The Best Projected Bears Battles at Training Camp

A year ago the only battle anyone worried about was for a kicker, now the Bears will have competition at every corner of training camp

The selection process is complete, save a few free agent pickups for the purpose of making camp battle.

The Bears appear satisfied with what they've done.

"We knew we wanted to add competition," GM Ryan Pace said.

Getting players to compete for roster spots or starting positions was the goal from the end of last season.

Coach Matt Nagy saw some creeping complacency throughout the 2019 season and point out at season's end they have to be ready to come to fight for positions.

With the roster very nearly compete, here are the best starting position battles and roster battles.   And to think, a year ago the only competition anyone cared about was at kicker.

What's really amazing is that with nine tight ends the competition at this position won't even be that important because it will be for a lower roster spot and not one of the starting positions. 

1. Starting Quarterback

The Competition: Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Foles.

The Breakdown: This will be the most publicized battle but probably not the best: The most criticized quarterback in the NFL vs. the Super Bowl MVP from the 2017 season.

Projected Winner: Foles. Unless Trubisky suddenly experienced a breakthrough by doing mental reps while watching film during the offseason, his downfield passing accuracy and decision making come out far below Foles. All of those interceptions Trubisky throws in training camp practices will mean something now. Trubisky's only advantages are mobility and system knowledge, but he tried not to use the mobility last year and Foles has knowledge of this type of offense in Philadelphia and Kansas City.

2. Starting Cornerback

The Competition: Rookie Jaylon Johnson, former Pittsburgh Steeler Artie Burns, former CFL cornerback Tre Roberson, Bears cornerback Kevin Toliver II.

The Breakdown: The battle of players looking for respect. Johnson has all the physical assets and expects to be entirely ready to compete when practices start, after his post-combine shoulder surgery. He's aggressive and has a chip on his shoulder since he thinks he should have been a first-round pick and went No. 50. Burns was a first-round draft pick, started nine games as a rookie and his entire second season in 2017. Pro Football Focus gave him a 70.1 grade that year, not terrible for a second-year player—Kyle Fuller's second-year grade was 70.5. Then it went off the rails. Roberson has outstanding athletic skills and was the CFL's top cornerback, but has already proven he wasn't NFL quality once in Minnesota. It could be the chip on his shoulder he needs. Toliver didn't get drafted out of LSU, and has been lightly regarded despite decent play in spot situations, so like the others he has a chip on his shoulder. 

Projected Winner: Johnson. The Bears didn't take a rookie in Round 2 with the idea of sitting him. Burns would rate a close second, and might even initially win the battle before Johnson takes over.

3. Starting Right Guard

The Competition: Bears 2019 starter Rashaad Coward, former Seattle Seahawk Germain Ifedi, second-year Bears guard Alex Bars, mid-season 2019 acquisition Corey Levin.

The Breakdown: There is so much uncertainty here it wouldn't be surprising if either dark horse candidate Levin or untested Bars snuck in. Coward fared poorly in his first try playing guard after converting from defense to tackle and then being thrust in as starting guard after Kyle Long's injury. Ifedi has the experience advantage but it wasn't good experience. He played tackle and didn't do it well. He hasn't played guard for meaningful snaps in three years. With his rangy build, Bars almost looks better equipped to be a tackle. Levin was signed off the Broncos practice squad last fall and has started one game, in 2018 for Tennessee.

The winner: Ifedi. Almost by default, the Bears will rely on Ifedi to make a turnaround after four years failing to distinguish himself with the Seahawks. Coward is just too inexperienced at the position overall and Levin was cut already a few times. Bars had to come back from a knee injury last year, and it's possible he only made the practice squad because the line coach was his former college line coach, Harry Hiestand. Now Juan Castillo is line coach and the assessment changes. 

4. Backup Inside Linebacker

The Competition: Bears veterans Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Devante Bond and Josh Woods, free agent acquisition Barkevious Mingo, rookie Rashad Smith, rookie Keandre Jones.

The Breakdown: This job is the third, fourth and even fifth or sixth inside linebacker positions behind starters Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith. It was created by the losses of Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis in free agency. Both Jones and Robinson are undrafted rookie free agents just hoping to make the roster. Mingo is a triple-use veteran who has 38 career starts. Bond was signed last year in December after three years and six starts with the Bucs, then played 35 special teams snaps for the Bears. Woods played nine games on special teams last year. Iyiegbuniwe is a fourth-round pick who has been on special teams but has yet to justify his draft status with only 26 defensive snaps played in two years.

The Winners: Mingo, Woods, Smith, Bond. Iyiegbuniwe has it in his hands to take this spot but hasn't show he can do it in two years. Bond at least has starting experience. Mingo will be both inside and outside linebacker and special teams player. Smith was the leading tackler for Florida Atlantic and the requirement for the position is plenty of tackles and an ability to learn the system well.

5. Starting Safety

The Competition: Former Houston and Jacksonville safety Tashaun Gipson, Bears veteran Deon Bush, Bears veteran DeAndre Houston-Carson, former Chief Jordan Lucas, former Packer Kentrell Brice, veteran Sherrick McManis.

The Breakdown: The case is closed. Tashaun Gipson has agreed to a one-year deal according to Pro Football Talk, and he ranks head and shoulders above the rest. Bush has been in Chicago since 2016 and had to wait his turn to get a starting spot because the Bears had Amos and then in 2017 Eddie Jackson. Instead, they signed Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Now he gets his chance. Lucas has had even less starting experience than Bush, and the Chiefs apparently didn't value him too much because they spent only a seventh-round pick to acquire him from the Dolphins. However, he performed adequately when given his only chance in 2018 with four starts, allowing 61.5% completions and a 94.9 passer rating while missing on 11.1% of his tackle attempts. Houston-Carson has been in Chicago as long as Bush and has never been ahead of him on the depth chart. Brice failed to make the Bucs last year and sat out a year. McManis is essentially here only for speccial teams, almost like Houston-Carson. 

Projected Winner:  Gipson is a former Pro Bowl player and unlikely to lose out unless there is an injury.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven