Finally, we’ve made it to July!
Which means football comes LATER THIS MONTH.
Report day for the Bears is in 25 days. The team’s first practice will happen the next day. And one day after that, Halas Hall will host Bears fans for the first of 11 open practices at the team’s sparkling Lake Forest facility.
But before we get there, let’s go over the roster and projected starters. I’ve added some commentary underneath every position group for context, perspective, and maybe even a laugh or two along the way. Enjoy!
(Ed. note: If you find yourself wondering ‘when did the Bears get *THAT* guy and see their name in bold, click the link and let’s re-visit some transactions.)
- QB1: Justin Fields
Andy Dalton isn’t around to take precious developmental snaps. And Matt Nagy isn’t here to muck it all up. It’s Fields’ time to shine, and I’m looking forward to it.
- RB1: David Montgomery
- RB2/Fantasy handcuff: Khalil Herbert
The Montgomery-Herbert tandem can be an offensive force if first-year play-caller Luke Getsy deploys them in a similar way to how the Packers use Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. But don’t sleep on Evans, who could snatch the RB2 handle from Herbert. Remember, the new regime brought in Evans on a waiver claim and has no prior attachment to Herbert. Three reserves jockeying for position could make camp quite interesting for this backfield.
- Khari Blasingame
That’s right, the Bears are employing a fullback once again.
On the one hand, the Bears have a neat collection of post-hype sleepers. Rolling the dice on ESB, Sharpe, and Pettis while hoping one of the three hits isn’t an awful strategy when it comes to building usable receiver depth. It’s just that the rest of the group, save for Mooney, leaves me wanting so much more. Perhaps Pringle’s breakout has another level because he’ll be a primary target for the first time in his career. But it is possible he takes a step back because Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill aren’t walking through that tunnel and drawing defensive attention. All eyes will be on these receivers.
- TE1: Cole Kmet
It’s nice not having myriad choices of reserves to sort through in order to figure out who will make the 53-man roster. Do I wish this group had more upside? Absolutely. Griffin and O’Shaughnessy are veterans who will probably play the same role. This collection of talent could use a route-running, pass-catching threat. But maybe Kmet has another level to his game we haven’t seen yet? This is an important summer for the rising third-year tight end.
Reserves: Teven Jenkins, Julién Davenport, Dieter Eiselen, Sam Mustipher, Willie Wright, Dakota Dozier (IR), Lachavious Simmons, Shon Coleman, Ja’Tyre Carter (rookie), Doug Kramer (rookie), Zachary Thomas (rookie)
GM Ryan Poles’ biggest whiff this offseason might have been his handling of the right guard position. It is clear that Ryan Bates was the team’s first option, but that deal falling through left the Bears with a big question-mark at an important position. That the Bears went hard after Bates suggests that Poles (1) might not be pleased with what’s already in camp and (2) could be willing to seek external help. The offensive line is a place to keep an eye on salary cap casualties, as Ryan Pace did when the team brought in Josh Sitton late in the summer back in 2016.
Reserves: Trevis Gipson, LaCale London, Angelo Blackson, Mario Edwards Jr., Sam Kamara, Micah Dew-Treadway (rookie), Auzoyah Alufohai, Dominique Robinson (rookie), Charles Snowden, Mike Pennel, Carson Taylor (rookie)
Even though there is a real chance Quinn is gone by the time Week 1 rolls around, I’ll operate as if he is part of the Bears’ immediate future until told otherwise. Even if Quinn were to go, the Bears would be OK with Gipson getting a lion’s share of the starter’s reps. But after we get past Justin Jones, who plays the other defensive tackle spot in the four-down front is an open competition.
Reserves: Joe Thomas, Caleb Johnson, Jack Sanborn (rookie), Christian Albright (rookie), Noah Dawkins, C.J. Avery (rookie)
Two newbies (Morrow, Adams) are set to flank Roquan in the middle when the Bears roll with three linebackers. However, because defenses spend so much time in a base defense with just two LBs, we can expect Smith and Morrow to be on the gridiron for most of those reps.
- Boundary CB1: Jaylon Johnson
- Boundary CB2: Kyler Gordon (rookie)
- Slot/nickel CB: Thomas Graham Jr.
Drafting Gordon immediately puts him at the top of the depth chart to start opposite of Johnson. But behind the Gordon-Johnson duo is a slew of potential camp battles. Graham finished minicamp in June as the first-string nickel corner, but the likes of Young, Shelley, and Vildor figure to be up for the challenge. I can’t wait to see who else steps up later this month and when preseason games begin.
- FS Eddie Jackson
- SS Jaquan Brisker (rookie)
The offseason overhaul of the safeties room was subtle, but much appreciated. Two rookies (Brisker, Hicks) and a free agent (Cruikshank) help round out a group that returns a former star on the rebound (Jackson) and Jack-of-many-trades (Houston-Carson) who seems to be easing into the Sherrick McManis special teams ace/useful DB role.
- Kicker: Cairo Santos
- Punter/holder: Trenton Gill (because Pat O’Donnell went full turncoat)
- Long-snapper: Patrick Scales
- Punt returns: Dazz Newsome
- Kick returns: Khalil Herbert
The Bears finally have some continuity at the place-kicker position with Cairo Santos, but he’ll be dealing with a new holder/punter in rookie seventh-round pick Trenton Gill. But will they be dealing with a new long-snapper? Antonio Ortiz, a rookie from TCU, is in the mix for a gig.
We’ll probably see the likes of Nsimba Webster and Velus Jones Jr. get some reps in the return game behind Dazz Newsome and Khalil Herbert starting the month with a leg up.