Bears Players Who Can Climb Depth Chart with Impressive Camp

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJuly 7, 2021

Bears Players Who Can Climb Depth Chart with Impressive Camp

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    For NFL veterans with job security, training camp is a formality. For those fighting for a roster spot or playing time, it's the most important opportunity of their careers. 

    The Chicago Bears have plenty of the latter to consider heading into this year's camp. The team is set to descend upon Halas Hall toward the end of the month, giving rookies and veterans fighting for jobs alike just a few weeks to prepare. 

    General manager Ryan Pace wasn't able to bring in a ton of new faces due to salary-cap restrictions, but there will still be plenty of competition. The depth chart for several positions is far from settled, and a few of the seven draft picks Pace made in the 2021 draft will assuredly have opportunities. 

    Those opportunities start in camp. Here are a few names to keep an eye on who could carve out a role if they impress with the start of official practices. 

RB Khalil Herbert

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    There's no question that David Montgomery is the top running back on this roster. After that, there's some ambiguity that could be clarified with a strong camp from rookie Khalil Herbert. 

    Tarik Cohen has been the second option in the Bears backfield since being drafted in 2017. The speedster has been an electrifying weapon in the passing game even if he isn't your traditional running back who takes many carries between the tackles. 

    Cohen only appeared in three games last season as a torn ACL ended his season early. Now, the team is left hoping he will be healthy in time for training camp. 

    Chicago signed Damien Williams in free agency, but he's coming off an opt-out year in 2020. He was effective as a change-of-pace back in Kansas City, but he'll be 29 this season and his ceiling has been discovered. 

    That leaves a path to playing time for Herbert. The 5'9" 210-pound sixth-round pick had a breakout season at Virginia Tech after spending the bulk of his college career at Kansas. He has the ability to become a strong one-cut back with home run potential. 

    At the very least, the Bears would love it if Herbert was good enough to force Williams to the roster bubble. 

WR Damiere Byrd

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    Outside of Allen Robinson II and Darnell Mooney on the outside, there's a lot to be sorted out with the Bears receivers. 

    The competition for playing time and a roster spot could be fierce. Anthony Miller and Javon Wims are the incumbents, while Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd were added in free agency. Dazz Newsome comes in as the rookie option after the club used a sixth-round pick on the North Carolina product. 

    The one common thread in all of the new additions is speed and athleticism. Goodwin recently participated in the Olympic trials for the long jump. Byrd ran a 4.28 40-yard dash coming out of South Carolina and Newsome clocked a 4.38. 

    Miller was in the trade rumor mill this spring. Wims has had his opportunities to prove he can be the third receiver. Byrd is coming off his best season yet with the Patriots last year. He posted career highs in receptions (47) and yards (604) while posting 10 catches of 20 yards or more. 

    Only Robinson had more 20-plus yard receptions on the Bears last season. 

    If Byrd can show he's a fast learner with the offense, he could become the No. 3 receiver in camp. 

CB Kindle Vildor

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    Jaylon Johnson's rookie season in 2020 was a definite bright spot for the Bears. The rookie proved that he should be part of their plans moving forward as a starting cornerback. Kindle Vildor would like to make it two starting corners from the 2020 draft. 

    The Bears used a fifth-round pick on Vildor out of Georgia Southern after taking Johnson in the second. He didn't have nearly the same impact as he only played 135 snaps and registered just one pass breakup. 

    With his rookie season behind him, the coaching staff has raved about his improvement heading into his sophomore campaign. 

    "He's definitely flashing," head coach Matt Nagy said of Vildor's performance at OTAs. "Every play you get, every rep you get, you get a little bit more experience, a little bit more confidence and you can play faster. The stuff that goes on on the offensive side of the ball slows down for you and your reactionary skills are better. And what I think you see is you start seeing a lot more of what we saw on tape at Georgia Southern."

    Vildor has plenty of competition for reps. The Bears have potential reclamation projects in Desmond Trufant and Artie Burns as well as other young options in Duke Shelley, Thomas Graham and Tre Roberson. 

    With Kyle Fuller gone, the Bears are going to need someone to exceed expectations to form a solid cornerback group. Vildor could be one of those surprises, and it starts by having a strong camp.