A whirlwind of Tuesday transactions for a Bears team in the midst of a firestorm of stuff.
The Bears you see Thursday will be different than the ones you saw on Sunday, but not because of any changes on the coaching staff:
#Bears roster moves:
We have signed DT Margus Hunt to the active roster from the PS, placed DB Duke Shelley on IR and signed K Brian Johnson to the PS.
— Chicago Bears (@BearsPR) November 23, 2021
Defensive lineman Margus Hunt joins the active roster, with the Bears elevating him from the practice squad. Hunt hops onto the 53-player roster with cornerback Duke Shelley going on injured reserve. And even though these don’t look like one-for-one moves, this set of transactions go hand-in-hand.
Firstly, Shelley’s slide onto IR creates room for Hunt on the roster. Shelley going down with a hamstring injury in the Bears’ loss to the Ravens left an already thin cornerbacks room searching for more answers. The third-year player from Kansas State has been Chicago’s primary slot corner, playing in nine games (three starts) and playing on 60 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. For whatever it’s worth, Shelley owns the Bears’ best coverage grade (62.7) among qualifying CBs, via PFF. But quarterbacks targeting him this season were completing 77.5 percent of their passes with a 104.4 passer rating when targeting him.
With Shelley out of the lineup, it could push the Bears to promote Thomas Graham Jr. from the practice squad on Thursday. Graham, a rookie sixth-round selection from Oregon, is the only defensive back on Chicago’s taxi squad at this time. And while Marqui Christian, Xavier Crawford, Teez Tabor, and others could rotate defensively, it might be nice to get a young draft pick some game experience. Now seems like a great time to evaluate potential long-term options for future positional battles. Just sayin’.
Promoting Hunt to the active roster would be a curious decision, if not for the fact that Akiem Hicks didn’t practice last week, didn’t play, and wouldn’t have been practicing had the Bears held something more than a walkthrough on Monday. In other words, this feels like a sign that Hicks will likely be unavailable for Thursday’s game against the Lions.
And finally, place kicker Brian Johnson finds his way back to the Bears’ practice squad. The rookie who was a training camp and preseason standout returns as Chicago’s emergency kicker. Johnson was successful on all eight of his field goal tries in four games with the Saints in Weeks 7-10. But he did miss three PATs, including two in a 23-21 loss to the Titans in Week 10. After Cairo Santos spent time on the injury report with an elbow issue, it’s good to have a fall-back option in case of an emergency. It’s better to be safe than sorry, after all.