Bears Insider

Bears' 53-man roster projection with offseason program complete

With the offseason program in the books, Bears insider Josh Schrock offers his latest roster projection

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The Bears wrapped up their offseason program Thursday when they concluded mandatory veteran minicamp with a nice red-zone period from quarterback Justin Fields and the first-team offense.

There isn’t a ton to learn from OTAs and minicamp. It’s a lot of half-speed scheme installation and culture-setting drills. But it does give us a baseline to work off as we prepare for training camp and the roster battles to come.

Entering OTAs, I thought Velus Jones Jr., Trestan Ebner, Terrell Lewis, and Josh Blackwell were clearly on the outside fighting for one of the final 53 spots. But after getting eyes on the new-look Bears for the last month, I’m no longer certain that’s the case.

With the Bears off for the next 40 days, here’s my latest 53-man roster projection:

Quarterback (2): Justin Fields, PJ Walker
On bubble: N/A

Justin Fields continues to show growth with his mechanics and decision-making. The Bears’ passing attack had good and bad moments during the offseason program, but the improved deep game, along with the addition of DJ Moore, gives reason to believe the Bears’ passing game will be more explosive this fall.

Walker was unimpressive during the spring, but it will take a lot for Nathan Peterman or Tyson Bagent to press him for the No. 2 spot.

Running backs (5): Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman, Roschon Johnson, Khari Blasingame (FB), Trestan Ebner
On bubble: Travis Homer

The Bears’ running back competition will start come training camp. Both Herbert and Foreman split time working with the first- and second-team offense during the spring.

Those inside Halas Hall remain bullish on Johnson, believing he will truly pop when the pads come on.

I’m going to take Ebner over Homer here because the second-year back got more run as a pass-catching back with the first-string offense. Both Ebner and Homer have special teams value, but I’ll give a slight nod to Ebner entering the summer.

Wide receiver (6): DJ Moore, Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Tyler Scott, Velus Jones Jr., Equanimeous St. Brown
On bubble: Dante Pettis, Thyrick Pitts, Nsimba Webster

Moore, Mooney, Claypool, and Scott are roster locks. I think that leaves St. Brown, Jones, and Pettis battling for two spots.

Jones put together several nice practices during the offseason program and appears to have developed a better rapport with Fields. He also spent time catching punts. If he can do the latter effectively, that should give him the nod over Pettis.

It’s clear Fields trusts Pettis, though, which makes me think this competition will go down to the wire. I know the Bears like St. Brown’s run-blocking, but Pettis’ special teams contributions and connection with Fields could wind up being the deciding factor.

I like what I’ve seen from the UDFA Pitts with the second-string offense. I don’t think he can crack the 53, but he should be a practice squad guy.

Tight ends (3): Cole Kmet, Robert Tonyan, Jake Tonges
On bubble: Chase Allen, Stephen Carlson

We know Kmet is a lock, as is Tonyan. I was impressed with the Bears’ new tight end during the offseason program. The McHenry native made several nice catches on intermediate tosses from Fields, including two scoring grabs during the red-zone finale of minicamp.

As for the third tight end spot, I’m going to give Tonges the edge because Allen has been dealing with some minor injuries and Carlson hasn’t done anything of note. But all three have a chance to grab that spot.

Offensive line (9): Braxton Jones, Teven Jenkins, Cody Whitehair, Nate Davis, Darnell Wright, Lucas Patrick, Larry Borom, Ja’Tyre Carter, Alex Leatherwood
On the bubble: Kellen Diesch, Dieter Eiselen, Doug Kramer

The Bears’ starting five appears to be set, with Patrick serving as the No. 2 center, left guard, and right guard. The Bears have no depth at tackle so Borom should be safe.

Leatherwood has been working with the 2s and 3s at guard during the offseason program. He’ll enter camp on the bubble, but I think his versatility and the $4.5 million dead cap hit that would come with cutting him allows him to sneak through. But that’s certainly not a given, and if the Bears add more OL depth before camp (they should) Leatherwood could be on the outside looking in.

Defensive line (9): DeMarcus Walker, Justin Jones, Trevis Gipson, Dominique Robinson, Gervon Dexter, Zacch Pickens, Rasheem Green, Andrew Billings, Travis Bell
On the bubble: Andrew Brown, Terrell Lewis

Until the Bears make some free-agency additions, I think these nine are the group the Bears will enter the season with on the defensive line.

Brown and Bell are the low men on the totem pole at the moment. But the Bears continue to go out of their way to include Bell in conversations about the growth of Pickens and Dexter, so I’ll give Bell the slight edge over Brown.
I won’t be surprised if both players make the team.

As for the edge rusher situation, what you see is what the Bears have for now. If one or two additions are made, Robinson and Green will be fighting for spots. I liked what I saw from Lewis during the offseason program, but he has work to do to make the roster.

Linebackers (5): Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards, Jack Sanborn, Noah Sewell, Dylan Cole
On the bubble: Sterling Weatherford, DeMarquis Gates

This unit is also fairly set. Edmunds and Edwards will play every down. Sanborn missed the offseason program while recovering from an ankle injury. He’ll enter training camp as the starting SAM, but I think Sewell will push him until the end. Cole and Weatherford both are valuable special teams players, but Cole has been healthy and availability is key in these low-end roster battles.

Cornerbacks (7) Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon, Tyrique Stevenson, Kindle Vildor, Terell Smith, Jaylon Jones, Josh Blackwell
On the bubble: N/A

Rookie Tyrique Stevenson entered OTAs working with the second-team defense, but quickly took over the first-string role opposite Jaylon Johnson. I expect Stevenson to win that job in camp, with Vildor, Smith, Blackwell, and Jones serving as adequate depth.

Safeties (4): Eddie Jackson, Jaquan Brisker, Elijah Hicks, Kendall Williamson
On the bubble: A.J. Thomas, Adrian Colbert

Jackson and Brisker form a solid safety duo. Hicks has shown a lot of growth since being drafted last year.
I’ll give Williamson the final spot, but Thomas or Colbert could easily snag it with an impressive camp.

Specialists (3): Cairo Santos, Patrick Scales, Trenton Gill

Nothing new to see here.

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