The Bears’ 5-11 record last season was the byproduct of a roster in Year 3 of a massive rebuild, but even more so it was the result of poor coaching and one of the NFL’s worst injury situations. Even on the heels of an offseason coaching change, there aren’t as many jobs up for grabs as one might expect on a team that’s finished last in its division four consecutive years.
OG Rashaad Coward
After notching one QB hit on 10 snaps as an undrafted rookie defensive tackle, Coward’s new job is protecting the pocket of Bears quarterbacks. That makes the 6-foot-5, 320-pound first-year Old Dominion product a pet project for revered OL coach Harry Hiestand. Will he be instant coffee? That seems unlikely, but Chicago has questions inside with RG Kyle Long recovering from three offseason surgeries, likely starting LG rookie James Daniels having spent most of his time in college at center and top reserve Eric Kush missing last season with an Achilles injury.
Coward has more than enough size and strength to make the conversion, not unlike former Bears stalwart and DL-to-OL conversion project, James "Big Cat" Williams, if he takes to coaching.
OLB Isaiah Irving
With the jury still very much out on projected starting OLBs Leonard Floyd and Aaron Lynch, it seems unlikely Ryan Pace would cut Willie Young and Pernell McPhee and opt (so far) not to re-sign Lamarr Houston without as much as a jar or two on the shelf. Enter Irving, who went undrafted out of San Jose State a year ago but earned a spot on the practice squad after leading the club with three sacks and a forced fumble in the preseason.
A collegiate defensive end, Irving is a bit undersized at 6-3 and 254 pounds, but he showed enough bend and burst to think he has a shot in a similar DPR (designated-pass-rush) role to the one Lynch thrived in under Vic Fangio as a rookie.
RB Ryan Nall
Nall is our first of two undrafted rookies facing an uphill battle at one of Chicago’s deepest positions. But, unlike Benny Cunningham and Taquan Mizzell, the change-up complements to Tarik Cohen, only the 6-2, 232-pound Nall profiles as a potential Jordan Howard replacement in the event the Bears’ Pro Bowl workhorse goes down. Nall exhibited impressive power and run instincts with the Beavers, in addition to displaying promising development as a receiver.
CB Kevin Toliver
The LSU product has the size and skill set worthy of being drafted, but off-field baggage made him a priority free agent. At 6-2 and 192 pounds, he’s almost exactly the same size as Marcus Cooper, against whom he could be competing for one of the roster’s final spots at corner. Toliver provided a few flashes in last month's minicamp, including an athletic diving pass breakup on a fly route down the sideline.
He appears to have more upside than Cooper, 28, who was cut and re-signed this offseason after falling flat on a big contract last year that paid him starter’s money.
OLB Kylie Fitts
Because pass-rush depth is an already-established defense’s biggest concern, we’re doubling up on the flanks with Fitts, the sixth-rounder from Utah. Remember last season, when Eddie Jackson fell in the draft because of a checkered injury history, including a broken leg in his senior season at Alabama?
Injuries derailed Fitts’ final two seasons in college, but he has more size and athleticism than Irving and a few moves in his rush arsenal, including a slick spin that he used to turn the corner (and media members’ heads) at the Senior Bowl in Mobile.