Bears Insider

Bears' depth chart projection: Where position battles stand after offseason program

The Bears' depth chart has a lot fewer question marks than you'd expect for a team coming off a 3-14 season

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An expected transformational offseason came and went for the Bears.

General manager Ryan Poles took a few big swings but otherwise remained disciplined and stuck to his plan. The additions of wide receiver DJ Moore and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds give the Bears elite difference-makers they lacked in 2022.

The offseason program gave us our first glimpse at the 2023 Bears and the roster battles to come. A loaded draft class of 10 rookies arrived at Halas Hall and, for the most part, made their presence felt immediately.

Head coach Matt Eberlfus prides himself on creating competition. The Bears’ roster will have plenty of that during training camp later this summer, but the depth chart is more set than you’d think for a team coming off a 3-14 season.

Quarterback (2): Justin Fields, P.J. Walker
Others on roster:
Nathan Peterman, Tyson Bagent

It was a mixed bag for Fields during OTAs and minicamp. That’s expected for a young team integrating new pieces.

But Fields clearly has better command of the offense as he enters Year 2 in offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s system.

The third-year quarterback has made strides with his mechanics and release. The decision-making was quicker at times during the offseason program, but there's still work to do.

Regardless, the Bears are set at quarterback.

Running back (4): Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman, Roschon Johnson, Trestan Ebner
Fullback (1):
Khari Blasingame
Other backs on roster:
Travis Homer, Robert Burns (FB)

The running back competition won’t start in earnest until training camp.

Both Herbert and Foreman split time with the first-team offense during mandatory minicamp, while Johnson, Ebner, and Homer got the few leftover snaps.

At this point, I expect Herbert to enter the season as RB1 with the expectation that the Bears will ride the hot hand each week.

Those inside Halas Hall remain incredibly bullish on Johnson, so I’d anticipate his role growing as the season progresses.

Homer and Ebner will enter training camp battling for the final spot in the backfield. Homer’s special teams contributions and pass-blocking could give him a leg up, but I liked what I saw from Ebner during minicamp, and I think his ability as a pass-catcher and returner will level the playing field.

But that will go down to the wire.

Wide receiver (6)

X: DJ Moore, Tyler Scott
Chase Claypool, Equanimeous St. Brown
Darnell Mooney, Velus Jones Jr.
Others on roster: Dante Pettis, Nsimba Webster, Thyrick Pitts, Daurice Fountain, Joe Reed, Aron Cruickshank

Moore, Claypool, Mooney, and Scott are locks. Jones Jr. looked improved during a nice minicamp stretch, including a better connection with Fields and cleaner punt returns.

That leaves St. Brown and Pettis fighting for the final spot. I know the Bears like what St. Brown brings in the run game, but he’s very limited as a pass-catcher. Pettis has continued to develop his connection with Fields and provides value as a punt and kick returner. I think St. Brown enters camp with a leg up on Pettis, but that could flip quickly.

Pitts, a UDFA from Delaware, likely won’t make the roster, but I think he’s a good developmental receiver who the Bears should hope to sneak on the practice squad.

Tight end (3): Cole Kmet, Robert Tonyan, Jake Tonges
Others on roster: Chase Allen, Stephen Carlson

Before the offseason program, I had Allen making the team as the third tight end. That’s now flipped with Tonges purely off availability. Allen did not participate in most of the offseason program due to a minor injury, so I’m giving the available Tonges the nod here.

But the TE3 spot is another one that could go down to the wire. If Allen is healthy and has a good camp, he’ll likely win out.

Kmet and Tonyan form a nice 1-2 tight end combo. Tonyan showed off his pass-catching ability during minicamp when he snagged multiple touchdowns during the red-zone finale.

It’s fair to expect Kmet to take another step forward in 2023. His connection with Fields is growing, and he should be the No. 2 or No. 3 option in this passing game if healthy.

Offensive line (9)

LT: Braxton Jones
LG: Teven Jenkins, Lucas Patrick, Alex Leatherwood
C: Cody Whitehair, Lucas Patrick
RG: Nate Davis, Lucas Patrick, Ja’Tyre Carter
RT: Darnell Wright, Larry Borom

Others on roster: Kellen Diesch, Dieter Eiselen, Doug Kramer, Lorenz Metz, Roy Mbaeteka, Josh Lugg, Gabriel Houy, Robert Haskins

The Bears have their “best five” on the offensive line. That’s already a massive upgrade from whatever they trotted out to protect Fields last season.

But there is a massive depth issue upfront.

Patrick is the team’s best backup option at center and both guard spots. Two injuries on the interior, and either Carter or Leatherwood, who took a lot of reps at left guard this spring, will be thrust into action.

Meanwhile, Borom is the only palatable swing tackle option on the roster.

Of the remaining others, Eiselen could snag one of the final roster spots over Leatherwood or Carter.

I expect the Bears to bring in more depth on the offensive line before training camp.

Defensive line (9)

DE: DeMarcus Walker, Rasheem Green
1T: Andrew Billings, Gervon Dexter, Travis Bell
3T: Justin Jones, Zacch Pickens
DE: Trevis Gipson, Dominique Robinson
Others on roster: Terrell Lewis, Andrew Brown, Donovan Jeter, Jayln Holmes, D’Anthony Jones, Jalen Harris

This group remains unchanged from the post-draft depth chart projections.

Lewis flashed at times during minicamp, but that level of play has to continue into training camp for him to make the roster.

Dexter and Pickens remain backups to Jones and Billings but expect both to see a lot of snaps on Sundays. The Bears would ideally like to have two waves of defensive linemen, with Pickens and Dexter seeing time both at three-technique and the under-tackle spot.

It’s no secret the Bears are looking for at least one more veteran edge defender. But for now, this is it.

Linebackers (5)

SAM: Noah Sewell, Jack Sanborn
MIKE: Tremaine Edmunds, Dylan Cole
WILL: T.J. Edwards, Dylan Cole
Others on roster: Sterling Weatherford, DeMarquis Gates, Kuony Deng, Micah Baskerville

Sanborn will enter training camp as the starter, but the Bears want to see if Sewell, the rookie fifth-round pick, can push him. I liked what I saw from Sewell with the first-team defense during minicamp. He showed good instincts and explosion, including two near pick-sixes of Fields.

Weatherford is a fringe roster guy who I have on the outside looking in, but that could easily change come training camp.

Cornerbacks (7)

CB1: Jaylon Johnson, Terell Smith
CB2: Tyrique Stevenson, Kindle Vildor, Jaylon Jones
Nickel: Kyler Gordon, Josh Blackwell
Others on roster: Greg Stroman Jr., Michael Ojemudia,

This is a deep group.

Stevenson quickly rose up the minicamp reps chart and took over the top spot at outside corner opposite Johnson. The Miami product impressed with his length, athleticism, instincts, and ability to play man and zone. Stevenson’s rise should bump Vildor down the depth chart, giving the Bears a solid No. 3 corner.

With Stevenson likely starting opposite Johnson, Gordon can focus solely on his duties in the slot, which should allow him to play freer in Year 2.

Jones and Blackwell showed they were solid depth pieces last season, and I think the Bears will try to keep both on the 53.

Smith missed most of the offseason program due to an injury, but the Bears remain bullish on the fifth-round pick’s talent and ceiling.

Safety (4)

FS: Eddie Jackson, Elijah Hicks
SS: Jaquan Brisker, Kendall Williamson
Others on roster: A.J. Thomas, Macon Clark, Adrian Colbert, Bralen Trahan

Jackson moved well after his return to practice during the final week of OTAs. The Bears eased the veteran in, giving Hicks plenty of reps with the ones in his spot.

Hicks is a good depth safety, and Williams, the seventh-round pick out of Stanford, enters training camp with the edge over Thomas and Colbert.

Specialists (3)

K: Cairo Santos
P: Trenton Gill
LS: Patrick Scales
Others on roster: Andre Szmyt, Ryan Anderson

No competition here. The Bears feel good about their kicking game.

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