This year’s crop of Bears rookies has, for the most part, impressed over the last month. There are a handful of immediate contributors and a couple of players who, with a little more time, could be key parts of the long-term turnaround Ryan Pace hopes to engineer.
A look at the five players the Bears drafted, plus that one undrafted free agent who opened plenty of eyes in July and August:
QB Mitchell Trubisky (1st round, No. 2 overall)
Stats: 36/53 (67.9 percent), 364 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 106.2 QB rating
It’s hard to imagine Trubisky’s preseason going better than it did, save for those head-scratching passes he threw at the end of Thursday night’s preseason finale. Over the course of a heap of practice reps and four games, Trubisky sped up his timeline to make his regular season debut — in other words, he looked more ready to play than expected.
Trubisky still needs to refine his pre-snap operation of the Bears’ offense, but he’s made strides in taking snaps under center (remember when that was an issue?) and reading defenses. There was no doubt from the moment the Bears drafted Trubisky that he’d be their quarterback of the future, but he showed over the last month that future can come sooner rather than later.
TE Adam Shaheen (2nd round, No. 45 overall)
Stats: 6 receptions, 37 yards
Shaheen entered training camp having impressed during OTAs and minicamp, looking like a guy who could make an immediate difference in the red zone. But how big an impact he could make as a rookie was always going to be determined by how he fared when the pads came on.
What those padded practices and games showed, though, is that the hulking 6-foot-6, 270 pound tight end from Division II Ashland still needs more time. Shaheen's invisibility in practices and games, and inclusion on special teams units, is a good indication of where he stands going into the season. He can still carve out a role if he makes strides in practice, but he’s squarely behind Zach Miller and Dion Sims on the Bears’ depth chart.
S Eddie Jackson (4th round, 112th overall)
Stats: 2 tackles, 1 pass defended
No rookie will have a greater opportunity than Jackson, who looks in line to start at free safety Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons. The rangy Alabama product was frequently around the ball in Bourbonnais and nearly picked off a pass against the Arizona Cardinals.
Jackson’s ball skills are what this turnover-strapped secondary needs, though questions about his physicality cropped up after he and Quintin Demps combined to whiff on tackling Taywan Taylor against the Titans for a big-chunk play on Sunday.
RB Tarik Cohen (4th round, 119th overall)
Stats: 19 carries, 121 yards (6.4 yards per carry)
Few players improved their stock more during the last month than Cohen, who impressed not only with his quickness but with how hard the 5-foot-6, 181 pound running back ran. His 11-carry, 77-yard game against Arizona was an eye-opener, showing that Cohen could be more than a threat on third downs.
Still, if the Bears use him as a change-of-pace guy on third down to start the season, he showed during the preseason he can make an immediate impact. He should get some work on kick and/or punt returns, too. And this is worth noting: Cohen didn’t catch a pass in three preseason games, leaving a solid area of his game untapped (and not on film to opponents).
OL Jordan Morgan (5th round, 147th overall)
Stats: 4 games played
Morgan played with the backup offensive line and was as advertised — a former Division II player who will need time to transition to the NFL. It’ll be interesting to see if the Bears keep him on the 53-man roster or try to stash him on their practice squad over the weekend.
Tanner Gentry (undrafted)
Stats: 4 catches, 77 yards, 1 TD
Gentry very well could be one of the guys who played his way onto the 53-man roster with a highly productive preseason — both in games and practice — and willingness to be on special teams. He out-played the likes of Victor Cruz (6 catches, 28 yards, 1 TD) and Titus Davis (4 catches, 52 yards) and quickly developed a good rapport with Trubisky.
That Gentry mainly stuck with the second/third-team offense — and didn’t get much work with Mike Glennon — could be a sign he might not survive cut-down day, though. He didn’t record a reception or a target in Thursday night’s loss to Cleveland, but did get plenty of special teams work throughout the game.
The bigger question with Gentry is: Would the receiver-thin Bears really want to risk losing him to another team by trying to sneak him onto their practice squad? That we’re asking this question about an undrafted free agent is a good sign for Gentry, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good enough sign that he’ll make the initial 53-man roster.
Undrafted free agents who could be practice squad fodder: WR Alton Howard, RB Josh Rounds, FB Freddie Stevenson, LB Isaiah Irving, OL Brandon Greene, OL Mitchell Kirsch, OL Dieugot Joseph, DL Rashaad Coward