The Bears’ 2018 preseason covered six weeks of practices and games, giving coaches and front office personnel plenty of time to evaluate who’s in and who’s out on their initial 53-man roster, which will be released Saturday.
This projection comes with a caveat: The Bears can, and likely will, scour the waiver wire for players to add Saturday into Sunday. Three players were claimed on waivers and added to the 53-man roster last year (running back Taquan Mizzell, wide receiver Tre McBride and long snapper Andrew DePaola), replacing running back Jeremy Langford, tight end Ben Braunecker and long snapper Jeff Overbaugh. So the guys that make up this 53-man roster may not be the ones the Bears take to Green Bay Sept. 9.
With that being said, here’s a prediction as to how the Bears' initial 53-man roster shakes out:
(This updated projection includes the Bears' trade for Khalil Mack)
QUARTERBACK (2): Mitch Trubisky, Chase Daniel
Cut: Tyler Bray
Practice squad candidates: None
With needs elsewhere on this roster, keeping Tyler Bray just to be inactive on game days (as Mark Sanchez was a year ago) doesn’t make much sense. Chances are Bray will still be available if the Bears do need to call him this year if something were to happen to Chase Daniel.
RUNNING BACK (3): Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham
Cut: Taquan Mizzell, Knile Davis, Ryan Nall
Practice squad candidates: Mizzell, Nall
The Bears do not take a fullback, even though every game Matt Nagy coached in Kansas City featured one. The reasoning here: Of Mitch Trubisky’s 39 preseason snaps, only two came with Michael Burton in the game as well — and both of those were passing plays on which Burton was lone back.
Nall had a strong game Thursday, with a 32-yard touchdown rumble punctuating a four-carry, 79-yard day. And even played some fullback in the second half. That could help his roster case, if Nagy is completely sold on not using a fullback. Nall's special teams traits, too, could be a benefit:
I just went back and watched a hand full of Ryan Nall’s special teams snaps from the preseason. Has a big upside on that phase. #Bears— Patrick Mannelly (@PatrickMannelly) August 31, 2018
But on first pass it seems more likely the Bears try to get Nall on the practice squad given their needs at tight end and offensive line.
WIDE RECEIVER (6): Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Kevin White, Josh Bellamy, Javon Wims
Cut: Malachai Jones, Garrett Johnson, Bennie Fowler, Demarcus Ayers, Tanner Gentry, Marlon Brown
Practice squad candidates: Jones, Johnson, Ayers, Gentry
That the Bears didn’t need to see any of Wims, besides a few special teams snaps, in Thursday’s preseason finale is a sure sign the seventh-round pick is on the 53-man roster, as if his strong preseason (15 catches, 227 yards, 1 TD) wasn’t indicative enough. He received some special teams work, too, which helped his cause. Neither White nor Bellamy played on Thursday, too.
Ayers and Gentry are the most likely cuts to wind up on the practice squad.
TIGHT END (5): Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Dion Sims, Daniel Brown, Ben Braunecker
Cut: Colin Thompson
Practice squad candidates: Thompson
Shaheen’s foot/ankle injury seems likely to hold him out for at least Week 1, if not longer into the start of the season (though Nagy said this week he doesn’t expect him to wind up on injured reserve). Brown's shoulder injury, suffered in the second half of Thursday's game, is a concern, with Nagy saying it could be either a day-to-day or week-to-week thing. Still, the Bears like Brown's receiving upside as the backup "U" tight end, and Braunecker put some good things on tape this preseason. Both are key special teams contributors, too, and unless Brown's injury is serious, expect both to make it.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Charles Leno Jr., Eric Kush, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long, Bobby Massie, James Daniels, Bradley Sowell, Rashaad Coward, Will Pericak
Cut: Hroniss Grasu, Brandon Greene, Dejon Allen, Jordan Morgan, Matt McCants
Practice squad candidates: Green, Allen, Morgan, McCants
The Bears could easily go with eight offensive linemen, a total that while low could be sustainable if the Bears want to carry an extra player elsewhere. But given Kyle Long’s injury history and Bradley Sowell’s uncertainty for Week 1 after spraining his ankle against the Chiefs, the Bears stick with nine guys here. If it’s eight, the cut would come down to Coward (a tackle) or Pericak (an interior guy). Coward could be the Bears’ right tackle of the future, though, given how quickly he’s developed since flipping from D-line to O-line this year. Exposing him to the waiver wire may be a little risky.
OFFENSE TOTAL: 25.
DEFENSIVE LINE (5): Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Jonathan Bullard, Roy Robertson-Harris, Bilal Nichols
Cut: John Jenkins, Abdullah Anderson, Cavon Walker, Nick Williams
Practice squad candidates: Anderson, Walker
Jenkins has received plenty of work this preseason but was among last year’s cut-down day casualties, but wound up re-signing two days later. He’s a natural backup for Goldman at nose tackle, but unless the Bears try to sneak Nichols — their fifth-round pick this year — onto the practice squad, Jenkins becomes the odd man out here. But like last year, he could return relatively quickly.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (6): Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Sam Acho, Aaron Lynch, Isaiah Irving, Kylie Fitts
Cut: Elijah Norris, Kasim Edebali
Practice squad candidates: Norris
UPDATE, SATURDAY MORNING: The Bears trading for Mack bumps Edebali off the roster, and could mean the Bears don't need to take six outside linebackers, too. We'll see how that shakes out this afternoon.
(From Friday morning): Edebali left Thursday’s game on a cart and was unable to put weight on his right leg after suffering an injury in the fourth quarter. The good news is the injury looked more severe than the diagnosis, which Nagy said was a "leg whip" contusion. The Bears aren't in a position to be cutting outside linebackers given the depth there and injury concerns for Floyd, Fitts and Lynch. So six it is.
If Thursday's results were to significantly matter, Irving would be on the chopping block, too, for his roughing the passer penalty on fourth-and-22 that gave the Bills the chance to drive downfield and score the game-winning touchdown.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS (5): Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Nick Kwiatkoski, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, John Timu
Cut: Josh Woods, Jonathan Anderson, Ro’Derrick Hoskins
Practice squad candidates: Woods, Hoskins
The decision between taking a sixth outside linebacker, fifth inside linebacker and fifth safety wasn't easy, but we'll say the Bears go with a key special teams contributor in Timu who also is entering Year 4 in Vic Fangio's defense.
CORNERBACKS (5): Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Bryce Callahan, Sherrick McManis, Cre’von LeBlanc
Cut: Marcus Cooper, Doran Grant, Michael Joseph, Kevin Toliver II, Jonathan Mincy, Rashard Fant, John Franklin III
Practice squad candidates: Fant, Franklin, Joseph, Mincy, Toliver
Cooper hasn’t been healthy for the latter part of the preseason and wasn’t effective when he was on the field in the early portion of it. The Bears have to eat $750,000 to cut him, but that’s not a large enough sum to prevent them from doing so.
While Grant had a pick-six, another guy who could've helped his case Thursday is Mincy, who has the flexibility to play both safety and nickel corner, and he sacked A.J. McCarron on a blitz from the nickel spot. He, Joseph and Toliver should be on the radar to make the practice squad.
SAFETIES (4): Adrian Amos, Eddie Jackson, Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson
Cut: Deiondre' Hall, Nick Orr
Practice squad candidates: Hall, Orr
This was a tough one, given Houston-Carson won't be available for at least Week 1 due to a broken arm. Taking three safeties into Green Bay seems a little risky, but Hall is suspended for Week 1. Houston-Carson played well enough as a reserve safety and a special teamer this preseason to merit a spot on the 53-man roster. Hall has some intriguing athletic traits but has now had two off-the-field issues attatched to him, so we'll say he gets released so the Bears can keep around Timu and Edebali.
DEFENSE TOTAL: 25.
SPECIALISTS (3): PK Cody Parkey, P Pat O’Donnell, LS Pat Scales
Cut: P Ryan Winslow, LS Tanner Carew