Can you believe that training camp has been underway for nearly a month now? The 2022 NFL Season is rapidly approaching and nearly upon us.
We’re also one-third of the way through the preseason. There was a lot to like from the Chicago Bears’ opener against the Kansas City Chiefs with the team’s youth on full display as multiple rookies made positive first impressions.
Now, it’s on to Seattle …
Like every team, the Bears’ situation is fluid and always changing.
Looking at last week’s game and adding the latest revelations from practice, here are the 10 Bears I’m paying the most attention to Thursday night in Chicago’s second preseason game.
Note: The Bears said that starters will get around “10” snaps at most. So, my attention is primarily focused on non-starters, besides a few exceptions.
1. RG* Teven Jenkins
The mysterious case of Teven Jenkins continues to unravel as we march through the preseason. It feels like yesterday that everyone was speculating Jenkins potentially being on his way out of Chicago via trade as he was working with the trainers and not visible during practices.
He then played right tackle with the backups last week. He had a solid game against the Chiefs on Saturday. Then, the Bears moved Jenkins to right guard earlier this week and even had him working with the first team in advance of Thursday’s tilt against the Seahawks.
Even though “starters” will not play more than 10 snaps, expect Jenkins to get an extended look at guard in the game. Michael Schofield had mixed results in his first game as a Bear. A strong performance from Jenkins against Seattle would bolster his chances of earning a starting job.
Boy, do things change fast!
2. CB Kyler Gordon
After nursing an injury and being unable to participate in what was a “rookie showcase” for the Bears against the Chiefs, Kyler Gordon is expected to make his unofficial professional debut Thursday night.
In camp, we’ve seen Gordon play very well at multiple positions as the Bears have worked him in the slot in addition to outside cornerback. It will be interesting to see what Chicago has in store for Gordon. Will he play more than “starter’s snaps” after missing some time? Or will they take it easy with Ryan Poles’ first-ever draft pick?
Will he line up inside? Outside? Both?
Regardless, Bears fans should be excited to get their first glimpse of the kid.
3. WR Velus Jones Jr.
Don’t forget, there was another rookie that was unable to make his debut on Saturday as Velus Jones Jr. is also primed to get his first NFL game action now that he’s healthy.
Jones has put together a solid, but not overly spectacular, camp. He’s had his moments coming away with some nice catches. It’s just that Jones never had a dominant day at camp, which is okay.
Chicago’s coaches have been adamant they envision Jones taking on multiple roles. Not only do they expect him to play multiple positions on offense, but they also plan on having him be an important piece of special teams — especially as a returner.
Jones’ multifaceted skillset is something the Bears will tap into this season. One just has to expect them to hold their cards close to their chests. Regardless, expect them to give Jones his opportunities to shine and gain some confidence heading into regular season action.
4. OT Larry Borom
Despite the Bears placing multiple obstacles in his way, Larry Borom continues to fight tooth and nail as he strives to remain a starter.
After losing his starting position at right tackle to newcomer Riley Reiff, who joined the team at the start of training camp, Borom found himself playing the vast majority of the preseason opener on Saturday. He lined up at both tackle positions throughout the game.
Borom has apparently battled back as he lined up with the first team at right tackle this week at practice alongside Jenkins.
It’s unclear as to who exactly is leading this position battle, but it’s Borom getting the best opportunity on Thursday with this chance to start over Reiff. It could just be Reiff, the 11-year veteran, having the night off.
Regardless, let’s watch Borom and see how he responds to this next challenge.
5. LB Jack Sanborn
It’s pretty apparent that all eyes are going to be on UDFA Jack Sanborn in this one.
This is fair considering the rookie out of Wisconsin was arguably the best player for the Bears last week. He tied for the most tackles on the team (seven), including one tackle for loss and a couple of tackles coming on special teams. Sanborn also came away with an impressive interception and a fumble recovery.
Both of these plays led to the Bears starting in great field position and coming away with points. He led the charge of that comeback victory over the Chiefs.
It’s hard to envision a scenario where Sanborn doesn’t make the team after a performance like that.
So, what’s next?
That’s what I want to find out …
6. WR Tajae Sharpe
One receiver that may have staked his claim to a roster spot after a strong in-game performance is Tajae Sharpe, who made the best two catches on Saturday.
If someone has made the most of his opportunity, it’s Sharpe. After a barrage of injuries at receiver, somebody needed to step up and make an impact.
Sharpe did so by coming away with an incredible grab along the sidelines. He then followed that up by going up to get a ball over his head in the soft spot of the defense.
Can he keep up this positive momentum?
Another strong performance against Seattle could all but cement his place on the Bears’ roster.
7. TE Chase Allen
If you only checked the box score from the preseason opener, you would find yourself underwhelmed with Chase Allen’s performance. The UDFA out of Iowa State only had one reception for two yards in the game.
However, if you watched his game, you will feel much better as the rookie tight end had a very effective game as a blocker — something that was highlighted as one of his strengths in college.
The Bears had to cut their roster down to 85 players this week. Among those released was tight end Rysen John. Allen survives to fight another day.
(Not that there was much doubt surrounding that.)
Outside of Allen, there are only three other tight ends on the roster — all of which are expected to make the team. The time is now for Allen to prove to the Bears that it’s in their best interest to carry four tight ends into the regular season.
8. LB Demarquis Gates
It’s been a long road for Demarquis Gates after going undrafted in 2018. It’s been a road full of pit stops as he aims to make an NFL team.
Here’s a quick snapshot of his path:
- Cleveland Browns – Signed May 2018, cut before training camp began.
- Memphis Express – Led the AAF with 52 total tackles and five forced fumbles in Spring 2019 before the league folded.
- Washington Commanders – Signed April 2019, cut before training camp began.
- Houston Roughnecks – Drafted in the 2020 XFL Draft and played well. League folded in April 2020.
- Minnesota Vikings – Signed in Spring 2020 and was cut during training camp (mid-August).
- TSL Blues – selected to play in their spring league in October 2020.
- Saskatchewan Roughriders – Signed with this CFL team in December 2020 and only played in five games before being released.
- Birmingham Stallions – Drafted by the Stallions in 2022 USFL Draft and had 68 total tackles and 6.5 sacks in the season.
- Chicago Bears – signed a contract with the Bears on August 6.
Despite being new to the team, Gates played well in his first preseason game finishing with four total tackles including one for loss. During his playing time, Gates was around the football a lot. In fact, he was the one making the tackle on the play that turned into the fumble Sanborn recovered.
These are the types of stories that make training camp and the preseason a special time. Let’s see if Gates can put together another strong performance and take another step towards achieving his goal of making an NFL team.
9. DL Trevon Coley
To be honest, it took a couple of times rewatching the game to notice Trevon Coley as my attention was on some other players at the time. But, Coley deserves some attention after making multiple plays in the backfield against the Chiefs.
He finished with two sacks, three quarterback hits and a pass deflection. He’s entering his fifth season in the league and has 100 career tackles, 3.5 sacks, 14 TFL and 7 QB Hits.
Coley also crossed paths with Coach Eberflus in Indianapolis in 2019.
The defensive lineman has another opportunity to get recognized on Thursday night. Who knows? Another strong performance can put him on the coaches’ radar.
10. RB Trestan Ebner
One of the many rookies that made their presence felt on Saturday, Trestan Ebner is looking to build off his strong debut performance.
Ebner led all Bears running backs in rushing yards (31) and yards per carry (5.2). He also caught his only target for a 12-yard touchdown off an angle route against the linebacker.
What stood out most from Ebner was his quick cuts and ability to turn upfield and instantly turn on the jets. His speed and quickness were evident and on full display.
He appears to have a large advantage over Darrynton Evans for the RB3 role. Ebner has a chance to continue his ascension.
Soon the conversations will be not if he will make the team, but rather, how large of a role should the rookie have in the Bears’ offense.
Because I’m obviously watching way more than just 10 players … 😉
- BoPete Keyes — Had an impressive five tackles last week. Bears want aggressive corners that aren’t afraid to make tackles.
- Lamar Jackson — Perhaps in a roster battle with Keyes, Jackson has played good coverage and dishes out big hits, but failed to wrap up last week. Can he make the fundamental plays?
- Cole Kmet — We may or may not see Kmet. If so, expect it to be severely limited.
- David Montgomery — Same as Kmet. Don’t expect much if Monty suits up.
- Dante Pettis — Pettis had some key downfield blocks in last week’s game. He caught every one of his punt return attempts. Oh, and he caught his one target for a 25-yard gain. He’s had a good week of practice too.
- Isaiah Coulter — Another receiver that has increased his chances at making the team. Didn’t “wow” in the opener. Here’s his next chance.
- Dazz Newsome — Rebounded well against the Chiefs after two mishaps (muffed punt, dropped ball) with a touchdown and a good gain off an end around. Can he put together a complete game?
- Trenton Gill — Remember, you don’t have to complain if the Bears have to punt this preseason. That just gives you more chances to watch Gill show off some “leg magic.”
Those are the Bears I will be watching most closely against the Seahawks. Is there someone I missed? Someone that you are paying attention to that I failed to mention?
Let me know in the comments. 👇