With an extra game on the preseason schedule, thanks to an appearance in the Hall of Fame game, it seems as though it’s taken forever to get to that important, yet not so much “dress rehearsal” game.
The third week of the preseason gives starters an opportunity to typically play into the third quarter of a game and allow teams the chance to game plan a little and make halftime adjustments.
It’s still a practice game that doesn’t count for anything in the grand scheme of things, but it’s the most important — and perhaps only — preseason game worth your time.
Here are four things worth watching in Saturday’s battle with new head coach Matt Nagy’s former team, the Kansas City Chiefs.
Can the Bears play a clean, mistake-free game?
When the final buzzer sounds and we gaze up at the scoreboard, I couldn’t care less what numbers we see. It doesn’t really matter — as long as there are two digits in the home team’s column.
A win or loss doesn’t matter as long as the Bears’ first-string offensive and defensive units look competent in the process. I know it’s the preseason and I’d be naive to expect to see a completely error-free game. But the fewer mistakes the better, in my book.
Can the Bears avoid stupid penalties? Can they line up correctly and in time to avoid delaying the game or burning their timeouts? Can they hold on to the football and avoid coughing it up to the Chiefs’ defense? Can the receivers catch the ball when it hits them in the hands? Can they make accurate shotgun snaps and clean center-quarterback and quarterback-running back exchanges? Can players remember their assignments and be in the right place on the field?
These are all simple requests and I don’t think I’d be asking too much of them to fulfill them, even though I know we’re bound to see some errors.
How is Mitch Trubisky’s command of the offense and Nagy’s play calling developing?
This is it. This will be our last, best chance to see how second-year pro Mitch Trubisky is handling new (and first-time) head coach Matt Nagy’s offense.
Will these two important men be on the same page? Can Nagy get the play call in and Trubisky relay it in the huddle in a timely fashion? Will Trubisky make the right calls at the line of scrimmage and audible out of dire situations? How well can the young quarterback read the field, know when to tuck the ball, spot the open receiver?
And it’s not just the play calling and system worth monitoring. How are Trubisky’s mechanics coming along? Can he place the ball in spots where only his guys can go up and get it? Can he lead his receivers so they can pick up the all-important yards after catch (or YAC)? Can he avoid throwing to the guys with the opposite-colored jerseys?
I know I speak on behalf of Bears nation when I say we’d all feel much better entering the regular season if Trubisky and Nagy look cool, calm and collected.
Can the Bears sustain long drives on offense and prevent them on defense?
This is actually a combination of the previous two things to watch: playing a clean game and executing a the game plan.
More specifically, can the Bears pick up a chunk of yards on first down to allow Nagy some creative freedom to call diverse plays on second-and-short? Conversely, if backed into third-and-long, what can the coach and quarterback dial up to keep the chains moving? Can the offense string together a few series that end in points?
On the other side of the ball, how quickly can the defense get off the field? Are they going to bend and/or break and get pummeled backwards down the field? Will they get tired quickly and leave the Bears’ offense standing on the sideline? Can they apply pressure on the young Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs? Will Mahomes’ cannon-for-an-arm burn them deep? Can they handle the speed of one Tyreek Hill?
It’s important that the Bears control the tempo and time of possession in whatever amount of time the first stringers get on Saturday.
For the love of God, can the Bears stay healthy?
Self-explanatory. No amount of progress shown on the field during any preseason game can overcome the despair of an injury to a key player. The performance of the offensive line is crucial in this one to keep Trubisky upright and clean. I want to know that Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen don’t take any unnecessary extra shots. I want to make sure Allen Robinson, if he plays much at all, doesn’t have any knee issues. And for that matter, I don’t want to see any of the exciting young receivers down on the field in pain.
The Bears already have a few noteworthy injuries to rookie Roquan Smith, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks, Prince Amukamara and Taylor Gabriel. Let’s not add to the walking wounded.
Get in, get it done, get out.