Bears Insider

Bears' roster analysis: Position-by-position grades for 53-man unit after waiver claims

The secondary and running back room are positions of strength, but the Bears still have a lot of question marks heading into Week 1

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The Bears released their initial 53-man roster Tuesday, but it’s not the 53-man roster they will trot out in Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers.

On Wednesday, the Bears’ post-cutdown-day roster churn began as they claimed defensive end Khalil Kareem and safety Quindell Johnson. They waived Terrell Lewis and A.J. Thomas in corresponding moves. They also signed wide receiver Trent Taylor and placed Teven Jenkins on short-term injured reserve.

With the roster set for now, here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the 2023 Bears:

Justin Fields
Tyson Bagent

The Bears sound like they’d like to eventually bring in a veteran quarterback to join Fields and Bagent, but for now, the Bears have a young and relatively inexperienced quarterback room.

As long as Fields stays healthy, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Grade: B-

Khalil Herbert
D’Onta Foreman
Roschon Johnson
Travis Homer
Khari Blasingame (FB)

This might be the Bears’ best unit.

Herbert will open the season as RB1 but expect Foreman to get his fair share of carries as the Bears go with a running-back-by-committee approach. Herbert’s pass protection is something to watch. The third-year back worked to improve his pass pro this offseason. If it doesn’t, Foreman could quickly eat into Herbert’s carries.

Look for Johnson to play a bigger role in the offense during the second half of the season.

This is a deep, talented room.

Grade: A-

DJ Moore
Chase Claypool
Darnell Mooney
Tyler Scott
Velus Jones Jr.
Equanimeous St. Brown
Trent Taylor

Moore takes a room that was abysmal in 2022 and makes it average. He’s an elite talent who automatically upgrades a passing attack that had no teeth last season. The 2022 Bears averaged 22.18 passing attempts per game. That’s the third-lowest number since 1980, with only the 1982 Patriots and 1990 Raiders averaging fewer attempts in a full season.

Adding Moore will instantly elevate the aerial attack, but Claypool’s health and productivity will determine if it reaches its ceiling. Claypool’s big frame and contested catch ability make him a unique member of the Bears’ receiving corps.

Mooney is a reliable slot receiver who now is in a role that fits his talent.

Scott gives the Bears a vertical threat to break out occasionally, while Jones will likely mostly be utilized on jet sweeps, screens, etc.

Grade: C+

Cole Kmet
Robert Tonyan
Marcedes Lewis

This is another really solid room.

With his $50-million extension in the bank, Kmet looks to take a leap into the second tier of NFL tight ends. Kmet showed flashes during the middle of last season, but the Bears need that three-game spurt to become the norm in 2023.

Tonyan gives the Bears a reliable pass-catching tight on third down and in the red area, while Lewis is one of the best blocking tight ends and provides a needed veteran presence.

Grade: B

Braxton Jones
Cody Whitehair
Lucas Patrick
Darnell Wright
Nate Davis
Dan Feeney
Ja’Tyre Carter
Larry Borom
Doug Kramer
Teven Jenkins (IR designated to return)

The Bears’ offense line was dreadful last season. There’s no way to sugarcoat it.

General manager Ryan Poles made rebuilding the offensive line an offseason priority. He signed right guard Nate Davis and drafted right tackle Darnell Wright with the No. 10 overall pick.

The goal was to have Teven Jenkins move to left guard, with Davis taking over on the other side of Cody Whitehair at center. But Jenkins’ leg injury forced the Bears to reconfigure the line, moving Whitehair back to LG and putting Lucas Patrick in at center.

The Bears still have very little quality depth on the offensive line. One more significant injury and the unit could completely fall apart.

Grade: C-

Andrew Billings
Justin Jones
Yannick Ngakoue
DeMarcus Walker
Gervon Dexter
Zacch Pickens
Rasheem Green
Dominique Robinson
Khalid Kareem

The addition of Ngakoue gives the Bears’ pass rush at least some punch. But this unit still has a lot of question marks.

The run defense must be appreciably better after teams ran over the Bears in 2022. That’s why Billings was brought in. He helped stabilize a bad Raiders run defense last season and will play a key role in what the Bears hope is greatly improved. If teams are forced to double Billings, that should free up Jones to get more one-on-one matchups he can win.

Dexter and Pickens made quick strides during training camp. The Bears’ plan to keep things simple for Pickens has allowed the third-round pick to hit the ground running at the one technique.

The edge rush situation still is an issue, even with Ngakoue in the fold. Walker is on his fourth team in four seasons. Green and Robinson have been good in camp but didn’t pop in minimal preseason snaps.


Tremaine Edmunds
T.J. Edwards
Jack Sanborn
Noah Sewell
Dylan Cole

The Bears spent a lot of money to revamp the second level of their defense in the offseason.

Edmunds should be the perfect in head coach Matt Eberflus’ defense at the MIKE linebacker position. His size and length should lead to more deflected passes and turnover opportunities.

The Bears seemingly got Edwards at a discount, and the Wisconsin product was one of the most impressive players during training camp. He’s a massive upgrade at the WILL linebacker spot.

Sewell, a fifth-round rookie out of Oregon, is an aggressive, downhill-attacking linebacker who excels as a blitzer. He likely will open the season behind Sanborn, but he can make an impact this fall.

Sanborn is a high-IQ linebacker who is a sure tackler. He can provide good reps at the SAM and is a valuable depth piece who can play the MIKE if Edmunds goes down.

Good unit.


Jaylon Johnson
Tyrique Stevenson
Kyler Gordon
Terell Smith
Jaylon Jones
Josh Blackwell

This is the best unit on the Bears’ roster, in my opinion.

Entering a contract season, Johnson is motivated to get more interceptions and prove he’s a No. 1 corner worthy of a big extension.

Stevenson was put through the wringer in the preseason, but he consistently bounced back. He’s a physical tackler with great coverage and ball skills. He might end up being the best player in the Bears’ 2023 draft class.

Gordon looks like a different player in Year 2. Now solely focused on the nickel, Gordon has been flying around this summer. He has been great in run support, terrorized Fields and the offense as a blitzer, and held his own in coverage against Moore and Mooney.

Given the importance of the nickel to Eberflus’ defense, Gordon’s improvement is critical to the Bears’ 2023 success.

Smith is a promising rookie who challenged Stevenson for the starting spot opposite Johnson. Blackwell and Jones are good depth pieces who provide value on special teams.


Eddie Jackson
Jaquan Brisker
Elijah Hicks
Quindell Johnson

Another really good unit.

Jackson had a renaissance year in 2022. He was revitalized next to Brisker, and the two form one of the best safety tandems in the NFL.

Brisker has missed almost a month with an injury, but the Bears remain confident he will be good to go in Week 1. Prior to his injury, Brisker was the best player in camp.

The Bears are high on Hicks, who looks to be much improved after being thrown in the fire at the end of his rookie season.

Johnson, an undrafted rookie out of Memphis, was cut by the Rams on Tuesday and claimed by the Bears on Wednesday.


Cairo Santos
Trenton Gill
Patrick Scales

Santos is one of the NFL’s most reliable kickers.

Gill was OK during his rookie season, but the Bears would like him to improve his hang time during Year 2.


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