Joniak: Bears' Final Roster Selections Coming Down To Wire

Jeff Joniak
August 27, 2019 - 6:47 pm
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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) – Jeff Joniak’s latest observations about the Chicago Bears:

--The Bears organization has made efforts to connect with area high schools during the preseason and on Monday held their “Varsity Bears” event with Kenwood Academy from Hyde Park. The football team stretched with the Bears in full uniform and got a pre-practice pep talk from head coach Matt Nagy.  “I go back to thinking when I was coaching high school ball 10 years ago,” Nagy said. “That’s some special times there. As a player, it’s some of my greatest memories. You learn so much. It starts there. I told them we will be keeping an eye on them in the next few years with the draft.”

--It’s reality week in the NFL. Cuts are in the works. Jobs in the final preseason game amount to putting good plays on film, likely for another team. Coaches hate the process. “Those are hard,” Nagy said. “Just be real. Be honest with them. Tell them how they can improve and then tell them how you will help them.  If you truly feel like they can still play for another team, help them.”

--There are surprises every year involving the final roster spots due to circumstances, trades and injuries and for waiver claims from other teams.  “You know where that depth’s at, and you try to prep for it,” Nagy said. “But then things change, and everything happens for a reason. It all plays itself out. So, when things happen and someone plays better than you thought they were or someone doesn’t play as well as you thought they were going to play, then that’s where the chips can move to where you have to say, ‘Woah, I didn’t think I was going to have to make this decision.’”

--These are important days for the starting players because they are mentally and physically preparing for the Green Bay Packers next Thursday.  Safety Eddie Jackson said he and his teammates are “all-in” on the Packers. “We anxious right now,” Jackson said. “We want to play so bad. We want to get back to it.”

--While the starters use their time wisely to prepare for the Packers, players on the roster bubble, like running back Ryan Nall, prepare for the Titans Thursday in the preseason finale. Nall had a big game against the Colts after an impressive preseason as a rookie. Has he done enough to be the fourth running back? “I guess were just going to have to find out,” Nall said, laughing. “I just have been doing my job, controlling what I can control. At the end of the day we’ll see what happens.”

--Nall ripped off a 69-yard run against the Colts and caught an 11-yard pass. His plays made up the only two first downs of the first half against the Colts.

--Other players making enough plays to warrant a roster spot include outside linebacker James Vaughters, who is battling with Isaiah Irving for the fourth spot on the depth chart. 

--Inside linebacker is a terrific position to watch because nearly every player has made a big play.  Veteran Kevin Pierre-Louis is a starter-grade defender who is a former Kansas City Chief. Athletic second-year players Josh Woods and Joel Iyiegbuniwe have terrific special teams potential and are developmental guys who offer athleticism at the position. This will be a tough call.

--Backup corner is the one unit that has not distinguished itself in the preseason games while flashing throughout preseason practices. Former LSU defensive back Kevin Tolliver is arguably the most gifted physically and made the team in 2018 as an undrafted rookie. John Franklin III; Oswego’s Michael Joseph; undrafted rookie Clifton Duck have all made plays but still need development. The backup nickel defender is likely going to be sixth-round rookie Duke Shelley, whom the Bears defensive coaching staff was very excited about on draft night. 

--Both receiver Anthony Miller and outside linebacker Aaron Lynch did a little more than they did Monday in practice as they continue to track towards an opening week return from ankle and shoulder injuries, respectively.

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.