Bears

Projecting what the Bears' 53-man roster will look like

Projecting what the Bears' 53-man roster will look like

The Bears will begin training camp next week without many significant position battles — outside of kicker, of course — which stands as an indicator of how strong a roster Ryan Pace has built. But that doesn’t mean there won't be some intriguing decisions to be made in a month and a half, especially involving depth at some critical positions. 

So here’s a pre-training camp stab at projecting what the Bear’s 53-man roster will look like on the night of Sept. 5:

QUARTERBACKS (2): Mitch Trubisky, Chase Daniel
Missing the cut: Tyler Bray

These two guys are locked in, leaving Tyler Bray to likely return to the practice squad for another season. 

RUNNING BACKS (4): Tarik Cohen, Mike Davis, David Montgomery, Kerrith Whyte Jr. 
Missing the cut: Ryan Nall

Cohen, Davis and Montgomery are roster locks, leaving Whyte and Nall to compete for, likely, just one spot on the roster. Matt Nagy praised Nall during OTAs, and he could become a versatile option with the ability to play some fullback, but we’ll give the last spot to Whyte given his speed and the Bears’ focus on that trait in the offseason. 

WIDE RECEIVERS (6): Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley Ridley, Marvin Hall
Missing the cut: Javon Wims, Emanuel Hall, Taquan Mizzell, Tanner Gentry, Jordan Williams-Lambert, Thomas Ives

Robinson, Gabriel and Miller are locks, while Patterson’s contract structure ($5 million guaranteed, all in 2019) and Ridley’s draft slot (fourth round) easily get them on the team, too. That leaves Javon Wims, Marvin Hall, Emanuel Hall and a handful of others to compete for what probably is only one more spot on the 53-man roster. There’s not much separating those three heading into training camp, though Emanuel Hall’s sports hernia surgery sidelined him during OTAs, putting him a little behind the curve. Wims is the incumbent here but didn’t get on the field much in 2018, while Marvin Hall played a little with the Atlanta Falcons over the last two years. We’ll give the edge to Marvin Hall for now based on his speed and meager experience, but also with the knowledge that the Bears’ sixth receiver likely won’t be active on game days unless of an injury. 

TIGHT ENDS (5): Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, Bradley Sowell, Dax Raymond
Missing the cut: Ian Bunting, Jesper Horsted, Ellis Richardson

If Burton has to begin training camp on the PUP list, will he be ready for Week 1? Can Shaheen stay healthy for a full season? Those are perhaps the two biggest questions needing answers not only for this unit, but for the Bears’ offense as a whole. Burton’s 11th-hour injury prior to the Bears’ playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles limited how dynamic Nagy’s offense could be, while Shaheen’s preseason injury meant the Bears were ineffective when using 12 personnel during the regular season. The Bears need better depth behind Burton and Shaheen — Braunecker is a reliable special teamer with flexibility to play both the “U” and the “Y” spots, but can more much-needed depth emerge from a converted offensive lineman (Sowell) and a handful of undrafted free agents (Raymond, Bunting, Horsted, Richardson)? We’ll give Sowell (at the “Y” behind Shaheen) and Raymond (at the “U” behind Burton) the spots for now, but both will have to earn their way onto the roster during training camp. 

OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Charles Leno, James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long, Bobby Massie, Rashaad Coward, Ted Larsen, Alex Bars
Missing the cut: Cornelius Lucas, Joe Lowery, T.J. Clemmings, Blake Blackmar, Marquez Tucker, Jordan McCray, Sam Mustipher

The Bears moved Sowell to tight end thanks, in part, to their confidence in the development of Coward — a converted defensive lineman — to take over as their swing tackle in 2019. He’s still under construction as an NFL offensive lineman and will have to beat out a handful of challengers, including a five-year NFL reserve in Lucas, but Coward has the edge for a roster spot. The interior reserves are less clear, though: Larsen was brought back in free agency but only has $90,000 guaranteed on his one-year deal, while Bars played for O-line coach Harry Hiestand in college but is coming off an ACL/MCL injury that led to him going undrafted in April. Any of the other reserves could make a push, or the Bears could look to add interior depth on cut-down weekend. For now, though, Larsen, Bars and Coward make the most sense to slide behind the same starting five the Bears had to end 2018. 

DEFENSIVE LINE (6): Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris, Jonathan Bullard, Nick Williams
Missing the cut: Abdullah Anderson, Jalen Dalton, Daryle Banfield, Jonathan Harris

This is the Bears’ deepest unit, with the only battle to see who will make the roster and wind up inactive on game days, as Williams was for all but two games in 2018. 

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (5): Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Aaron Lynch, Isaiah Irving, Chuck Harris
Cut: Kylie Fitts, Mathieu Betts, James Vaughters

Irving flashed during 2017’s and 2018’s preseasons, and might need to do so again to secure his spot on the Bears’ 2019 roster. But consider this an open battle for reserve roles behind Mack/Floyd/Lynch: Irving has the inside track to one spot but will have to earn it; while whoever flashes the most from the Harris/Fitts/Betts/Vaughters group should get another. We’ll go with Harris here — maybe Mack can take his fellow Buffalo alum under his wing during training camp. 

INSIDE LINEBACKER (4): Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Nick Kwiatkoski, Joel Iyiegbuniwe
Cut: Josh Woods, Jameer Thurman, Kevin Pierre-Louis

Woods might be as close to the bubble as anyone on defense, and could force his way on to the roster with a strong preseason and a commitment to special teams. But with Kwiatkoski a reliable backup and he and Iyiegbuniwe being core special teamers, it’s hard to see Woods beating out any of those four for a spot right now. 

CORNERBACK (6): Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Buster Skrine, Kevin Toliver II, Duke Shelley, Sherrick McManis
Cut: Stephen Denmark, John Franklin III, Michael Joseph, Josh Simmons, Clifton Duck, Jonathon Mincy

There should be a strong competition among the reserve outside corners on this roster, with Toliver having the best shot but needing to fend off the raw athleticism of Denmark and Franklin as well as the talent of Joseph, who stuck on the practice squad last year after going undrafted out of Division III Dubuque. Shelley flashed during OTAs and minicamp during the spring and looks likely to wind up on the 53-man roster. While McManis worked at safety some during the spring, we’ll include him among the cornerbacks for now. 

SAFETY (4): Eddie Jackson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson
Cut: Doyin Jibowu

Barring injury and a more permanent move to safety for McManis, there’s little that’ll change in this unit between now and Week 1.

SPECIALISTS (3): Greg Joseph (PK), Pat O’Donnell (P), Patrick Scales (LS)
Cut: Elliott Fry, Eddy Pineiro, John Wirtel

Surprise! While the battle between Fry and Pineiro will dominate the headlines in Bourbonnais, the “winner” isn’t guaranteed to be the Bears’ Week 1 kicker. So not only are those two competing against each other, they’re competing against the field, too. In this scenario, the Cleveland Browns keep fifth-round pick Austin Seibert and cut Joseph, who made 17 of 20 field goals (with a long of 51 yards) for them in 2018. The Bears could try to swing a trade for Baltimore’s Kaare Vedvik here, too. The larger point, though, is this: Pace may have to look outside the organization for his Week 1 kicker, and there will be some talent — like Joseph — available if he does. 

Bears not among 8 teams in attendance at Colin Kaepernick's workout

Bears not among 8 teams in attendance at Colin Kaepernick's workout

So much for free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick throwing in front of 25 teams in a workout orchestrated by the NFL on Saturday in Atlanta.

Instead, he ran through a 40-minute session at Charles R. Drew High School in Riverdale, Georgia, and only eight teams were there: Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, and Tennessee Titans.

No Ryan Pace. No Bears.

The bizarre twists and turns in what was supposed to be a formal private workout for the one-time 49ers' star have been hard to keep up with. But one thing is certain: At this point in the regular season, it seems like an awfully distracting proposition to consider adding Kaepernick the Chicago's roster.

"I've been ready for three years,'' Kaepernick said, via ESPN. "I've been denied for three years. We all know why I came out here. [I] showed it today in front of everybody. We have nothing to hide. So we're waiting for the 32 owners, 32 teams, Roger Goodell, all of them stop running. Stop running from the truth. Stop running from the people.

"We're out here. We're ready to play. We're ready to go anywhere. My agent, Jeff Nalley, is ready to talk any team. I'll interview with any team at any time. I've been ready.''

The originally scheduled workout was derailed over Kaepernick's camp changing the language of the liability waiver players sign before participating in private workouts. They wanted the workout open to the media, too, something the league refused to allow.

"We are disappointed that Colin did not appear for his workout," the NFL said in its statement Saturday. "He informed us of that decision at 2:30 pm today along with the public. Today's session was designed to give Colin what he has consistently said he wants -- an opportunity to show his football readiness and desire to return to the NFL. Twenty-five (25) clubs were present for the workout, and all 32 clubs, their head coaches, general managers, and other personnel executives would have received video footage of the interview and workout."

The NFL said the rewritten liability waiver provided by Kaepernick's representatives was "insufficient" and that although the league had agreed to allow Kaepernick's representatives on the field for the workout, it would remain mostly private. 

The disagreement over the workout's particulars isn't overly surprising. It was an odd situation to begin with considering the NFL was controlling the "who" and the "how" of the event. You can't fault Kaepernick for wanting some say in it all, especially since he's been waiting three years for the opportunity.

And even though he didn't get the chance to showcase his skills in front of as many teams as advertised, Kaepernick still made a positive impression on the field.

Where this all leads is anyone's guess. But it doesn't appear it will end in Chicago. 

How Tua Tagovailoa's injury will impact Bears' quarterback situation

How Tua Tagovailoa's injury will impact Bears' quarterback situation

Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered a devastating season-ending hip injury late in the first half of  Saturday's game against Mississippi State, one that likely marks the end of his career as a member of the Crimson Tide. 

Next stop: NFL.

"Tua Tagovailoa sustained a right hip dislocation that was immediately reduced at the stadium," Alabama Team Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Lyle Cain said in a statement following the game. "He is undergoing further testing to determine the best course of treatment. He is expected to make a full recovery but will miss the remainder of the season."

As Dr, Lyle pointed out, Tagovailoa is expected to make a full recovery. His timetable to return is unknown, but it's at least a positive sign that his team of doctors is optimistic about his future.

The harsh reality, however, is that Tagovailoa's injury is going to have a significant impact on his 2020 NFL draft stock, which before Saturday seemed like a top-five lock. After suffering ankle injuries in back-to-back seasons and now a disastrous hip injury, teams selecting in the top 10 will be extremely careful before hinging the future of their franchise on a player with major medical red flags.

And while the Bears were never in the mix to draft Tagovailoa, they will be in the quarterback market this offseason assuming Mitch Trubisky continues to struggle down the stretch. Tagovailoa's injury will make it more difficult for Chicago to land a veteran free agent who prior to Saturday may not have been on a team like the Dolphins' wish list.

That's all changed now.

If Miami had planned for Tagovailoa to be 'the guy' in 2020, their objective in free agency would've been to sign a veteran who can serve as an extra coach in the meeting room rather than a threat for reps on the field. But with Tagovailoa's health now a huge question mark, the Dolphins may not have a choice but to add a player like Cam Newton or Marcus Mariota who can come in and start not only in 2020, but for the foreseeable future as well.

The Bears aren't going to find their 2020 starting quarterback in the draft. If it isn't Trubisky, it has to be a veteran who has a resume of production that can take advantage of a championship window because of the talent on defense. But the price has to be right, and even adding just one team into the free-agent bidding war can have a massive impact on whether Ryan Pace is able to land his guy at his price.

Remember: It's not just the Dolphins whose draft and free agency plans will be impacted by Tagovailoa's injury. Quarterback prospects like Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts and Georgia's Jake Fromm could get pushed up the draft board because they have cleaner medicals or because teams realize they can't assume next year's prospect pool will offer them the answer they're looking for.

Tagovailoa's injury proves there's no such thing as a long-term strategy in a sport where one play can completely derail the best-laid plans. The club that may be eyeing Clemson's Trevor Lawrence in 2021 could choose to snag Oregon's Justin Herbert instead simply because he's healthy and available.

As a result, a run on quarterbacks might occur before the Bears are ever on the clock. That, combined with the free-agent market getting more expensive, could turn one hip injury into another season of Trubisky or bust in 2020.

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