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Chalk Talk: How many Bears rookies will start?

Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of questions from fans on

Which rookies do you feel will step up and start the first game?
Tom P.
Chesterton, Indiana

It's more difficult than ever to speculate about that this year because with no on-field workouts being held this offseason due to the coronavirus, we're not seeing how the rookies are performing and whether they're getting any reps with the starters. With that being said, I certainly wouldn't be surprised if both of the Bears' second-round draft picks, tight end Cole Kmet and cornerback Jaylon Johnson, are in the starting lineup for the Sept. 13 season opener against the Lions in Detroit. Coach Matt Nagy recently raved about how quickly Kmet has learned the offense, saying on a conference call: "I have yet to trump him in a Zoom meeting on a question. I can't trick him. He knows it all … I will guarantee you, I'll put it out there: He will know this playbook inside out. That's not going to be the issue." The Bears are also high on Johnson, who many draft analysts felt was a first-round talent that slipped into the second round due to a shoulder injury he fought through last season at Utah. Assuming Johnson makes a full recovery—and there's no reason to think he won't—I could see him starting opposite Kyle Fuller. Others who will compete to replace departed veteran Prince Amukamara include Kevin Toliver Jr., free-agent acquisition Artie Burns and former CFL star Tre Roberson, among others.

Why do all these national analysts seem to hate the Bears? So many say they had a terrible offseason and no one seems to predict that they'll win more than five games. I think they'll win the NFC North and be a strong Super Bowl contender.
Michael K.
St. Francisville, Illinois

Putting my obvious bias aside for a moment, I am baffled by how poorly some national writers perceive the Bears. USA Today's Nate Davis predicted that they'll finish last in the NFC North with a 3-13 record. CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora lumped them into the lowest of five tiers of NFL teams with the Giants, Jets, Redskins and Jaguars. Seriously? Objectively-speaking, the Bears had a disappointing 2019 season, but still finished 8-8. In the offseason, they added a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Nick Foles to compete for the starting job with Mitchell Trubisky, and addressed what I felt was their most pressing positional need (tight end) by signing veteran free-agent Jimmy Graham and drafting Cole Kmet. They also improved one of the NFL's best defenses by signing one of the league's top pass rushers in free-agent outside linebacker Robert Quinn.

It's more telling to me that eight of 10 local writers who made record predictions after the schedule was released projected that the Bears will go 9-7 this season. Honestly, I don't put a lot of stock into what national analysts think. I remember back in 2005, the Bears opened the season ranked dead last in Sports Illustrated writer Paul Zimmerman's NFL power rankings and they ended up winning the NFC North with an 11-5 record. Here's hoping that history repeats itself in 2020!

Who do you think will be the Bears' third running back? Is he more likely already on the roster or do you think it's more likely going to be a castoff released by another NFL team?
John K.
Sabula, Iowa

The Bears' third running back behind David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen no doubt will be someone who will be asked to carry the ball on occasion while contributing primarily on special teams. I feel that the leading candidate for that role this season is Ryan Nall. Signed by the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2018 out of Oregon State, he has proven that he can produce on special teams and figures to only improve in that aspect of the game. I've also liked what I've seen of Nall carrying the ball—mostly the past two preseasons—and wouldn't be surprised if he gets more opportunities to do so this season.

Chalk Talk features fan questions multiple times each week.
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