The Chicago Bears wrapped the 2019 preseason on Thursday night. And while it was a 19-15 loss to the Tennessee Titans, the result of the game is irrelevant. This game was about the players at the bottom of the depth chart fighting for a job. These players are hoping to earn an 11th-hour roster spot, or at the very least, get a practice squad invite (only 10 players are permitted). The worst-case scenario is that these players find themselves in free agency unless they get signed by one of the other 31 teams.
Cracking this active roster full of Pro Bowl-caliber talent will be easier said than done, but not impossible. But here are some players who, at the very least, deserve to earn their way through the Bears practice squad in 2019.
Tyler Bray, QB
He was the only quarterback to take the field for the Bears on Thursday night. His numbers were solid as he completed 28-of-40 passes for 334 yards and a touchdown. He averaged eight yards per completion and had a passer rating of 103.5. But he also was sacked three times and appeared hesitant to take big shots down the field. This was especially evident on the final drive of the game. Being on the practice squad can help him with that, and the other mechanics that we've previously touched on.
Kerrith Whyte Jr. and Josh Caldwell, RB
Whyte deserves a spot based on his potential, and the work he's put in during this preseason (55 rushing yards, 14 receiving yards, 138 kick return yards). But Caldwell, the rookie who was cut by Kansas City a couple of weeks ago, may have played himself into a spot after his performance against the Titans. He led the Bears with 68 rushing yards, was fourth with 35 receiving yards, and took advantage of the reps that he got against Indianapolis last week (17 rushing yards, 18 receiving yards). Caldwell also displayed the versatility that head coach Matt Nagy desires from his running backs.
Thomas Ives, WR
After getting a good chunk of reps against Tennessee, the rookie out of Colgate finished the month of August with nine catches for 148 yards. He averaged 19 yards per catch against the Titans, and he had receptions of 29, 21, and 12 yards over the course of the exhibition schedule. He showcased his speed and his ability to get behind defenses. The Bears are already stacked at the wide receiver position for the active roster, but Ives will be a great asset should an injury occur.
Jesper Horsted, TE
Princeton's all-time leading receiver may have actually played himself into a roster spot. The undrafted rookie caught five balls for 82 yards against the Titans, including the game's lone touchdown. This comes after he made three crucial second-half catches, including a towering fourth quarter touchdown grab, for 39 yards against the Colts last week. The converted wide receiver has some work ahead of him, but he no doubt left quite the impression on the Bears coaching staff and front office. Ian Bunting and Dax Raymond (131 combined receiving yards) also are still in the hunt for an opportunity.
Josh Woods, LB
He's still a strong active roster candidate after he registered 23 tackles, three tackles for a loss, one sack, one quarterback hit, and one pass deflection over these last four weeks. But considering that James Vaughters — a career practice squad player — has been equally impressive this preseason (6 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 sacks, 3 QB hits, a forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries), a year of learning wouldn't be a bad thing for Woods. Especially since he's still learning the inside linebacker position (played safety in college).
Duke Shelley and Clifton Duck, CB
Cornerback is another position where the Bears have plenty of talent and depth. Shelley, one of the Bears' seventh-round draft picks this year, has been active this summer (12 tackles). Having him learn from the veteran corners on the team will only benefit him. Duck is an undrafted rookie out of Appalachian State who has come out of nowhere to post 13 tackles, two deflected passes, seven kick return yards, and a massive 62-yard interception return against the New York Giants three weeks ago. Duck needs some polishing but he definitely has potential.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Top photo courtesy of www.chicagobears.com)