Winners and losers from Bears training camp

There are plenty of signs that show we’re in the final days of summer. Kids are going back to school, pumpkin spice drinks are becoming readily available, and training camp for the Chicago Bears has officially concluded.

The Bears wrapped up their training camp last weekend, marking the end of nearly a month of practices in front of fans at Halas Hall that also included two preseason games. Over 90 players were with the team at the beginning of the camp and now after two rounds of cuts, that number has shrunk to 80, with more difficult decisions still on the way.

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Aside from a couple of issues that were dragged out of the field, there haven’t been nearly any earth-shattering developments on it. Still, it’s been clear as to who came out a winner during the camp and who might be on the opposite end. Here are our winners and losers following Bears training camp.

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What a month it’s been for Teven Jenkins. When camp started, he started as the team’s swing tackle, missed a string of practices due to an injury, wrestled with rumors surrounding potential issues with coaches, and was put on the trade block. Jenkins could only go up from there and he did just that. He essentially took hold of the starting right guard spot away from veteran Michael Schofield and it appears it’s his job to lose heading into week one.

Jenkins could still be moved at some point as reports indicate the trade rumors are still very much alive. But either way, Jenkins has resurrected his career after it might have been left for dead just a few weeks ago.

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Former Cincinnati Bengals tackle Riley Reiff was signed hours before training camp officially started and it was widely assumed he would secure one of the starting tackle positions on the team. After all, Reiff is a 10-year starter in the league, playing on both ends of the offensive line and is a solid veteran who was seen as an upgrade when he signed. But his days as a starter may have been shorter than expected.

Reiff primarily worked with the starters at right tackle for the majority of camp, including the first preseason game. Since then, however, he’s been relegated to second string in favor of Larry Borom and may have officially lost out on the competition. There’s still time for Reiff to make a bid for the right tackle spot, but the veteran probably didn’t envision this scenario when he joined the Bears last month.

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Rookie tackle Braxton Jones might be the biggest winner of all coming out of training camp. Jones began seeing work at the starting left tackle position during voluntary workouts in late spring, indicating the coaching staff was particularly enamored with his skillset. When Reiff was signed, however, it felt as if Jones’ time with the starters was coming to an end and that he faced stiff competition. But the rookie out of Southern Utah didn’t relent and held onto the spot throughout the entire camp and preseason.

Jones has looked solid in practices and smooth with limited snaps in the preseason. He has excellent measurables and seems to have taken well to coaching. Barring an upset, he’s going to be the starting left tackle come week one, something that didn’t seem possible when he was drafted back in April.

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For many of the Bears wide receivers, there was plenty of opportunity to secure a spot on the final roster given the uncertainty and, unfortunately, the lack of talent outside of a few players. For N’Keal Harry, a spot was his for the taking until a severe ankle injury sidelined him indefinitely.

Harry was acquired from the New England Patriots for a seventh-round draft pick in 2024 and saw this as a chance to restart his career after a tumultuous few years. He was getting plenty of reps with the Bears before he was lost for several weeks due to an ankle injury. Now, he won’t return until well into the regular season, casting doubt on his future with the team. Harry is still very young and extremely talented. All hope isn’t lost for him yet, but he must overcome more obstacles in order to become a consistent contributor.

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When Harry’s training camp ended, Tajae Sharpe’s began. The veteran wide receiver, signed late in the offseason, missed the first week of camp due to an injury and had to work his way back up the depth chart. It didn’t take long for him to develop a chemistry with quarterback Justin Fields, however, as the two began making plays together in practice and later in the preseason. His toe-tapping catches have been some of the best highlights out of camp.

Sharpe was essentially considered a camp body when he signed, but given his rapport with Fields and the injuries at the receiver position, he has the inside track on a roster spot and could even make contributions in the regular season.

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Running back is arguably the best position group on the Bears and with players like David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert atop the depth chart, it could be hard to stand out in the backfield. Not for rookie Trestan Ebner, though. Ebner has been one of the bright spots on offense since camp began, showing an impressive combination of quickness and toughness in his running style. The rookie out of Baylor has been making defenders miss both in the run and passing game and should be a nice weapon for offensive coordinator Luke Getsy to use out of the backfield.

Ebner seems secure as the RB3 for now, but could cut into Herbert and Montgomery’s touches as long as he stays healthy. He’s going to play a role in the regular season and could surprise a lot of people after his strong camp.

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The only real development of consequence during camp for the Bears was the contract dispute surrounding star linebacker Roquan Smith and it got ugly and frankly weird at certain points. Smith arrived at camp with the rest of his teammates in late July, but refused to participate while he and the Bears attempted to work out a contract extension. Smith is heading into the final year of his rookie deal after his fifth-year option was picked up and is looking for long-term security with the team that drafted him. General manager Ryan Poles played nice with Smith, even putting him on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list to avoid fines. But things started to turn ugly.

A few weeks into camp, Smith publicly requested a trade from the Bears, saying the team doesn’t value it after seeing their contract offer and even had someone who claimed to represent him make calls to other teams about any interest. The Bears responded by removing Smith from the PUP list, creating an expectation for him to practice going forward. It wasn’t until the very end of camp that Smith finally relinquished and returned, vowing to play the final year of his deal. Smith had no leverage during negotiations, failed to sign an extension, and is now behind on camp practices with a new regime. Things can turn around quickly, given Smith’s abilities, but it was an ugly process that left him looking foolish.

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It’s been an eventful camp for the Bears rookies, but nobody has impressed quite like safety Jaquan Brisker. The second-round pick out of Penn State was almost a holdout after he and the Bears couldn’t agree to a deal as camp was opening, but it was quickly resolved and Brisker made his presence known in a hurry.

The rookie safety has been a ballhawk both in camp and in preseason games, creating plays left and right. He swarms the ball carrier and is a perfect fit for head coach Matt Eberflus’ system. Brisker did suffer a slight setback with a hand injury that will keep him out right up until week one, but it’s fair to say he’s shown enough to warrant plenty of excitement.

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Position battles are always a key focus during training camp and arguably the one to watch most was at nickel cornerback. Thomas Graham Jr. and Tavon Young were the two primary players jockeying to win a starting job, yet both have missed significant time due to injury. In Graham’s case though, it’s been longer and he could have more to lose.

Graham was a sixth-round draft pick in 2021 and did not see action until later in the year. where he flashed in multiple spots. But the Bears brought in additional cornerbacks, like Young, to push Graham and he hasn’t had the opportunity to consistently show what he can do. His roster spot is very much up in the air at this point.

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Let’s finish up on a high note with the starting quarterback, shall we? Fields entered his second training camp in a much different position than his first. He’s the clear-cut starter and doesn’t need to worry about battling with the reserves. More importantly, however, is that Fields has shown improvement in his game and is gelling well with Getsy. The two are building an offense together that compliments Fields’ strengths while making sure he stays upright behind an offensive line that is still a work in progress.

When he’s been under center, Fields has shown an adjusted throwing motion and looks much more confident overall. He hasn’t necessarily set the world on fire yet, but he’s building chemistry with players like Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney, both of whom have also impressed. But the most important factor regarding Fields is that he’s remained healthy throughout all of camp and is poised for a big step forward when his second season begins in September.

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