the Chicago Bears completed their early off-season workouts this month. Now players step away for a summer break, getting their minds and bodies rested for the hard work to come. Matt Eberflus promises lots of running. He will get these guys in peak condition for the long season. The other part of his job will be figuring out what his starting lineup will be come the opener in September.
There are early indications of where some of these roster battles are going. Eberflus promised his goal from the start was to get the best possible players on the field. Their backgrounds don’t matter, whether they’re rookies or 10-year veterans. Show you deserve the job in practice, and you’ll have it when actual games begin. Here is the latest update on who the leaders in the clubhouse are with training camp approaching.
Chicago Bears roster battle leaders with camp approaching
This might be the most discussed situation on the entire roster. Everybody assumed Borom and Jenkins would be the starting tackles this year following free agency and the draft. Then the coaching staff decided to shift Borom to right tackle in OTAs, demoting Jenkins to the second-team offense. Rookie Braxton Jones took over at left tackle. The alignment remained that way through the entirety of veteran minicamps. Jenkins needs to pick things up in August if he wants to avoid the bench.
- Leader: Sam Mustipher
- Chasers: Zachary Thomas and Ja’Tyre Carter
Nobody could’ve predicted this is how things would shake out. Mustipher has never played any position other than center in college or the NFL. He’s neither the biggest, strongest, or most mobile as offensive linemen go. Yet, with the injury to Dakota Dozier, he is almost the default favorite to start at right guard. This underscores how thin the Chicago Bears are at the position. Thomas and Carter have potential, but they’ll need to show more of it before the team is comfortable giving them a real opportunity.
- Leader: Angelo Blackson
- Chasers: Khyiris Tonga and Mike Pennel
Justin Jones is the unquestioned starter at the three-technique spot. Nose tackle is a different story. It’s difficult to know who the definitive starter is right now. Blackson played well last season and has experience playing that spot. However, his grip on the job is far from secure. Tonga has the body for that job, while Pennel could be the sleeper favorite to eventually win it outright, given his experience playing it for years. All he needs is to learn the new defense in time. Arriving before training camp was favorable to his cause.
Strong side linebacker
- Leader: Matthew Adams
- Chasers: Joe Thomas, Caleb Johnson, and Jack Sanborn
Roquan Smith at middle linebacker and Nicholas Morrow at weak-side linebacker seem set in stone. The strong side is a different story. Adams is the current leader, less for his overall ability and more due to his experience playing in Eberflus’ defense. Most of his career has been spent as a backup and special teams ace. Usually, he’d be a prime candidate for somebody else to overtake. The problem is the other contenders aren’t exactly huge threats. Thomas is a journeyman. Johnson has little NFL experience, and Sanborn is an undrafted rookie. Maybe somebody steps up, or maybe the Chicago Bears make a late addition to the mix.
Jaylon Johnson and Kyler Gordon look like the starting outside corners on defense. That makes nickel corner the chief battleground in the secondary. Young arrived with the most experience in the group and was the most proven, thanks to his time in Baltimore. Yet by the end of minicamps, he was running with the second-team defense while Graham was with the starters. That might be the biggest shocker of any battle so far. The former 6th round pick has really stepped up his game, and the coaching staff is taking notice. He’ll have to maintain that momentum once the pads go on.
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