It’s a good test for younger Bears players this week as they need to make a quick turnaround from a Saturday game and go to Seattle on Wednesday for a Thursday night preseason game.
It means only two days of practice and maybe a walk-through if they’re lucky, before heading west.
The first game spotlighted several players as they tried to make in-roads for roster battles.
Coaches got to see real hitting from many of their players for the first time and as result of that game film the scenery may have changed a bit. Some players could emerge holding a bit higher or lower status.
When the Bears resume their short work week Monday, here’s who and what to watch for as the three-game preseason hits the middle part of the schedule.
None of the three players injured for the Bears in Saturday’s game are starters but it will stop those players’ efforts to win roster spots or more playing time. Cornerback Jayson Stanley (knee), defensive back Michael Joseph (hamstring) and linebacker Javin White (knee) are the players hurt but they are not the big Bears injury concerns this week.
Getting back cornerbacks Kyler Gordon, Tavon Young and Kindle Vildor, all of their first three tight ends and receivers Velus Jones Jr. are priorities.
All have injuries that remain a mystery because the Bears will not reveal the nature of short-term or so-called day-to-day injuries during training camp, but only the longer term injuries like the quad injury to Byron Pringle and ankle injury to N’Keal Harry. Neither Pringle nor Harry are expected back soon.
What will really be interesting is if Stanley, Joseph and White have injuries that leave them as day to day. The Bears revealed what those injuries were during the game, but if those players are only day to day then this runs contrary to the policy coach Matt Eberflus says they have of giving out information only on long-term injuries during training camp and preseason.
2. Trevon Coley
Two sacks and a pass deflected made him look like a beast as he helped the third-team defense overwhelm Kansas City. Is there more here than a journeyman defensive lineman who? Could he be someone who helps provide depth at a position where the Bears are badly in need of it? Coley is 6-foot-1, 308 pounds and started 29 games in 2017 and 2018 for Cleveland before being cut and signed to the Colts practice squad when Eberflus was in Indianapolis. He played in six games with two starts for the Cardinals in 2020 after his one-year deal with the Colts expired. The Titans signed him last year but a foot injury in preseason landed him a spot on injured reserve all year. For his 44-game career, he has only one less sack (3 1/2) than Bears starting three technique Justin Jones does for 51 games.
3. Jaquan Brisker
The Bears might want to cut back on his playing time in the next one. He proved in the first preseason game he belongs with the starters and they want to keep him healthy for the opener. It might have been Brisker’s coming out series during the second quarter as he got his bearings and made a big hit on a short pass for the tackle, a pass breakup and nearly an interception and a tackle for loss on a running play.
“The tackling, deflecting the ball, I think he should have had maybe a takeaway or two, but he was
high energy, and, man, he likes to hit,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “So I really liked that aggressive style for him, how he’s playing right
4. Offensive Line Shuffling
They’ve seen a game now and how their linemen respond to live pass rushers and tacklers. Until the start of last week it had been virtually a different offensive line every day as they mixed and matched combinations. Are they satisified rookie Braxton Jones at left tackle and Riley Reiff at right tackle? Sam Mustipher played center ahead of Doug Kramer, but they did get a long look at Kramer as he was on the field for more plays than anyone on the roster. That was 73% of plays. Teven Jenkins was third most among linemen at 55% (36) and Larry borom fourth at 53% (35).
By the second preseason game, you’d think they’d start settling in with one unit instead of shuffling, but it’s gone on longer than anyone probably thought at this point.
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5. Trestan Ebner
The injury to David Montgomery helped get Ebner a little more playing time and he took advantage with some open-field moves and a touchdown catch. He had 31 yards on six rushes and the 12-yard TD catch. Will he continue getting extended time?
“I think he’s very competitive,” Eberflus said. “He likes when the lights come on and you can see him compete in practice. He’s a strong runner and he’s obviously got a lot of good speed too, so he can really turn it on to get the corner, or take it the distance. So we’re excited where he is, too. And his blocking, he’s doing a better job blocking, finishing runs. That’s what we talked about with the guys: how we finish runs, how we finish tackles. Those matter, because that’s hidden yards for us in the game.”
6. Trenton Gill
When the Bears drafted a seventh-round punter to replace veteran Pat O’Donnell, it seemed a questionable move or that they were simply getting ready to sign a veteran punter after final roster cuts. Gill has impressed with good hang time on his punts at camp, and did it in Saturday’s game. He put the ball down for the Chiefs to start drives at their 3-yard line, 5 and 12. The Chiefs had just 5.8 yards per punt return. One problem O’Donnell had last year at times was hang time, and that combined with a poor coverage unit to leave the Bears ranked 30th in the league at limiting punt return yards at 11.03 yards per return. No doubt they’d be pleased if they can get a 5.8-yard average for the regular season as only two teams were better than that for last season. It’s hidden yardage, as Eberflus likes to point out, and every yard counts.
7. Dante Pettis
First Tajae Sharpe emerged from a stint on the non-football injury list to climb up the ladder due to injuries and become the third available receiver. Veteran Dante Pettis had been injured but was a surprise active for the game and got open for a 25-yard reception while also doing a nice job fielding one punt in tricky wind for a fair catch. Is he about to become the next member of Ryan Poles’ refugee receiver group to ascend? Much depends on whether Velus Jones returns from his injury this week because, if not, there will be more reps available for Pettis.
8. The Daily Drama
The last incident in the Roquan Smith negotiations for a contract extension was the Pro Football Talk report that an unsanctioned person was contacting NFL teams seeking a trade for Smith. Talking to whoever this is can lead to tampering charges for teams when the Bears are not authorizing this. On Saturday, Poles said prior to the game on WBBM-AM 780 that there is communication with Smith, although he did not characterize it as negotiations. Will there be a breakthrough this week with someone caving, or even a compromise? The Bears can start to fine Smith for missing practices. Will they?