With head coach Matt Eberflus announcing that most of his starters will play a half of football in the Chicago Bears’ preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns, that suddenly changes how most fans will be watching the game. Sure there’ll be plenty of bottom of the depth chart roster battles taking place, but seeing how the number ones are growing in the new offensive and defensive schemes is worth monitoring.
It’ll be a vanilla gameplan, but the timing of the pass plays, the cohesiveness of the offensive line, the gap integrity from the front seven, the continuity from the secondary, not to mention a debuting Roquan Smith at the weakside linebacker position, makes this a solid dress rehearsal for the start of the 2022 regular season.
I asked a few of the WCG staffers to give me the one player they’d be watching on Saturday, and here are our responses.
Robert Zeglinski: Equanimeous St. Brown
I have a hunch this will be a de facto tryout for the other Bears’ receiver slots opposite Darnell Mooney. I’m intrigued enough by St. Brown and underwhelmed by the rest of the journeymen and currently injured weapons that I’d like to see St. Brown solidify himself.
Taylor Doll: Equanimeous St. Brown
It took me a couple of months to figure out how to pronounce his name, but thanks to help from Jeff, I’ve got it down! I’ll really be looking out for Equanimeous St. Brown, and I’m hoping I get a glimpse of what everyone at camp has reported. I feel like we haven’t been able to see a whole lot in the preseason, but he’s a big guy and has really impressed the media and coaches at camp. I would love to see that work out as the perimeter guy across from Mooney.
Dylan Ryan: Braxton Jones
This will be Jones’ first opportunity to face off against a truly elite pass rusher in Myles Garrett, not to mention Jadeveon Clowney is no slouch by any means. I don’t think we’ll see a ton of Garrett and Clowney, but when they are out there it will be a great test for Jones. Plus this performance will be a great preview of what to expect from Jones in week one against Nick Bosa and company.
Thanks to Taylor & Dylan, co-hosts of Making Monsters, for jumping in on this roundtable!
Ken Mitchell: Braxton Jones
My one guy to watch is a player who may be the single biggest key to keeping Justin Fields alive and unharmed this season; rookie left tackle Braxton Jones.
If Jones can develop into at least a plus-level left tackle over the next two years, it would be a monumentally huge win for Chicago. Finding a serviceable left tackle that late in the draft and having him on a low-dollar rookie deal opens up so many resources to upgrade other critical positions. I’m hoping/praying that we may have, indeed, found a fifth-round miracle.
Having said all that, we still need to see him against other teams... I mean, after Cleveland he gets Nick Bosa. That’s some pretty eye-opening stuff.
Peter Borkowski: Roquan Smith
Other than it always being fun to see one of the NFL’s premier linebackers do his thing, it will be interesting to see if the last month or so of drama has impacted Smith’s play. The nightmare scenario is that his tumultuous relationship with the team has made him unmotivated to play in a Bears’ uniform, or he’s worn out from the constant media coverage, and we see a drop-off in his quality of play. On the other hand, maybe this whole fiasco makes him work his butt off in an attempt to earn his desired payday with the Bears or otherwise. Or perhaps we get the same old dominant Smith we’re used to. Whatever the answer may be, hopefully, this Browns’ game will give us a little indication of the Smith we can expect to see this year.
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.: Teven Jenkins
I’ve been an open book in my desire to see Jenkins settle into one position for the Bears, and it seems that one position is now right guard. Let the man stay there, let him learn, and let him fail. And fail he will, considering he’s only been playing this position for a few weeks, but the upside is there, and I’m excited to see him grow at his new home. It’s also worth noting what Greg Gabriel wrote for us earlier this week in regards to the Bears showcasing Jenkins for a trade.
I have been around the game long enough to know that coaches aren’t about to waste their time in practice or games. If Jenkins was still available in a trade, there is no way he would be working with the first-team offense. That would be an extremely non-productive way of holding practice and simply makes no sense. This is a new scheme under new coaches, and every rep counts!
The Bears getting Jenkins to buy-in at guard could solidify that position for the next several years.
Erik Duerrwaechter: There’s always a rebel that can’t follow the rules, so of course, ECD lists like 15 players!
For me, it’s not just one guy. In fact, it’s two whole units - the O-line and WR corps. These groups are so critical when building a foundation around the young Justin Fields at QB.
First, just how quickly can this fairly young O-line begin to gel? As it stands now, not only player projected in the starting lineup has more than 1 year of experience aside from Cody Whitehair. Once Lucas Patrick returns at Center, we’ll still have a rookie at LT, and two first-year players at RG and RT. The potential is there. They just need to learn and become cohesive ASAP.
Then there’s the glaring question at receiver. We know who Darnell Mooney is and what he’s likely to become. But, who else can step up and take some of the burden off Mooney? I’ve talked about it all offseason. Somebody else has to step up.
We also asked this question on Twitter, so here are some of your responses.
Jack Sanborn to see if he can win a job with splash plays.— Joshua Catlow (@JoshuaCatlow) August 25, 2022
Velus Jones Jr. on special teams to see if he can win the PR job and contribute on kickoffs.
Play calling will also be of huge interest to see how they cater the offense to take advantage of JF1 strengths.
I want to see more of Elijah Hicks and Jack Sanborn.— TJ Brooks (@1Ilustrious) August 24, 2022
Tevin Jenkins. Definitely quite the turn around from the rumors flying a couple weeks ago.— Jim (@Culp_Jim) August 24, 2022
EQ. Haven't seen much from him so far. Will be watching to see if he get's more involved.— Esteban Rodriguez (@That1guyESTEBAN) August 25, 2022
Demarquis Gates. Really pulling for the guy. He deserves it.— Slowmo_Mo (@mo_slowmo) August 25, 2022