The Bears’ announced their initial 53-man roster Saturday, which didn’t include many surprises. Still, there are some important takeaways from looking at who made it and who didn’t, so let’s dive in:
1. Eddy Pineiro made, it but…
… I don’t expect him to be the Bears’ kicker in Detroit.
The Bears have a few options here with Cairo Santos. They could still add him to their 53-man roster if Pineiro is placed on short-term injured reserve, which would mean he’d miss at minimum the first three weeks of the season.
(If the Bears put Pineiro on injured reserve before Saturday’s cut-down deadline, he’d be required to miss the season.)
Or the Bears could take advantage of a rule change in 2020, which allows up to two players from the practice squad to be elevated to the active roster on gamedays. Doing so would mean the Bears don’t have to use a spot on their 53-man roster for a second kicker, but could still have Santos as their guy for Week 1.
It’s notable, though, that the Bears didn’t just release Pineiro. He’s still viewed as the Bears’ best long-term option at kicker, even if a groin injury seemingly will limit him early in the season.
2. Actions speak louder than words with David Montgomery’s injury.
The Bears kept four running backs on their roster: Montgomery, Cordarrelle Patterson, Tarik Cohen and Ryan Nall. Undrafted free agent Artavis Pierce was waived, and it stands to reason if the Bears were worried about Montgomery’s groin injury keeping him out for long, Pierce would’ve been kept on the roster.
So the Bears, for now, appear content to ride out Montgomery’s injury with a backfield of Patterson/Cohen/Nall. Pierce could always be elevated from the practice squad to the active roster if need be. But if the reported 2-4 week recovery timeline of Montgomery’s injury, suffered Aug. 25, holds up, there’s a chance he’s active for the Lions game after all.
Hence no additional running backs on the 53-man roster – or a move to sign Leonard Fournette.
3. The Bears weren’t high on Kevin Toliver II.
When Artie Burns suffered a season-ending injury early in camp, and with Jaylon Johnson still limited after offseason shoulder surgery, the stage seemed set for Toliver to grab not only a roster spot, but a prominent role to begin the season.
He was waived Saturday in a move that might feel more surprising than it actually is.
After Burns’ injury, instead of giving Toliver the bulk of the work at corner opposite Kyle Fuller, the Bears slid the nickel-oriented Buster Skrine over to play outside. And when Skrine wasn’t outside, we saw a lot of fifth-round rookie Kindle Vildor there.
Johnson tweeted last weekend that he’s been cleared, so maybe the Bears will roll with him as their starter in Detroit. Maybe they’ll ease him in using a rotation that has Skrine outside in base and Johnson outside in sub packages (although the Bears, like most teams, are in sub packages most of the time anyway).
Or maybe the Bears will make a move to sign a veteran free agent in the coming days as insurance in case Johnson isn’t ready. Perhaps worth noting here: Prince Amukamara was released by the Las Vegas Raiders this week.
4. Nine offensive linemen were kept, for now.
On the roster: Charles Leno Jr., James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Germain Ifedi, Bobby Massie, Alex Bars, Rashaad Coward, Jason Spriggs and Arlington Hambright. We don’t know the severity of the knee injury Spriggs suffered earlier in camp but he seemingly could be a candidate to be placed on short-term injured reserve based on the amount of players retained in Juan Castillo’s room.
If Spriggs does go on short-term IR, it’d open up a roster spot, which wouldn’t necessarily need to be used on an offensive lineman. Credit to Hambright, a seventh-round pick, for earning a spot here.
5. The tight ends are *way* better than they were last year.
Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet, Demetrius Harris, J.P. Holtz and Eric Saubert (2019) vs. Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker and Bradley Sowell (2018). It's a blowout win for 2019.
The Bears’ tight end room completely changed over from where it was a year ago at this time, and based on what we saw in training camp, the change is working.
Does that mean Graham is destined for a Pro Bowl or Kmet is the second coming of Rob Gronkowski? Of course not. But the go-to trio of Graham/Kmet/Harris should give the Bears much more flexibility with their offense, and Saubert made a few plays here and there to earn his way back on to this roster. Holtz’s flexibility as a blocker gives him a role, too.
And for all the jokes about the Bears’ tight end room in the offseason, these five guys played pretty well during training camp – and should play pretty well during the regular season.