Matt Nagy listed off three positions he'll have a keen focus on during Saturday's preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts: Tight end, inside linebacker and cornerback. Of those three, tight end carries the most intrigue given the injury histories of Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen, and the need for depth behind those two players.
Here's where things stand with just over a week until cut-down day:
On the team: Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker
On the bubble: Bradley Sowell, Ian Bunting, Dax Raymond, Jesper Horsted, Ellis Richardson
With Aug. 31's cut-down deadline quickly approaching, Sowell appears to be on the inside track to make the Bears’ roster as a backup "Y" tight end. A prime example: When asked about Sowell’s move from offensive line to tight end, Nagy preached patience with the move.
“For us, if we don’t have patience with him in this transition, and there’s frustration with anything, we have to check ourselves as coaches,” Nagy said. “We’re taking this guy who has played tackle in his career and moved him to a position where you’re running routes and you’ve got to know every formation where you line up. So all that said, I really like where he’s at, and I’m looking forward to more.”
This could perhaps be positive coach-speak, and Sowell — who hasn’t been targeted but has committed two penalties in two preseason games — could be closer to the roster bubble than Nagy is intimating. But for Sowell’s roster spot to be in jeopardy, one of the Bears’ undrafted rookies will needs to step up.
So far, the closest to doing that has been Bunting, the 6-foot-7 Hinsdale Central alum who had a good showing against the Carolina Panthers (three catches, 77 yards) but disappeared eight days later against the New York Giants. Raymond, like Bunting, was not targeted against the Giants, though he did notch a solid block on a 14-yard run by running back Ryan Nall. Horsted and Richardson don’t appear to be realistic options.
Notably, when asked how Bunting and Raymond have looked in terms of holding the point of attack in the run game, Nagy said after the Giants game: “They’re not there yet."
Nagy, though, added: "But there’s some potential. There is. This is a whole new world for them. It’s the NFL. Guys are bigger, stronger, faster. It’s a new playbook, so they’re trying to put all that stuff together.
"We have to decide, ‘Hey, are they a developmental guy? Or are they a guy that’s ready right away? Who are they? We have two weeks to see that and then we’ll have not much time to decide it.”
The thought here, then, is Sowell will be on the roster come Sept. 5, unless the Bears can find a backup “Y” tight end with whom they’re more comfortable on the waiver wire. At the least, the Bears trust Sowell as an in-line blocker (though he was beat on a block by Giants outside linebacker Markus Golden last week), whereas they may not trust Bunting or Raymond in those duties yet.
Bunting and Raymond are likely fighting for their roster spot against a fourth running back/seventh wide receiver/ninth offensive lineman, etc. If they don't make the Bears' 53-man roster they'd be prime practice squad candidates.