Bears’ 53-man roster projection: Few questions to answer in training camp with one exception


Bears’ 53-man roster projection: Few questions to answer in training camp with one exception originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

After two-plus years of rebuilding, general manager Ryan Poles proclaimed making the Bears’ 2024 roster in training camp would be difficult.

He wasn’t wrong.

In each of the past two offseasons, we have headed toward training camp with a number of position battles to watch. That’s expected for a rebuilding roster.

But with Poles injecting talent across the board over the past year, the Bears will enter camp with few spots up for grabs. Most of the competitions will come at the back end of the roster. However, there is a potential open competition at right guard brewing.

With the Bears breaking for the summer, here’s the latest 53-man roster projection with only a handful of spots open.

Quarterback (2): Caleb Williams, Tyson Bagent

Head coach Matt Eberflus unsurprisingly announced Williams as the starter when rookie minicamp opened, and there was no competition for the No. 2 spot during the offseason program.

Williams has embraced every aspect of being the face of the Bears’ franchise. While he had rocky moments during the offseason program, his arm talent, accuracy, precision, and aura constantly shined through.

Bagent had some nice moments working with the second-team offense. His offseason goal of becoming a “more dynamic” thrower might be paying dividends.

Either Brett Rypien or undrafted rookie Austin Reed will make the practice squad as the Bears’ No. 3 quarterback.

Running back (5): D’Andre Swift, Roschon Johnson, Khalil Herbert, Travis Homer, Khari Blasingame (FB)

Swift’s signing flew under the radar this offseason due to the trade for wide receiver Keenan Allen and the draft haul that brought in Williams and wide receiver Rome Odunze.

But Swift’s versatility will give the Bears’ offense another gear it didn’t have last year when the running back rotation was seemingly decided by who performed better during each Wednesday practice.

The bigger question is how the Bears will split the carries behind Swift. Herbert has shown the ability to be a dynamic change-of-pace back, and the Bears still have a lot of hope for what Johnson can become.

Keep an eye on undrafted rookie back Ian Wheeler. The Howard product was an explosive returner in college and could push to make the roster on special teams, but it’s an uphill climb.

Wide receiver (6): DJ Moore, Keenan Allen, Rome Odunze, Tyler Scott, Velus Jones Jr., DeAndre Carter

The Bears’ signing of DeAndre Carter should put Jones and Dante Pettis on notice in training camp. The 31-year-old Carter is a return specialist who appeared in four games with the Bears in 2020. Carter averaged 23.8 yards per kickoff return for the Las Vegas Raiders last season.

Jones is a good kickoff returner in his own right and will enter camp in good standing to make the roster as the fourth or fifth receiver.

Carter could easily jump Pettis during training camp if the latter spends a lot of time on the shelf due to nagging injuries. Pettis did not participate during most of the offseason program due to soft tissue issues.

I’ll give Carter the nod, but that will be a camp battle to watch.

Undrafted rookie John Jackson III feels like a good bet to make the practice squad.

Tight end (3): Cole Kmet, Gerald Everett, Marcedes Lewis

Adding Lewis gives the Bears the run-blocking No. 3 tight end they were missing.

The 40-year-old Lewis is a respected voice in the Bears’ locker room and will round out a complete tight end room.

Open and shut case.

Offensive line (9): Braxton Jones, Teven Jenkins, Ryan Bates, Nate Davis, Darnell Wright, Matt Pryor, Kiran Amegadjie, Coleman Shelton, Ja’Tyre Carter

The Bears have some questions at right guard, and I’d venture to guess there will be a true training camp battle. Davis did not participate in most of the offseason program, which led to Pryor and Bates mostly rotating at right guard.

The initial plan was for Bates to be the starting center, but the Bears’ “best five” might end up being Shelton at center and Bates at right guard, especially if Davis continues to be in and out of the lineup.

The Bears expect Amegadjie to be healthy enough to participate at the start of camp. If he is, how fast he can pick things up will become an interesting side plot to training camp. Poles said he doesn’t expect Amegadjie to compete for a starting job this season, but things can change quickly.

Defensive line (8): Montez Sweat, Gervon Dexter, Andrew Billings, DeMarcus Walker, Austin Booker, Zacch Pickens, Jacob Martin, Keith Randolph Jr.

The Bears’ defensive line is still thin. It’s reasonable to expect them to add another reliable rusher by training camp, with old friend Yannick Ngakoue appearing to be the top option.

I thought Calais Campbell would have been an ideal addition due to his inside-out versatility and veteran savvy. He signed with the Miami Dolphins.

The Bears are putting a lot of their eggs into Dexter’s basket. They need him to make a big Year 2 leap and become the “engine” of Eberflus’ defense. But they will also ask a lot of Walker and Booker to be viable, consistent threats opposite Sweat. Walker is a good No. 3 defensive end who can kick inside on pass-rushing downs, but asking him to anchor the side opposite Sweat might be too much.

Booker has the talent to provide meaningful snaps in Year 1, but he is still raw, and the Bears don’t want to put too much on his plate early on.

On the interior, I’m going to give the final spot to undrafted rookie Keith Randolph Jr. The Bears need another body at defensive tackle, and Randolph might be their best option.

Dominique Robinson will enter camp on the bubble and must show significant improvement to make the 53.

Linebacker (5): Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards, Jack Sanborn, Noah Sewell, Amen Ogbongbemiga

This is another open-and-shut position group.

Sewell will try to push Sanborn for the starting SAM spot, but the Wisconsin product has a firm grip on the starting role after two productive seasons.

Cornerback (7): Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon, Tyrique Stevenson, Josh Blackwell, Terell Smith, Jaylon Jones, Greg Stroman Jr.

The Bears have a nice two-deep at corner. Steveson will enter the season as one of the X-factors on a defense that plans to go from good to great. Stevenson showed flashes during a trying rookie season but finished last or near last in catches, yards, and touchdowns allowed last season. The Bears need him to be a lot better this fall if their defense is going to make a leap.

Stroman is a bubble candidate but played well when called on last season and should have the inside track for one of the final spots when camp opens.

Safety (5): Kevin Byard, Jaquan Brisker, Elijah Hicks, Jonathan Owens, Tarvarius Moore

Byard and Brisker have already formed quick chemistry. Byard’s versatility and willingness to play down in the box will give the Bears’ defense a different look than it had last year with Eddie Jackson at free safety.

Veteran Adrian Colbert will battle Moore and Hicks for one of the final spots.

Specialists (3): Cairo Santos, Tory Taylor, Patrick Scales

This position group is all set.

Taylor has wowed in camp with his deep bag of punting tricks. The Bears have been impressed with his mixture of power and precision. Taylor has been working on plus-50 punts and was not pleased when he went nine-for-10 in a recent drill.

Hightower finally has a weapon at punter.

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