Projecting the Bears’ final roster

This one was hard.

When we did this exercise at the start of training camp last year, there were more than 40 players on the Bears practically guaranteed to make the team’s final 53-man roster. This year, you’d be lucky to find 30.

That’s what happened when the Bears decided to reboot, axing players who had the resume, guaranteed money or draft status to mandate a roster spot. The result of that blood-letting: a 2022 team that, early in training camp, doesn’t profile as dangerous, deep or expensive.

Here’s a look at the Bears’ 90-man roster— and predictions for who makes the final 53-man lineup on Aug. 30:

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks (2 keepers/3 on roster)

They’re keeping: Justin Fields and Trevor Siemian

On the bubble: Nathan Peterman

Battle to watch: There’s not really one — and that’s what puts Justin Fields in a much better position than last year, when he was the second-stringer.

The big number: 635 — Snaps taken by Fields last year. First overall pick Trevor Lawrence had 1,078.

He said it: “[Fields] is ‘so natural-born leader type of guy. So we’re lucky to have a guy like that leading this thing.” — offensive coordinator Luke Getsy

Running backs (5/6)

They’ll likely keep: David Montgomery, Khalil Herbert, Trestan Ebner, Darrynton Evans, FB Khari Blasingame

On the bubble: De’Montre Tuggle

Battle to watch: How the Bears divide up the workload between Montgomery and backup Herbert. Last year, Getsy’s Packers gifted starter Aaron Jones 11.4 rushes per game and backup AJ Dillon 11.

The big number: 4.41 — Yards per carry that Herbert averaged during the four games Montgomery was injured.

He said it: “He’s quick and shifty. He’s going to help us a lot.” — Montgomery, on Ebner

Wide receivers (6/13)

They’ll likely keep: Darnell Mooney, Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, Velus Jones, N’Keal Harry, Dazz Newsome

On the bubble: Tajae Sharpe (NFI), Nsimba Webster, Isaiah Coulter, Chris Finke, David Moore, Kevin Shaa, Dante Pettis

Battle to watch: The Bears vs. every available receiver in the league. The guess here is the Bears add sign at least two wideouts by Week 1.

The big number: 2 — Catches by Newsome last year. He’s one of two returning Bears receivers who caught a pass for the team in 2021.

He said it: “If it’s to prove they can play [or] proving they can sustain success over multiple years, I think everyone has a chip on their shoulder to prove that they are that guy. We’ll see.” — Poles on the receivers

Tight ends (3/6)

They’ll likely keep: Cole Kmet, James O’Shaughnessy, Ryan Griffin

On the bubble: Jake Tonges, Rysen John, Chase Allen

Battle to watch: Kmet vs. expectations. Kmet made a jump last year, but needs another one. With journeymen behind him, he’s one of a handful of players the Bears can at least afford to lose.

The big number: 0 — Touchdown catches by Kmet last year.

He said it: “When we get in the red zone, [Kmet] is gonna be somebody that we’re gonna lean on, for sure.” — Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy

Offensive line (9/16)

They’ll likely keep: LT Riley Reiff, LG Cody Whitehair, C Lucas Patrick, RG Michael Schofield, RT Larry Borom, C/G Sam Mustipher, T Teven Jenkins, T Braxton Jones, G Ja’Tyre Carter

On the bubble: Doug Kramer, Zach Thomas, Lachavious Simmons, Dieter Eiselen, Jean Delance, Julien Davenport, Shon Coleman

Battle to watch: Reiff and Schofield vs. Father Time. It’s a bad sign that both veterans, signed on the eve of camp, are favorites to start. It’s an even worse one that Patrick broke his thumb during the second practice.

The big number: 83 — Pro Football Focus’ free-agent ranking of Reiff, one spot ahead of former Bears tackle Germain Ifedi. The site predicted that “franchises with a disastrous situation to tackle may turn to him late in the process to plug a hole.” Bingo.

He said it: “[The Bears’ young tackles] are athletic. Real athletic. They’re going to become seasoned. Obviously, it takes time, especially nowadays in the NFL with pass rushers.” — Reiff

DEFENSE

Defensive line (9/15)

They’ll likely keep: Robert Quinn, Justin Jones, Angelo Blackson, Trevis Gipson, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Mario Edwards, Khyiris Tonga, Dominique Robinson, Mike Pennel

On the bubble: Carson Taylor, Charles Snowden, LaCale London, Micah Dew-Treadway, Auzoyah Alufohai, Sam Kamara `

Battle to watch: Quinn vs. the trade market. One year after setting the franchise’s single-season sack record, Quinn is a rare veteran the Bears haven’t moved — yet.

The big number: 10 — PFF gave Gipson the 10th-best pass rush grade in the NFL last year, behind nine (mostly) household names: Myles Garrett, Maxx Crosby, TJ Watt, Joey Bosa, Rashan Gary, Nick Bosa, Jonathan Greenard, Von Miller and Chandler Jones.

He said it: “It’s good to have him back and be in the same environment as him.” — Gipson on Quinn, who skipped practices in the spring.

Linebackers (5/9)

They’ll likely keep: Roquan Smith (PUP), Nicholas Morrow, Matt Adams, Caleb Johnson, Joe Thomas

On the bubble: Noah Dawkins, CJ Avery, Christian Albright, Jack Sanborn

Battle to watch: Smith vs. Poles. Both sides have remained respectful in a contract extension standoff that has kept Smith away from practice for the first week of camp. The closer it stretches towards the regular season, though, the more disruptive it becomes.

The big number: $98.5 million — That’s how much Shaquille Leonard got on a five-year deal last season — a number that Smith will try to top.

He said it: “He’s the heart and soul of the defence. His presence is always missed when he’s not there.” — Safety Eddie Jackson, on Smith

Cornerbacks (6/12)

They’ll likely keep: Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon, Kindle Vildor, Tavon Young, Thomas Graham, Duke Shelley

On the bubble: Lamar Jackson, BoPete Keyes, Michael Joseph, Jaylon Jones, Greg Stroman, Jayson Stanley

Battle to watch: Where will Gordon play? The rookie’s ability to toggle between outside cornerback and the nickelback spot gives the Bears flexibility to compare players across roles. That means Vildor, Graham and Young are competing against each other.

The big number: 103.3 — The passer rating the Bears defense allowed last season, the highest in the NFL.

He said it: “The plays that [coordinator Alan Williams] calls may be different. But for me, my techniques, my zones really are the same. I mean, some of the readings and things, some of the progressions may be slightly different. But the defense is the defense.” —Johnson

Safeties (5/7)

They’ll likely keep: Eddie Jackson, Jaquan Brisker, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Elijah Hicks, Dane Cruikshank

On the bubble: AJ Thomas, Jon Alexander

Battle to watch: Can Cruikshank catch up? The veteran, who missed OTAs and began training camp on the Non-Football Injury List, can be a special teams weapon for the Bears. He played on 83 percent of the Titans’ kicking downs in 2019 and 51 percent last year.

The big number: 3 — Takeaways by Houston-Carson in 419 defensive downs last year. Entering 2021, he’d only played 176 over five years.

He said it: “You’ve just got to be patient. I am going to be patient. However long it takes.” — Jackson

SPECIAL TEAMS (3/3)

They’ll likely keep: 3

In: K Cairo Santos, P Trenton Gill, LS Patrick Scales

Battle to watch: Gill could kick off instead of Santos.

The big number: 6 — Field goals missed by Santos in two seasons. Cody Parkey missed seven in 2018.

He said it: “It can change minute to minute, quarter to quarter. So you just have to be on top of those situations and it just changes.” — Special teams coordinator Richard Hightower, on Soldier Field weather

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