Bears 53-man roster projection features Justin Fields and an evolving surrounding cast (2024)

  • Bears 53-man roster projection features Justin Fields and an evolving surrounding cast (1)

    Courtney Cronin, ESPN Staff WriterJun 21, 2022, 06:00 AM ET

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      Courtney Cronin joined ESPN in 2017, originally covering the Minnesota Vikings before switching to the Chicago Bears in 2022. Courtney is a frequent panelist on Around the Horn and host of Best Week Ever on ESPN Radio. She also co-hosts The Chicago Bears Podcast on ESPN 1000. She previously worked at the San Jose Mercury News as a multimedia sports journalist.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears open the 2022 NFL regular season against the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 11 at Soldier Field.

The Bears finished last season 6-11, overhauled the front office and brought in Ryan Poles as general manager and former Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus as head coach.

Former first-round quarterback Justin Fields is the focal point as he enters his second season. With the third-most cap space ($23.8 million) in the NFL, Chicago can add a veteran or two ahead of training camp to bolster the unit around Fields. That number will jump to roughly $37 million if the team moves linebacker Robert Quinn, who was not present for nor excused from mandatory minicamp amid trade rumors.

Here's an early projection of what the final roster will look like based on offseason practices.

QUARTERBACK (2): Justin Fields, Trevor Siemian

Unlike a year ago, Fields is the unquestioned starter at quarterback. We've heard from teammates and coaches about how he has honed his leadership skills and command of the huddle. He's still young at 23, which is why Chicago prioritized signing Siemian as his backup, given his wealth of knowledge and experience.

RUNNING BACK (4): David Montgomery, Khalil Herbert, Trestan Ebner, Darrynton Evans

The Bears have the personnel needed for an outside zone rushing attack and consider their backs assets in the passing game. Chicago might also tab Ebner with responsibilities as a returner. Montgomery is in a contract year.

FULLBACK (1): Khari Blasingame

Blasingame isn't just going to be lined up in the backfield or called upon as a blocker. He'll fill less of a traditional role and find himself on the perimeter from time to time.

WIDE RECEIVER (6): Darnell Mooney, Byron Pringle, Velus Jones Jr., Equanimeous St. Brown, Dante Pettis, Tajae Sharpe

Mooney's assessment of third-rounder Jones? "He can fly. He can be a playmaker for sure for us." That'll be critical for Chicago's offense considering the lack of established depth at the position, outside of Mooney and Pringle. The Bears might roll with the other three receivers they brought in this offseason, or could look to free agency to sign another for training camp.

TIGHT END (3): Cole Kmet, Ryan Griffin, James O'Shaughnessy

Kmet will have ample opportunity to take a big step forward in a scheme that relies on contributions from the tight end. The red zone should be the area where he sees an uptick in targets.

OFFENSIVE LINE (10): Braxton Jones, Cody Whitehair, Lucas Patrick, Sam Mustipher, Larry Borom, Teven Jenkins, Zach Thomas, Doug Kramer, Ja'Tyre Carter, Julie'n Davenport

Jones, a fifth-rounder, got an early opportunity as the first-team left tackle, supplanting Jenkins -- who spent most of minicamp as the second-team right tackle. The offensive line is fluid, so it's possible the Bears opt to use more players at both tackle and guard to find their best fit. Whitehair (left guard), Patrick (center) and Borom (right tackle) seem fairly cemented at their respective positions, so the Bears will likely experiment with different combinations at the other two spots to find their starting five.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9): Robert Quinn, Justin Jones, Angelo Blackson, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Trevis Gipson, Mario Edwards Jr., Dominique Robinson, Khyiris Tonga, Sam Kamara

Gipson got starters' reps this offseason with Quinn opting to not show up for OTAs and minicamp. If the Bears trade Quinn, Gipson and Muhammad will be the team's top two edge rushers. The Bears' backup plan once free agent Larry Ogunjobi failed his physical was to sign Jones, who assumes the three-technique role in this 4-3 front.

LINEBACKER (5): Roquan Smith, Nicholas Morrow, Matthew Adams, Joe Thomas, Caleb Johnson

Smith makes everything go on defense. The Bears brought Morrow in to play alongside him, though coaches haven't publicly declared who will handle the middle and weakside linebacker roles. With so many other positions that have question marks, linebacker seems relatively stable as is.

CORNERBACK (6): Kyler Gordon, Jaylon Johnson, Tavon Young, Thomas Graham Jr., Kindle Vildor, Duke Shelley

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, a cornerback was the nearest defender on 27 of the Bears' 31 passing TDs allowed in 2021. Chicago used its top draft pick on Gordon in the second round, who is penciled in to start opposite Johnson on the outside. Graham was starting at nickel corner in minicamp over Young, who was signed as a free agent this spring. That'll be one position battle in the secondary to keep an eye on.

SAFETY (4): Jaquan Brisker, Eddie Jackson, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Dane Cruikshank

The Bears are thrilled with Brisker. He has impressed coaches with his ability to punch the ball out and force turnovers, and his versatility will allow Jackson to hold down the free safety spot.

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

Santos was consistently accurate with Gill, his new holder, on kicks in offseason practices. Unless the Bears bring in another specialist for training camp, this is their kicking battery this season.

Bears 53-man roster projection features Justin Fields and an evolving surrounding cast (2024)
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