With the last preseason game finally behind us and the Bears first real game just 6 days away it’s time to put the first edition of the roster together for this team. As the season goes along the practice squad will see promotions and demotions. There may be street free agents added during the courae of the season because of injury and teams will pouch your practice squad and the Bears may pouch others. So this will not be the final edition of the roster and practice squad. I didn’t make too many changes from my last choices but there are a couple. This roster pretty much predicted itself. There may be one or two choices that may surprise some but nowhere near anything that would be considered shocking choices. It’ll interesting to see what Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy have in mind with the way they shape this roster.
Quarterback: (2) Mitch Trubisky, Chase Daniels
Not much thinking needed to be done here. Trubisky is firmly entrenched as the franchise Quarterback. Only question is how high is his ceiling and how long will it take for him to reach it. Daniel is getting paid more than any backup in the league and is locked in with a guaranteed $6 million on the books so he is going nowhere.
Running Backs: (4): Mike Davis, Tarik Cohen, David Montgomery, Kerrith Whyte jr.
In spite of how perfect Montgomery appears to be in this offense Davis isn’t exactly a poor fit. He can run with power behind man blocking, bounce it outside when needed, run inside and outside zone plays and run a variety of routes including option routes and has an impressive pair of hands. He’s also very good in pass pro. He will be the starter. For now.
Montgomery will eventually take the brunt of the snaps. I think as the coaching staff feels comfortable with Montgomery’s knowledge of the offense, (particularly with his blocking assignments), he’ll eventually take over as the starter and Davis will slot behind him as the backup.
Where does this leave Cohen? Well, Cohen will be the swiss army knife gadget back as he always was meant to be. The only reason Cohen took as many handoffs as he did to this point in his career was out of necessity. Last thing the Bears want to do is have a 5’6″ 190 lb. explosive weapon like Cohen get beat up running into NFL Linebackers on a consistent basis.
Just as Montgomery will be Davis’ backup and eventually the roles reversed, Whyte will be Cohen’s backup as swiss army knife. I think Whyte will be activated and deactivated based on matchups and injuries throughout the season.
H-Back: (1) Ryan Nall
Here, may be the first of my slight surprises. I think at this point it would be hard to call Nall a surprise when he is in his second season with the team and has been impressive in both preseasons of his career. The Bears also have questions at the Tight End position that Nall should be able to help offset with his ability to catch the ball and run the same routes a Tight End in this offense will run. Thus, the position of H-Back will be added.
Tight Ends: (5) Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, Bradley Sowell, Dax Raymond
Burton will be relied upon to take this offense to the next level as the U Tight End is key to this offense running at it’s optimal level. When he was on his game last season the offense was noticeably better. The big worry is will Burton be at 100% physically after his hernia surgery that has shelfed him for nearly the entire training camp early on.
There is no doubt about it, this is a big year for Adam Shaheen. With just a little over 609 thousand in dead cap for 2020 on Shaheen’s contract he can easily be replaced if he doesn’t nake significant strides with his play and more importantly his health. It could make the difference in being a mid to low teir gree agent or getting a nuce contract extension to remain as the teams number one Y Tight End.
Braunecker is one of the most underappreciated players on this team from everyone other than the Bears front office, Coaches and players. He is a core special teamer and a versatile ofdensive player that can fill in at H-back, U and Y Tight End.
I was contemplating leaving Sowell off the roster, but with the importance of having a good blocking Y on this roster and Shaheen not being able to stay healthy in his first two seasons, this gets Sowell on the roster.
As with Sowell I was really thinking about leaving Raymond off this roster and putting Ian Bunting on it which may still happen, but after seeing how good Raymond looks blocking I think that wins him the spot over Bunting who has struggled blocking. Protecting Mitch Trubisky trumps all.
Wide Receiver: (6) Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, Cordarrell Patterson
Robinson is clearly the teams number one option at Wide Receiver. With his blend of size, athleticism, intellect and leadership he is the unquestioned Alpha of this group. With a couple years removed from knee surgery, a full offseason of training not rehab and in year two of the offense Robinson looks primed to have a big year teaming with Trubisky on being the teams top pass catcher.
Miller has struggled with health all camp long but has returned this week to practice to get geared up for game one. With his shoulder surgically repaired and in year two of this offense, Miller is set to live up to his potential. Nagy made no bones about it, Miller was not familiar with the playbook enough last year to get the snaps everyone hoped he would, so with an expanded knowledge of the offense expect an expanded role this season.
Gabriel had his best season in the pros last season as far as targets and catches go. Expect that to decline with the amount of weapons this team has accumulated, however I would not rule out the possibility he does more with less. He did not have as many big plays as the speed Z but I expect his yards per catch and TDs to increase as his targets and receptions decrease. He’ll also be invaluable clearing the intermediate areas of the football field by taking the top off with his speed.
Wims has done nothing but perform whenever he’s been given the chance going all the way back to Georgia where he underutilized in a run heavy offense devaluing his draft status. You can rest assured his skill set won’t be glossed over by Nagy and this offensive staff. I am expecting a breakout year of sorts for Wims. In the same vein as Gabriel, Wims will have more quality than quantity. I feel he will be deadly in the red zone and in big first down situations. Wims possibly has ball skills as good as teammate Robinson’s. That has yet to be seen.
Ridley is a rookie but apparently he has taken to the Bears important and difficult to master Zebra position and is well beyond his years of maturity. Aside from his football IQ and elite level route running he is a leader and has top notch ball skills. He’ll likely be implemented into the rotation of Wide Receivers slowly but steadily. The more he proves he can handle the more playing time and targets he’ll get. Should be a stick moving machine and a reliable outlet option as he profiles as an excellent option route runner.
Patterson will be listed as a Wide Receiver but he’s so much more than that. It’s going to be extremely intriguing to see just how Nagy will use him. I wouldn’t rule out a few snaps at the U Tight Spot even. Regardless of what he’ll do on offense he will pay immediate dividends on special teams as the teams main kick returner. The Bears were one of the worse in kick return yardage and starting field position a year ago. Imagine how much better this offense will be starting further away from the shadows of their own goal post.
Offensive line: (8) Charles Leno jr., Cody Whitehair, James Daniels, Kyle Long, Bobbie Massie, Ted Larsen, Rashaad Coward, Alex Bars
I wouldn’t rule out an addition to the 53 man roster from a cap casualty outside the organization or even a trade. For now I’m rolling with these eight as the most likely scenario. Whitehair looks like he can move to Left Tackle should the need arise. It’s unlikely Leno will need to be replaced as he has played nearly 100% of his snaps since taking over at Left Tackle and has yet to be on the IR or even miss a game in his career due to injury. The Bears have plenty of depth on the interior in Larsen and Bars and have a couple options at Right Tackle should Massie require a replacement due to injury in Coward and Bars who played Left Tackle his last preseason game and looked good at it. Massie has also been very durable throughout his career. Of course, Long is always a concern with his injury history but it looks as though he is coming into the season as healthy as he’s been for several seasons now. If he can stay healthy this unit should be one of the top offensive Lines in the game.
Defensive Line: (5) Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris, Nick Williams
This position group may be the most talented and deep position groups in all of the NFL. You start with All Pro Hicks who is impossible to block with one man consistently, and when you do decide to uae only one man you had better run it away from his side or have a quick hitting pass play in place as no kne will be able to hold their Block on Hicks for too long.
Than you move to Nose Tackle where Goldman is about as good of a space eater as it gets but has some surprising athleticism dor a big guy to get around some blocks and into the Quarterbacks face and even finish them off. Nichols is the Bears best undertackle and reminds me just a little bit of ex-Bear Tommie Harris with his incredible mix of power, quickness and speed. Robertson-Harris is not just a giant of a man at nearly 6′ 7″ and 300 pounds but displays the athleticism of a player much much smaller than he. Williams looks to have a spot on the 53 locked up as he is Goldman’s main backup at Nose Tackle and has played well enough to deserve it.
Edge Defender: (5) Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Aaron Lynch, Isaiah Irving, James Vaughters
What more can be said about Mack than has been said and what everyone already knows. Expect him to contend for Defensive Player of the year award on his quest to become the best Edge Linebacker in NFL history. Floyd looks to be yet another breakout candidate on this young front 7 of holy terrors on offensive lines throughout the league. I struggle to find a scenario that doesn’t include serious injury where these two aren’t the most dangerous Edge duo in the NFL. The only other duo I can think of to rival it is the two in Denver.
Lynch is an excellent rotational Edge who does nothing but produce when given snaps but his injury history is always a concern. It’s one of the reasons I changed my original prediction from 4 at the position to 5. Vaughters sneaks on with just an amazing display of playmaking in all 3 pre-season games which makes it hard to ignore. Irving has flashed plenty and it’s time to give him a chance to show he can be a consistant playmaker when given the snaps.
Off ball Linebacker: (4) Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan, Nick Kwiatkoski, Kevin Pierre-Louis
This may be yet another slight surprise as I have last years 4th rd. pick (115th overall) being waived. He has shown little to justify keeping him around other than the fact he was a pretty high pick which is looking more and more like it was a colossal reach. Pierre-Louis is a vet who is a special teams ace and is a familiar face to Nagy when they were both together in Kansas City. As for the two starters, Smith and Trevathan, there would have to be a pretty compelling argument presented to convince me there is a better 3-4 off ball Linebacker duo in the league. Both can cover like DB’s, Blitz, fill gaps and pursue sideline to sideline versus the run.
Cornerback: (5) Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Kevin Tolliver, Buster Skrine, Duke Shelly
Cornerback is yet another position loaded with depth. The two starters are among the best duo’s in the league in Fuller and Amukamara. It would be hard to find two better consecutive seasons put together by a Cornerback in Bears history than the last two Fuller has played culminating in two pro bowls and last years first team All Pro nomination enroute to leading the league in interceptions (7) in a three way tie.
Amukamara had his best season as a pro particularly with getting picks (3). He has always been sticky in coverage but on a recent Bears all-access Amukamara opened up about not being taught how to catch a ball until ex-Bears secondary coach the legendary Ed Donatel took the time out to teach him. This could be his last season with the team as he is set to become a UFA in 2020, so in a contract season the Bears may get an even better performance from him this season.
Tolliver looks to have taken a big step from year one where he actually accounted for himself well when he was given a start or two early for Amukamara who was nursing an early injury. He could be the future replacement for Amukamara who is in the last year of his deal as previously mentioned.
Many think Skrine is a downgrade from last year’s Nickle Corner Bryce Callahan, and that may be, but one thing they will get is 16 plus games from him as Skrine has been durable and Callahan has not. Skrine is a playmaker though. His skill set is not that far off from Callahan’s if at all. The big issue with Skrine has been his over aggressiveness resulting in a big play or two as well as a ton of Pass Interference penalties. It remains to be seen if playing on a defense loaded with stars helps him eliminate some of those deficiencies.
As for this year’s 6th rd. pick, Shelly is yet another physical corner in the Bears stable of DB’s slated for the slot who does not mind getting his nose in a pile to support the run or press a wideout. He is intelligent and has good ball skills. Expect Shelly to make an immediate impact on special teams as he is groomed to be the Bears future Nickleback.
Safety: (5) Eddie Jackson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Deon Bush, Sherrick McManis, DeAndre Houston-Carson
One of the most anticipated things for Bears fans and NFL observers alike will be the play of both Dix and Jackson patrolling the back end for this team. Especially with the front 7 the Bears have in front of them harrassing QBs. Most so called national analysts think the Bears are set to take a step back from Adrian Amos. I am not one of them. I see a huge upgrade in Dix. You put a ballhawk back there behind this Defensive front next to yet another balkhawk lookout. Sure, you mayblose a little in run defense and tackling but with two tackle machines in the middle of the defense at inside Linebacker there won’t be a whole lot of opportunity to expose three Bears Safeties to their lack of tackling prowess. The two former Crimson Tide teammates should put up lofty numbers and I would not be surprised if the Bears have both Safties representing them in the 2019 Pro-Bowl.
As for the reserves, Bush looks to be on the verge of a breakout season and looks like he’ll be next seasons starting Strong Safties along side Jackson. Bush has been impressive in both camp practices and preseason games. Houston-Carson has become a steady if not spectacular performer on special teams and looks to have gained a little trust by the coaching staff to get in a steady rotation on defense in dime situations. McManis has become rock solid as a reserve DB and is the teams unquestioned leader on special teams.
Specialists: (3) (P) Patrick O’Donnell, (K) Eddie Pinero, (LS) John Wirtel
Wirtel is probably the biggest surprise of all here. Many expect Patrick Scales to make it but I think he has lost favor with the team and may have equal responsibility with the double doink playoff miss versus the Eagles as Cody Parkey with a bad snap.
O’Donnell appears to have added some strength to his kicks and has been booming punts for greater distances and hang time. He is one of the best directional punters in the league and is routinely among the league leaders in punts downed inside the 20.
Pinero has gained the trust of Nagy and is has engrasciated himself with his teammates and has become a favorite of fans with his swag. I don’t see any advantage in taking a chance on someone else’s cut rather than going with a guy you thought highly enough to trade for, and who you have gotten to know the past 3 months since making said trade.
As for the practice Squad I haven’t changed the list except for one spit adding Horstead over Jonathan Harris, and Josh Woods on the Practice Squad instead of the 53, so for more of a detailed write up about each player on the list go to this link. As for Horstead, he has just been way too impressive to leave off. He’s extremely intelligent and a great athlete. He is too much of a body catcher and needs to learn to be more of a plucker and catch the ball away from his frame. He’ll have plenty of time to learn that and the rest with a year on the practice squad. Woods is a converted Safety who was on the practice squad last year so the Bears clearly like him. He is a very explosive athlete and as a converted Safety he brings pass coverage ability with him. For those not interested in the writeups, here are my picks for the practice squad in spite of the fact it’s highly unlikely the squad doesn’t include other teams waived players on it.
Practice Squad: (DB) Clifton Duck, (TE) Ian Bunting, (WR) Thomas Ives (WR) Tanner Gentry, (DL) Abdullah Anderson, (ILB) Josh Woods, (OL) Marquez Tucker, (OL) Sam Mustipher, (TE) Jasper Horstead, (DB) Stephen Denmark