The Chicago Bears will kick off training camp in less than one month, and the daily battle for roster spots and starting jobs comes with it.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll break down each position group and predict which players will make the final roster and what the 2023 depth chart should look like.
Braxton Jones (LT)
Braxton Jones is entering his second season as the Chicago Bears’ starting left tackle. He was an incredible success story in 2022. The fifth-round pick from Southern Utah earned a starting job in training camp and now looks like the team’s long-term blindside protector for Justin Fields.
Jones isn’t bulletproof this season. He’s still a young player, and the Bears added Darnell Wright in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. If Jones gets off to a slow start, there’s a chance Wright will kick over to the left side.
I don’t expect that will happen this year. Instead, there’s a better chance Jones will end 2023 regarded as one of the NFL’s top young left tackles.
Teven Jenkins (LG)
Teven Jenkins had a tumultuous start to his tenure with this Bears regime. He was the center of trade speculation during 2022’s training camp and struggled with injuries before finally emerging as one of the top two offensive linemen on the roster.
Jenkins settled in as the starting right guard last season and will shift to the left side in 2023 after the Bears added Nate Davis in free agency. Jenkins profiled as a better guard than tackle as a 2021 NFL draft prospect, and it’s proving true as he enters Year 3 of his career.
The combination of Braxton Jones and Jenkins gives the Bears a young and talented left side of the offensive line.
Cody Whitehair (C)
Much has been made of the Chicago Bears adding two new starters to the offensive line in free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft, but one of the biggest upgrades in the starting five is Cody Whitehair at center.
The seven-year veteran has started all 107 games he’s played for the Bears. A majority of his starts have been at center, too.
Is Whitehair an All-Pro center? Probably not. But he was considered one of the top young centers in the league early in his career. He’s a massive upgrade over Sam Mustipher and could be the biggest X-factor on the offensive line in 2023.
Nate Davis (RG)
Nate Davis signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Chicago Bears this offseason. He brings an upgrade in power and athleticism to the starting lineup.
Davis was an unheralded reason why Titans running back Derrick Henry’s been so productive the last few years, and many scouts inside the league consider him one of the best guards in the game.
Davis is so good that he forced Jenkins, who played well in his own right in 2022, into a new position for 2023. It’s like adding two upgrades for one (big) contract.
Darnell Wright (RT)
Like any first-round pick entering the NFL, expectations are high for Darnell Wright in 2023. Viewed as a plug-and-play starter at right tackle, Wright will be charged with starting for the Bears on Day 1 of his career.
Wright brings exceptional pedigree and year-over-year improvement in the SEC to Chicago this year. He’s the most naturally talented of all Bears’ offensive linemen and should be a staple in the starting lineup throughout his rookie contract and beyond.
Larry Borom (OT)
Larry Borom appeared destined to be a long-term starter for the Chicago Bears during his 2021 rookie season, but his physical makeup and skill set didn’t match what Ryan Poles and the current regime prioritized.
As a result, Borom never stood a chance to be a regular starter in 2022. Now, he’ll be fighting for a roster spot in 2023.
I think Borom will emerge from the pack of reserve offensive tackles this summer and be the swing tackle at the start of the season.
Lucas Patrick (iOL)
Lucas Patrick was an overrated signing when he joined the Chicago Bears in free agency last year, partly because the Bears weren’t very active in adding starters on the open market in 2022. Patrick was one of the few perceived upgrades Ryan Poles added last offseason.
One year later, Patrick has been bumped from the starting lineup and will serve the 2023 season as the top backup interior offensive lineman. It’s great depth for the Bears and a role that Patrick can thrive in for a while.
Patrick will be the first guy off the bench if there’s an injury at guard or center.
Ja'Tyre Carter (iOL)
Carter rotated with the starters during offseason workouts while Nate Davis trained at home, suggesting the Bears like Carter’s development over the last year.
The 2022 seventh-round pick still has work to do to make the final roster, but at this point, all signs suggest he’ll get the nod over the other young offensive linemen currently on the roster.
Alex Leatherwood (OL)
I have Alex Leatherwood on the final roster because he comes with a first-round pedigree and will cost the Chicago Bears over $4.5 million if they cut him. And while that’s not a ton of money for a cap-healthy team like the Bears, it could be a tie-breaker if roster cuts come down to Leatherwood and another deep reserve.
At worst, Leatherwood becomes a backup lineman who can play tackle or guard. At best, he emerges as a starting-level player who can level up the competition for first-team reps.
Bears keep 9 linemen on 53-man roster
The Chicago Bears will err on the side of keeping an extra offensive lineman on the 53-man roster, much like they did for most of the 2022 season.
The good news for the Bears this year is that the starting five is settled. Barring injury, the offensive line will feature Jones, Jenkins, Whitehair, Davis, and Wright. It’s an encouraging group and arguably the most talented offensive line the Bears have fielded in quite some time.
The depth is strong, too. Patrick is a jack of all trades along the interior, and Borom is a capable short-term starter at tackle if needed.
53-man roster count: