Training camp is where jobs are won and lost in the NFL. The Chicago Bears’ new regime led by general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus has made one thing clear. The competition never stops on this team. Everything must be earned. Your goal is not to play favorites. It’s getting the best players on the field so the team can win more games. So it would be unwise to presume anything. Names that seemed like a lot due to their contributions last year don’t get a free pass. Not when the Bears went 3-14.
Some obvious names do not have to worry much. Justin Fields is one. Braxton Jones, Jaquan Brisker and Eddie Jackson are others. Aside from them and the newcomers via free agency and the draft, almost everyone else shouldn’t be comfortable. Here are four names that have good reason to feel more nervous next month.
Several notable Chicago Bears have reason to be nervous.
WR Velus Jones
Jones was a disappointment as a wide receiver last year. He didn’t have much of an impact catching passes outside of one or two big plays. His trembling hands were often on display. Fortunately, he managed to stabilize himself through some great work on kickoff returns. That being said, the NFL changed their rules, which could make it more difficult to return. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Bears added two new receivers to the mix in DJ Moore and rookie Tyler Scott. This puts pressure on the available places on the list for him. Unless he begins to progress in the passing game, he may find himself fighting for a job, regardless of playing time.
RB Khalil Herbert
David Montgomery’s departure was good news for Herbert. It meant that he was the unquestioned starter going forward. That didn’t last long. Chicago promptly signed D’Onta Foreman in free agency. He rushed for more yards than Herbert last year. The team then eliminated Roschon Johnson in the fourth round. Many pundits believe his all-around game makes him a legitimate threat to steal the starting job. No projected starter faces tougher competition in training camp this year than Herbert. If he doesn’t look good in practice or gets injured in any way, things could fall apart quickly.
DT Justin Jones
Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams made it clear that Jones remains the team’s starting three technique at defensive tackle. He earned it right after being their most reliable interior pass-rusher last season. That’s not saying much, given that he only had three sacks. Chicago selected three defensive tackles: Gervon Dexter, Zacch Pickens and Travis Bell. All three are capable of playing the technique of three. If they start to shine in camp, this coaching staff will give them every opportunity to compete for the starting job. Jones may have seniority, but that doesn’t mean much if he gets outplayed.
L.B. Jack Sanborn
He was outstanding last year, taking over from Roquan Smith. Unfortunately, he stumbled upon a hard truth about the NFL. Injuries can be a death sentence for players of “commoner” status. Without the benefit of being a high draft pick, Sanborn watched as the Bears signed Tremaine Edmunds to take over the middle linebacker job. That means his only way forward as a starter is on the strong side, with TJ Edwards managing the weak. If a position change wasn’t challenging enough, he has to contend with up-and-coming rookie Noah Sewell as competition for the job. Sanborn is tough and smart. He’ll be ready for battle, but the margin for error is small.