Prior to their preseason opener the Chicago Bears released their first unofficial depth chart. While it’s far from a work in progress, it gives a fans a good idea of who to expect as the starters come Week One.

There weren’t too many surprises, but analyzing the depth chart will allow us to see exactly where the Chicago Bears stand heading into the preseason.

Quarterback

The QB depth chart is as expected with Mike Glennon as the starter, Mark Sanchez the backup and Mitch Tribusky as third string.

Tribusky will have a chance to earn the backup role with a strong preseason. However Sanchez has put together a strong offseason, and barring injury should hold on to the job.

Tribusky will sit for most of the season as he looks to learn as a rookie. Once the Bears fall out of playoff contention it’ll be much more likely that he see’s the field. For now, Sanchez would be the next man up if Glennon were to be injured.

Connor Shaw is listed as the fourth string quarterback and is likely to get cut before the season starts. If Glennon/Sanchez get injured for an extended period of time Shaw would likely to signed to the roster.

Running Back

Like the quarterback position, the running back depth chart is pretty standard. Bell cow back Jordan Howard is listed as the starter with Jeremy Langford the backup and rookie Tarik Cohen the third string.

The most interesting battle at running back will likely come between Langford and Ka’Deem Carey. The two are the most likely to enter the year as the backup, and could be angling for one spot. Whoever ends up winning the battle will be extremely important for Howard’s fantasy owners. For now Langford has the edge, but a lot can change with a strong preseason.

Outside of Howard the most exciting back is Cohen. While he stands just 5’6″ he has been making play after play at Bears training camp. Dubbed “The Human Joystick”, Cohen has the speed and creativity to give defenses headaches. If Howard’s pass catching falters again in 2017, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Cohen earn the backup role.

Benny Cunningham, who is listed as the fifth string running back, should make the team as a Special-Teamer, but he won’t have a role on offense.

Jordan Howard is still the leader and one to watch, but Langford, Carey and Cohen should all battle to be the backup by Week One.

Wide Receiver

Receiver should be one of the more interesting position battles throughout camp and one of the most fun positions to watch during the season. Currently Cameron Meredith and Kevin White are listed as the starters with Markus Wheaton and Victor Cruz as the backups and Kendall Wright and Josh Bellamy as third string.

Meredith and White will no doubt be the starters on the outside, but the slot position is still up in the air. One would think Wheaton and his $6 million contract would be the leader, but he has yet to impress at training camp. Guys like Wright and Cruz have been taking snaps out of the slot and could conceivably win the job.

Meredith, White, Wheaton/Wright/Cruz should be the top five with multiple other receivers battling for one or two spots.

Bellamy has a leg up due to his experience and Special Team ability as does Deonte Thompson. But much like running back, if a young player shows up during the preseason he could steal a role from one of those two receivers.

One name to watch would be Tanner Gentry, a UDFA out of Wyoming. He has caught everything during Training Camp and has really made a name for himself. Of course, we all saw Daniel Braverman receive the same hype only to get cut before the season started. Gentry will have to prove he can be an NFL starter against NFL level competition. If he does there’s a good chance the former Wyoming product makes the roster.

For now only the two starters in Meredith and White are locked in out of the receiving core. There will be jobs lost and won during the preseason making the position one to watch as the regular season draws closer.

Tight End

One of the few real “shocks” of the first depth chart came from the tight end position. Dion Sims is listed as the starter with Zach Miller as the backup and rookie Adam Shaheen as the third string.

Sims spent four years with Miami before signing a three year/$18 million deal with Chicago over the offseason. During that time he appeared in 56 games, starting 22. He caught 74 passes for 699 yards and eight touchdowns.

Sims is being paid as a starter, so it makes sense he’s listed with the first team. What’s shocking is that Zach Miller, who many expected to start, has been demoted to the second team.

With his demotion, it would not be shocking to see him cut before the season begins. Miller is a free agent at the end of the year and has just $500,000 of dead money left on his contract. As the Bears rebuild they may rather take a look at one of their young tight ends rather than keep an injury prone Miller.

If they go this route, players such as Daniel Brown, MyCole Pruitt or Ben Braunecker would get a chance to make the team. All three have proven they have the athleticism to start, although that has yet to translate to the field.

While Sims is the starter this year, Shaheen is the real player to watch. He may have played D2 last season, but the Bears took him in the second for a reason. Shaheen will be fun to watch during the preseason and as the year progresses.

Overall, Sims should impress as his first year as a starter, making a big impact in the red zone. Behind him it’ll be up to Zach Miller for if the Bears hold on or decide to go younger at the position.

Offensive Line

The Bears will have the same five starting offensive lineman in 2017, although a few have changed position. Currently Bobby Massie is the RT, Josh Sitton is the RG, Cody Whitehair is the C, Kyle Long is the LG and Charles Leno is the LT.

Long, Whitehair and Sitton should continue to be one of the best interior offensive line units in the league. However Long has been battling an injury and could miss sometime. That option seems unlikely though as Long has gotten in a few practices during Training Camp and was not placed on the PUP.

If Long were to miss time however, Whitehair would likely shift to left guard with Hroniss Grassu taking over center.

Offensive line depth charts could easily change due to injuries/weak play but backups like Grassu, Cyril Richardson and Tom Compton should be guaranteed a spot.

Overall, the Bears offensive line comes in with lofty expectations. If they can stay healthy it’ll certainly be one of the high points of the team.

Defensive Line

For now, the starters are Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman and Mitch Unrein. The backups read Jaye Howard, John Jenkins and Jonathan Bullard. Kapron Lewis-Moore, Rashaad Coward and C.J. Wilson occupy the third string.

Hicks and Goldman’s jobs are safe, but Unrein will have to battle both Howard and Bullard to keep his starting role in 2017.

Unrein failed to impress during his first year with the Bears. In 13 games and nine starters, he only mustered 26 combined tackles and one sack. Unrein is a favorite of Head Coach John Fox, but he won’t keep the starters’ job with those numbers.

Howard dealt with the injury bug in Kansas City last year, only appearing in eight games. But in 2015, Howard appeared in all 16 games, starting 14 and racked up 57 combined tackles with 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble. He will need to prove he could stay healthy, but if Howard returns to his 2015 form he could be a force on the line.

Bullard struggled as a rookie, racking up just 18 tackles and one sack. However Bullard was a force coming out of college, and even considered one of the best picks of the draft. He has put together an impressive training camp and looks ready to take over. If Bullard has a strong preseason, there’s a chance he earns the starting role in his sophomore season.

Hicks and Goldman form 2/3rd’s of a dominate defense line. While Unrein is the starter now, it remains a battle to see who enters Week One with the role.

Linebacker

Linebacker is undoubtedly the Bears deepest position. Currently the first team reads Willie Young and Leonard Floyd at outside linebacker with Danny Trevathian and Jerrell Freeman at insider linebacker.

Floyd, Trevathian and Freeman all have their spots locked up assuming they stay healthy. Trevathian is coming off of a brutal knee injury that ended his season early. But he has been participating in practice and looks to be a focal point of the defense again. Floyd has dealt with concussions in the past, but is focusing on raising his head on tackles to avoid them. He is one of the best young players in the NFL. Freeman wasn’t injury, but he is coming off a suspension due to PEDs. When on the field he is one of the best, he just has to prove he can stay on it.

The other outside linebacker spot is technically still up for grabs. However if Pernell McPhee can’t get healthy, Young will enter the year as the starter. McPhee is currently dealing with a knee injury and has yet to practice. It is looking increasingly likely that he will miss the start of the season.

Outside of the starters the Bears have great depth with guys like Nick Kwiatkoski, Christian Jones and Lamarr Houston. Although Houston could be a camp causality if the Bears decide to go younger.

The Chicago Bears should have one of the best front sevens in the NFL. It’s going to come down to the health of their linebackers.

Cornerback

The cornerback position was completely rebuilt during the offseason and features many new faces. On the outside the starters are Prince Amukamara, whose name is spelled wrong on the depth chart, and Marcus Cooper. In the slot is Bryce Callahan.

Players like Kyle Fuller, B.W. Webb, Cre’Von LeBlanc and Johnthan Banks are all battling for 2-3 spots. The preseason will be crucial in deciding who will be the team’s backups. For now Fuller is listed on the second team with Callahan, although Callahan is assured a starting role in the nickel.

It’s important to note that Sherrick McManis, who is listed as a forth team corner, will likely make the team as a Special-Teamer. He has excelled in that role in the past and was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2016. He likely won’t have a role on defense, but he’s all but guaranteed a spot on the 53-man.

Corner is a position to watch during the preseason. While Amukamara, Cooper and Callahan are all guaranteed spots, the depth behind them is still unsettled. Jobs will be won and lost based on play during the Bears four exhibition games.

Safety

The starters listed are Quentin Demps and Adrian Amos. Behind them are Harold Jones-Quartey and Chris Prosinski. Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson man the third team.

Demps spot is locked in after he signed a lucrative contract with the Bears this offseason. However Amos, while listed as a starter, is not guaranteed to enter Week One with the role.

He has had similar outputs as a rookie and sophomore, racking up a total of 129 tackles with seven passes defended, one forced and recovered fumble and one sack. Amos even graded out with a PFF grade of 80.6 in 2016. 

The Bears however need more from Amos. He hasn’t been the centerfielder the team needs at free safety and the lack of takeaways is concerning. That concern is why the Bears used a third round pick on former Alabama safety Eddie Jackson.

Jackson spent four seasons at Alabama, racking up 126 total tackles with nine interceptions and 12 passes defended. While he is coming off an injury, and currently listed with the fourth team, he is the most likely player to beat Amos for the starting job.

Jackson is a hard hitting safety who can make plays behind the line of scrimmage or with the ball in the air. He is exactly the type of safety the Bears need as he is a ball hawk who has an eye for the turnover.

He is going to have to prove that he is healthy after breaking his leg in 2016. However Eddie Jackson seems like the real deal and could a steal for the Bears in 2017.

Demps is locked in at one of the safety spots, but the battle between Amos and Jackson should be a fun one to watch throughout the preseason.

Special Teams

Kicker and Punter are set with Connor Barth and Pat O’Donnell respectively. What’s interesting in the battle for punt and kick returner duties.

Currently Deonte Thompson is the team’s starting kick returner with Benny Cunningham the backup, Tarik Cohen the third string and Eddie Jackson the fourth string.

Last season Thompson returned 35 kicks for 804 yards and no touchdowns. The 804 yards were the second best in the NFL. Thompson likely won’t have much of a role on offense, so securing the kick returner role is crucial for his 53-man hopes.

He is facing severe competition from Cunningham, whose 599 return yards were seventh best in 2016. Obviously Thomspon currently has the edge, but if Cunningham has a strong preseason he could certainly take the job.

Cohen returned just one kick in college, but he has the speed to be a force on Special Teams. Jackson was more of a punt returner in college, but he could see some time should Thompson/Cunningham falter.

Overall, the kick return competition lies between Thompson and Cunningham. The loser may very well be out of a job.

As for the punt returner, Bryce Callahan is the current starter with Cre’Von LeBlanc the backup, Jackson third team and Cohen fourth team. All four are looking to replace Eddie Royal, who racked up 166 yards and one touchdown in 2016.

Callahan has just two punt returns to his name, for a total of 37 yards. Being listed first team proves that he has really impressed in the return game during training camp. LeBlanc has five returns for 43 yards. Neither Callahan or LeBlanc have all that much experience in the punt return game, but neither are expected to be Hester.

Jackson could have an outside chance to win the job. He returned 11 kicks for 253 yards and two touchdowns as a senior. If he is healthy and continues to improve, perhaps the Bears try their third round rookie in the return game.

Overall, the returners could be completely different come Week One of the regular season. A strong preseason could earn someone a role on Special Teams. Look for the Bears to try multiple different players as returners to see who will stick.

Overall

The depth chart is pretty standard based on who the Bears have on their roster. Outside of Sims there aren’t really too many surprises. Of course that could all change come Week One.

Overall, the Bears aren’t currently one of the league’s best, but they have the pieces together for a potential playoff run in 2018. If Tribusky earns the starting role and Howard continues to shine the team will have a strong offense behind an elite offensive line. If the front seven can stay healthy in front of an improved secondary, the defense can surprise.

The 2017 season is about rebuilding and grooming the youngsters into starters. But Bears fans should have more than enough reason to watch, even if the wins don’t pile up.

 

Feel free to continue the conversation on Twitter: @DFappiano14 or @spot_bears

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Dan Fappiano is the Chicago Bears Lead Writer for Pro Football Spot. He is also currently a Journalism Major at Central Connecticut State University. He is a passionate Bears' fan who is still reeling after the 2006 Super Bowl loss. You may follow him on Twitter @DFappiano14 where he loves receiving compliments and arguing about how the Bears totally won't suck in 2017.