Here it is folks, in the words of the immortal Keith Jackson, this it the “granddaddy of them all,” umm well in the preseason anyway. The third preseason game is the one that most analysts point to as the so-called “dress rehearsal” for the regular season. The starters often play well into the third quarter and there is usually some light gameplanning for the opponent.
The Bears have been fortunate in recent years to play a worthy adversary for this particular game. We all recall how that Seattle game in 2014 turned out. It was a game that portended what this team was to become that season, a glimpse into the crystal ball, if you will.
The Tennessee Titans are certainly a team on the rise. They finished 2016 at 9-7 and had 2 first-round picks in the 2017 draft. With Marcus Mariota entering his third NFL season, this is a team that many see as breaking out this year. The offense can be dynamic and Mariota has a skill-set that puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses. The Titans have a young, athletic defense that should provide a good test for the Bears offense as well.
This is a very intriguing matchup for me. I believe that this is one of a handful of teams that makes sense to use as a measuring stick and I will be very curious to see how the Bears compete on Sunday afternoon.
What to Watch For
On offense, there are a myriad of things that I will be watching for. First things first, how does Mike Glennon play early on? My belief is that if Glennon struggles early, we will see Mitchell Trubisky before halftime. Since this is the first time that we are going to be able to see both quarterbacks run the first team offense, I am going to look for the differences between the two. Who does Glennon target versus who Trubisky builds a rapport with? How does the running game look with the 1-2 punch of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen? Can the tight ends finally break out in an actual game setting? Above all, I want to see how the offense looks with each quarterback playing. I suspect that there will be a different gameplan due to the opposing skill-sets.
Defensively, I want to see the team continue to look dominant. The front-7 has been very, very good so far and I want to see that continue. Jonathan Bullard will likely sit out with a glute, but Akiem Hicks should be back on the field. There is also some speculation that Danny Trevathan might be ready to get a few snaps as well. So that is something to keep an eye on. Most importantly though, I want to see improvement and steady play from what I perceive to be the starting secondary (Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Quintin Demps and Eddie Jackson). There is a massive amount of potential for this secondary to succeed and all of these players have shown a knack for getting their hands on passes. I want to see more than a flash on Sunday.
Who to Watch
Mitchell Trubisky (#10): How can we not want to see the future franchise quarterback play with the first string? This is the pinnacle of the off-season for me. As many know, I was one of those leading the charge for drafting Trubisky prior to the draft. It is time to see what the kid is made of and surround him with the top talent on the offense. I don’t expect perfection but with time to throw, the real Bears running game and much better receivers, I expect to see the offense run efficiently, and occasionally explosively when Trubisky gets into the game. My hope is that we see him during the second quarter for more first team reps.
Jordan Howard (#24): Howard has barely played in the preseason to this point and didn’t even make the trip to Glendale, AZ because of a scratched cornea. While I don’t think Howard needs significant reps in order to be ready for the season, I do think that he needs some reps. Nothing would make me happier than to see Howard still getting carries when Trubisky comes into the game. I also want to see how he and Tarik Cohen feed off of each other as the game progresses.
Jeremy Langford (#33): I am expecting to see Langford play on Sunday. I will be curious to see how he looks. He should be running for his career, because from my perspective, he is running for his career. With his ankle injury keeping him out for the bulk of training camp, he is behind the other running backs. At this point, Langford would have to have a really huge game to catch up to where Benny Cunningham appears to be.
Kevin White (#11): The much-maligned former seventh overall pick has not had the kind of preseason that many of us had hoped for. It is still too early to completely give up on a player with his talents but the clock is certainly ticking. I am not as concerned with White’s chemistry, or lack thereof, with Mike Glennon, but what I am looking for to is whether Mitchell Trubisky can establish a rapport with him. Personally, I think that combination looks like it has a chance to be more promising than what we are currently watching.
The Secondary: While I am going to watch the enite secondary, I am focusing my attention on what I perceive to be the starting five (Prince Amukamara [#20], Marcus Cooper [#25], Cre’Von LeBlanc [#22], Quintin Demps [#21] and Eddie Jackson [#39]). When this group is on the field, see if you notice a more cohesive unit than when other groupings are in the game. I expect to see quite a bit of Kyle Fuller, who performed well last week, in addition to the others. Let’s see if the secondary can step up and get their hands on a few passes and hopefully, take a some back the other way.
The Pass Rush: This has been a fun group to watch so far. Leonard Floyd has looked much improved from last year. Lamarr Houston had a very strong game last week. Akiem Hicks should return from injury. Eddie Goldman played a little off-balance last week but dig a superb job of collapsing the pocket. Jaye Howard flashed a few times as well. Hopefully we will get to see Roy Robertson-Harris work into the defensive end rotation too. This unit, including the defensive line and outside linebackers, is truly going to be the straw that stirs the drink of this defense. I want to see continued improvement and consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Who and what are you all looking for in the third preseason game? This is the big one, and there is an awful lot to look forward to.
As always, Bear Down!