Chicago Bears Depth-Chart Predictions Ahead of Training Camp
Chicago Bears fans don't have to wait much longer for the team to put its new-look rebuilding process into action on the field.
The Bears report to camp at the end of July, meaning there is only a brief hiatus between the hype of the draft and free agency to the sound of pads cracking in the summer heat as the team breaks in new faces all over the roster.
There is no hyperbole in the above—general manager Ryan Pace and the front office remade the roster over the offseason, using the draft to land instant-impact players and completely revamping key areas such as wideout and cornerback.
As such, it's a good time to step back and take a look at the depth chart in its entirety. This is what the projected depth chart looks like heading into camp, where players will battle to rearrange it as the coaching staff looks to put the best possible lineup on the field next season in an effort to keep the rebuild headed in the right direction.
Fans might clamor for the first two names to swap once the season begins.
In reality, though, that has never seemed to be the plan. The Bears targeted a rookie like Mitchell Trubisky throughout the draft process yet had no issue bringing in Mike Glennon on a front-loaded deal in free agency to pad the position.
Glennon is the starter heading into camp and doesn't figure to lose the position. He's 27, and the simple fact he has pro experience is a benefit for the Bears on the field compared to Trubisky. It's only an added bonus that his taking the snaps as starter next season shields Trubisky from immediate expectations.
The two will have a fierce competition for the job this summer, provided the rookie puts pen to paper on a deal. Just keep in mind the hype might blow up the competition more than it deserves.
RB: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Jeremy Langford, Ka'Deem Carey, Benny Cunningham
Running back is a position where the Bears figure to host one of the roster's biggest battles this summer.
Jordan Howard is safe. The breakout rookie rusher who finished behind only Ezekiel Elliott in yards won't loosen his grip on the starting job—and he might even see an uptick in usage if he can show better hands in the passing game during camp.
Behind Howard is something of a mess. Rookie Tarik Cohen looks like a game-breaking player because of his shiftiness and speed. He's the ideal spell as a pass-catching back and possible kick returner, meaning both Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey will need to compete for jobs this summer.
Those two will also need to worry about underrated pickup Benny Cunningham, another pass-catching back who can make big plays with the ball in his hand.
Expect something of a shakeup behind Howard as the Bears try to nail down a quality rotation for the future.
WR: Cameron Meredith, Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton, Victor Cruz, Kevin White, Josh Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, Daniel Braverman, Titus Davis, Tanner Gentry, Rueben Randle
As usual, wide receiver will face one of the biggest overhauls of training camp as players battle it out for spots on the depth chart.
Like Howard at running back, the safe player at the top is Cameron Meredith, last year's breakout hit who could technically have another breakout season with improved quarterback play from a better offense around him.
After Meredith, free-agent adds Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton figure to keep grips on their slots. The former has had success under offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains in the past, and the latter is an explosive weapon who simply needs to stay healthy.
After, recent add Victor Cruz will see some snaps in the slot. This won't fail to mention Kevin White, but he's going to have a hard time cracking the starting rotation next season barring an injury—adding three free agents at the position speaks volumes to where the 2015 top-10 pick sits in his development.
The rest of the guys behind the aforementioned names will fight it out for roster spots, though it's important to point out versatility goes a long way. Keep an eye on a capable returner such as Deonte Thompson to put up a big fight.
TE: Zach Miller, Dion Sims, Adam Shaheen, Daniel Brown, MyCole Pruitt
It's going to be hard for a tight end outside of the top three to stick on the depth chart after final cuts.
That is taking into consideration that veteran Zach Miller might find himself on the chopping block because of his health issues over the years. Miller is a capable veteran, but he's going to need to put up a fight this summer to keep a grip on one of the top two spots.
After all, the Bears added former Miami Dolphin Dion Sims in free agency. He's not only one of the league's best blockers at the spot, but he's slowly adding a budding receiving skill set to his game.
Then there's rookie Adam Shaheen. It wouldn't be a shock to see him ascend to the top spot by summer's end—he's 6'6" and a big-play threat before and after the catch, making him the ideal safety blanket for a free-agent quarterback or rookie.
The other players listed aren't without value, but the front office added two major names to the depth chart here for a reason.
LT: Charles Leno Jr., Bradley Sowell, Dieugot Joseph
LG: Josh Sitton, Eric Kush, Cyril Richardson
C: Cody Whitehair, Hroniss Grasu, Taylor Boggs
RG: Kyle Long, Tom Compton
RT: Bobby Massie, Jordan Morgan
The depth chart along the offensive line has plenty of names yet won't see any changes throughout the starting lineup, barring injuries.
On the edges, Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie won't relinquish roles at tackle despite the fact it is an obvious area of necessary upgrades in the future if something doesn't change. The former is especially under pressure on the left side ahead of a contract year.
On the inside, the Bears tout one of the league's best trios thanks to veterans Kyle Long and Josh Sitton, combined with another one of last year's breakout rookies, Cody Whitehair.
Granted, the Bears might toy with switching Long and Sitton, though it won't negatively impact either. Other safe players on the depth chart include Eric Kush and Jordan Morgan, with the former a versatile backup the team re-signed and the latter a rookie with potential as an offensive tackle a few years down the road.
DE: Akiem Hicks, Kapron Lewis-Moore
T: Eddie Goldman, John Jenkins, CJ Wilson
DE: Jonathan Bullard, Jaye Howard, Mitch Unrein
More than anything, the depth chart surrounding the defensive line is all about health this summer.
Nose tackle Eddie Goldman has great upside at the position, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy. Losing a player like Akiem Hicks—who just had the best year of his career during his first season with the team—would likely create the worst position on the roster.
As far as battles go, look for the Bears to push 2016 third-round pick Jonathan Bullard on the edge. He was too green a year ago yet shouldn't have any problems beating out a stopgap veteran such as Mitch Unrein.
Also keep an eye on free-agent adds John Jenkins and Jaye Howard, with both guys more than capable of pushing for playing time. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio likes to trot out hybrid fronts or throw in wrinkles, so the above names could move all over the place in different fronts, making the depth chart here more interesting than it should be.
OLB: Pernell McPhee, Sam Acho
ILB: Nick Kwiatkoski (Danny Trevathan inj.), John Timu, Jonathan Anderson
ILB: Jerrell Freeman, Christian Jones, Dan Skuta
OLB: Leonard Floyd, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young
Like the defensive line in front of it, the above names at linebacker can shift mostly all over the field and have a huge dependency on guys staying healthy.
Though it's arguably the strongest position on the roster, the linebackers don't even enter training camp healthy thanks to the serious knee injury Danny Trevathan suffered late last year. For shame because in tandem with Jerrell Freeman, the Bears boast one of the best inside 'backer duos in the NFL.
Health is a theme on the outside as well. Pernell McPhee is a solid rusher who hasn't been able to stay healthy. Leonard Floyd was outstanding as a rookie, yet concussion issues curtailed his year. Lamarr Houston could contribute on a rotational basis, but hardly suited up last year.
Depth, at least, once again looks like a strong suit for the Bears here. Nick Kwiatkoski showed well at times on the inside last year, Willie Young is one of the most underrated rotational rushers in the league and a new face like Dan Skuta offers versatility and outstanding play on special teams.
Other than a few cuts, injuries will have the biggest impact here over the summer.
CB: Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper, Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan, Cre'von LeBlanc, Johnthan Banks, BW Webb, Sherrick McManis
S: Adrian Amos, Eddie Jackson, Deiondre' Hall
S: Quintin Demps, Harold Jones-Quartey, Deon Bush
Defensive back received a mention in the intro as a position overhauled in a big way for good reason.
After last year's disaster of a unit, Pace and the front office weren't going to ignore the problem, resulting in potentially two new starting safeties and cornerbacks.
At corner, Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper join the fray on the boundaries after so-so years elsewhere, with the thought being their physical styles will mesh well with Fangio's approach. Nothing changes in the slot, with Cre'von LeBlanc and a few others rotating.
At safety, veteran Quintin Demps permanently takes over one spot, with his nose for the football and leadership a massive boon for the revamped unit. Rookie Eddie Jackson will compete for starter snaps, with his strong range and habit of forcing turnovers the reason the Bears picked him in the fourth round.
Keep in mind floaters like Deiondre' Hall and Kyle Fuller, who might try to compete for jobs at safety as opposed to the cluttered chart at corner.
This is arguably Chicago's most important position outside of quarterback this summer. A unit filled with hope for the future has some immediate help on top of it, meaning the best will emerge with jobs in 2017 and beyond while the rest get left behind.
K: Connor Barth
P: Pat O'Donnell
KR: Markus Wheaton, Eddie Jackson, Benny Cunningham, Tarik Cohen
PR: Eddie Jackson, Benny Cunningham, Tarik Cohen
There were few changes on special teams for the Bears this summer after the front office decided it wasn't a priority to get kicker Connor Barth and punter Pat O'Donnell some competition.
Returners are a little more interesting.
Again, versatility is the theme—rookie safety Jackson could double as a starter and returner because he was one of the nation's best on punts in college. A new arrival like Cunningham could steal a roster spot from other running backs because he's good when going back deep to return kicks.
Though it won't show here, the same versatility story unfolds elsewhere on kick-coverage units, where last year guys like Bryce Callahan made names for themselves and will again increase the likelihood they stick around this summer if they flash again.
While perhaps an afterthought compared to flashier positions, special teams will decide at least a handful of jobs this summer in Chicago.