Bears' final 53 begs the question: what's the point of the exhibition season?

  • Former third-round DL Jonathan Bullard was the most surprising cut as the Bears got their roster down the 53 on Saturday.

    Former third-round DL Jonathan Bullard was the most surprising cut as the Bears got their roster down the 53 on Saturday. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 9/1/2019 8:49 AM

Four months and 16 days after Bears veterans returned to Halas Hall to begin the team's off-season workout program, the team unveiled its 53-man roster for the 2019 season.

And the first question that comes to mind is, other than conditioning, what exactly was the point of all those workouts?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The closest thing to a real surprise among the Bears' final cuts is that Abdullah Anderson was able to claim Jonathan Bullard's spot on the roster.

If these things were measured on the Richter scale, that would be a 1.5.

Other than the departure of Bullard, veterans who appeared to be at risk based on the play of youngsters including Sherrick McManis, Cornelius Lucas, Rahsaad Coward, Bradley Sowell, Joel Iyiegbuniwe and DeAndre Houston-Carson all have survived the ax … at least for now.

Of all the cuts beyond Bullard, the closest to a surprise is undrafted rookie free-agent offensive lineman Alex Bars.

Of course, it's never a surprise when a undrafted rookie free agent gets cut, but Bars was seen running with the ones on occasion in camp and with the twos almost all the time, and with the number of teams desperate for offensive-line help, he appeared to be a longshot to remain available for the practice squad.

What I was hearing Saturday night, though, is that he may not be quite as in demand as suspected, and the Bears feel it is better than 50-50 they can add him to that 10-man group.

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What really leaves you scratching your head is that Rashaad Coward, who appears to be strictly a right tackle, was struggling before injuring his elbow and missing the last 10 days or so, and Cornelius Lucas, now the Bears' swing tackle, looked like he couldn't even block air in exhibitions two and three.

Obviously, Lucas sticking as well as McManis hanging on over John Franklin III, Michael Joseph and Clifton Duck, who all had more than a few special flashes during camp, speaks volumes about Bears brass valuing experience over Bourbonnais and exhibition-game highlights.

Another minor surprise is the decision to keep six inside linebackers and only four on the outside along with a sixth defensive linemen and just five cornerbacks -- with Buster Skrine and Duke Shelley looking like strictly slot guys -- although McManis had been a corner his whole career until switching to safety this off-season.

Beyond being the special-teams captain, that versatility probably is what saved the extremely likable veteran.

With those six inside linebackers, Nick Kwiatkoski appeared to cement his spot with an excellent first quarter in the third exhibition at Indianapolis, but Iyiegbuniwe, Kevin Pierre-Louis and Josh Woods all appeared to be battling for one spot, and now all three are Bears for keeps.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

We can assume that all three will have to be special-teams demons -- if they dress on Sunday -- to keep their spots throughout the season.

I am neither arrogant nor naive enough to think that my evaluating skills are in the same league as general manager Ryan Pace's, head coach Matt Nagy's and their scouting staff, so I am not suggesting any of these decisions are wrong.

But I have been doing this long enough to be disappointed that I believe Ryan Nall got a bum deal, and to feel there still are moves coming at tight end and possibly on the offensive line.

Obviously, the Bears see things in Kerrith Whyte Jr. and Mike Davis they don't see in Nall, but none of it has been obvious or on display this summer.

I will be stunned if Nall isn't back on the practice squad if some other club doesn't scoop him up.

As for the tight ends, I'm thrilled for Sowell. He's a great story right now, and it was clear that while they all had moments, none of Ian Bunting, Jesper Horsted or Dax Raymond, who was put on injured reserve, are ready for prime time.

But that Sowell won the job as strictly a blocker without being targeted with a pass once in four exhibitions speaks volumes about what is clearly still the Bears' most questionable position heading into the regular season.

• Hub Arkush, the executive editor of Pro Football Weekly, can be reached at harkush@profootballweekly.com or on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

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