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Bears training camp 2019: Projecting the 53-man roster

Handicapping who will make the team before the Bears report to Bourbonnais next week.

Wild Card Round - Philadelphia Eagles v Chicago Bears
Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack rushes against the Eagles during the NFC Wild Card playoff game in January.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Forget about kickers for a moment — we know you’ve been trying to all offseason. When the Bears report to training camp Thursday, they’ll have only a few major roster questions; all but three projected starters played the same role for them last year.

Still, there’s plenty of intrigue in handicapping the 53-man roster:

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks

They’ll likely keep: 2

They’re in: Mitch Trubisky, Chase Daniel

They’re out: Tyler Bray

Battle to watch: Trubisky vs. the next step. A Pro Bowl alternate last year, Trubisky has room to grow; he finished 10th in the NFC in passer rating in 2018.

The big number: 76 — Passes thrown by Daniel, who started twice for an injured Trubisky last year. In his eight previous seasons, he threw 78.

He said it: “When you know where to go with the football you can kind of control the defense more with your eyes and rhythm, and anticipate throws as opposed to reacting to throws. That is something I have been working on.” — Trubisky

Running backs

They’ll likely keep: 4

They’re in: Tarik Cohen, David Montgomery, Mike Davis

They’re on the bubble: Kerrith Whyte, Jr., Ryan Nall

Battle to watch: Who will lead the team in carries? Montgomery is the favorite, though the rookie has yet to take an NFL hit. Davis has averaged only 6.7 rushes in his career.

The big number: 4 — Bears running backs that have never played a regular-season game for them.

He said it: “We always knew he had great hands. You don’t know with these college backs how great of route runners they are but he’s a really good route runner.” — Nagy on Montgomery

Wide receivers

They’ll likely keep: 7

They’re in: Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley Ridley

They’re on the bubble: Javon Wims, Marvin Hall, Emanuel Hall

They’re out: Tanner Gentry, Thomas Ives, Taquan Mizzell, Jordan Lambert-Williams

Battle to watch: The Halls, in a fight for the final receiver roster spot. Emanuel, an undrafted free agent, has the straight-line speed Nagy covets. Marvin brings special teams depth; he played on 46 percent of the Falcons’ kicks and punts last year.

The big number: 143 — Robinson’s receiving yards in last year’s playoff game were his highest total since Christmas Eve 2016.

He said it: “I was asked to make those consistent catches — under 15-yard catches — but now I feel like … it’s time to go over the top of people. And I think we’ll do that this year.” — Gabriel

Tight ends

They’ll likely keep: 5

They’re in: Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker

They’re on the bubble: Bradley Sowell, Dax Raymond

They’re out: Ian Bunting, Jesper Horsted, Ellis Richardson

Battle to watch: Burton vs. health. After playing 80 percent of the Bears’ snaps last season, Burton woke up the day before the playoff game with a mysterious injury that eventually led to offseason sports hernia surgery. He hasn’t practiced since, but the Bears hope he’s healthy by the start of camp.

The big number: 25 — Career receptions by Bears tight ends not named Burton — including one by converted tackle Sowell.

He said it: “For a guy like — Trey who has a wealth of knowledge of this offense — he’ll be able to bounce back and be fine after not going through this offseason program.” — Tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride Jr.

Offensive line

They’ll likely keep: 7

They’re in: Charles Leno, Cody Whitehair, James Daniels, Kyle Long, Bobby Massie, Ted Larsen, Rashaad Coward

They’re on the bubble: T.J. Clemmings

They’re out: Alex Bars, Blake Blackmar, Joe Lowery, Cornelius Lucas, Jordan McCray, Sam Mustipher, Marquez Tucker

Battle to watch: Does Sowell make the team at tight end? If he does — and can play tackle in an emergency — the Bears are more likely to keep seven linemen.

The big number: 5 — Leno has played all but five snaps the past three seasons.

He said it: “[Daniels] and Cody are two bright guys, so I think them flipping is really not been anything more than a bump.” — Long, on Whitehair moving to left guard and Daniels to center this offseason

DEFENSE

Defensive line

They’ll likely keep: 5

They’re in: Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols, Jonathan Bullard, Roy Robertson-Harris

They’re out: Nick Williams, Abdullah Anderson, Jonathan Harris, Jalen Dalton, Daryle Banfield

Battle to watch: Nichols vs. more opportunities. He impressed while playing only 31 percent of snaps as a rookie.

The big number: 23 — Hicks’ sack total in three seasons – tied for 18th-most in franchise history.

He said it: “There’s a lot of things we still have to sharpen. We expected that, though, with a new defensive coordinator.” — Hicks

Inside linebackers

They’ll likely keep: 5

They’re in: Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Nick Kwiatkoski

They’re on the bubble: Josh Woods, Kevin Pierre-Louis

They’re out: Jameer Thurman

Battle to watch: Pierre-Louis vs. Woods. The veteran Pierre-Louis brings special teams depth. The Bears like Woods, though, and need young depth with Trevathan and Kwiatkoski in the final years of their contracts.

The big number: 121 — Tackles by Smith last year. Only one NFL player with more tackles also posted more sacks than Smith’s five — Colts rookie Darius Leonard.

He said it: “[Smith] is one of the best college linebackers I’ve ever seen.” — inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone

Outside linebackers

They’ll likely keep: 5

They’re in: Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Aaron Lynch

They’re on the bubble: Kylie Fitts, Isaiah Irving, Matt Betts, Chuck Harris

They’re out: James Vaughters

Battle to watch: Floyd vs. a slow start. In three seasons, he’s posted 1 ½ sacks before Oct. 1. Last year, his first came Nov. 11.

The big number: 99 — Mack is one of only four NFL players to get a perfect 99 rating in the ‘Madden 20’ video game.

He said it: “To give up those picks, to me it was a no-brainer. I might have even given up one more.” — Bears college scouting director Mark Sadowski, on last year’s Mack trade.

Cornerbacks

They’ll likely keep: 6

They’re in: Prince Amukamara, Kyle Fuller, Sherrick McManis, Buster Skrine, Duke Shelley, Kevin Toliver

They’re out: Stephen Denmark, Clifton Duck, John Franklin III, Michael Joseph, Jonathon Mincy,

Battle to watch: Will the Denmark experiment work? The 6-3 seventh-round pick —who has two years of low-level college experience on defense — would be best-served on the practice squad.

The big number: $23 million — The Bears have $23 million combined in 2019 cap hits committed to Fuller and Amukamara.

He said it: “No one has worked on anything yet. But guys have been saying, ‘I have a good one,’ and stuff like that.” — Amukamara, the team choreographer, on a new batch of celebrations.

Safeties

They’ll likely keep: 4

They’re in: Eddie Jackson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson

They’re out: Doyin Jibowu, Josh Simmons

Battle to watch: Clinton-Dix vs. another walk year. The safety struggled during a contract year in 2018, and will play on a one-year, $3 million deal.

The big number: 5 — Career touchdowns by Jackson. Davis, the Bears’ new running back, has six.

He said it: “Everything you’re looking for in a safety. Because he can play down in the box and he can play in the deep parts of the zone. Then you can match him up and put him on backs and tight ends.” — defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, on Clinton-Dix

SPECIALISTS

They’ll likely keep: 3

They’re in: P Pat O’Donnell, LS Patrick Scales

They’re on the bubble: K Elliott Fry, K Eddie Piñeiro

They’re out: LS John Wirtel

Battle to watch: There’s no bigger camp storyline than the Bears’ search for a cheap replacement for Cody Parkey. With a playoff-caliber roster, they can’t afford to get too cute.

The big number: 0 — Regular-season games played by either Bears kicker.

He said it: “I’m excited for [camp], because that’s more real.” — Nagy, on the pressure put on his kickers