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Adam Jahns/Kevin Fishbain on Bears Final Roster Projections


soulman

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Bears roster projection: Which players need a strong performance in the preseason finale?

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 14: Chicago Bears wide receiver Riley Ridley (88) catches the football runs with the football in warmups during a preseason game between the Chicago Bears and the Miami Dolphins on August 14, 2021 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
By Kevin Fishbain and Adam Jahns Aug 25, 2021 comment-icon@2x.png 44 save-icon@2x.png

Every day, Bears head coach Matt Nagy joins general manager Ryan Pace and takes a look at the team’s “board” as they work through upcoming roster cuts.

With final cuts due Tuesday, Aug. 31 — four days earlier than usual with only three preseason games — Nagy was asked how many players have locked up roster spots.

“I don’t know what the exact number is off the top of my head, but I do know we feel good about the roster that we’re going to end up with, and we know that there are going to be some good players that get cut,” he said, “and we’ve got to figure out for us what positions it doesn’t hurt us much because you want to create depth, too, as much as you can.”

The Bears are treating preseason game No. 3 like regular preseason finales. Most starters will not play, which means a lot of reps for the players on the bubble. It’s their last chance to make a good impression, not just for Bears coaches but also for teams around the league.

The final spots at wide receiver, linebacker and defensive back — per usual — will likely come down to special-teams usage.

“(Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor) is the worst; he wants everybody,” Nagy quipped. “Our coaches do a great job of understanding the special-teams aspect, and sometimes that’s hard. Some position coaches will want their guy for their position, but they don’t understand the big picture. Every now and then, Ryan and I might have to explain the why part behind that, as this is the why.”

The Bears held a light practice Wednesday; players didn’t even wear helmets. They’ll be back in full pads Thursday as they get set for Saturday’s game against the Titans.

Here’s our projection of the initial 53-man roster:

(Notes: Defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. is suspended for the first two games of the season and does not count against the 53, so he’s not included. … For the Bears to designate tackle Teven Jenkins as a player who can return from injured reserve during the season, he must be part of the initial 53-man roster. We included him as the 10th offensive lineman and projected that after Jenkins goes to IR, the Bears would bring back running back Ryan Nall. … This projection also includes running back Tarik Cohen beginning the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, which means he’ll miss at least the first six games.)

Quarterback (3): Andy Dalton, Justin Fields, Nick Foles

Fishbain: Unless someone wants to pay Foles’ 2021 base salary and give the Bears a draft pick, they’ll go into the season with the Super Bowl LII MVP as their No. 3 quarterback. And they probably don’t mind having him as part of the “Justin Fields Development Plan,” either.

Jahns: I’m sure the idea of being a healthy scratch on game day isn’t going to sit well with Foles. But that will be his reality. The Bears are stuck with him, and he’s stuck with them. His next opportunity might not come for quite some time.

 

Running back (3): David Montgomery, Damien Williams, Khalil Herbert (plus Tarik Cohen on the PUP list and Ryan Nall returning to the roster after Teven Jenkins goes to IR, as noted above)

Fishbain: If Cohen remains on the PUP list next week, he’ll have to miss the first six games of the season. We haven’t seen any indication that he’s close to returning. This allows some roster flexibility, especially for Chris Tabor, who can keep two backs who are integral to special teams in Herbert and Nall. But the Bears will miss Cohen’s playmaking abilities and will count on Williams to be a solid No. 2 back.

Jahns: When I first saw Cohen during organized team activities, I thought he’d be back by now. He wasn’t participating, but he was on the sideline, celebrating plays with the offense and showing off his dance moves. He’ll provide a nice jolt for the offense and special teams when he returns.

 

Wide receiver (6): Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Marquise Goodwin, Damiere Byrd, Rodney Adams, Dazz Newsome

Fishbain: The final two spots are up for grabs. Adams has been one of the stars of camp and the preseason. Newsome, being a recent draft pick who returns punts, has more upside than Riley Ridley and Javon Wims, guys the Bears know plenty about. Ridley has received many opportunities in the preseason and could maybe make things interesting with a strong performance in Nashville. Otherwise, he’ll be a potential waiver claim by another team.

Jahns: The Bears can also use their 16-man practice squad. They’re allowed to keep up to six players who have more than two accrued seasons, too. I’m not saying they should do that with Ridley or Wims. They’ve had their time. But it could be an option for others who have impressed in camp, including Jon’Vea Johnson and Chris Lacy. They also might want more time with Isaiah Coulter, who was signed Sunday.

 

Tight end (4): Cole Kmet, Jimmy Graham, Jesse James, Jesper Horsted

Fishbain: J.P. Holtz’s injury makes things a little tricky for tight ends coach Clancy Barone and, more important, for Tabor, as Holtz has been a key special-teamer the past two seasons. Horsted has flashed in camp, and the Bears know what he can do as a receiver. Has he done enough in Holtz’s absence to earn that fourth spot?

Jahns: It didn’t take long in camp to realize that James was on the fast track for a roster spot. His connection with Fields stood out immediately. His long arms and experience also continually caught the attention of the coaching staff. The roster debates come after him and involve other positions. If the Bears keep Nall, does Holtz become expendable?

 

Offensive line (10): Jason Peters, James Daniels, Sam Mustipher, Cody Whitehair, Germain Ifedi, Larry Borom, Alex Bars, Elijah Wilkinson, Lachavious Simmons, Teven Jenkins (needs to be on the initial 53-man roster to be eligible to return from injured reserve during the season)

Fishbain: The Bears don’t really have much of a choice in keeping as many offensive linemen as possible. The odd man out here is Arlington Hambright, last year’s seventh-round pick. He offers more versatility than Simmons, but Simmons got all the reps as the first-team right tackle while Ifedi was out.

Jahns: This is where the practice squad comes into play again. Teams will eye who is cut around the league, but more often than not, they’re also able to waive their own players and sign them back to the practice squad. Hambright, center Adam Redmond and guard Dieter Eiselen could all return that way.

 

Defensive line (5): Akiem Hicks, Bilal Nichols, Eddie Goldman, Angelo Blackson, Khyiris Tonga (plus Mario Edwards Jr., who is suspended for the first two games and does not count against the initial roster)

Fishbain: Maybe the easiest position, annually, to project. The Bears should be fine with five, assuming Tonga’s ankle injury is minor. If they needed a sixth for the first two weeks, it would likely be Daniel Archibong or LaCale London. All eyes will be on Goldman as the season gets underway. Can he stay healthy, and how effective will he be?

Jahns: You’ve got that right about Goldman. But this remains one of the Bears’ best and deepest positions. It’s arguably better than it was last season, too. Blackson and Tonga, the Bears’ seventh-round pick this year, both proved throughout camp that they can capably handle roles up front.

 

Outside linebacker (4): Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, Jeremiah Attaochu, Trevis Gipson

Fishbain: If Mack and Quinn play like they can, it doesn’t matter much who’s behind them. But what can the Bears count on from Quinn, in particular? That’s going to put the onus on Attaochu and Gipson to be productive players. Charles Snowden has had a solid preseason, and if he gets after the quarterback again Saturday, it might be tough for them to sneak him to the practice squad. But his route to any team is going to be through special teams, which is probably still a work in progress.

Jahns: For the second year in a row, this looks like a thin position. But Attaochu should be able to provide more than Barkevious Mingo. Defensive coordinator Sean Desai seemingly has big plans for him based on what we’ve seen in camp. Gipson was on the field for only 71 defensive snaps last season as a rookie. Will he be able to double that this season? The Bears surely hope so. But he must prove it on the field.

 

Inside linebacker (4): Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan, Alec Ogletree, Christian Jones

Fishbain: There could be a debate here among Tabor, Nagy, defensive coordinator Sean Desai and linebackers coach Bill McGovern. These are the top four inside linebackers, but Josh Woods has proved valuable on special teams, as has Joel Iyiegbuniwe. It’s a numbers game, though, and the Bears might have to keep more defensive backs than inside ’backers.

Jahns: The Bears wanted more experience behind Smith and Trevathan, and now they have it with Jones and Ogletree. As with James, it became obvious early on that Ogletree was on the fast track to making the team. It started with his interceptions, then later came via praise from Tabor. Playing on special teams will be different for Ogletree, but he’s seemingly up for it.

 

Cornerback (6): Jaylon Johnson, Kindle Vildor, Artie Burns, Desmond Trufant, Duke Shelley, Thomas Graham Jr.

Fishbain: Without solidifying the starting corner spot opposite Johnson, the Bears have to load up on numbers here. Burns has come on strong of late, and Vildor has been solid, too. Meanwhile, they’re unlikely to give up on Graham this quickly. This is probably the top position where the Bears could look to claim a veteran off waivers, especially to add to the competition at nickel corner with the Rams’ deep receiving corps waiting in Week 1.

Jahns: It appears as if the Bears’ competitions at cornerback and nickelback will continue into the regular season. And they should. Vildor and Shelley had strong moments in camp, but so did others. Keeping this many defensive backs helps with special teams and provides needed flexibility and depth for a defense that still has holes to fill.

 

Safety (5): Eddie Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Marqui Christian

Fishbain: How many teams can boast having at least three of the same safeties for five consecutive seasons? It’s a testament to what Bush and Houston-Carson have provided on special teams, and both can help on defense in a pinch. Christian’s versatility and special-teams work get him on the roster.

Jahns: With Christian in the competition at nickelback, he’s too valuable to cut. He also has plenty of special-teams experience. The big story at safety, though, is whether Jackson can be the playmaker the Bears desperately need him to be.

 

Special teams (3): Cairo Santos, Pat O’Donnell, Patrick Scales

Fishbain: Has backup kicker Brian Johnson been better in camp and the preseason games than anyone who came through the 2019 kicker extravaganza? It’s not good enough for a roster spot, but maybe the practice squad. O’Donnell, the punter, is now the team’s longest-tenured player.

Jahns: With the pandemic ongoing, it makes sense to keep a kicker on the practice squad. Johnson was nearly as good as Santos in camp, too. He connected on too many kicks from 40- and 50-plus yards not to keep him around.

(Photo of Riley Ridley: Robin Alam / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Edited by soulman
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This is almost exactly what I have...only difference is carry 9 OL and keeping Holtz as a FB and special teamer when he is healthy...if Holtz isn't healthy I could see us carrying 5 ILB just for a special teamer...

Would also drop out Newsome to the PS and probably keep Ridley but I suspect that final WR spot will come from cuts elsewhere because the signing of Coulter so late in camp suggest we aren't 100% pleased at that spot (and shouldn't be especially at outside receiver)...

CB is going to be super interesting to see who gets cut around the league because we should be in the market for at least 1 outside CB with probably Trufant making way.

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I'm gonna check off on each positions as it comes up.

QB:  Check, but having to keep Foles is punishing both on the cap and it prevents us from keeping a player who might help on ST.

RB:  Check, and either bring back Nalls or bring back Holtz. Personally I favor Holtz as a TE/HB/FB/ST over Nalls.

WR: Check, Adams has earned his spot and we'll need Newsome as a PR until Cohen is back.

TE:  Check, actually double check because I believe Horsted has earned a shot at more snaps in the regular season.

OL:   Argh, we seem to be stuck with Wilkinson because we need OT depth but damn, search the waiver wires for an upgrade.

DL:  Check, Blackson and Tonga have earned their stripes.  We can unload elsewhere when Edwards returns.

OLB:  Check, love to see more of Snowden and we may have to protect him initially.  He may turn out to be what Floyd could not at least here.

ILB:  Check, pretty simple choice here.  I like Caleb Johnson replacing Iggy if we keep more ILB vs DB.

CB:  Check, Burn is coming on strong so we can hope he keeps it up.  Gotta resolve who plays the Slot CB spot.

S:   Check, we finally have the luxury of being both stable and deep at Safety.

ST:  Check, hope we can sneak Johnson onto the PS.

 

Overall we didn't open a ton of spots except maybe the OL but some of the additions we have made like Jones and Ogletree are definite upgrades over Iggy and Woods.  The late draft and UDFA may have brought us a few of good young defensive players with upside in Tonga, Johnson, and Snowden and offensively with Herbert.  But we're still gonna need Fields and a decent OL to put any kind of crowning touch on this season.

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We can sign 16 guys to the PS including 6 vets with limited previous regular season games.  We can also be pretty certain we'll see some roster shuffling going on at least into week two.  Guys will be cut or released and some may be brought back or signed to the PS.  We may also see a few new faces culled from other teams cuts.  But this looks like a decent start at least on paper.

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Kinda feel like there was a lukewarm market for Foles, so either his say in the matter or Pace wanting to get more value has kept him onboard with no obvious reason for him to be here.  I'd guess they're hoping for a taker before the trade deadline at this point.  If Foles is still on the roster in Nov it'll only be because the rest of the NFL is having amazing injury and covid luck.  Foles to MN would be some serious "wheels within wheels" karma after the Bradfording. 

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4 minutes ago, RunningVaccs said:

Kinda feel like there was a lukewarm market for Foles, so either his say in the matter or Pace wanting to get more value has kept him onboard with no obvious reason for him to be here.  I'd guess they're hoping for a taker before the trade deadline at this point.  If Foles is still on the roster in Nov it'll only be because the rest of the NFL is having amazing injury and covid luck.  Foles to MN would be some serious "wheels within wheels" karma after the Bradfording. 

It may be the cost Vaccs.  If he was a one year rental for his $4 mil salary I believe he'd already be somewhere else.  But whoever gets him in trade is also on the hook for another $4 mil salary in 2022 plus a now guaranteed $4 mil roster bonus.  It's that $8 mil that's probably been an obstacle.

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i mostly agree with this. i think the OL is a bit excessive, even with Jenkins starting on the team before getting put on IR. Peters, Borom, Ifedi, Bars, Simmons are all tackles - i really don't think we need all 5.

My late round/UDFA man crush this season is Snowden, which i think is for good reason. I'd rather have him on the initial roster rather than Simmons, who i think we can get to our PS easier. I also think snowden provides better ST ability if he is active on gameday. Wouldn't hate a couple "season ending injuries" to a guy like snowden or caleb johnson so we guarantee they stick around until next year when there's a better chance of making the roster

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Need to waiver wire search for OL (OT specifically), CB, and WR yet. 

If I'm doing the roster and ignoring Financials, I'd keep Snowden over Quinn even...dude is washed. Hell, I'd keep Kamara and/or Vaughters over Quinn right now too at least they have potential... Though both should be able to make it to the ps. 

WR wise, I've already tossed my $0.02 about grabbing Andy Isabella if he's cut in AZ. Could use the speed, and a KR, and he'd only need to beat out Johnson.... That said his ST ability is limited to returning only, so we'd need to compensate elsewhere and we don't have the roster room

Foles I'd dump to anyone who will take his contact...don't want any other picks... Hell, I'm half tempted to toss them a 7th to take him, because the roster spot is worth more to me right now, given our needs on st

Nall is a bum, cut

Wilkerson is another bum and frankly the OL could use two guys right now. Even with all our starters, OL is imo the team's biggest problem. Even if the guys we have play passably well, I don't trust them to play an entire season. 

Corner is the 2nd largest (but it's very close) .... We've got a bunch of backups starting... 

#3 is special teams.... And I'm fixing this one by doing the Dave Toub and putting starters on ST. I don't care if it means Khalil Mack is on punt coverage... We can't give up the kind of plays we've been giving up so far in preseason and succeed in the regular season. 

I'd add regarding Mack.. We should've traded him back to the raiders, depending on the deal offered. He's damn good, but he is getting paid "take over games" money, and he hasn't been anywhere near that dominant since his first season with us, outside of a few outlier games (like vs the Buccaneers last year)... For Mack we could've had Fuller long term with Johnson, money for better OL, and extra draft picks. 

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1 hour ago, HuskieBear said:

i mostly agree with this. i think the OL is a bit excessive, even with Jenkins starting on the team before getting put on IR. Peters, Borom, Ifedi, Bars, Simmons are all tackles - i really don't think we need all 5.

My late round/UDFA man crush this season is Snowden, which i think is for good reason. I'd rather have him on the initial roster rather than Simmons, who i think we can get to our PS easier. I also think snowden provides better ST ability if he is active on gameday. Wouldn't hate a couple "season ending injuries" to a guy like snowden or caleb johnson so we guarantee they stick around until next year when there's a better chance of making the roster

All of those guys, including the 39 year old version of Peters, can also play OG.  In fact Bars has mostly played at OG and he's listed as the 2nd string RG behind Daniles.  Ifedi also played RG last year before he moved back to OT.  This how Pace and Nagy do it.  If a guy can't cut it at OT maybe he can succeed at OG.  There's no real competition at OG but there is at OT and also a sad lack of quality depth.  If we lose Ifedi or Peters we're in trouble until someone, probably Borom, can start.

I'd like to see Snowden and Johnson makes it as ST guys but chances of that are probably 50/50 at best.

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4 hours ago, Heinz D. said:

It's weird s-n-a-t-c-h is on the naughty list, isn't it? 🤨

It would appear so.  Live and learn that hard way I guess.

Gonna be hard to quote any Lewis Carroll here.  I mean what happens when he get to the part about the frumious Bandersnatch?

Oh look.  Well just make it a compound word and you can get away with it.  😉

Edited by soulman
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17 hours ago, Heinz D. said:

If they put Snowden on the PS because they want Attoachu on the active roster...I'm going to scream until my lungs bleed. 

Some other team will ****** Snowden the minute he is put on the practice squad...mark my words. 

i mean, attaochu is significantly better than snowden at this point in time, and would help our defense much more than him. I think you should be upset if Vaughters gets put on the roster over snowden. 

i really don't think 5 OLB is excessive or out of the question with Mack-Quinn-Attaochu-Gipson-Snowden. Again, i wouldn't hate if snowden got "hurt" tomorrow and ended up on IR for the year

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