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After three weeks of intense training camp practices in Lake Forest, the Chicago Bears are set to open their preseason against the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday afternoon.
Matt Eberflus is making his debut as head coach, and we will get our first look at the roster Ryan Poles’ crafted in his first year as general manager. Justin Fields and the rest of the starters are expected to play around 15-20 snaps. Kansas City also said their starters, including quarterback Patrick Mahomes, will play in the first quarter.
This is a great opportunity to evaluate the starters against one of the best teams in the league. But the evaluation doesn’t stop there, this game is crucial for the assessment of all of the players fighting to make this team.
We’ve been watching this team closely at camp. Based on everything we have seen, here are the 10 Bears (and a bonus) we are paying the most attention to.
1. QB Justin Fields
Duh. Even though Justin Fields will fall into the category of “15-20” snaps for Saturday’s game, seeing how he operates the offense is still important. A lot has been said from Eberflus and Poles on the expected jump Fields should take now that he is in Year 2. Fields has a good opportunity to showcase his development from his rookie year in Week 1 of the preseason.
In the last two training camp practices, the offense has looked more efficient. And the second-year quarterback is making that happen despite several of his playmakers being sidelined.
Against the Chiefs, Fields will be in a similar position. If he can elevate the players around him, trusting whoever is on the field to be in the right spot while throwing with good anticipation and decision making, then this could be a good indication for what is to come this season.
2. OC Luke Getsy
The players aren’t the only ones who will need reps on Saturday. New offensive coordinator Luke Getsy also qualifies under this category. His only NFL play-calling experience was with Green Bay during the preseason.
Seeing how Getsy gels with Fields in live game action will be crucial. So far in training camp, Fields has been on the move with designed rollouts, and that should continue even in limited action against the Chiefs.
How quickly Getsy gets the play calls in and how he approaches certain down and distance situations will all be under a microscope. Plus, seeing Getsy’s overall approach as an offensive coordinator doesn’t just apply for the starters but also with the reserves who will play a majority of the game.
3. LT Braxton Jones
Since the Bears drafted Braxton Jones out of Southern Utah in the fifth round, all the rookie has done is impress. Whether it’s on the field or during his insightful press conferences, Jones is proving to be quite the surprise.
Saturday will be the next test for Jones to demonstrate he is ready to become the Bears’ starting left tackle. On the Chiefs’ defense, they have a trio of pass rushers who are all capable of getting to the quarterback: Frank Clark, Carlos Dunlap and rookie George Karlaftis.
Throughout training camp, Jones has been tested by going up against Robert Quinn, losing and holding his own in some of those reps. And on Saturday, Jones may see similar results in his first NFL game experience. If Jones can eliminate any pre-snap penalties and show he is capable of bouncing back from a bad play, then he will still be continuing his upward trend in this early portion of his rookie season.
4. DC Alan Williams
The defense throughout training camp has created turnovers, applied pressure on the quarterbacks and has implemented the “H.I.T.S” philosophy throughout the entire unit. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams has been a key part to the defense’s early success.
Now, Williams needs to carry that over against the Chiefs. Last time Williams called the defensive plays was back in 2012 for the Minnesota Vikings. Although he has 21 years of NFL coaching experience, Saturday will be a good opportunity for Williams to experiment as a play caller.
How aggressive will Williams be now that he is calling the defensive plays? Through 13 training camp practices, it’s evident Williams likes to bring pressure by using members in the secondary. Maybe the veteran coach draws up similar types of plays against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense.
5. S Jaquan Brisker
Unfortunately, injuries are keeping two of the Bears’ top three picks from making their debuts on Saturday with Gordon and Jones Jr. expected to remain on the shelf.
Luckily, Bears fans will get their first look at camp standout Jaquan Brisker. Brisker has been making plays daily. He’s impressed in multiple ways. For all those who have been unable to attend Bears camp, having an opportunity to watch Brisker play should be a treat.
He may not have the largest snap count, but if there’s anyone excited for some live football, one has to imagine it’s Brisker. Expect him to play with some high energy while looking to make impact plays in his limited time.
Brisker’s not in jeopardy of losing a starting role or anything. This game won’t have any ramifications to his roster status. However, he has looked like the real deal and all fans should be paying attention as they get their first glimpse of the ultra-promising rookie.
6. DE Dominique Robinson
It was well known that Dominique Robinson came to Chicago full of raw potential. His athleticism is off the charts for a defensive end. The physical gifts were evident. However, his fundamentals were raw due to being relatively new to the position after transitioning to it from wide receiver in college.
Coach Eberflus has a well-established track record of developing talent. It was all a matter of how quickly the Bears could tap into Robinson’s potential.
If training camp has been any indication, it may happen quicker than most expected. Robinson has had his fair share of flashes throughout the last couple of weeks. He’s had some impressive reps in 1-on-1’s where he easily wins with his speed off the line. Robinson has also made his presence felt in team drills when he puts the heat on the quarterback.
It appears that Robinson is ahead of schedule. He should get ample playing time on Saturday. This extended look will give us a good indication of how the fifth-round pick fares in a game environment.
If he continues to shine, it’s fair to start envisioning a larger role on defense this year than previously expected.
7. WR Isaiah Coulter
With a barrage of injuries at wide receiver, things were looking bleak for the Bears’ passing attack in camp. Not only did they lose half of their top four guys with Byron Pringle and Velus Jones Jr. being sidelined, Chicago also lost some of its top depth pieces in N’Keal Harry and David Moore.
After a couple of rough practices for the Bears’ offense through the air, Coulter started to make his presence felt on Wednesday when he made multiple big plays for Fields downfield, including an incredible catch along the sideline between multiple defenders.
After starting camp buried on the depth chart, Coulter has a real opportunity ahead of him this preseason to prove to the coaching staff that he deserves to be on the final roster. If the receiver can make a few plays with Fields in the game, showcasing that he can be an effective target for the starting quarterback, he will be in serious contention for a spot.
8. TE Chase Allen
Injuries sometimes create opportunities for other players. Chase Allen can speak to that. The undrafted free agent out of Iowa State has received playing time with the starters since Cole Kmet, James O’Shaughnessy and Ryan Griffin have been sidelined with injuries.
In Thursday’s practice, Allen experienced the lows and highs that all football players go through. During one of the situational periods, Allen committed a false start penalty. These are the types of mistakes that will not be tolerated by this Bears coaching staff. If Allen
Earlier in the practice, though, Allen found an open patch of grass near the back of the end zone and Fields lofted a pass over Nicholas Morrow for a touchdown. These are the types of plays Allen needs to capitalize on if he wants to make the 53-man roster.
9. CB Lamar Jackson
Another player that has taken advantage of the extra playing time given due to injuries at corner has been Lamar Jackson. He’s stood out in both individual and team drills in camp with multiple plays on the ball, even when going up against the starting offense.
He’s been playing opposite of Jaylon Johnson at outside corner with the first team. Jackson went undrafted in 2020 and has spent roughly half of his career on the New York Jets’ practice squad. In his 14 career games, he has 28 tackles and two pass breakups.
After signing with the Bears in January, Jackson was once a long shot to make the final roster. Even though he still has an uphill battle despite some of his competition battling injuries, Jackson has a chance to make his case stronger with a solid performance in the opening preseason game.
A splash play or two would take the “buzz” he’s been creating in camp to the next level and strengthen his chances of earning a roster spot.
10. RT Teven Jenkins
The only reason Teven Jenkins isn’t higher on this list is because he is still technically in the “ramp up” period, so it’s tough to gauge how much he will play on Saturday. Jenkins has participated in team activities in the last three practices, but it has been inconsistent.
In Thursday’s training camp practice, Jenkins played in a portion of 11-on-11s with the second team and he made some decent plays. When it came to later on in the practice, however, Larry Borom moved to the second team and then to the first, while Jenkins played with the third unit.
If Jenkins does play against the Chiefs, there are two questions that need to be answered: 1. Can he play fast in this new outside zone scheme? He played in a similar system at Oklahoma State. 2. Can he showcase the physicality that he was known for in college? Ultimately, he needs to prove to this coaching staff that he can be an asset to this offensive line. Dominating against the Chiefs’ backups would be a good way to gradually move up the depth chart.