53-man roster construction will require heavier lifting than most think
The Bears are poised to hold their most competitive camp since perhaps the 2007 season, when they were coming off a Super Bowl appearance. That’s the level of talent Pace and Nagy have assembled. But don’t assume the roster is already set — and likewise don’t assume the team’s mind is set on how many players they’ll keep at each position.
For instance, the WR battles are widely considered to be as heated as any in Bourbonnais, but just because keeping seven at that spot is unconventional, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
“Matt and I were just talking to [WR] coach [Mike] Furrey about that this morning. I think it’s a good challenge to have that much competition at that position. Obviously we’re going to be watching it close and letting them battle out. I think sometimes we can get caught up in, ‘oh, we have to keep this many number’ — we’ll be flexible with that. Our goal is to keep the best players. If it means going a little heavy at a position, we’ll go heavy there. It’s exciting to watch that right now because, you’re right, we have kind of flipped that position. It’s tons of competition, they’re all a little different, and that’s why every rep they take in practice, in the games is all going to be closely evaluated by us — because we got to get that right.”
There will be less time to evaluate UDFA Emanuel Hall after he missed the duration of the offseason following sports hernia surgery, but he can absolutely grain ground in a flash. Javon Wims has maximized everyone of his opportunities since being selected in the seventh round last season. Marvin Hall's speed and special-teams prowess shouldn't be ignored. But with fourth-rounder Riley Ridley a virtual lock and the only question on Cordarrelle Patterson perhaps what position he'll be considered, there will be at least one odd man out.
Perhaps it’s worth noting that the Bears kept six receivers on their initial 53-man roster last season, but they also had five tight ends and a fullback. There’s no fullback expected in the mix a year later, and the TE room has more questions with Dion Sims and Daniel Brown exiting and Bradley Sowell converting from offensive tackle.
In addition to receiver and tight end, we’re especially intrigued by the numbers games in both backfields. The nickel position is thin on known quantities behind Buster Skrine, and at corner, Stephen Denmark faces a significant uphill battle with Kevin Toliver, who's coming off a quietly productive UDFA campaign and subsequent offseason.
Does sixth-rounder Kerrith Whyte stick as the fourth back? His speed and athleticism could prove tougher to stash on the practice squad than the sushi-raw Denmark’s. The closest thing we heard Sunday to a hint on the eventual establishing of the 53 was the news that QB3 Tyler Bray still has remaining practice-squad exemption. In other words, barring injury, it’ll be Trubisky and Chase Daniel, same as last season.