Bears 53-man roster projection after preseason opener vs. Chiefs

·6 min read

Schrock's 53-man roster projection after Bears' preseason opener originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

CHICAGO -- The Bears’ first preseason game is in the books. Saturday’s 19-14 win at Soldier Field over the Kansas City Chiefs got head coach Matt Eberflus in the win column and also gave several players on the roster bubble a chance to make a good impression on the new staff.

Some did just that. Others failed to leave their mark.

After 13 practices and one preseason game, the Bears’ wide receiving corps appears to be taking shape. The same can be said for the offensive line.

However, many spots are still up for grabs over the next few weeks. Players who didn’t pop Saturday will have more opportunities to earn a roster spot.

The Bears have Sunday off before returning to practice at Halas Hall on Monday and Tuesday. They’ll play their second preseason game Thursday in Seattle against the Seahawks at Lumen Field.

With one preseason game in the books, here’s my projection for the Bears’ 53-man roster.

Quarterback

Making the cut (2): Justin Fields, Trevor Siemian
In the mix (1): Nathan Peterman

Fields is the unquestioned starter, and Siemian gives the Bears an experienced backup who has spent time with Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Peterman is a solid third-string QB, but I don’t see the Bears keeping three quarterbacks on the roster.

Running back

Making the cut (5): David Montgomery, Khalil Herbert, Trestan Ebner, Khari Blasingame, Darrynton Evans

Montgomery, Herbert, and Blasingame are locks to make the roster. Ebner has been trending upward and put on an electric display Saturday, likely cementing his spot.

Evans is on the roster bubble, but I still think he makes the team.

Wide receiver

Making the cut (7): Darnell Mooney, Velus Jones Jr., Equanimeous St. Brown, Byron Pringle, Tajae Sharpe, N’Keal Harry, Dante Pettis
In the mix (6): Dazz Newsome, David Moore, Isaiah Coulter, Chris Finke, Nsimba Webster, Kevin Shaa

This is a tough group to handicap since we don’t know an exact timetable for Harry’s return. If his recovery is expected to be in the eight-week range, the Bears could place him on injured reserve to open up a roster spot.

For now, we’ll leave him as part of the active roster and project that seven receivers make the cut.

That’s probably too many, but that’s where we have landed.

Heading into Saturday’s game, I had Pettis on the outside looking in. Now, I have him as the last man in because he can contribute on special teams and be a solid backup receiver.

Newsome’s muffed punt adventure Saturday was a blemish that takes him out of the picture for now. But he’ll remain in the mix until the end.

Tight end

Making the cut (3): Cole Kmet, Ryan Griffin, James O’Shaughnessy
In the mix (3): Chase Allen, Rysen John, Jake Tonges

As long as O’Shaughnessy is healthy, I feel good about this group. Kmet will be the No. 2 pass-catching threat on the roster, and Griffin is a good run-blocking fit for Luke Getsy’s scheme.

However, Griffin and O’Shaughnessy are banged up, which could open the door for John or Allen to claim the third spot. John’s athleticism and size are intriguing, but he’s on the outside for now.

Offensive line

Making the cut (10): Braxton Jones, Cody Whitehair, Lucas Patrick, Sam Mustipher, Michael Schofield, Riley Reiff, Teven Jenkins, Larry Borom, Ja’Tyre Carter, Doug Kramer
In the mix (2): Zachary Thomas, Shon Coleman

The first-string offensive line appears to be settling in, with Jones, Whitehair, Mustipher, Schofield, and Reiff as the likely starting unit.

Assuming Patrick’s injury doesn’t require an IR stint, I’ve landed at 10 offensive linemen. However, there are a few ways this group could change.

First of all, Jenkins remains a wild card. The second-year tackle says he’s fully healthy and looking forward to showing the Bears he can play at an elite level during the final two preseason games. Jenkins and Borom rotated at second-team right tackle Saturday, and I’d say Jenkins had the better day. Still, if the Bears are looking to trade him, as reports suggest, that could open up a spot.

The other potential wrench is Patrick’s return. If he’s back by Week 1, that bumps Mustipher back to swing interior depth spot and could take Carter of Schofield, who had a rough day Saturday, off the board.

Thomas still is in the mix, but Carter has seen more time with the first team in camp than Thomas, so he gets the nod.

This group is fluid.

Defensive line (8): Robert Quinn, Justin Jones, Trevis Gipson, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Mario Edwards Jr., Khyiris Tonga, Angelo Blackson, Dominique Robinson
In the mix (4): Mike Pennel Jr., Micah Dew-Treadway, Trevon Coley, Charles Snowden

This is another group that I feel good about if they stay healthy. Blackson has missed a large chunk of camp, and Edwards has been a non-participant for the last few sessions. The edge rushers are set and might be a strength of the defense.

I could see Dew-Treadway pushing for one of the final roster spots. It’ll come down to the wire.

Linebacker

Making the cut (5): Roquan Smith, Nicholas Morrow, Matt Adams, Joe Thomas, Jack Sanborn
In the mix (3): DeMarquis Gates, Noah Dawkins, Caleb Johnson

This assumes the Bears and Smith find a way to mend fences and get a long-term deal done. Maybe that happens, and maybe it doesn’t. I’ll say it does, which locks this group in at five with Sanborn, an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin, earning a spot.

Sanborn notched two turnovers Saturday against the Chiefs and very well could end up factoring into the starting SAM linebacker competition.

Defensive back

Making the cut (10): Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon, Eddie Jackson, Jaquan Brisker, Kindle Vildor, Lamar Jackson, Tavon Young, Thomas Graham Jr., Elijah Hicks, DeAndre Houston-Carson
In the mix (3): Duke Shelley, Jaylon Jones, Dane Cruikshank

Like receivers and offensive line, this one is a little tricky.

Let’s start with the locks: Johnson, Jackson, Gordon, Brisker, and Vildor. No question.

Houston-Carson can play both safety spots and the big nickel, as he showed Saturday. He’s in.

Jackson provides value both as a depth corner and on special teams. He’s likely in.

That leaves us with Hicks, Young, and Graham.

Heading into camp, I had Graham as the starting slot corner. But he hasn’t practiced due to a hamstring injury, and now it looks like Gordon will start in the slot with Vildor outside. His roster spot is in jeopardy, as is Young’s, who also has had issues staying on the field.

Hicks might end up on the practice squad. But from what I gather, the Bears like what he brings to the table and would prefer to keep him on the 53.

Cruikshank is a veteran who does provide special teams value, but if it’s between him and Hicks, I think Hicks gets the nod.

The main question with this group is whether Young and/or Graham can get healthy, stay healthy, and cement their spot on the roster.

I’ll leave them in for now, but I could easily see one getting axed to keep someone else at another position.

Specialists

Making the cut (3): Cairo Santos, Trenton Gill, Patrick Scales

This group is set. Lock it in.

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