Picking the Bears’ 53-man roster

Two weeks from Tuesday, teams will cut their 90-man rosters — 91 in the Bears’ case because they have an international player — to 53.

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Bears Terrell Lewis Titans Will Levin football NFL

The Bears’ Terrell Lewis sacks the Titans’ Will Levin on Saturday.


The clock is ticking.

Two weeks from Tuesday, teams will cut their 90-man rosters — 91 in the Bears’ case because they have an international player — to 53. It’s a new way of doing things in the NFL, which in recent years mandated three cutdown days, then two.

Coach Matt Eberflus likes the idea of having all 90 players on hand for the third preseason game, though he’s not guaranteed to use all his starters. That’s a problem for next week, though. After their first preseason game — and on the eve of two joint practices against the Colts in Indianapolis — here’s how the Bears’ final roster is shaping up:


(25 keepers out of 46 players)

Quarterbacks (2/4)

They’re keeping: Justin Fields, P.J. Walker.

On the bubble: Nathan Peterman, Tyson Bagent.

What we’ve learned: Not enough about Fields, at least on the back fields during training camp. Even as his coaches and teammates praise his growth, Fields has been up-and-down in practice. He has been tested in a way he never was last year, however.

The big question: Besides the big one — Is Fields the guy? — the most intriguing question to come out of the quarterback room is whether the Bears will keep four quarterbacks. New NFL rules mean Peterman could serve as the Bears’ emergency quarterback so long as he’s on the 53-man roster. Bagent, who has looked capable, would be a good practice-squad choice.

Running backs (5/7)

They’re keeping: Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman, Roschon Johnson, Travis Homer, FB Khari Blasingame.

On the bubble: Trestan Ebner, FB Robert Burns.

What we’ve learned: The Bears figure to split carries among three running backs, but they’re treating Herbert like the nominal starter. Foreman didn’t touch the ball until almost five minutes into the second quarter Saturday.

The big question: It looks as though Johnson can handle the physicality of the NFL — his 12 carries Saturday were the second-most of any running back in the league who has played only one game this preseason — but the Bears need to find out whether he can pass-block.

Wide receivers (6/11)

They’re keeping: DJ Moore, Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Equanimeous St. Brown, Tyler Scott, Velus Jones.

On the bubble: Dante Pettis, Joe Reed, Daurice Fountain, Isaiah Ford, Nsimba Webster.

What we’ve learned: Moore is as advertised. Even before he turned a screen pass into a 62-yard touchdown the first time he touched the ball Saturday, Moore had looked like the best player on the roster.

The big question: What’s Claypool’s deal? His constant yapping during practice annoyed the Bears’ defense for the first two weeks of practice, but at least he was out there after missing spring practices with injuries. Then Claypool hurt his hamstring last Wednesday and hasn’t practiced since. The best version of Claypool will add juice to a steady receiver room. The worst version might hurt the team.

Tight ends (3/6)

They’re keeping: Cole Kmet, Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis.

On the bubble: Stephen Carlson, Jared Pinkney, Lachlan Pitts.

What we’ve learned: The Bears see Kmet as an important part of their future after giving him a four-year, $50 million contract extension while he participated in the first day of camp practices.

The big question: Besides being a strong locker-room presence, how can Lewis help the Bears? Lewis is entering his 18th season, which would be the most a tight end ever has played. The Bears expect him to be a solid blocker, but he’s in unprecedented territory.

Offensive line (9/18)

They’re keeping: LT Braxton Jones, LG Teven Jenkins, C Cody Whitehair, RG Nate Davis, RT Darnell Wright, G Ja’Tyre Carter, C/G Lucas Patrick, T Larry Borom, G Alex Leatherwood.

On the bubble: Logan Stenberg, Aviante Collins, Kellen Diesch, Dieter Eiselen, Robert Haskins, Gabriel Huoy, Doug Kramer, Josh Lugg, Roy Mbaeteka.

What we’ve learned: Wright reported to camp in great shape — he accidentally practiced conditioning drills for receivers — and has yet to miss a practice. He looks comfortable at right tackle.

The big question: Can the interior line stay healthy? Davis hasn’t participated in every drill of a padded practice yet. Jenkins has a bad back that he needs to monitor daily. Patrick hasn’t practiced since getting hurt during Family Fest. The Bears need more depth at swing tackle than they do inside, but they might go hunting for both.


(25 keepers out of 42 players)

Defensive line (10/15)

They’re keeping: Yannick Ngakoue, Andrew Billings, Justin Jones, DeMarcus Walker, Dominique Robinson, Gervon Dexter, Zacch Pickens, Rasheem Green, Terrell Lewis, Trevis Gipson.

On the bubble: Travis Bell, Jalen Harris, Andrew Brown, D’Anthony Jones, Bravvion Roy.

What we’ve learned: That the Bears were just as concerned about edge rusher as their fans were. They were smart to pay a bit extra to limit their commitment to Ngakoue to one year. Walker’s injury — he hasn’t practiced in August — has further exposed the Bears’ lack of depth at the spot.

The big question: Could Gipson get cut? Two years removed from finishing second on the Bears in sacks, Gipson was listed as a third-stringer on the first depth chart. Notching a sack against the Titans was a good argument for him to stick around.

Linebackers (5/10)

They’re keeping: Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards, Jack Sanborn, Noah Sewell, Dylan Cole.

On the bubble: DeMarquis Gates, Buddy Johnson, Micah Baskerville, Barrington Wade, Mykal Walker.

What we’ve learned: Not enough about Edmunds, who was limited in team drills Aug. 2 and hasn’t practiced since. He’s the centerpiece of a Bears defense that was the worst in the league last season and is in the first year of a four-year, $72 million contract.

The big question: Is Sewell a starter? He has played with the starters dating to the spring because of Sanborn’s injury. Sanborn sliding over to middle linebacker with Edmunds hurt has kept Sewell in on the strong side.

Cornerbacks (6/10)

They’re keeping: Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon, Tyrique Stevenson, Josh Blackwell, Terell Smith, Jaylon Jones.

On the bubble: Kindle Vildor, Bralen Trahan, Michael Ojemudia, Greg Stroman.

What we’ve learned: Stevenson isn’t scared. The Bears’ second-round pick this year has looked like he belongs, both in practices and in the game Saturday. When Smith got hurt, he was getting more starter’s snaps than Stevenson. It’s hard to see that happening anytime soon.

The big question: Will Johnson get paid? He has a new agent and has been wise enough not to negotiate in public, but it’s clear that getting something done before Week 1 would be preferable to both sides.

Safeties (4/7)

They’re keeping: Eddie Jackson, Jaquan Brisker, Elijah Hicks, Kendall Williamson.

On the bubble: Adrian Colbert, A.J. Thomas, Macon Clark.

What we’ve learned: Jackson’s left foot is just fine. Having a Lisfranc injury is a scary and, in some cases, career-threatening diagnosis. Jackson managed to avoid surgery after getting hurt in November and looks like himself in practice. The Bears have been giving him extra time off, which befits his veteran status and injury history.

The big question: Who’s the fourth safety? There’s no question that Jackson, Brisker and Hicks are locked into their positions. Williamson, a rookie from Stanford, will have to fend off Colbert, Thomas and whomever the Bears might add on the waiver wire.

Specialists (3/3)

They’re keeping: K Cairo Santos, P Trenton Gill, LS Patrick Scales.

What we’ve learned: The Bears never doubted Santos. The kicker they brought in as competition, Lake Forest native and Syracuse alum Andre Szmyt, was cut last week before he could kick in a game.

The big question: Can Velus Jones catch punts? He fumbled two of them in five tries last season and muffed one of his two attempts Saturday. If he can’t secure the ball, there might not be a place for him on the team.

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