Preseason is over and the Bears, along with every other team in the NFL, are down to 53 players. Rosters and lineups will continue to change as players bound for IR vacate spots and waiver claims go through, but for now let’s break down the five biggest takeaways from this new look Bears team.
- The Tight End-Fullback Scenario
The Bears rounded out Tuesday with only two traditional tight ends- every down starter Cole Kmet and blocking depth option Ryan Griffin. Usually, teams try to keep 3 or even 4 or 5 TEs on hand for heavy sets, as Bears fans should be well versed with from our time watching Ryan Pace constructed teams. The Bears instead elected to keep two fullbacks. Fullbacks often can fill into dual roles, usually as depth tight ends or depth running backs (famous other examples include the Raven using fullback Pat Ricard as a defensive tackle). Presumptive starter Khari Blasingame definitely leans more toward the running back end of that spectrum- he produced on the ground and through the air as a utility weapon for the Titans. However, Cal UDFA Jake Tonges actually arrived to Bears camp as a tight end- and was shockingly able to beat out Chase Allen and James O’Shaughnessy (illness may have contributed) for a spot. Despite Tonges commendable effort, I would expect the Bears to be examining the TE waiver market very closely, especially with the team having such a high waiver selection.
- The Surprise Corner Opening
Tavon Young’s season coming to an ignominious close via IR* was a sad sight for those of us (myself included) who saw his cheap signing as completing a good looking secondary. Now, Kyler Gordon may have to shift inside with Kindle Vildor or Lamar Jackson out (quick pat on my own back for calling he makes this team back in May)- or Duke Shelley takes that slot job with Gordon staying outside. If one or the other is the case, the new starter is an instant liability. If they rotate based on skill set, I doubt this young unit will be able to prevent the kind of back breaking busts that enraged fans last year.
*Tavon Young just tweeted that he is not actually on IR.
- Tackle Depth
The Bears only elected to keep three true tackles (now) while going heavy on the interior. They will be relying on the ability of Teven Jenkins, Zach Thomas, and JaTyre Carter to slide back into tackle spots if they’re struck mid game by injuries, which happened on multiple occasions last year. The decision by Poles to keep of all his o-line picks underlines how heavily he has committed across the roster to injecting his influence- an important trait in a GM but a risky gamble as of now.
- 7 Wide Receivers
The Bears kept 7 receivers, more than most teams usually do. Given how banged up the unit has been, this makes some sense, but it will likely make even more if N’Keal Harry were to hit the 4 week IR tomorrow. At that point I would expect the Bears to waiver claim another receiver, perhaps Tyler Johnson, and release someone like Tajae Sharpe to compensate. Every other player has a very definite role, but it is simply pedigree and proven production the Bears must search for to get both results and the narrative off their back.
- D-Line Needed
The Bears cut down to just 8 D-lineman today, and with these cuts held onto a number of low-level players. I expect this unit to be pretty weak, particularly in run support, and wouldn’t be surprised if it were bolstered via waiver tomorrow. Otherwise, I think we’ll hit the 2023 NFL draft begging for a true 3-Tech to unlock the scheme and help the ragtag current assortment. Luckily, the D-Line class in the draft is strong. Jalen Carter, anyone?