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Breaking down the strengths, weaknesses of Bears’ 2019 roster

The Bears’ roster is loaded, but not perfect. A look at some of their best spots and areas of concern.

Kyle Fuller and Mitch Trubisky are two of the Bears’ most important players for the upcoming season.
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The Sun-Times’ Patrick Finley and Jason Lieser break down the Bears’ 53-man roster, which the team submitted to the NFL on Saturday afternoon:

Offense

Starter: Mitch Trubisky.

Backup: Chase Daniel.

This was always going to be the Bears’ two-man quarterback room. Trubisky is the quarterback of the future (and present), and Daniel is the highest-paid backup in the league. The two didn’t do a lot to inspire confidence this preseason: Trubisky handed the ball off three times in exhibition games, while Daniel had an 81.7 passer rating in three games. Tyler Bray, the third-stringer the team cut Saturday, seems likely to bounce back to the practice squad.

Running back

Starter: Tarik Cohen.

Backups: David Montgomery, Mike Davis, Kerrith Whyte.

Coach Matt Nagy will use a three-headed monster approach in the backfield, and Montgomery will look a lot more like his ideal back than Jordan Howard ever did last season. Montgomery is the favorite to lead the team in rushing yards and carries, while Davis’ workload might look a lot like the eight carries per game or so he averaged with the Seahawks. As he has the last two years, the slippery Cohen will line up at outside receiver, slot and in the backfield. Whyte, the speedy seventh-round pick, beat out the bruising Ryan Nall, whom the Bears could bring back on the practice squad.

Wide receiver

Starters: Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller.

Backups: Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley.

How far have the Bears come in two years? On cut day 2017, they kept five receivers: Josh Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, Markus Wheaton, Kevin White and Kendall Wright. Now, only one has an NFL job. And none would make this year’s team, which has three above-average starters, a flashy new toy in Patterson and two former Georgia standouts to develop in the second-year Wims and rookie Ridley. Robinson is the star of the group and the favorite to lead the team in receiving yards and touchdowns.

Tight end

Starter: Trey Burton.

Backups: Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, Bradley Sowell.

There’s a lot that could go wrong here, and if it does, the season could go sideways. At the end of a career year, Burton’s groin injury popped up mysteriously the day before the Bears’ playoff game and he required offseason surgery. Shaheen’s back hurt during camp. Sowell, a converted tackle, has never played the position. The Bears consider both their tight end positions complicated to learn, particularly on the fly by a new player. Their ability to develop a practice-squad player — Jesper Horsted, maybe? — will be critical to their depth.

Offensive line

Starters: Tackle Charles Leno, guard Cody Whitehair, center James Daniels, guard Kyle Long, tackle Bobby Massie.

Backups: Guard Ted Larsen, tackle Rashaad Coward, tackle Cornelius Lucas.

The Bears doubled down on their starting line this offseason by extending Massie and reworking Long’s contract and keeping him around. They’re likely to extend Whitehair before Thursday. The depth question, though, looms large. The Bears likely will search the waiver wire Sunday for a backup tackle to pair alongside Larsen on the bench. Then they should pray to stay healthy. In their three years together, neither Leno nor Whitehair has missed a start, while Massie has missed two. Long has started 25 of a possible 48 games during the last three years, but he feels as healthy as he has during that span.

Defense

Defensive line

Starters: Tackle Akiem Hicks, nose tackle Eddie Goldman, end Bilal Nichols.

Backups: Tackle Roy Robertson-Harris, nose tackle Nick Williams, tackle Abdullah Anderson.

Hicks leads one of the NFL’s elite front lines. This is where it all starts for the Bears’ defense. They got great push last season and fueled the top run-stopping unit in the NFC. Hicks, Goldman and Nichols have good cohesion, and the tackle depth is solid with up-and-comer Robertson-Harris and journeyman Williams. The only semi-surprising roster cut was the departure of defensive end Jonathan Bullard, a third-round pick in 2016.

Outside linebacker

Starters: Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd.

Backups: Isaiah Irving, Aaron Lynch.

It doesn’t matter what names are listed here after Mack. He’s among the most talented players in the NFL and he’s the scariest man on a scary defense. He had 12½ sacks, six forced fumbles and an interception in his first season with the Bears and has his heart set on being even better this year. Mack is as motivated as ever and sees this as the best chance of his career to win a Super Bowl. The Bears could line up anyone next to him and be fine. Better yet for them, they have Floyd, a freakish athlete.

Inside linebacker

Starters: Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan.

Backups: Nick Kwiatkoski, Josh Woods, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Kevin Pierre-Louis.

Smith is the focal point of this unit, and Mack believes he can earn an All-Pro selection this season. Is that realistic? Yes. He had 121 tackles (13th in the NFL), five sacks and five pass breakups. Pairing him with Trevathan gives the Bears a potentially dominant duo if they both stay healthy. Trevathan had 102 tackles last season and is in a contract year. Woods had a great preseason coming off a year of practice squad work and making the team was a nice payoff for his patience.

Cornerback

Starters: Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Buster Skrine.

Backups: Duke Shelley, Kevin Toliver II.

There’s some risk here for the Bears. Fuller seems to be coming into his own after two strong seasons, including an All-Pro selection in 2018, but there’s no guarantee he can keep this up. Cornerback is one of the most unpredictable positions, and it’s hard to anticipate when a player is going to slide. That’s a concern with Skrine, their slot corner, and Amukamara. Those two have had good careers, but they’re 30 and entering their ninth season. Coaches always say they can never get enough cornerbacks, and the Bears are hoping Shelley and Toliver give them sufficient depth despite being unproven.

Safety

Starters: Eddie Jackson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

Backups: Deon Bush, Sherrick McManis, DeAndre Houston-Carson.

No one worries about Jackson. He was an All-Pro last season and looks to be building a case as the most dangerous safety in the NFL. Clinton-Dix, meanwhile, is the biggest question mark in the defensive starting lineup. He has a lot to prove after a frustrating 2018 season that left him to sign a one-year deal. The upside is that he wasn’t actually that bad last year, and he’s still only 26. He has a lot at stake as he relaunches his career, but chose an ideal opportunity to do that. He is surrounded by good players and should get the chance to show he can still be a playmaker.

Specialists

Starters: Kicker Eddy Pineiro, punter Pat O’Donnell, long snapper Patrick Scales.

The Bears know what they have in O’Donnell, who’s entering his sixth season with the team, and Scales, who’s about to play his fourth for them. Kicker is a whole other story. Pineiro survived the Bears at-times-ridiculous derby. Will he last beyond Sunday, when the Bears look at the waiver wire and available free agents?