Roster Holes Bears Must Fill Ahead of Training Camp

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJuly 21, 2021

Roster Holes Bears Must Fill Ahead of Training Camp

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bear had a potentially franchise-altering offseason with the selection of Justin Fields with the 11th pick of the 2021 NFL draft. But there's still some work the team could do to fortify their best possible roster this season. 

    The pursuit of maximizing the talent on a roster is a never-ending pursuit. The bulk of the offseason are both in the rear-view but that doesn't mean there aren't still players out there who could improve the roster or give them better options going into training camp. 

    Even more options will become available as teams start cutting down their rosters. While the Bears have mostly addressed the glaring needs in some way already this offseason, these positions are worth keeping an eye on players who are looking for work. 

Swing Tackle

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    Whether it's Andy Dalton or Justin Fields taking snaps, protection is going to be vital. Right now, that means depending on rookie Teven Jenkins, Germain Ifedi and Elijah Wilkinson to control pass-rushers on the edge. They also drafted Larry Borom in the fifth round of this year's draft. 

    Ifedi finished the season well but only moved out to tackle after playing guard the first half of the season. He has shown the ability to play there but is far from a proven commodity. While playing tackle in Seattle he gave up no fewer than five sacks each season, per Sports Info Solutions

    As far as Jenkins go, it's important to remember that not everyone is Tristan Wirfs. Rookie tackles can have a steep learning curve. Ifedi, who started as a rookie in Seattle, acknowledged this regarding his teammate:

    "As a rookie O-lineman, there are so many things you don't know, and you don't even know what you don't know, and it can be a real tough thing," Ifedi told Larry Mayer of "You're kind of learning on the go in a lot of situations."

    Right now, there isn't much depth behind the duo slated to start. That's a fairly easy fix, though. Multiple veteran tackles would be worth adding even as a swing tackle who could reliably fill in, including Mitchell Schwartz, Rick Wagner, and Russell Okung. 


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    The back end of the secondary had a rough season in 2020. Eddie Jackson (110.1) and Tashaun Gipson (96.3) were the most-used safeties and neither boasted strong passer ratings when targeted. 

    That isn't necessarily a guarantee they will be that bad in 2021. Jackson has played at an All-Pro level before, and Gipson is a solid, experienced safety. The hope will be that new defensive coordinator Sean Desai will help them get to a better level of play. 

    But the depth behind the duo doesn't inspire confidence in case of injury or slumping performance. Deon Bush has mostly been a special teamer. The same could be said for Jordan Lucas. There aren't any young exciting options on the roster at this point. 

    That will eventually need to be addressed through the draft, but there's no sense in waiting around until that happens. 

    It would make sense for the Bears to pursue some of the veterans already on the market like Jeff Heath, Malik Hooker or Tre Boston. Otherwise, they might be paying careful attention to safeties who don't survive camp with their current team. 

Inside Linebacker

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    With the first 17-game season coming in 2021, depth is going to be more critical than ever. That's why it would behoove the Bears to shore up their inside linebacker crew as they head into camp. 

    Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan are a strong duo on the inside. Smith is still one of the elite players at the position. Trevathan was solid last season, although he struggles in coverage more than you'd like to see. But, on the whole, it's a duo that could anchor a great defense. 

    After that? It gets pretty dicey. 

    Josh Woods has 19 career tackles. Joel Iyiegbuniwe has mostly been a special teams player. Christian Jones is most likely the next man up, but he's coming off a season in which he graded out at a below average 45.7 by PFF's metrics. 

    Smith and Trevathan each played all 16 games last season. Betting on that happening again seems like a risky wager. With veterans out there like K.J. Wright, Avery Williamson and B.J. Goodson, the Bears should still be exploring possibilities for insurance at the position.