Bears Have Their Cake, And Are Eating It Too
The Bears have released their 53 man roster and practice squad, and now it's time to reflect. This article will discuss the practice squad players, inside linebacker depth, and strengths/weaknesses of the roster. Here is a link to the 53 man roster(https://www.chicagobears.com/news/bears-announce-53-man-roster-x6606).
When the Bears made their initial cuts, fans were losing their minds over James Vaughters, and Alex Bars. I'll preface this by saying, players do not get claimed off waivers in masses, and it is easier to get players to the practice squad than you think. This year 35 players were claimed off of waivers by nine different teams. Each team cuts 33 players, which means there were 1,056 players waived. Only 3% of players were claimed off waivers yesterday, one being Jonathan Bullard. Abdulah Anderson is expected to take Bullard's place in the rotation. Although Bullard got claimed by Arizona, a team in need of defensive lineman, it speaks volumes about how far the Bears have come in the last five years. That in mind, I am still surprised the Bears were able to get both Vaughters and Bars to the practice squad. Bars had an extremely impressive pre-season and showed versatility playing tackle and guard effectively. Houston needs O-lineman desperately. I'm surprised the Texans, or any other team didn't put in a claim for Bars. Then again, Houston has been making questionable moves since Bill O'Brien took over GM responsibilities. Vaughters was another player fans feared to lose. He has some things to work on, especially in the running game( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAlxrCx8kwg&lc=z23vtvvziwmghhtrd04t1aokgxty1z1bb3r4xgp2trrark0h00410), but I assumed he would be picked up by a team like the Jets, as a situational pass rusher. He made impact plays in every preseason game, and there is a premium on pass rushers. Luckily for the Bears, he wasn't. Other fan favorites like Ryan Nall, Thomas Ives, and Jesper Horsted all made the practice squad while Clifton Duck didn't. It just seems weird the Bears would keep Stephen Denmark, a player you didn't see or hear much about, over Duck. Duck had a knack for breaking on the ball and making big hits, but with the Bears already keeping an undersized DB in Michael Joseph, I see Denmark as this year's John Franklin III. He is huge for a corner, standing at 6'3" weighing 220 pounds. The Bears are hoping Pagano, and his staff can develop Denmark, making him a possible candidate to make the team in 2020. The player everyone was most surprised to see on the practice squad was Tyler Bray. Not because of his play, but because Chicago media continually emphasized that he was no longer practice squad eligible. NFL rules state that a player can only be on a practice squad for three years, and Bray is going into his 7th season. This is where it gets murky. In 2013 Bray made the Chiefs 53 man roster but was never on the practice squad. In 2014 and 2015 Bray was on IR, and in 2016 there is no record of Tyler Bray being in the NFL. Then in 2017, the Chiefs put him on the practice squad, and last year he was on the Bears practice squad. I don't know how so many people missed it, but he has one year of eligibility left. Having Bray gives Bears fans a sense of relief, knowing how poorly Chase Daniel has played. Looking at all ten players, the Bears did an incredible job assembling their practice squad.
The fact that the Bears are keeping six inside linebackers caught everyone by surprise, and it shows Pace is a man of his word. He said "the best 53 will make the team," and the inside linebacker room is proof of that. The Bears went into the preseason knowing this was one of their deepest positions. The groups lead by two great starters, but the four backups are impressive as well. Kevin Pierre-Louis adds a veteran presence to the young linebacker group, and also played well in the preseason. Nick Kwiatkoski was a lock to make the team, but he is the most interesting of the group. First, because he is rumored to be a trade candidate. In the right defensive scheme, Nick Kwiatkoski could easily be a starter. I don't see any reason the Bears would trade him unless they received an offer they couldn't refuse. Last year, before Mack Day, the Bears were considering using Kwiatkoski as a situational pass rusher. He has shown the ability to get to the quarterback, and his deficiencies in coverage wouldn't be as noticeable when only dropping into shallow zones or the flats. So he may be listed as an ILB, but don't be surprised if you see him work in a little on the outside. The last two players, Josh Woods and Joel Iyiegbuniwe, were seemingly competing for the final spot. Both players played well enough in the offseason to make the team. Luckily the Bears didn't set limits at any position, because losing either one would have been a difficult pill to swallow. Pace must've had feelers, and trades out there to see what players would make it past waivers. After seeing how the roster fell into place, how can you believe otherwise? Hence the title of the article, " Bears Have Their Cake, And Are Eating It Too."
The strengths and weaknesses of the roster are clear. The Bears are deep at wide receiver, running back, and inside linebacker. They also have starting-caliber players spread throughout the depth of the roster. Deon Bush played well in the absence of Eddie Jackson last year, and has taken another step forward during the preseason. He and Sherrick McManus were the best DB's on the field during the preseason. Although McManus has switched to safety, he still plays the nickel. His versatility and special teams play are why he made this team. Between McManus, Tolliver, and Bush the Bears should be comfortable with their defensive backs. What excites me the most is the Bears defensive line depth. They are stacked! Roy Robertson-Harris could easily start on a different roster. Nick Williams is a solid back up, and Abdullah Anderson emerged as a force upfront this preseason. The only place the Bears seem to be lacking depth is at outside linebacker. As I mentioned before, the Bears might have answers for this within the inside linebacker room. The top end of the room is vastly different from the bottom, so health is important for the Bears starting OLB's. The Bears defense is primed to finish as a top defense again in 2019.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bears don't have much depth. The Bears have three back up offensive lineman, and only one is proven. Ted Larsen is the only player I would be confident in, stepping into a starting role. Cornelius Lucas III shouldn't have made the team. He hasn't played well since he's been with the Bears. He made the team because he has some left tackle experience, not because he is a better player than Bars. If Bars didn't clear waivers, I would have been sick. Again, luckily things worked out, and the Bears kept every one. Rashaad Cowherd is going to play swing tackle, and back up Bobbie Massie at right tackle, but he hasn't panned out how everyone expected. He was supposed to step in for Bradley Sowell seamlessly. Sowell would then transition to Y tight end, but it didn't work out that way. Cowherd is a downgrade from Sowell, and we don't know if Sowell will pan out as a tight end. Which leads me to the weakest position group on the team, the tight ends. Trey Burton's groin is still bothering him, and he didn't practice today. Adam Shaheen still needs to prove he can stay healthy for sixteen games. The Bears starting tight ends might not be available for a majority of the season. While "every team needs a Ben Braunecker," he still isn't the answer, and obviously, Sowell is an experiment. He will most likely be in heavy-sets to block and occasionally turn into a possession receiver. The Bears also stashed Daxx Raymond on IR and Jesper Horsted on the practice squad. Although you saw Horsted make some flashy catches this preseason, it is difficult for a first-year tight end to step into this offense and be productive. Bears fans can only hope his Princeton education will help him pick up this playbook in a hurry because they will call his number at some point this season. Nagy will be able to dumb things down for the rookie, but still, it's a cause for concern. This offense runs through its tight ends and running backs, but Nagy is aware of the situation and will have to scheme game plans without them.
I didn't mention the kicking situation in the text above for a reason. No one knows whether or not Eddy Piñero will be a success or failure. The media needs to take it easy. Otherwise, the Bears will have kicking issues for years to come. Piñero gets to miss kicks, plain and simple, he just cannot become a liability. Have a little faith.
The Bears have an extremely talented roster when you boil it down. The only glaring weaknesses are within the depth of the roster. Roster cuts were the last step. It is officially the regular season, and it is time to go to work. Next step, beat the Packers!