order to land another multi-year pact.
Deon Bush is in the final year of his deal and he’s made big improvements since being drafted in the 4th round out of Miami in 2016. Bush should find his way on the field in certain personnel packages this year. Houston-Carson and McManis are both valuable special teams performers and their spots are likely wrapped up up do to those factors.
Eddy Pineiro (K), Pat O’Donnell (P), John Wirtel (LS)
Our national nightmare might finally be over as Eddy Pineiro looks to be the winner of the Chicago Bears’ kicking job. He’s been impressive at times and it seems as if he’ll be given the opportunity to win the job long-term. Pat O’Donnell has struggled at times as well and has had some issues holding but the organization seems to enjoy having him around. Patrick Scales could easily start the season as the long snapper but I’ll project the cheaper local product as the winner of a roster spot.
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