Ryan Poles picks up the pace of house cleaning

Ryan Poles’ rebuilding of the Bears as the franchise’s new general manager began with a house cleaning that certainly felt like a repudiation of the roster he inherited from Ryan Pace.

He traded point carrier Khalil Mack, cut-nose tackle Eddie Goldman and had no interest in quality free agents such as wide receiver Allen Robinson, guard James Daniels and defensive end Akiem Hicks. On the first day of free agency, he signed center Lucas Patrick to replace Sam Mustipher at center.

And the project produced an even clearer rejection. Braxton Jones, a fifth-round draft pick, became an instant hit at left tackle, ostensibly replacing Pace’s 2021 second-round pick Teven Jenkins. After extensively watching Jenkins and 2021 fifth-round pick Larry Borom — two fundamental elements of Pace’s attempt to rebuild the offensive line — during the offseason, the Poles signed veterans Riley Reiff and Michael Schofield, who immediately started working with the first team offense.

Jenkins and Borom have since rejuvenated themselves as likely Week 1 starters at right guard and right tackle — thanks to Pace for that development. But once the dust settles after the Poles’ initial cleanup work, it’s clear that it’s his team already. Of the 77 players the Poles inherited from Pace when he was hired in January, only 22 remain after Tuesday’s mandatory reduction to the original roster of 53 players.

Change is usually in order when there is a regime change at this level, but the overhaul of the Poles is aggressive even by this new-blood standard. When Pace replaced Phil Emery in 2015, his first 53-man roster included 33 remnants of Emery – and that transition was seen as house cleaning.

As expected, the list tended towards newcomers and young people. It includes 13 rookies — all 11 draft picks except for center Doug Kramer, who is on injured reserve. Three undrafted rookies made it: linebacker Jack Sanborn, cornerback Jaylon Jones and fullback/tight end Jake Tonges.

The final cuts included six Pace-era players, including defensive end Mario Edwards, who signed a three-year, $11.5 million extension in 2021; cornerback Thomas Graham, a 2021 sixth-round pick; offensive lineman Lachavious Simmons, a 2020 seventh-round pick; and defensive end Sam Kamara, who showed promise in all seven of his games last season.

Guard Michael Schofield, the Sandburg product who signed before training camp, was also fired after losing his starting job to Teven Jenkins.

Several of the younger cut players could return to the practice squad, which may include up to 16 players this season. – and may also include veteran players. Top candidates include cornerback Greg Stroman, Kamara, tight end Chase Allen, quarterback Nathan Peterman, defensive tackle Micha Dew-Treadway, defensive end Trevon Coley, running back De’Montre Tuggle,

Truth be told, regime change dictated some of the revenue. The Bears move to a 4-3 lineup in Matt Eberflus’ defense and a zone-blocking pattern on offense. On both sides of the ball, the Bears have very specific ideas about the type of player they need. More speed in defense. And a “lighter, faster” body type on the offensive line.

As expected, the Bears’ best players heading into the 2022 season are Pace survivors: quarterback Justin Fields, receiver Darnell Mooney, running back David Montgomery and tight end Cole Kmet on offense; linebacker Roquan Smith, defensive end Robert Quinn and cornerback Jaylon Johnson on defense; and kicker Cairo Santos and four-phase rocker DeAndre Houston-Carson on special teams.

But come back in eight games and we’ll see how well the Poles are doing with this rebuild. How many of his players are included in this group. Not only is Patrick at center, defensive tackle Justin Jones and linebacker Nick Morrow, but rookies – Jones at left tackle, cornerback Kyler Gordon, safety Jaquan Brisker, wide receiver/kick returner Velus Jones will have early opportunities to establish themselves. Will they be good for NFL rookies? Or really good by NFL standards?

How that works out could determine whether the Bears become a surprise team in the NFL this season. But with little Pace-era excess baggage, the Poles already have a head start on a key part of that rebuild – heading into the 2023 season with its own roster, a ton of salary cap space and a first-round pick. There is still some tinkering to be done, but the development phase of the roster – the Poles roster – has officially begun.

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