It’s Bears season!
Yeah, I know. Preseason action hardly gets the game day juices flowing, but for the diehard Chicago Bears enthusiasts who can’t get enough football and have been waiting through a long offseason to see some live game action, it’s like Christmas Day.
The score is meaningless, the results are trivial, and for most of the game we watch with bated breath, hoping that each collision or awkward fall to the turf doesn’t result in a significant injury.
But what the preseason does offer — besides a sip of lukewarm water after a long offseason trudge through a barren football desert — is the ability to see with our own eyes what some of the new players on the team can bring to the table, however difficult it is to gauge in unscripted game action.
And that’s good enough to hold my attention for 60 minutes.
Here are some of the things to watch in the first preseason game of the 2017 season against the Denver Broncos Thursday night at Soldier Field.
Can Mitch Trubisky handle the quick transition to the NFL?
I’d like to say that we will get a good look at the Bears’ other quarterback addition, veteran Mike Glennon, but the starters aren’t likely to see the field for too long. But the rookie second-overall pick, Trubisky, should see significant action and give Bears fans a reason to keep their televisions on into the fourth quarter. A lot has been made of Trubisky’s short college tenure, so even though preseason games don’t come with game plans, I’d still like to see how he handles even moderate pressure and how he reads defenses.
How much can Tarik Cohen add to the Bears’ game plans?
Bears general manager Ryan Pace came from an organization in New Orleans where they threw the ball often and routinely had “joker backs” who lined up all over the field and were dangerous weapons out of the backfield. Think Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles. The Bears drafted the diminutive Cohen with the hopes that he can add an extra dimension to their offense and cause mismatches with his speed and elusiveness.
How will the Bears’ wide receiver depth chart shake out?
In two recent offseasons, the Bears disintegrated what was arguably the best 1-2 receiver combo in the NFL with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. How to replace two guys with the size of an NBA starting backcourt is no easy task. The Bears think they have their “tall” replacement in undrafted Cameron Meredith, who showed great strides in his second season a year ago. The Bears are going to give former first-round pick Kevin White the opportunity to grab the starting job opposite Meredith, but he needs to stay healthy and produce. The Bears brought in a trio of veteran free agent receivers in Victor Cruz, Kendall Wright, and Markus Wheaton with the hopes that one of them finds the fountain of youth and makes good on the prove-it deals they all signed this offseason. Finally, it seems almost every year that there is a training camp superstar receiver that turns heads and draws a lot of “Ooo’s and Ahh’s” from fans. It’s difficult to imagine Tanner Gentry making the final cut, but he’s working hard an making plays to try to keep his name in the ring. I’m not sure the Bears keep all of the veterans they signed given that they need help on special teams, but it’ll be interesting to see how that depth chart shapes up through the preseason.
How good, really, is tight end Adam Shaheen?
“Baby Gronk” … a nickname as intriguing as it is ridiculous. The Bears drafted Shaheen out of the small college of Ashland, where he dominated against inferior competition. Who is this mammoth man who dwarfs defensive backs and can he produce at the same level in the NFL that he did at Ashland? Shaheen currently sits third on the depth chart behind Dion Sims and Zach Miller, but the Bears have all but admitted that Shaheen will have a role in the offense this year, pending his ability to make the leap to the NFL. He’ll be interesting to watch later in preseason games because he could dominate against fringe NFL defenders who might not be on a roster next month.
Do the Bears have any playmakers ready to stand out in the secondary?
Preseason must be even more boring for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio than it is for the fans who sit through it. Fangio is a master of creative philosophy and drawing up solid defensive game plans, which might help explain why the Bears finished in the top half of the league in total defense last year despite having some glaring deficiencies. One area of deficiency was in the secondary, where the Bears rotated bodies and couldn’t find the right tandem of safeties, nor could they field a pair of solid NFL cornerbacks. In the offseason, the Bears brought in veteran safety Quintin Demps and drafted rookie Eddie Jackson, they added cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper and are hoping for a strong second-year push from Deiondre’ Hall. Then, of course, Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan are still lingering in the background, hoping to find a role in the defense. The Bears already have a strong front seven … figuring out the right combination in the secondary could be the key to a Top 10 finish on the defensive side of the ball.