It’s never too early to look at a Chicago Bears depth chart – especially when there’s something to get excited about on the offensive side of the ball (for once).
GM Ryan Pace still has some moves to make and positions to fill on offense and defense, but here is our first dive into what new head coach Matt Nagy and his staff will be working with in 2018.
Quarterback: Mitch Trubisky, Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray
We know who QB1 is, and the guys behind him are here – in part – to share their knowledge of the offense with the starter. HOWEVER, there is a different vibe with Trubisky learning from Daniel and Bray than there was when Mike Glennon and Connor Shaw were the quarterbacks. It isn’t a stretch (at all) to say the Bears’ current group is better, and that starts with Trubisky.
Running back: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Taquan Mizzell
The Bears are settled at the top with Howard and Cohen, but’s not a perfect group. Chicago could use a third-down back, and bringing back Benny Cunningham might be nice. Of course, the team could always give Cunningham’s responsibilities to Cohen and draft a back who could carry the load in case Howard misses an extended period of time – Pace has been successful finding value picks at the position, so he could do it again – but I don’t get that sense too often.
The Chiefs used a fullback on just 17.5 percent of the team’s 1,027 offensive snaps. The Bears used one on 18.1 percent of the time. I imagine this trend will continue.
Wide receiver: Allen Robinson, Cameron Meredith, Taylor Gabriel, Kevin White, Josh Bellamy, Mekale McKay, Tanner Gentry, DeMarcus Ayers
On paper, this group is head and shoulders above last year’s. Robinson is the team’s most talented (and proven) receiver. Gabriel is an outside speed threat whose per 16-game averages would have been good enough to be the Bears’ No. 2 receiver with flying colors in 2017. Cameron Meredith can slide into the offense without feeling the pressure of having to carry the group and Kevin White still possesses a ton of upside without feeling the need to be The Man for Trubisky. Josh Bellamy has been pushed down the depth chart with last week’s signings. Mekale McKay is a big-bodied (6-5, 210 pounds) receiver who was added to the practice squad, DeMarcus Ayers is a speedy receiver who has been spotted working out with Trubisky in California in the offseason. Tanner Gentry was a training camp superstar, but has his work cut out for him if he wants to make the team this year.
Tight end: Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Dion Sims, Daniel Brown, Ben Braunecker, Colin Thompson
This mix of pass-catchers (Burton, Brown) and a blocker (Sims) is vying for playing time with a player (Shaheen) just one year removed from being a second-round pick. Practice reps, playing time, and player usage will be worth keeping an eye on this spring and summer.
Offensive tackle: Charles Leno Jr., Bobby Massie
By Pro Football Focus’ grading standards, Leno had his best year as a pro. He was PFF’s 15th best tackle and the best could still be on the horizon. The front office and/or coaching staff likes Massie enough to not make him part of the first wave of cuts. He could see competition in camp depending on how the draft shakes up.
Offensive guard: Eric Kush, Kyle Long
For the sake of this exercise, Eric Kush (who missed last year with a torn hamstring) is the Bears’ starting left guard. Kush was in Kansas City in 2013 and 2014 when Nagy was the team’s QBs Coach and Brad Childress was Andy Reid’s Spread Game Analyst. I’d assume Long slides in at right guard, but remember when the team was going to swap Long and Sitton? Meanwhile, we’re still unsure about Cody Whitehair’s future.
Center: Cody Whitehair, Hroniss Grasu
If Whitehair moves to left guard, Grasu looks to get first crack at returning as the team’s starting center. New offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich is familiar with Grasu from his time at Oregon, so perhaps he has ideas on how to get more out of a disappointing draft pick.
Offensive line: Bradley Sowell, Jordan Morgan, Cameron Lee, Brandon Greene, Will Pericak
Sowell re-signed early in the offseason to be the team’s swing tackle, but there are a handful of players for just a few spots. Jordan Morgan was a fifth-round draft pick in 2017 transitioning from Kutztown University and making the move from left tackle to guard. Cameron Lee and Brandon Greene were undrafted free agents who finished the year on the Bears’ active roster. Both have untapped upside because of their unique physical traits. Will Pericak was a mid-season addition to the practice squad. Whoever emerges from this group to make the team will have performed well to do so.
Nose tackle: Eddie Goldman, Rashaad Coward
Goldman is in line for an offseason extension as he enters the final year of his contract. Coward received a late-season call-up from the practice squad when Goldman missed a game with an injury.
Defensive end: Akiem Hicks, Jonathan Bullard, Roy Robertson-Harris
The Bears might not miss Mitch Unrein (who signed with the Buccaneers), if Bullard plays to his potential. A third-round draft pick in 2016, Bullard took significant steps in his development in Year 2 and is currently penciled in as the starter. Robertson-Harris flashed in the preseason and played sparingly on defense. He could make the jump from core special teamer to rotation player with a strong showing in the team’s offseason program.
Outside linebacker: Leonard Floyd, Aaron Lynch, Sam Acho, Howard Jones, Isaiah Irving
After addressing issues at wide receiver, no position group needs help more than this unit. Floyd should be ready to roll for training camp, Acho is a serviceable reserve, while Jones and Irving are back-end depth guys. Lynch is something of an X-factor. If he recaptures what made him a rookie on the rise under Vic Fangio with the 49ers in 2014, this group will look a stronger than it does now.
Inside linebacker: Danny Trevathan, Nick Kwiatkoski, Jonathan Anderson
Another position of need. Trevathan and Kwiatkoski project to be a steady starting tandem, but the team could draft someone with to team with Trevathan and allow Kwiatkoski to continue as linebacker super-sub.
I suppose this is would be a good place to point out that Jerrell Freeman is still listed on the Bears’ active roster despite reports of his release in February, which is odd, to say the least.
Cornerback: Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Bryce Callahan, Cre’von LeBlanc, Doran Grant, Jonathon Mincy
Unless Callahan gets a deal as an unrestricted free agent that blows the Bears out of the water, I expect this group to stay mostly untouched for now. Things could change on draft weekend when the Bears could be in position to draft a young corner who can grow into a bigger role.
Safety: Adrian Amos, Eddie Jackson, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Deiondre’ Hall, Deon Bush
I haven’t felt this good about the Bears’ starting safety situation since Mike Brown and Tony Parrish were roaming the secondary. I’m curious what will happen with Hall and Bush, a pair of fourth-round picks who have played bit roles in the past. Houston-Carson seems to have carved himself a role as a core special teamer.
Special teams: Cody Parkey, Pat O’Donnell
The only special teams position that is currently unfilled is long snapper. Patrick Scales could be an option to return once he is fully cleared after missing last season with an ACL injury.