The Chicago Bears are set to report to training camp on July 25, and there will be no shortage of position battles to watch as camp and the preseason unfold. There are not only starting jobs on the line but roster spots as well.
Chicago has seen some roster turnover as general manager Ryan Poles continued to retool the roster in his second season. There’s plenty of young talent on the roster, between free agency and the NFL draft, looking to challenge for starting roles this season.
Here’s a look at the most intriguing position battles heading into Bears training camp later this month, from running back to cornerback to kicker.
Running back will be one of the premier battles in training camp, featuring three capable lead backs — Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman and rookie Roschon Johnson. The Bears operate by a committee approach, so all three guys will get opportunities. But there will be plenty of competition for the lead back role occupied by David Montgomery last season. Herbert appears to be the favorite for that spot heading into camp, but Foreman and Johnson could certainly challenge him. Especially Johnson, who excels in areas the other two don’t: pass protection and pass catching.
The Bears had a glaring need at cornerback behind Jaylon Johnson and Kyler Gordon, and they addressed it by trading up for rookie Tyrique Stevenson in the NFL draft. Stevenson already impressed during the offseason program, and he’s the presumed starter heading into the 2023 season. But he’ll have to beat out the likes of Kindle Vildor and Jaylon Jones for the starting job opposite Johnson on the outside, as Gordon will play exclusively in the slot. Stevenson has already worked his way up the depth chart during the offseason, and he has a chance to cement himself as the clear-cut starter once the pads come on in training camp.
The Bears overhauled their linebacker group this offseason, and Tremaine Edmunds and TJ Edwards will occupy the starting MIKE and WILL linebacker roles. While Jack Sanborn is the presumed starter at SAM linebacker, he should see some competition from rookie Noah Sewell, who took advantage of increased reps during the offseason program. While Sanborn was rehabbing from an ankle injury that cut his rookie season short, Sewell was the beneficiary of those reps with the first-team defense. Matt Eberflus said Sanborn is the starter at SAM heading into training camp. We’ll see if Sewell can challenge him.
The Bears’ top four wide receivers are already set with DJ Moore, Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool and rookie Tyler Scott. But there will be plenty of competition for those final two roster spots. Equanimous St. Brown, Velus Jones and Dante Pettis will be vying for those WR5 and WR6 roles. St. Brown probably has the edge for that fifth spot, given his blocking ability and experience in Luke Getsy’s scheme. So the real fun should be with Jones and Pettis, where special teams contributions — and the battle at return specialist — will likely determine the winner.
While there are concerns about the edge position, the interior of the defensive line has some potential impact contributors, and there could be some competition. Veterans Justin Jones and Andrew Billings are expected to start while rookies Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens could challenge for reps as rotational pieces on defense. Billings and Dexter will compete at the nose tackle spot while Jones and Pickens will battle at the three-technique spot. The expectation is that the experienced Jones and Billings come out on top. But it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Dexter and Pickens challenge for reps as the season unfolds.
Cairo Santos will likely be the Bears’ starting kicker when the season begins, but things could get very interesting during training camp thanks to the addition of undrafted rookie Andre Szmyt. Szmyt could certainly push Santos during the training camp and the preseason. Szmyt has a cannon for a leg, and he has a high ceiling that could translate into a long-term career with the Bears. Still, despite concerns about extra points last season, Santos certainly figures to be the guy in 2023.
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Story originally appeared on Bears Wire