CHICAGO,IL- After a six month hiatus, football is finally back, and tonight the Bears kick off their four game preseason slate at home against the Denver Broncos.
While few things in sports are over analyzed more than preseason football, the next four games do serve a purpose. These games give the coaching staff a look at young players and new additions against live competition, which is helpful in determining position battles and final roster construction.
At the same time, there are probably only three or four starting spots that are unsettled, and the starters will likely only play two series tonight. And for those itching to see the three new Bears quarterbacks, teams run watered down versions of their actual offense in the preseason, the actual competition takes place in practice away from the cameras and opposing scouts.
With all of that in mind, here are three things worth taking a deeper look at in tonight’s contest.
1.– What will the rotation at safety look like?
Behind free agent addition Quentin Demps, safety is wide open. According to the team’s official depth chart, third year vet Adrian Amos has a leg up on the rest of the competition:
These opening depth charts are often very conservative, and this one is no different, as evidenced by rookie Eddie Jackson and converted corner Deiondre’ Hall being listed as fourth stringers. Jackson has been turning heads in camp and appears to have a real chance to win the starting job, so the fact that the Bears list him behind players such as Chris Prosinski and Deandre Houston-Carson, who aren’t even guaranteed to make the roster, is disingenuous.
The safety rotation tonight will tell us more about where players stand than the actual depth chart does, so it’s worth noting who enters the game with the second unit. There are six different safeties who could be in the running for the starting free safety position, and tonight those safeties get to show off what they got.
2- Who will step up at defensive end?
Nose tackle Eddie Goldman and second year Bear Akiem Hicks are proven difference makers up front when healthy, but the third and final starting spot on the defensive line is still unsettled.
In the running for the starting job are incumbent starter Mitch Unrein, second year player Jonathan Bullard, and free agent addition Jaye Howard. Unrein has been a fine veteran locker room presence the last two seasons, but his production has been mediocre at best. Fans should be pulling for either Bullard or Howard to take the job.
Reports suggest Howard looks healthy and Bullard looks more NFL ready after a disappointing rookie season, but in the NFL optimism reigns supreme in training camp. These exhibitions will give Howard and Bullard plenty of opportunities to show the coaching staff that all the optimism surrounding them is more then just talk.
3.- Which scrappy underdog will win over the hearts of fans this year?
Every year in the preseason, there tends to be an unheralded player or two fighting for a roster spot that steps up their game big time in these exhibitions. The grit and grind attitude of said underdogs is often enough to make the fan base collectively swoon, even though these fan favorites often don’t even make the team, and rarely go on to make a meaningful contribution in the regular season.
This years early favorite is undrafted rookie wide receiver Tanner Gentry, who has supposedly developed quite the connection with first round pick Mitch Trubisky.
Starting tonight, we’ll find out if anybody will be able to steal the underdog crown away from Gentry.