The Bears added 10 rookies via the NFL draft over the weekend. About a dozen more undrafted rookies are expected to sign with the team this week.
* – indicates undrafted free agent whose signing remains unofficial
Starter: Justin Fields
Backups: P.J. Walker, Nathan Peterman, Tyson Bagent*
Walker is an upgrade over Trevor Siemian as the primary backup. Peterman is fine for a No. 3, and Bagent is a curiosity who might be worth a practice squad spot.
Starters: Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman, Khari Blasingame (FB)
Backup: Roschon Johnson, Travis Homer, Trestan Ebner, Robert Burns*
The Bears will have a dual backfield in Herbert and Foreman. When healthy, they likely will command most of the running back snaps. Johnson, the fourth-round pick out of Texas, should be the next man up if either of them goes down. Ebner could be looking at a demotion to the practice squad, but depth at the running back spot always will be important. Tight end Jake Tonges trained as a backup fullback behind Blasingame last year.
Backups: Equanimeous St. Brown, Dante Pettis, Velus Jones Jr., Tyler Scott, Nsimba Webster, Joe Reed, Daurice Fountain, Thyrick Pitts*
The addition of Moore makes this a significantly more dangerous group than a year ago. The Bears should feel good about their depth when St. Brown and Pettis are coming off the bench, not in the starting lineup like they were in December. For Jones, it’s time to prove he can contribute on offense. Scott, the fourth-round rookie, could challenge him for snaps.
Starter: Cole Kmet
Backups: Robert Tonyan, Chase Allen, Jake Tonges
Tonyan is a clear upgrade as the No. 2 tight end behind Kmet. The Bears have two legitimate pass-catching threats. Could they look to use more two-tight end formations next season? It wouldn’t be a huge surprise. Allen spent much of last year on the practice squad but could be in line to make the roster this year.
Backups: Lucas Patrick, Larry Borom, Alex Leatherwood, Dieter Eiselen, Ja’Tyre Carter, Doug Kramer, Kellen Diesch, Gabe Houy*, Lorenz Metz*
Wright, the No. 10 overall pick, slides into the starting lineup at right tackle. The Bears found a starting right guard in Davis during free agency, which will bump Jenkins to left guard. Poles has confirmed that Whitehair will be moving to center. Patrick is the first man off the bench on the interior. Borom is first off the bench at either tackle spot.
Starters: DeMarcus Walker (DE), Justin Jones (DT), Andrew Billings (DT), Trevis Gipson (DE)
Defensive end was the biggest weakness on this roster entering the offseason, and it remains so. Walker is a fine free-agent addition who totaled seven sacks last season. The question is was it a sign of bigger things to come, or was it his ceiling? Dexter and Pickens probably will begin the year behind Jones and Billings at defensive tackle, but they should be heavily featured in the rotation. Robinson also should be in the rotation as an edge rusher. This will be a prove-it season for Gipson, who enters the final year of his rookie contract.
Backups: Sterling Weatherford, Dylan Cole, Noah Sewell, DeMarquis Gates, Kuony Deng, Micah Baskerville*
With the additions of Edmunds and Edwards, linebacker now is a strength for this defense. Weatherford was a reliable special teams player last season. Cole, a free agent addition, is also valuable on special teams. Sewell should find himself with a roster spot, even if he’s not contributing on defense right away.
Starters: Jaylon Johnson, Tyrique Stevenson, Kyler Gordon (boundary/slot)
Backups: Kindle Vildor, Josh Blackwell, Terell Smith, Jaylon Jones, Michael Ojemudia, Greg Stroman, De’Jahn Warren*
Stevenson projects as an outside boundary corner. Last year, Gordon was a starter as a boundary corner. When the Bears used five DBs in sub-packages, Vildor played on the boundary and Gordon kicked inside to the slot. The Bears could put Stevenson in the same role as Vildor as a boundary corner in sub-packages, with Johnson and Gordon remaining the primary corners in the base 4-3 scheme. Or they could have Gordon focus entirely on the slot and keep Stevenson on the field as a boundary corner. Either way, Eberflus has options. Stevenson will have to prove he can beat out Vildor for the role during training camp.
Starters: Eddie Jackson, Jaquan Brisker
Backups: Elijah Hicks, Kendall Williamson, A.J. Thomas, Adrian Colbert, Macon Clark*
No change to the starting lineup here, but seventh-round pick Williamson should contend for a backup role and special teams spot. Hicks was a good special teamer last year and proved late in the year he’s a capable backup at safety.
Starters: Cairo Santos (K), Trenton Gill (P), Patrick Scales (LS)
Backups: Andre Szmyt* (K), Ryan Anderson (P)
No major changes are expected, but Szmyt is worth a look as an undrafted rookie. He’s a former Lou Groza Award winner as college football’s top kicker. He could be worth stashing on the practice squad if the Bears think they have room for an emergency kicker.
As far as return spots go, receiver Velus Jones Jr. was among the best in the NFL last year and should return to that role. The punt return job probably is up for grabs. Receiver Dante Pettis served as punt returner for much of last season, but with mixed results.