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Projecting Bears’ 53-man roster

Nearing the end of the first week of training camp, the Sun-Times’ Patrick Finley predicts who will stay for Week 1 — and who will go.

Chicago Bears Training Camp
Bears offensive players run during training camp Friday.
Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Nearing the end of the first week of training camp, the Sun-Times’ Patrick Finley predicts who will stay for Week 1 — and who will go:

OFFENSE

Quarterback

They’ll likely keep: 3

He’s in: Andy Dalton, Justin Fields, Nick Foles.

The lowdown: The Bears would love to find a taker for Foles, who is in the second year of a three-year, $24 million contract and is the NFL’s most overqualified third quarterback. The Colts — who have an injured Carson Wentz and coach Frank Reich, Foles’ former offensive coordinator with the Eagles — seem like an ideal fit. The Bears wouldn’t expect much in return.

They said it: “Right now everyone is feeling that [Dalton’s] experience brings some confidence with it. I think that’s rubbing off on a lot of people.” — OffensIve coordinator Bill Lazor

Running back

They’ll likely keep: 5

He’s in: David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Damien Williams, Ryan Nall, Khalil Herbert.

He’s on the bubble: Artavis Pierce.

He’s out: C.J. Marable.

The lowdown: Presuming Cohen returns from his torn ACL in the next six weeks, the Bears’ top three running backs are set in stone. Nall and Pierce have shown flashes, and Herbert could be the kick returner. The Bears can justify keeping five running backs because Cohen and Williams function as de facto receivers.

They said it: “If [Montgomery] is running the ball well and we’re doing great with the O-line, let’s get after it.” — coach Matt Nagy, who said he could average 20 carries

Wide receiver

They’ll likely keep: 5

He’s in: Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Damiere Byrd, Marquise Goodwin, Dazz Newsome.

He’s on the bubble: Riley Ridley, Javon Wims.

He’s out: Rodney Adams, Justin Hardy, Thomas Ives, Jon’Vea Johnson, Chris Lacy, Jester Weah.

The lowdown: The Bears have spent years waiting for regular contributions from Wims and Ridley. Instead, they have 38 catches in five combined seasons. This is the year one of them joins Anthony Miller on the list of receivers the Bears can’t wait around for any longer.

They said it: “He does what he’s supposed to do. He’s simple. He knows his role. He’s fast. He’s a smooth runner.” — Nagy on Byrd

Tight end

They’ll likely keep: 4

He’s in: Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet, Jesse James, J.P. Holtz.

He’s on the bubble: Jesper Horsted.

He’s out: Scooter Harrington.

The lowdown: Kmet played 33 fewer snaps than Graham last year. That won’t happen again. The Bears will ride their second-year tight end and use Graham as a mismatch. The Bears had 10 tight ends on the roster the day they drafted Kmet. They’re down to six after adding James as a depth piece on the eve of camp.

They said it: “With Cole, his role is definitely going to increase.” — Nagy

Offensive line

They’ll likely keep: 8

He’s in: Teven Jenkins, Cody Whitehair, Sam Mustipher, James Daniels, Germain Ifedi, Larry Borom, Elijah Wilkinson, Alex Bars.

He’s on the bubble: Arlington Hambright, Lachavious Simmons.

He’s out: Dieter Eiselen, Dareuan Parker, Adam Redmond, Badara Traore, Tyrone Wheatley Jr.

The lowdown: The Bears are set to have an entirely new starting lineup compared to Week 1 of last year. Jenkins’ bad back is concerning. After playing right tackle during most of his college career, he needs all the snaps he can find on the left side during practice. Wilkinson is the team’s lone experienced backup.

They said it: “Offensive line is a cohesive thing, so we all have to be seeing through one set of eyes at one time. That’s the unique and great part of the position.” — Mustipher

DEFENSE

Defensive line

They’ll likely keep: 5*

He’s in: Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks, Bilal Nichols, Angelo Blackson, Mario Edwards*, Mike Pennel.

He’s on the bubble: Khyiris Tonga.

He’s out: Daniel Archibong, Sam Kamara, LaCale London.

The lowdown: Edwards was suspended for the first two games for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy, so he won’t count against the 53-man roster. That’s why we can keep six linemen in this exercise but count only five. Pennel, who has played 91 games for the Packers and Chiefs, has the early edge on Tonga, the seventh-round pick, for the backup nose tackle spot.

They said it: “When we can give [Hicks] a break during training camp we’ll try to help him, take some reps off him. He’s come back in tremendous shape.” — Defensive coordinator Sean Desai

Outside linebacker

They’ll likely keep: 4

He’s in: Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, Jeremiah Attaochu, Trevis Gipson.

He’s on the bubble: James Vaughters, Charles Snowden.

He’s out: Ledarius Mack, Caleb Johnson.

The lowdown: The Bears hope Attaochu, who had five sacks with the Broncos last year, will give them more of a pass-rush presence than Barkevious Mingo did last year. After Quinn’s disastrous season, they might need him. Keep an eye on Snowden, whom some experts projected to be a fourth-round pick but fell to undrafted-free-agent status.

They said it: “I’m going into my 11th year trying to prove it to myself first — then I’m sure everyone will accept that.” — Quinn

Inside linebacker

They’ll likely keep: 5

He’s in: Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan, Josh Woods, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Christian Jones.

He’s out: Austin Calitro.

The lowdown: Jones — nicknamed “Cheese” by former Bears coordinator Mel Tucker during his first stint with the franchise — returns after three years with the Lions. He’ll join Iyiegbuniwe and Woods on the list of special-teams stalwarts. The two played 645 snaps combined on kicking plays last year.

They said it: “I love [Jones’] personality. He’s willing to learn, he has a relationship with Sean. So that depth, having that depth at inside linebacker is going to be crucial.” — Nagy

Cornerback

They’ll likely keep: 6

He’s in: Jaylon Johnson, Desmond Trufant, Kindle Vildor, Thomas Graham, Duke Shelley, Artie Burns.

He’s on the bubble: Xavier Crawford, Michael Joseph, Tre Roberson, Teez Tabor.

He’s out: Dionte Ruffin.

The lowdown: The Bears will spend the next six weeks auditioning starters at two of their three cornerback spots — the slot and whoever plays opposite Johnson. They’ll scour the league for help if they don’t see what they want.

They said it: “Everybody’s playing style is different. I know Jaylon is different than Trufant. I know Trufant is different than Kindle. Once those things are set in stone, then we’ll be able to get a hold on everything and go from there.” — safety Tashaun Gipson

Safety

They’ll likely keep: 5

He’s in: Eddie Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Deon Bush, Marqui Christian

He’s on the bubble: Jordan Lucas

The lowdown: Jackson hasn’t practiced in camp because of a hamstring problem, but the Bears say they’re not concerned. The last safety spot will be a battle between Lucas, who opted out last season because of coronavirus concerns, and Christian, whom the Bears signed twice last year but never put in a game.

They said it: “[Jackson’s] got the same script the coaches have got. So he knows what all the calls are. He’s communicating. He’s helping the guys that are coming off the field and giving them points. When you get that, and you get players coaching players and speaking the same language, I think that adds a lot of value.” — defensive coordinator Sean Desai

SPECIALISTS

They’ll likely keep: 3

He’s in: K Cairo Santos, P Pat O’Donnell, LS Patrick Scales.

He’s out: K Brian Johnson.

The lowdown: The Bears return all three specialists for the first time in special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor’s tenure at Halas Hall. The Bears re-signed Santos, who made 30 of 32 kicks last year, to a three-year deal worth up to $11 million in March.

They said it: “We don’t look at missed kicks and go, ‘Oh, I made that last year.’ Last year was last year. This year is this year.” — Tabor