The best thing a fringy roster player can do in the month of August is put good things on tape during preseason games. Ask any undrafted free agent and they’ll regurgitate what’s been drilled into their heads: Your tape is your resume.
Those players, with the Bears, have had four complete games of resume-building over the last month. Most of those guys will never play a down of football for the Bears. A handful will make the initial 53-man roster, though that does not guarantee them a spot on it after Labor Day weekend’s waiver wire frenzy dies down.
The lucky ones will make a practice squad, giving their NFL careers a lifeline. Others will never play professional football again.
But over four preseason games, a handful of Bears players put some good things on tape — the kind of things that will keep their NFL careers alive in some way, at least for the next few months. Here are this year’s Bears preseason All-Stars:
Safety Deon Bush
Bush is very much on the Bears and will enter the final year of his rookie contract as the primary backup to Eddie Jackson and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. But no Bears player looked better in preseason games — and practices — than Bush, who had two interceptions and returned one for a touchdown. The Bears should feel comfortable with his ability to step in for either of their ex-Alabama safeties this season.
Defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris
It was a little odd that Robertson-Harris played in the Bears’ first three preseason games, given his important role in Jay Rodgers’ defensive line rotation. When he was on the field against mostly backups, he dominated — as you’d expect.
Offensive lineman Alex Bars
The undrafted rookie from Notre Dame worked his way into football shape over the last month, and all but secured his spot on the Bears’ 53-man roster by not only playing guard well in preseason games, but holding his own while playing tackle for the first time since 2016. Plenty of evaluators considered him to be as high as a mid-round draft pick before he suffered a torn ACL and MCL last September; what he put on tape in the preseason only bolstered the thought that the Bears might’ve unearthed at least a solid backup in Bars.
Outside linebacker James Vaughters
Vaughters had a strip-sack in consecutive preseason games, and notched another sack in Thursday’s preseason finale. The 26-year-old former CFL player had the most productive preseason of any of the Bears’ edge rushers, giving the Bears’ decision-makers a difficult choice on whether to keep him or not. He’s one of the bigger roster question marks heading into cut-down weekend — which, on the other hand, is a representation of just how few roster spots were actually open for the Bears this year.
Tight end Jesper Horsted
So we started this list with two guys who are stone-cold locks for the roster, one guy who likely played his way onto it and another who gave the Bears something to think about. Now we get into the guys who played well, but probably won’t wind up on the roster. Horsted, despite missing the Bears’ first preseason game, caught eight passes for 121 yards with two impressive touchdowns. But coach Matt Nagy noted how far Horsted has to come as a blocker in the wake of Thursday’s preseason finale. That’s something the team could try to develop with the Princeton alum on the practice squad.
Wide receiver Thomas Ives
The Hinsdale Central product ended his preseason in impressive fashion at Soldier Field, and finished August with a team-leading 148 receiving yards. The 6-foot-5 Ives is another prime practice squad candidate.
Tight end Ian Bunting
Another Hinsdale Central alum! Bunting’s 18.2 yards per reception led the Bears in preseason play, and his soft hands and good feel for open space showed up, but he needs work as a blocker. He has an interesting case to make the Bears’ roster, but he might not have done enough to be claimed on waivers — meaning whatever team that claimed him would have to keep him on their 53-man roster. So the Bears could probably sneak Bunting on to the practice squad if they like his upside.
Cornerback Clifton Duck
While Duck may not have the size or speed of some of the Bears’ other young corners — Kevin Toliver, John Franklin III, Duke Shelley, Michael Joseph — he displayed the best pure football instincts of anyone in that group this preseason. His 62-yard interception against the New York Giants was impressive, and he flashed behind the scenes in practice a few times, too. He could wind up on a practice squad, either in Chicago or somewhere else around the league.
Running back Ryan Nall
It was notable that seventh-round pick Kerrith Whyte Jr. did not play Thursday, which could indicate his place on the roster is secure. That would mean Nall, for the second consecutive year, would be cut after a productive preseason. Nall caught a team-high 10 passes and rushed for a team-high 135 yards (including an average of 5.6 yards per carry), but he’s sort of like the Duck of this offense in that he has good instincts but looks likely to be passed over by someone with more ideal traits. He’s another practice squad candidate, though if the Bears need a running back in a pinch they could do worse than Nall.
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