Only two teams had more snaps played by rookies than the Chicago Bears in 2016:
Browns rookies played 5,521 snaps last year — most in the NFL.
Vikings rookies played 347 snaps — least in the NFL.
Everyone else ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/n4Ws0QVpdX
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 26, 2017
And as Zack Pearson notes, most of that playing time was allotted to running back Jordan Howard, center Cody Whitehair, and edge defender Leonard Floyd. That trio combined to play 2,200 snaps – or 51.9 percent. The team also received contributions from Nick Kwiatkoski, whose 458 snaps ranked seventh among players who lined up in the Bears’ front seven in 2016.
Here is a breakdown of the Bears’ biggest rookie contributors, based on 2016 snaps:
- 1,009: C Cody Whitehair
- 696: CB Cre’von LeBlanc
- 654: RB Jordan Howard
- 537: OLB Leonard Floyd
- 458: ILB Nick Kwiatkoski
We’re looking at five rookies who combined to make 57 starts, including four who played at least 500 snaps. For what it’s worth, this number figures to come down in 2017, because none of the Bears’ five draft picks projects to be a starter in 2017.
First-round quarterback Mitch Trubisky and second-round tight end Adam Shaheen are third on their respective depth charts, fourth-round running back Tarik Cohen is behind three reserves who are behind starter Jordan Howard, and fifth-round lineman Jordan Morgan is a project moving from tackle to guard. At first glance, Eddie Jackson could end up with the most snaps, depending on how he fares in his camp battle with incumbent starter Adrian Amos.
Of course, things can change between now and when the season starts Sept. 10 against the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons. Injuries could play a role in increased playing time, as could poor performance. If the Bears deal tight end Zach Miller, playing time for Shaheen would suddenly open up. Cohen might be the Bears’ best third-down option among running backs because of his speed and steady pass-catching hands. Trubisky could also conceivably outplay Mike Glennon and Mark Sanchez in camp. But we’ll have to wait and see what happens if things play out quite like that.
It’s easy to forget now, but Howard was behind Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey when 2016 began. LeBlanc came to the Bears as an undrafted free agent after being released by the New England Patriots. And Whitehair had never played center before emerging as one of the Bears’ best offensive linemen.
If the Bears rookies play as much as they did in 2016, it will come as a surprise. But since there are no sure-things in the NFL, each of the team’s rookies should be on their toes and ready to step in when their number is called.