Chicago Bears roster decisions are a long way away from being made, but with mandatory mini-camps in the books, it’s OK to start browsing through the roster and piecing together the puzzle that lies ahead.
Over at WGN Radio, Adam Hoge offers up 10 things to know from mini-camp – highlighted by 28 players he projects to be “locks” for the 2017 roster. Here is a by-the-numbers breakdown of players deemed to be locks by position:
Hoge also mentions a handful of players (center Hroniss Grasu, right tackle Bobby Massie, linebacker Sam Acho, and defensive linemen Jonathan Bullard and Jaye Howard) who are deemed to be safe picks to make the cut, but not on the level of players listed above. Even still, there are several notable players not listed among Hoge’s locks, which should lead to a spirited training camp at several different spots.
Two names whose exclusion stands out most from this list are the players who started the most games at safety for the Bears in 2016. Adrian Amos was a fifth round pick in 2015 and has started 30 games in his first two seasons, and has recorded above average grades by Pro Football Focus in each of those seasons. Harold Jones-Quartey, an undrafted free agent from the class of 2015 who landed on the Bears after being let go by the Arizona Cardinals before the start of the 2015 season, started 12 games in his second season in Chicago.
Also missing from the list of locks are cornerbacks Cre’von LeBlanc (10 starts) and Bryce Callahan (9 starts).
The fact that neither of the Bears’ starting safeties or cornerbacks from 2016 is listed as a lock says a lot about the perceived issues of those particular position groups. Amos is arguably the safest of the group of unnamed safeties to make the roster and contribute in 2017. The same can’t be said about DeAndre Houston-Carson, Deon Bush, and Jones-Quartey. Meanwhile, LeBlanc was an ace in the slot, which is an important position to field an adequate playmaker considering the receiver groups the Bears will face this year.
On the other hand, you can see why the Bears made signing Demps, Amukamara, and Cooper a priority and why the team would take a risk with Jackson in the draft.
This rest of the group features 2017 draft pick Jordan Morgan, free agent additions Benny Cunningham, Kendall Wright, John Jenkins, and Mark Sanchez, and returning players such as special teams standing Ka’Deem Carey, outside linebacker Lamarr Houston, and kicker Connor Barth. Each player listed among this collection of talent will have their own hurdles to clear en route to landing a roster spot. Running backs like Cunningham and Carey face increased competition with Howard’s rise and the addition of Cohen in the draft. Wright will be in the mix in a crowded wide receivers room. Sanchez already finds himself without a locked-in spot after a knee injury in OTAs, and was probably going to be in a battle with Connor Shaw anyway.
While the Bears aren’t expected to contend at this stage of the rebuild, that isn’t to say this won’t still be an important training camp for many players wanting to make a case to be a part of the team that turns it all around.