Since the legal tampering period began on March 16, the Bears have acquired several new players who they hope will make an impact on their current roster.
Some of the moves resonated well with Chicago’s fan base like bringing in Robert Quinn to replace Leonard Floyd. Others, or specifically, the Jimmy Graham signing, didn’t provide much excitement.
Regardless, general manager Ryan Pace made the necessary moves to, at the very least, bring competition to multiple positions on the team.
As of today, here are all the new players the Bears have signed.
- TE Jimmy Graham
- EDGE Robert Quinn
- QB Nick Foles
- CB Artie Burns
- S Jordan Lucas
- EDGE Barkevious Mingo
When Pace spoke to reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine, he kept reiterating the word competition, and he believes that “competition bring[s] out the best in everybody.”
Pace will get to see first hand if his words hold true. Going into this season’s training camp, there will be plenty of players fighting for their jobs and rankings on the depth chart.
QB: Mitch Trubisky vs. Nick Foles
The battle between Trubisky and Foles will be the biggest storyline for the Bears’ 2020 season. When the trade happened, there were multiple media members who had conflicting opinions as to how this quarterback competition will play out. ESPN’s Tom Waddle said Foles should be the starter and the Bears should look to trade Trubisky, while NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah believes it will be an actual competition.
With the Bears trading their fourth-round draft pick and guaranteeing Foles just over $20 million for his remaining contract, it seems he would be the starting quarterback. The former Super Bowl MVP also gives the team the best option to win right now. He is familiar with the type of offense Matt Nagy wants to run, is more composed in the pocket than Trubisky and is capable of reading defenses, since he has eight years of experience in the NFL.
It will be interesting, though, if Pace and Nagy are truly committed to giving up on Trubisky. Pace has said countless times that Trubisky will be the starter this season. So, possibly, Foles was brought in to initially mentor the former No. 2 overall pick, but have the opportunity to start if Trubisky doesn’t show drastic improvement in Year 4.
"They need a guy to come in and lead, do what he's supposed to." –@kurt13warner told us what @NickFoles might find himself in with the #Bears in 2020 on our show today via @zoom_us: pic.twitter.com/DpbUO6ZjzO
— Rich Eisen Show (@RichEisenShow) March 24, 2020
However this competition plays out, each pass and every decision Trubisky and Foles make in training camp will be evaluated and compared to one another. The more consistent quarterback will start Week 1.
CB: Kevin Toliver vs. Tre Roberson vs. Artie Burns
Other than the QB competition, seeing who will start opposite of Kyle Fuller to start the 2020 season is the most intriguing. Toliver may have the upper hand at initially starting, but that is only due to having played his last two seasons in Chicago. When he was splitting reps with Prince Amukamara at the end of last season, Toliver didn’t show enough consistency as a starter. He did, however, have this nice play against Davante Adams.
Kevin Toliver defends a back shoulder fade against A-rod and Devante Adams by keeping contact on the FRONT shoulder before getting his head around and literally using his head. pic.twitter.com/b48PTzrriZ
— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) March 21, 2020
When Pace was asked about Roberson’s expectations for this season, he had high praise for the former Calgary Stampeder.
“I don’t want to put a ceiling on him,” Pace said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “He is an intriguing player. Really good ball skills, really good anticipation and instincts … I’m not comparing him to Fuller, but he kind of has that style of play in how he can anticipate and jump routes …”
The Chicago Audible talked to Roberson’s former defensive backs coach while he was with the Stampeders and his former college teammate, and you can check out those interviews here. Roberson excelled in the Canadian Football League, but he will go against much tougher competition when training camp begins.
As for Burns, the former first-round draft pick has significantly underperformed thus far in his career. Still, that didn’t stop Pace from giving Burns an opportunity to showcase his ability with the Bears. He does have some familiarity with his former college teammate safety Deon Bush, and that could help Burns’ transition to Chicago.
WR: Javon Wims vs. Riley Ridley
This specific competition may be a surprise for some fans, but depending on how Wims and Ridley perform in training camp may dictate early in the season how the reps are split up in specific gameplans. Especially since both the former Georgia Bulldogs lined up primarily at the wide receiver position in 2019.
In the Week 17 matchup with the Vikings last season, both receivers had over 30 offensive snaps: Wims (65) and Ridley (31). The Bears primarily used Ridley (29 of his 31 snaps) when they were in their standard 11 personnel — one running back, one tight end and three receivers, while Wims was featured in 11, 12, 20 and 21 personnel groupings. Wims, a former seventh-round draft pick in 2018, has a better understanding of the offense, and that was shown through the ways Nagy used him last season.
Ridley, a fourth-round draft pick in 2019, didn’t play his first offensive snaps until Week 13 against Detroit on Thanksgiving. Nagy’s offense is complex, so it shouldn’t be too alarming that it took time for Ridley to get acclimated. Now that Ridley is entering Year 2, though, expect him to be implemented more into the offense.
As stated above, there is a quarterback competition. But if Foles ends up winning the starting job, both Wims and Ridley will have to develop continuity and chemistry with their new quarterback, and whoever does a better job of that will get more playing time throughout the season.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Bears most likely aren’t done adding to the wide receiver position. With Taylor Gabriel gone, there is a need to add a receiver who can take the top off a defense. For now, Wims and Ridley will be competing with each other, but that can change after the NFL draft.
S: Deon Bush vs. Jordan Lucas
Bush should be the favorite right now to start opposite of Eddie Jackson. On March 20, Bush re-signed with the Bears on a one-year, $1.4 million deal.
Although Bush only has 277 total defensive snaps in the last two seasons, he still has found ways to impress his former and current defensive coordinators Vic Fangio and Chuck Pagano.
Vic Fangio expressed confidence in Deon Bush, who is expected to assume Eddie Jackson's role at safety for the Bears. He touted the work ethic and desire: "I'm anxious to see him play."
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) December 20, 2018
Chuck Pagano thinks very highly of Deon Bush. https://t.co/t8WY0zGqv5
— Adam Jahns (@adamjahns) March 20, 2020
Lucas is coming from the Super Bowl Champion Chiefs, but he made his biggest contribution on special teams. In 2019, Lucas played 63.3 percent of special teams snaps and only 3.8 percent on defense. Similar to his time with the Chiefs, Lucas should make his biggest contribution to the Bears on special teams.
Just like the wide receiver position, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Bears decide to add another player in free agency or the draft to compete against Bush at the strong safety position
EDGE: Isaiah Irving vs. Barkevious Mingo
Right now, the third edge position on the Bears’ roster is wide open.
Despite Irving going into his fourth season with Chicago, he has failed to make much of an impact on defense. He has one sack in 33 games played. Mingo, who signed a one-year deal, has 10 career sacks in seven seasons. However, the former first-round draft pick in 2013 does have some familiarity with Pagano. Both were a part of the Colts’ organization in 2017.
Realistically, the Bears shouldn’t expect much on defense from Irving or Mingo. Since both players have struggled to sack opposing quarterbacks, the more versatile player could end up winning that third edge spot.
Here is a quick thread on new #Bears linebacker Barkevious Mingo. Seattle used him in a variety of different ways when they played the Bears in Week 2 in 2018. He does have some versatility to his game. Most likely, he will compete with Isaiah Irving for that third OLB spot. https://t.co/OWQDl8G9cY
— Nicholas Moreano (@NicholasMoreano) March 23, 2020
Where Irving and Mingo have provided an impact is on special teams. In 2019, Irving played 37 percent of special teams snaps, and Mingo played on 75.6 percent with Houston, and that included a block punt against the Texans in the Divisional round.
There is plenty of time before the 2020 regular season begins, but before the Bears can think about playing an opponent, the team needs to figure out the placement of some key players on their depth chart.
Hopefully, Pace is right about competition bringing out the best in everybody, because if he is wrong, the players’ hierarchy on the depth chart will be the least of his worries.