General manager Ryan Pace believes this is the deepest the Bears have been talent-wise since he arrived three years ago.
But being deep only means tough decisions await Pace when teams must trim their rosters to the 53-man limit Saturday. Playing Pace, here is our initial roster projection:
Three: Mike Glennon, Mark Sanchez, Mitch Trubisky.
Sanchez might not provide much on-the-field value, but his presence in the quarterbacks room is meaningful. It’s why he was signed in the first place. A former first-round pick who underwent intense scrutiny in New York, Sanchez is a great sounding board for Glennon and Trubisky. He also will assist in Trubisky’s development.
Four: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Jeremy Langford, Benny Cunningham.
Ka’Deem Carey (broken wrist) might not be out of the picture. The Bears could always place him on injured reserve and designate him to return. Depth always is needed at running back. Langford will have to fight for playing time.
Six: Kevin White, Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton, Josh Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, Tanner Gentry.
Cam Meredith’s injury opened a roster spot, but veteran Victor Cruz still is behind Wright and Wheaton at slot receiver. Cruz, who suffered a left knee injury Thursday night against the Browns, has Sanchez-like value in the receivers room, but the Bears need more than advice after Meredith’s injury. Thompson might be expendable because Cohen and Cunningham are options at kick returner, but depth is needed. Gentry, an undrafted rookie, has displayed big-play ability since camp opened. He might not make it through waivers.
Four: Zach Miller, Dion Sims, Adam Shaheen, Daniel Brown.
Keeping four tight ends already was an option when Meredith was healthy. Now it’s a must with Meredith lost for the season. The Bears need the extra pass catchers. The big decision is keeping Brown over Ben Braunecker. Brown is a better receiver at this point. Braunecker, though, is an obvious candidate for the practice squad.
Eight: Charles Leno Jr., Kyle Long, Cody Whitehair, Josh Sitton, Bobby Massie, Hroniss Grasu, Tom Compton, Jordan Morgan.
Eric Kush’s injury allowed Grasu to step in and impress the team that drafted him in the third round in 2015. Morgan, a fifth-round pick this year, needs time to develop. Compton, a five-year veteran, is the swing tackle, but can also play guard. Will Poehls is an option if the Bears prefer to keep nine linemen. He provides positional flexibility. If Poehls is waived, he’s a candidate for the practice squad.
Six: Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Jonathan Bullard, Mitch Unrein, Jaye Howard, Roy Robertson-Harris.
Releasing Unrein would be a difficult call for coach John Fox and Fangio. He has the “football character” that Fox often preaches about. He also won over Fangio by proving to be a reliable, assignment-sound player. But it’s a deep group. Robertson-Harris, who has a unique blend of size and athleticism, has emerged this preseason.
Four: Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman, Nick Kwiatkoski, Christian Jones.
The only decision the Bears face here is keeping either John Timu or Jonathan Anderson. They are regulars on special teams and provide depth with some starting experience. Anderson, though, has missed too much time with a sprained ankle.
Five: Leonard Floyd, Willie Young, Dan Skuta, Lamarr Houston, Sam Acho.
Pernell McPhee isn’t going anywhere, but by keeping him on the physically unable-to-perform list to start the season the Bears preserve a roster spot. McPhee then gets sufficient time to regain his form. Houston’s spot now is in flux after he suffered a knee injury against the Browns. Skuta and Acho haven’t exactly distinguished themselves, but Vic Fangio’s defense requires rounds of pass rushers.
Six: Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper, Kyle Fuller, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Bryce Callahan, Sherrick McManis.
McManis and Bellamy, a receiver, form the heart and soul of the special teams. Amukamara’s injury situation (hamstring, ankle) afforded Fuller more opportunities to redeem himself after missing all of last season. LeBlanc and Callahan are competing at nickel back, but also have started games outside at cornerback. It’s valuable versatility.
Four: Quintin Demps, Eddie Jackson, Adrian Amos, Deon Bush.
Deiondre’ Hall’s switch from cornerback to safety didn’t strengthen his case. Hall, one of the Bears’ three fourth-round picks last year, also pulled up with a hamstring injury against the Browns and didn’t return. Jackson has been the Bears’ best defensive back since camp opened. He deserves to start next to Demps. Amos is a steady backup and a contributor on special teams.
Three: kicker Connor Barth, punter Pat O’Donnell, long snapper Jeff Overbaugh.
The Bears inherited kicker Roberto Aquayo’s contract when they claimed him off waivers, but they aren’t bound to it, even if waiving him results in $428,000 in dead money on their books. He’s missed too many kicks in practice. Overbaugh makes the team by default; the Bears needed a long snapper after Patrick Scales suffered a knee injury. Changes could be coming.
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