The Chicago Bears’ preseason finale is rapidly approaching, which means cut-down day is right around the corner. Trimming the roster from 90 to 53 is never easy. And even when the Bears get down to it, the roster churn won’t be over, because they’ll have a top-10 position in the waiver claim process in case someone catches their eye.
But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. First, let’s dive into what’s in front of the Bears as far as this group is concerned.
Mitch Trubisky and Chase Daniel are making the team, but Tyler Bray’s future isn’t all that certain. There is a non-zero percent chance that the Bears kick off against the Packers with just two quarterbacks on the season-opening roster. Sneaking a quarterback onto the practice quad is never easy, even the third-stringer. In the end, I think Bray makes the cut.
Locks (2): Trubisky, Daniel
On the bubble: Bray
Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, and Benny Cunningham give the Bears a little bit of everything you’d want from a stable of backfield rushers. However, the team has a decision to make when it comes to carrying a fourth running back. Taquan Mizzell has special teams experience, but Ryan Nall has put more splash plays on tape. Michael Burton is the team’s lone fullback, but that position seems to be fading out in modern offenses and that could lead him to be the odd-man out.
Locks (3): Howard, Cohen, Cunningham
On the bubble: Mizzell, Nall, Burton, Knile Davis
Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Anthony Miller are better than any of the receivers the Bears had at any point during the regular season last year, which says a lot about the quality of upgrades … and how bad that group was in 2017. The bottom half of the receiver depth chart is a dog fight. It’s a free agent year for Kevin White, who won’t have a ton of pressure on him because he’ll enter the year as WR4. Josh Bellamy will have to hold off Bennie Fowler in the battle for wide receiver/special teams contributor. Javon Wims has put too much good film on tape to try and sneak through waivers and onto the practice squad.
Locks (4): Robinson, Miller, Gabriel, White
On the bubble: Wims, Bellamy, Fowler
Adam Shaheen’s injury status throws things for a loop. The Bears could clear a roster spot by placing him on injured reserve to start the season with a designation to return. A move like that could allow Ben Braunecker to join Trey Burton, Dion Sims, and (potentially) Daniel Brown on the roster.
Locks (3): Burton, Sims, Shaheen
On the bubble: Brown, Braunecker
No matter how they line up, here’s hoping we get a healthy 16-game run from Charles Leno Jr., James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long, and Bobby Massie. Eric Kush is probably making it as the top reserve interior linemen (he has experience at all three spots) and the same for swing tackle Bradley Sowell. Though, Sowell left Saturday’s game early with an injury.
Will the Bears carry an eighth offensive lineman or will the team try and slide tackle Rashaad Coward back onto the practice squad and continue his development there without using a 53-man roster spot? Did Jordan Morgan do anything to merit a spot on the season-opening roster? Those are questions that need to be answered before Saturday.
Locks (6): Leno Jr., Daniels, Whitehair, Long, Massie, Kush
On the bubble: Coward, Sowell, Grasu, Morgan
Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris should provide enough production to make up for the loss of Mitch Unrein’s reliable presence. Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman are solid starters. John Jenkins is the only experienced backup nose tackle, while rookie Bilal Nichols looks like someone the team can develop to play at all three spots on the line.
Locks (5): Hicks, Goldman, Robertson-Harris, Bullard, Nichols
On the bubble: Jenkins
Leonard Floyd and Sam Acho project to enter the year as starters. If Floyd can play to his potential and Acho can show an up-tick in pass-rush production in addition to his continued strong play against the run, then this duo won’t be as bad as some think. Aaron Lynch, Kylie Fitts, and Isaiah Irving are probably on the team, too. Late summer addition Kasim Edebali is firmly on the bubble.
Locks (5): Floyd, Acho, Lynch, Fitts, Irving
On the bubble: Edebali
If Roquan Smith is healthy and can prove to be able to play at a high level, then this group has a chance at being an undeniable strength for the Bears’ defense. Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski are experienced in this scheme, so they can handle the calls and positioning while Smith focuses on getting healthy and making plays when he’s on the field. Rookie Joel Iyiegbuniwe was off to a slow start, but the arrow appears to be pointing up.
Locks (4): Trevathan, Kwiatkoski, Smith, Iyiegbuniwe
Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, and Bryce Callahan are locks. After that, we have questions. Is Sherrick McManis healthy enough and good enough to return as a special teams ace? Will Marcus Cooper Sr. return in a role as a special teams contributor and spot player in the secondary? Has Cre’von LeBlanc shown enough for the Bears to carry a second slot corner?
Locks (5): Fuller, Amukamara, Callahan, LeBlanc, McManis
On the bubble: Cooper, Doran Grant, Kevin Toliver II, Michael Joseph
What’s not to like about the Bears’ starters? Eddie Jackson had a solid rookie season and the future looks bright for the former Alabama standout. Adrian Amos is coming off a career-best year and is heading into his walk year. The backups, however, leave something to be desired.
Deon Bush is a virtual lock, but what will the team do about DeAndre Houston-Carson (who is out with an injury) and Deiondre’ Hall (who will miss Week 1 due to a suspension)?
Locks (3): Amos, Jackson, Bush
On the bubble: Hall, Houston-Carson
Cody Parkey hit a 48-yard field goal, which should ease some of the worries anyone had about his kicking prowess. Pat O’Donnell is probably a safe bet to retain his title as the Bears’ top punter. Patrick Scales is likely maintaining his spot as the team’s long snapper. But the Bears brought in competition for a reason, so I’m hesitant to make O’Donnell and Scales “locks” at their respective positions.
Locks (3): Parkey, O’Donnell, Scales
On the bubble: Ryan Winslow (punter), Tanner Carew (long snapper)
With the Bears’ backups set to get another extended look against the Bills, someone (or several someones) will likely put their best foot forward in an attempt to earn a roster spot. By our count, we have 43 players designated as roster locks. That means there are 10 spots that can be earned and at least 22 players with a case to make the squad. So while we won’t see starters (again), there are plenty of players for whom the preseason finale won’t be a worthless exhibition.