Bears

Rising and falling: Bears 53-man roster projection at the end of training camp

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USA Today

Rising and falling: Bears 53-man roster projection at the end of training camp

The Bears wrapped up training camp with a closed practice Sunday at Olivet Nazarene University, and after an off day Monday return to practice at the newly-renovated Halas Hall Tuesday. 

After 11 practices in Bourbonnais, one Family Fest practice at Soldier Field and one preseason game, we have a better idea of how the Bears will construct their roster in less than three weeks:

QUARTERBACK (2): Mitch Trubisky, Chase Daniel
Cut: Tyler Bray

No change here. Bray still has practice squad eligibility. 

RUNNING BACK (4): Tarik Cohen, Mike Davis, David Montgomery, Kerrith Whyte
Cut: Ryan Nall 

Whyte missed a handful of practices in the middle of camp, but flashed good speed and instincts in limited action against the Carolina Panthers, carrying six times for 35 yards. Nall could provide the Bears with some positional flexibility — they don’t have a true fullback on their roster — but Whyte has stood out more when he’s been on the field. 

“(Whyte) was injured there for a little bit but you saw he has some speed,” coach Matt Nagy said. “He bounces off to the edge. He can go ahead and make some plays. He’s going to get more and more reps in the offseason to see what he can do, but mentally he’s done well. He had just a small injury that he bounced back from. But I like where he’s at.”

WIDE RECEIVER (6): Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley Ridley, Javon Wims
Cut: Marvin Hall, Emanuel Hall, Thomas Ives, Jordan Williams-Lambert, Tanner Gentry, Taquan Mizzell, Joe Walker

Wims and Hall both had good training camps, but the decision here to pass on keeping seven wide receivers has more to do with the need for tight end depth and the emergence of Ian Bunting at that position. Wims can contribute on special teams coverage units, while Hall is more of a returner — which the Bears already have in Cohen (punts) and Patterson (kicks). 

“(Wims) worked hard at (teams), from this time last year to right now,” special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said. “I’m excited for him to keep developing, and we’ll see how it plays out.”

The Bears don't believe Miller's sprained ankle is serious and expect him to be available for Week 1, so that shouldn't affect the initial roster makeup here. 

TIGHT END (5): Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, Bradley Sowell, Ian Bunting
Cut: Dax Raymond, Ellis Richardson, Jesper Horsted

As long as Bunting continues to put good things on tape in preseason games, the Bears will have a harder time sneaking the 6-foot-7 Hinsdale Central product onto their practice squad. This is a position where the Bears need as much depth as possible given Burton and Shaheen’s injury histories. It would feel sort of like a luxury to keep seven receivers and only four tight ends when it’s more likely a fifth tight end will be needed in 2019 than a seventh receiver. 

That being said, Bunting still has plenty to prove to earn a roster spot. But as training camp breaks, his arrow is pointing up. 

“It was a lot of fun, obviously gotta clean a lot of things up,” Bunting said of his preseason debut Thursday, in which he had three catches for 77 yards. “But I think I put some good things on tape, some things I clearly need to improve on, and we’re just taking it day by day.”

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

The margins here are slim among the three reserve offensive linemen and the handful of cuts. The biggest question for the Bears: Can they trust Coward to be their backup swing tackle? He’s only played right tackle in six preseason games with the Bears after being converted from defensive tackle, and it’ll be interesting to see if the Bears work him in on the left side at all during preseason games. 

He still has good upside, but with both Leno and Massie locked in to contracts at both tackle spots, the Bears may not need to keep a project tackle on their 53-man roster again. Clemmings, meanwhile, has played both left and right tackle in the NFL.

Still: We’re talking about an offensive lineman who’ll be inactive on gamedays, so the Bears can probably afford to keep Coward around — even if it’s at the expense of someone with the upside of Bars. By no means is this settled after training camp, though. How Coward and Bars perform over the final preseason games will go along way toward determining the depth here. 

DEFENSIVE LINE (5): Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris, Jonathan Bullard
Cut: Nick Williams, Abdullah Anderson, Jalen Dalton, Daryle Banfield, Jonathan Harris

The Bears’ top-end depth is strong here, and Jay Rodgers’ rotation should remain one of the strongest and best aspects of this defense. Williams was inactive for all but two gamedays last year, and the Bears have roster needs defensively elsewhere. 

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (4): Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Aaron Lynch, Isaiah Irving
Cut: Kylie Fitts, Chuck Harris, Mathieu Betts, James Vaughters

There haven’t been many flashes from guys like Irving, Fitts, Harris, Betts, etc. The Bears could look at addressing depth here via the cut-down weekend waiver wire. 

Floyd, meanwhile, had an encouraging training camp. And Mack is just as good as you remember him being, maybe better. 

INSIDE LINEBACKER (5): Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Nick Kwiatkoski, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Joel Iyiegbuniwe
Cut: Josh Woods, Jameer Thurman 

It was notable that Kwiatkoski communicated the defensive playcalls Thursday — not Smith — when the pair were on the field for the first series of the game. Pierre-Louis was the first inside linebacker off the bench, not Iyiegbuniwe, though both could be key contributors on special teams. 

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

The Bears have liked Franklin’s athleticism since converting him to cornerback a year ago, and he flashed a few times during training camp. So have Duck and Joseph, too — and Toliver isn’t guaranteed a roster spot even though he had one a year ago. The same goes for Shelley, even though he’s a sixth-round pick — though he had a solid camp, too. Either way: The Bears’ depth at cornerback looks a lot better now than it did at the start of training camp. 

Denmark, a seventh-round pick, missed most of training camp with an injury. 

SAFETY (5): Eddie Jackson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Sherrick McManis
Cut: Doyin Jibowu, Jonathon Mincy

Bush put together a strong camp and looks like he may be in even better position than he was last year to come off the bench if needed. Houston-Carson and McManis are both key special teams contributors, though McManis would seem more secure in his roster spot than Houston-Carson. 

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

With Kaare Vedvik traded from the Baltimore Ravens to Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the Bears will have to look elsewhere if they’re to add a kicker from outside the organization. The good news: They already had an up-close look at Carolina Panthers undrafted rookie Joey Slye last week, and will get to see the Indianapolis Colts’ Cole Hedlund in their third preseason game. 

Hedlund made 19 of 22 field goals for North Texas in 2018 after transferring there from Arkansas, and he’s not beating out Adam Vinatieri in Indianapolis. Like the Ravens with Vedvik, the Colts’ hope would likely be to trade Hedlund for a draft pick or a player — as they did (under a previous front office) in 2014 when an undrafted kicker named Cody Parkey was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles during August. 

Hedlund made all three of his field goals in the Colts’ preseason opener, from 25, 42 and 44 yards. For now, we’ll say he’s the stand-in for the outside-the-organization kicker who will win the Bears’ gig. 

Elliott Fry finished camp having unofficially made 81.3 percent of his kicks, and did hit from 43 yards going into the north end zone in Thursday’s preseason game (also known as: the Cody Parkey kick). Pineiro missed from 48 in his Bears preseason debut but made 83.9 percent of his training camp kicks, including a 12/12 day at Family Fest. 

Still, the thought here before camp was that the Bears’ Week 1 kicker was not on their roster when players reported to Bourbonnais. That thought has not changed with three and a half weeks remaining until the Green Bay Packers come to Soldier Field. 

WATCH: NFL Films breaks down final moments of Bears vs. Broncos

WATCH: NFL Films breaks down final moments of Bears vs. Broncos

The Chicago Bears avoided the dreaded 0-2 start by defeating the Denver Broncos last Sunday in what's become something of an instant classic for Bears fans. Eddy Pineiro's 53-yard game-winner injected life into an otherwise lifeless start to the season, and while it was incredible to watch unfold live, NFL Films' recap of the final minute is goosebump-inducing. 

"We need one second and the ball," Matt Nagy said in the Bears locker room after the win. "And that's a credit to you guys for never giving up. I dont care about stats, we got the dub!"

The Nagy-booms that followed were epic. Check it out:

Tarik Cohen on Bears offense: 'Everybody's optimistic right now'

Tarik Cohen on Bears offense: 'Everybody's optimistic right now'

It's only been two games, but the Chicago Bears offense has quickly become one of the more disappointing storylines of 2019. From the questionable playcalling of Matt Nagy to Mitch Trubisky's inability to execute, the Bears have faded from an NFC favorite to a team with more questions than answers.

In order for the offense to get on track, the players have to believe in each other. According to RB Tarik Cohen, they still do.

"I feel like everybody's optimistic right now," Cohen said from Halas Hall Thursday. "We haven't put it out there on the field yet, but we all feel like we're capable of putting 30 points up."

As for the quarterback? Cohen hasn't lost any faith in Trubisky.

"I just see how he's bringing everybody along with him, just trying to stay up, keeping the offense positive, the things he tells us in the huddle to get us going. Him never giving up. That's the main thing I see."

Confidence is a very important variable when approaching any obstacle, especially in football. Cohen certainly has confidence the Bears will soon silence the chatter about the offense. And when they do, they won't look back.

"Once you start putting points on the board, it’s like, alright, we’re here now. Let’s not regress.”