Chicago Bears: Identifying Practice Squad Players

TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 11: Running back Ryan Nall #34 of the Oregon State Beavers rushes the football against the Arizona Wildcats during the second half of the college football game at Arizona Stadium on November 11, 2017 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 11: Running back Ryan Nall #34 of the Oregon State Beavers rushes the football against the Arizona Wildcats during the second half of the college football game at Arizona Stadium on November 11, 2017 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Who are the Chicago Bears making the best case for the practice squad?

Every year, fans pick a favorite sleeper or two who they hope to make the Chicago Bears roster. In most cases, that player typically ends up on the practice squad. From Daniel Braverman to Tanner Gentry fans always worry about these players being snagged up and claimed.

The reality is that for a team to claim a player on waivers, that player must sit on the active roster, not join their practice squad. The idea of a player getting claimed is much less common than some think. With that in mind, who are some players who may not make the roster, but have a great chance at the practice squad? Remember, ten players can make the practice squad.

Injured Reserve Candidates:

One way to keep a player on the roster while not worrying about waivers is placing him on injured reserve. There has to be some merit to the injury, but teams will exaggerate an issue to hide a player off of the grid for a season. This year, the Chicago Bears could very easily do that with Rashard Fant and Josh Woods.

Fant is a slot cornerback who has hardly seen the practice field. This feels like an easy call. Woods saw time in the first two games and was making an impact on special teams. An injury pulled him from Week One early, and he was a no-show in Week Two. The team may be looking for a stash in Woods.

Tier One: Will they make the roster?

Before we get into it, it should be worth noting who is on and off of the roster. If this list features six players who make the 53, it is not a valuable exercise. With that in mind, Kevin Toliver, Isaiah Irving, and Javon Wims stand out.

You could argue for all three to miss the 53-man roster but I am going to make the case that all three make it. The depth and lack of experience at outside linebacker gives Irving an edge at edge. Toliver moved up the depth chart last week and with Marcus Cooper has little competition on the outside. Javon Wims is battling with Marlon Brown but should beat him out over the next few weeks. In the case of Wims and Toliver, you could look at two players who actually may get claimed as well.

1. Rashaad Coward

Coward was close to being in the tier as a player who made the roster as well. He is creeping on Bradley Sowell but has not quite caught him. Sowell has versatility at multiple positions which Coward does not have, as he transitions from defensive tackle to right tackle.
Coward has played well but is extremely raw. This goes back to the idea that a team needs to keep him active to claim him off of waivers. Yes, every team would love to get their hands on him to stash on the practice squad. However, only the Bears can, and for this season they likely will.

2. Ryan Nall

Nall is the backup fullback and fourth-string running back. With Taquan Mizzell and Knile Davis unlikely to make the roster, Nall will be worth keeping around as depth who knows the playbook in multiple spots. Despite a poor preseason, there is still some upside in the versatility and running style of Nall. He has a lot more to invest in than Mizzell or Davis and should be a practice squad lock.

3. Tanner Gentry

Gentry could go the Braverman route and entirely be off of the practice squad in his second season. If Javon Wims does get cut, you better believe Wims is taking this spot over Gentry. Garrett Johnson is another candidate, but without seeing the field, he is more likely to head to the IR. This sets up well for Gentry who has been targeted a ton this preseason but has failed to capitalize.

4. Ben Braunecker

If Adam Shaheen is unable to go in Week One, the chances of Ben Braunecker making the roster should increase a bit. Still, he has not shown enough as either a blocker or a pass catcher to get a real chance. The team has Trey Burton, Dion Sims and should hang onto Daniel Brown over Braunecker.

Braunecker has just one year of eligibility left, and while he is a nice depth piece considering the heavy usage of tight ends in this offense, this could be the last run for Braunecker.

5. Jordan Morgan

We knew within two snaps of the Hall of Fame game that Morgan was destined for the practice squad. He played the entire game and showed that fringe NFL talent was overwhelming to him. Morgan is a project from Kutztown who missed his first season on the IR. Year two should be about building himself up as a player on the practice squad.

6. Dejon Allen

Allen is an upside UDFA stemming from Hawaii. Over the Chicago Bears first, three games Allen has lined up at both tackle spots and has played some guard as well. He is a versatile swing player which the team likes. He has put more promising play on tape than Morgan and should get held onto as well.

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7. Abdullah Anderson

Anderson has been able to take some snaps at the nose tackle spot, which is huge for his long-term potential with the Chicago Bears. He is not close to competing with John Jenkins, but Jenkins is approaching 30 years of age, and the two may be competing in 2019.

8. Cavon Walker

Walker is a fun player because he is an interior lineman but can also slide out to take on tackles if he needs to. After shining late into the Hall of Fame game, his name has not popped as much. Still, he showed enough glimmer in that role to see a longer evaluation on the practice squad.

9. Michael Joseph

Joseph was a player who was undersized and lacked athleticism. However, his smarts and instincts got him drafted from Dubuque. Now, they are getting him onto the practice squad. Doran Grant could see the role as well, but Joseph is younger with more years of practice squad eligibility.

10. Nick Orr

Orr has shown some things on special teams. With Deiondre’ Hall likely being cut, Orr is going to be penciled in as the fifth safety on the depth chart. An instinctual player, the Chicago Bears, would like to keep him around in emergency scenarios.