Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy has started a bit of a trend in the league this season by choosing to rest nearly all of his starters for the great majority of the preseason. While this decision has clearly helped the overall health of his team, it has also put increased emphasis on the second and third-string players battling for limited roster spots.
Nagy got specific Thursday when he noted that he would be looking at a few position battles in particular, including inside linebacker and cornerback. Here are five players he may be watching more closely than others:
John Franklin III
Franklin’s story is a great one, to be sure. The Last Chance U alum has shuffled positions multiple times since college, going from quarterback to wide receiver to cornerback, the position the Bears assigned to him a year ago. Franklin made the Bears’ practice squad last season, and he’s eager to make the roster this year–but it won’t be easy.
The Bears are stacked when it comes to defensive backs, but Franklin is also playing to impress the 31 other teams who may be watching. Still, he believes he can make the roster. ”I’ve produced a lot in camp and been consistent,” Franklin told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Now it’s about stacking days together. It’s not a surprise when I make a play. I’ve been playing to where I should make this team, but that’s not my decision.”
Nagy mentioned inside linebackers specifically, and that’s Kwiatkoski’s position. After being replaced in the lineup by Roquan Smith last season, Kwiatkoski has seen his playing days dwindle. At present, he is on the bubble and has got to stand out over the next two games if he wants to remain a Bear.
Kwiatkoski is slated to make $2 million during the 2019 season, so if any of his competitors can match what he can do on the field, he could very well be cut to save a little cap space. And some of his competitors are surging right now…
Vaughters had an excellent second preseason game against the Giants. He had a sack, he stripped the ball out of quarterback Daniel Jones’ hand, and then promptly recovered the fumble he forced:
It felt like he was all over the field at times, and if he can put together a repeat performance against the Colts, he will help his chances immensely. Vaughters has bounced around a bit over the past few seasons, but he seems to fit in well in Chicago. He plays outside linebacker, but it’s likely Nagy will still be watching him too.
Here’s another inside linebacker Nagy likely has his eye on. Woods seems to be battling Kylie Fitts for a roster spot, and his chances aren’t great despite a solid overall preseason so far. But Woods had an excellent first game against Carolina and the Bears coaching staff seems high on him.
”Every day he gets a little bit better,” inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone told the Sun-Times after the Bears’ first preseason game. “He sees a play he hasn’t seen before, and he adjusts to it. And that’s part of being a pro.” If he can shine again against Indianapolis, Woods could make it interesting.
Duck was the biggest standout performer from the Bears second preseason game against the Giants. His excellent read on the ball followed by a diving interception and 62-yard run back thrilled fans and his teammates.
Nagy also singled out the corner position as one he’d be watching closely, and Duck is one of the players under the microscope. He’s small at 5’9, but if he continues to show great instincts and remains a ball hawk, Duck has a chance to be one of the team’s most pleasant surprises.