Bears

Bears roster adjustments continue; practice squad formed including QB Matt Barkley

Bears roster adjustments continue; practice squad formed including QB Matt Barkley

The cliché from NFL personnel and coaches is that their teams are constantly looking to improve. In the case of the Bears, they are walking the walk, and at a very brisk pace.

Besides making a strong play and planning the first visit with Josh Sitton after the three-time Pro Bowler was released Saturday by the Green Bay Packers, the Bears struck quickly to upgrade the depth chart at center, tight end and cornerback with waiver claims less than 24 hours after making their initial decisions on their own final 53-man roster.

The Bears went aggressively after an upgrade at tight end behind starter Zach Miller, signing veteran Logan Paulsen after the latter’s release from the Washington Redskins. Paulsen, considered a top special-teams contributor, missed all of last season after toe surgery but had rebounded to compete through training camp. But Washington had added veteran tight end Vernon Davis and jettisoned Paulsen, with 79 catches, six touchdowns and 801 yards in 42 career starts.

Added via claims were center Eric Kush, a 2013 draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, and cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, whom the Bears practiced against in New England before the Patriots waived him this weekend.

But the clearest organizational statement lay in the ambitious push to land Sitton, another effort indicating that the Bears are treating 2016 as considerably more than a time for treading water while they wait for an influx of talent through drafts. Sitton, 30, has dealt with some back issues but started 16 games in six of his last seven seasons.

[SHOP: Stock up on Bears gear right here]

The Bears will be Kush’s sixth team in less than four seasons, beginning with Kansas City from 2013-15, followed by very brief stops with Tampa Bay, Carolina, Houston and the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams.

To make roster space for Kush the Bears waived center Cornelius Edison. Versatile DB Demontre Hurst was let go to clear space for LeBlanc.

Khari Lee, acquired last preseason in a trade with the Houston Texans, was waived to clear a spot for Paulsen.

Edison, Hurst and Lee all are eligible for the Bears’ 10-man practice squad if and when they clear waivers. In the meantime the Bears brought back to the developmental squad receiver Daniel Braverman, tight end Ben Braunecker, cornerback De’Vante Bausby, running back Senorise Perry, linebacker John Timu and offensive lineman Jason Weaver, all of whom were with the Bears through preseason.

ESPN reported that the Bears were signing former USC quarterback Matt Barkley to the practice squad. Barkley, once projected to be a top-10 pick in the 2012 draft, elected to stay in school an additional year. When he came out the following year, his draft stock had fallen because of a shoulder injury and he lasted until the fourth round (98th overall) when the Philadelphia Eagles selected him.

The Eagles traded him to the Arizona Cardinals in Sept. 2015 and released him this weekend.

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

6-8trubiskyqbs.jpg
USA Today

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21. 

Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.

All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.

The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players. 

The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.

Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons. 

Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.

Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.

CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.

The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.

It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.

We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.