We officially have reached the dog days of the NFL season.
The schedule is coming, the owners and NFLPA will negotiate new terms of engagement for this season as COVID-19 hopefully winds down, there will be a few more notable free-agent signings and some interest in OTAs and minicamps. And when it gets too quiet, Aaron Rodgers again will start leaking things, trying to position himself as a victim rather than a villain and pretend it’s coming from everyone but him.
But for the most part, things are going to get quiet, so what better time to take a whack at projecting the Bears’ 2021 opening day depth charts? We’ll do offense today and we’ll talk defense tomorrow.
QUARTERBACKS: 1. Andy Dalton, 2. Nick Foles, 3. Justin Fields
Like it or not, barring something unforeseen, Dalton is the starter for now. And if he’s still here, Foles will be No. 2. while Fields does his best to race through classes in the University of the NFL.
The Bears have tried to move Foles. but it looks like even with a post-June 1 designation, they’d have to take a salary cap hit to do it, and that makes it seem unlikely.
June 1 savings are the hardest thing in the game for me to figure out every year, however, so if Foles can be moved without a cap hit, I’d expect they’d move Fields to No. 2 and Tyler Bray would get a chance to celebrate his 50th birthday on the Bears’ practice squad.
RUNNING BACKS: 1. David Montgomery, 2. Damien Williams, 3. Tarik Cohen, 4. Khalil Herbert
After finishing fourth among RBs last year in yards from scrimmage behind only Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara, just how high is Montgomery’s ceiling, and how productive of a duo can he be with Williams?
With Williams here, Cohen now can be a true third-down back, occasional receiver and punt returner, which is what he’s built for. Although he’s a sixth-round draft choice, the rookie Herbert already is a more dangerous weapon as a ball carrier than Ryan Nall or Artavis Pierce, although he will have to show he can carry at least some of Nall’s special teams chops.
Expect Pierce back on the practice squad.
WIDE RECEIVERS: 1. Allen Robinson, 2. Darnell Mooney, 3. Marquise Godwin, 4. Anthony Miller, 5. Damiere Byrd, 6. Dazz Newsome
It still is impossible to figure out how the Bears and Robinson haven’t worked out a long-term deal yet, but he’s here at least one more year, and it will be exciting to see how much better Mooney can get.
Most have Miller gone, but his ceiling is still as high or higher than any other pass catcher on the team but A-Rob, and maybe the light finally goes on?
I still haven’t figured out why they don’t like Riley Ridley, but it seems clear they’re not impressed.
TIGHT ENDS: 1. Cole Kmet, 2. Jimmy Graham, 3. J.P. Holtz
This feels easy. If you look at the roster, who else is it going to be? Maybe Jesper Horsted if they carry four?
OFFENSIVE LINE: 1. Cody Whitehair, 2. James Daniels, 3. Sam Mustipher, 4. Alex Bars, 5. Teven Jenkins, 6. Larry Borom, 7. Germain Ifedi, 8. Elijah Wilkinson
It won’t shock me if either Ifedi or Wilkinson – one or the other, not both – don’t last, depending on how all the youngsters look this summer and whether they can get Lachavious Simmons and Arlington Hambright to the practice squad.
And they may carry nine if Simmons is much improved this summer and they don’t want to expose him to waivers.
Expect Jenkins to be the Week 1 starter at left tackle, and although none are ideal, Bars, Ifedi and/or Wilkinson could step in if necessary, and all three and Borom can play on the right side.
Bars, Ifedi and Borom also provide plenty of depth inside.