The Bears unveiled their initial 53-man roster Saturday evening, which may only be a rough draft of sorts. General manager Ryan Pace and his front office will actively scour the waiver wire and see if one or a few of the 1,000-plus players released in the last 24 hours could improve their roster.
But with an abbreviated game week looming, the main guys on this roster will be the ones you see suit up Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers. So with that in mind, here’s five thoughts on the 53 players who made the Bears’ roster today:
1. Eddy Pineiro, as expected, made the cut.
The thought here is Pineiro will still be on the Bears’ roster tomorrow after the NFL’s waiver wire frenzy settles down. Not only do the Bears have the 24th waiver priority — behind a number of teams, like the New York Jets, that need a kicker — but Pineiro earned his spot on the roster over the last few weeks. Kaare Vedvik, who was waived by the Minnesota Vikings after they traded a fifth-round pick for him, could be an option but also might be claimed before the Bears could get to him. And even if the Bears do: Why would they want a guy who hasn't kicked at Soldier Field over someone who has in Pineiro?
Yes, Pineiro missed a PAT on his first attempt Thursday at Soldier Field. But he rebounded with made field goals of 32, 34 and 37 yards, showing the kind of resilience and confidence the Bears have come to appreciate over the last few months.
So the first kicker to attempt a field goal in a game that matters at Soldier Field since Cody Parkey’s double-doink will be Pineiro. The Bears’ long, winding, often bizarre search for a kicker is over — for now.
2. The deepest unit? Defensive line.
This isn’t anything we didn’t already know, but with the roster settled, let’s highlight Jay Rodgers’ unit as the best on the team.
That the Bears parted with Jonathan Bullard, a third-round pick in 2016, speaks to how good this group is. Abdullah Anderson, an undrafted free agent from Bucknell who was on the practice squad last year, also earned a spot on the roster.
Akiem Hicks is one of the very best defensive linemen in the NFL. Eddie Goldman is an unsung hero on this defense, the guy who does the dirty work in absorbing double-teams while others rack up pressures and sacks. Bilal Nichols proved to be an adept run-stuffer who enters his second year in the league with good upside. Roy Robertson-Harris is a versatile, athletic player who presents challenges for opposing defenses on third down.
Behind those four guys is Nick Williams, who had a solid preseason and earned his way back on to the roster. He could be active on gamedays this year as a reserve lineman and special teamer.
Every other unit has a star on this defense — Khalil Mack at outside linebacker, Roquan Smith/Danny Trevathan at inside linebacker, Kyle Fuller at cornerback, Eddie Jackson at safety — but no unit has both the star power and depth of the Bears’ defensive line. This is the kind of group that can significantly help the Bears overcome any coordinator-switch-based regression over the next few months.
3. Questions linger with tight end, tackle and outside linebacker and cornerback depth.
We covered the Bears’ need for good health at those four positions on Friday — top-end depth is not a problem at any of them.
But what if something happens to Adam Shaheen, who’s missed 13 games in his two-year NFL career? Can Bradley Sowell, the converted offensive lineman, ably step in? Who plays tackle — Rashaad Coward or Cornelius Lucas, who somewhat surprisingly made the team over Alex Bars — if the Bears need a sub for Charles Leno Jr. or Bobby Massie?
At outside linebacker, Aaron Lynch is back after a few questions were raised by his participation in Thursday's preseason finale, but James Vaughters, who had three sacks and two forced fumbles in presason play, was cut.
At cornerback, Kevin Toliver stuck over John Franklin III and Michael Joseph. Expect the Bears to be active on the waiver wire to try to address these four positions. That activity could continue into the regular season, too, if an upgrade is needed.
4. There are even more weapons for Mitch Trubisky.
If you’re trying to come up with a list of the Bears’ top five offensive weapons, who do you take from this group:
We’ll say the team leaders in targets this year will be, in order: Robinson, Cohen, Burton, Gabriel and Miller. Montgomery will lead the team in carries, followed by Davis. Patterson may only play about a third of the Bears’ snaps but will be all over the place when he’s on the field. Shaheen’s level of success — and ability to stay on the field — could be a sneaky key to this offense.
There may not be any true star power in that group — Robinson and Cohen are the closest — but that’s nine players the Bears believe could go off any week.
From a depth perspective, the Bears essentially made the following replacements in the offseason:
Patterson replaced Kevin White
Riley Ridley replaced Josh Bellamy
Montgomery replaced Jordan Howard
Davis replaced Benny Cunningham
Kerrith Whyte Jr. replaced Taquan Mizzell
Those represent five upgrades, at least on offense (Bellamy and Cunningham, at the least, were core special teamer). So as the Bears’ offense enters 2019, it’d be foolish to say the pieces aren’t in place around Trubisky.
5. This is a Super Bowl-caliber roster.
There wasn’t a single battle for a starting gig on offense or defense during training camp and preseason games. Ryan Pace assembled the deepest, best group of roster talent this Bears franchise has seen in a long time, with no glaring weaknesses and All-Pros and Pro Bowlers littering this group.
This is not a prediction that the Bears will win Super Bowl LIV. But it is an acknowledgement of the talent that’ll report to Halas Hall to begin practicing for Week 1 on Sunday.
A year ago — after the Bears traded for Khalil Mack — we thought the Bears might have a roster good enough to compete for the NFC North title. Mack’s monstrous impact and Nagy’s deft coaching touch hadn’t materialized yet.
Now, going into 2019: We know this is a roster not only good enough to win the NFC North, but to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in Florida this coming February. Starting Thursday, it’s time for this collective of talented players to make good on that potential.
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