The Chicago Bears open their 2016 preseason schedule Thursday night at Soldier Field against the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.
While preseason games generally offer little to no indication of how a team will perform in the regular season, it does give insight into individual player or position group development.
Here are four things to watch in Thursday’s Bears-Broncos game.
What kind of ground game will the Bears produce?
Will second-year pro Jeremy Langford step into the starting running back role vacated by long-time Bears running back Matt Forte and become the featured back of the 2016 offense? Or will the Bears employ a committee approach at the position and frequently rotate rookie Jordan Howard and third-stringer Ka’Deem Carey in and out of the game? Chances are, the latter will be true. While Langford still will start games, John Fox teams have traditionally used multi-back approaches in order to keep their guys fresh for the long haul. It’ll be interesting to see how the Bears divide the workload and how each of the three main backs perform in game action.
Is Kevin White capable of living up to the hype?
Bears fans have waited an awfully long time to witness the debut of wide receiver Kevin White. After missing his entire rookie season with a fractured shin, White is expected to make his Bears debut Thursday night against the Broncos. White, drafted seventh overall in the 2015 draft, has a lot of high expectations thrust upon him given his high draft status and the uncertainty surrounding Alshon Jeffery’s long-term future with the team. White has looked very good at times throughout training camp, leading some to believe he’ll fit the bill just fine. But game action is where players earn their stripes and White can take his first step tonight.
How good can the Bears’ revamped front seven be?
Perhaps the most exciting aspect about the 2016 Bears — or, at least, the most intriguing story line given the uncertainty behind the level of upgrade — is how the team’s new front seven performs. The Bears were aggressive this offseason in giving defensive coordinator Vic Fangio the linebackers he needs to run the kind of aggressive defense he covets. The team signed a pair of veteran inside linebackers in Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman as well as drafting pass rush specialist Leonard Floyd in the first round of the draft. They also signed Willie Young to a contract extension and plan to rotate he and Lamarr Houston with Floyd and Pernell McPhee. Up front, the Bears added veteran Akiem Hicks and rookie Jonathan Bullard to line up next to last year’s rookie stud Eddie Goldman. All together, this could be a fun front seven to watch.
How will the defensive backfield shape up?
While the Bears’ front seven should be much improved after the changes the team made this offseason, no one is quite sure what to make of the secondary. Tracy Porter and Kyle Fuller return at cornerback and second-year pro Adrian Amos will start again at safety. But who lines up next to Amos, along with the question of whether the Bears have enough talent in the defensive backfield, will be the biggest questions to answer. Harold Jones-Quartey ought to get the first crack at the other starting safety position and he’ll be pushed by rookies Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson.