The last meaningful preseason game is just days away for the Chicago Bears, and at this point I think I speak for most when I say, the regular season needs to get here.
The Bears will head home for the first time during the 2018 campaign to face the Kansas City Chiefs in the all-important dress rehearsal third preseason game. Fans can expect to see the majority of starters play into the third quarter, which is probably best for an offense still in its early stages and searching for consistency.
While skepticism is warranted for health reasons, there’s plenty to watch for on Saturday. So let’s take a deeper dive into the team’s most important preseason matchup of the season.
First team offense
It’s been an inconsistent product for the first team offense over the past two games. Even so, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and company took sizable strides last Saturday against the Denver Broncos.
Prized free agent signing Allen Robinson made his preseason debut, as did Jordan Howard. Outside of the injury to Adam Shaheen and the team possibly taking more caution with receiver Taylor Gabriel, the Bears should be at full bore heading into the game.
While I don’t expect Matt Nagy to expose many regular season plans, it’s fair to expect a more consistent product: one that results in a few scoring drives.
Trubisky has had an up and down camp, but he’ll have three of his top four pass catching options on the field. Progress must continue to be made.
Defensive back depth
The depth at cornerback is quickly becoming another concern for the defensive side of the ball.
With Marcus Cooper out last week, undrafted rookies Kevin Toliver II and Michael Joseph failed to seize the opportunity to separate themselves. Doran Grant also struggled at times, leaving the primary backup spot on the boundary wide open.
The Bears seem skeptical as well and the proof is in their decisions. Instead of featuring one of Toliver, Joseph or Grant, they opted to start nickelback Bryce Callahan on the outside, while having Cre’Von LeBlanc play inside.
It’s possible that this is the team’s best option in the case of an injury to either Kyle Fuller or Prince Amukamara, but it also hurts two positions instead of one. Having Callahan play out of position may not be the smartest idea, which makes Saturday’s game that much more important.
At safety, it was announced Wednesday that DeAndre Houston-Carson will miss extended time after breaking his arm. This means either the team will carry Deiondre Hall on the roster, despite being suspended for Week 1, or they’ll have to sign a capable veteran off the free agent market.
It’s possible the team could choose to scour the waiver wire in just over a week, but finding an in-team option could prove to be more ideal at corner. I’m not sure the same can be said about safety.
The Bears have done relatively well staying away from injuries, specifically in the way of season ending disasters. Despite that, two impactful players in the way of Leonard Floyd and Shaheen did go down last weekend and both’s statuses are somewhat questionable for Week 1. I do expect Floyd to be ready for the Packers game. Houston-Carson could also start the season on injured reserve due to his broken arm.
Despite sitting out the majority of the preseason, both Gabriel and Amukamara are also expected to be good to go for Week 1.
At this point, the Bears must find a way to balance an important preseason tune-up with the risk of losing key contributors. If they can find a way to come out of that mostly unscathed, it’ll give them a much better chance of getting off to a strong start when the season opens.
The dress rehearsal game is always somewhat exciting, but count me as someone who will be holding their breath until the starters get pulled.
Regarded as the Bears’ biggest issue heading into camp, it continues to be that way as the team inches closer to week one.
It doesn’t help that Floyd will start the season playing with some sort of club on his hand after having surgery on a pair of broken fingers. Even so, the importance for an impactful edge rusher is reaching a dire point.
Despite rookie Kylie Fitts and Isaiah Irving standing out in the Hall of Fame game, neither player has registered even so much as a quarterback pressure since that point. If that wasn’t bad enough, their lone free agent signing, Aaron Lynch, continues to be hampered by a hamstring injury and isn’t likely to play Saturday.
With such limited depth at the position, don’t be surprised to see veteran Kasim Edebali get his chance to start Saturday afternoon alongside Sam Acho.
This is a position that is more than likely going to have to be addressed next off-season with the same aggression receiver was this year. In the meantime, general manager Ryan Pace will have to get creative if he plans on the defense actually taking another step forward in 2018.
Roquan Smith’s debut
After a lengthy holdout and the minor letdown of not playing in game three, it appeared the Bears’ No. 8 overall pick was finally set to make his professional debut. The problem is, Smith sat out from Tuesday’s practice and was limited in Wednesday’s.
Nagy admitted that Smith’s status for Saturday is still up in the air. If he does play, it’s unknown at this point how much he would play. All eyes will be on the prized pick as he’ll attempt to work his way into a Week 1 role.
Expect both Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski to start this week for the Bears. Don’t be surprised to see Smith rotate in at times, especially in blitzing situations. The team will continue to be careful with him, but make no mistake: Smith’s going to be expected to contribute Week 1. For that to happen, it could start Saturday with a good first impression in live game action.