Ladies and gentlemen, football is back!
The NFL has a full slate of preseason games starting on Thursday night. Folks, we’ve made it. We’ll have football from now until the Super Bowl. Fall really is the best time of year isn’t it?
Anyway, the Chicago Bears will host the Carolina Panthers at Soldier Field. Each team seems to be heading in different directions. The Panthers had a disappointing finish to last season and now they are hoping another offseason shoulder surgery for Cam Newton won’t derail their 2019 campaign.
The Panthers have a young roster and are relying on a lot of those players to fill major voids. Winning the Super Bowl, let alone making the playoffs seems like a tall task for the Panthers this season.
While the Panthers are going through a quick re-tooling phase, the Bears are ready to win now. There hasn’t been this much hype for a Bears’ preseason since 2007, a year after the team lost the Super Bowl to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
The time to win is now for the Bears, who have a young quarterback still under his rookie deal. That seems to be the receipt for success in today’s NFL in terms of roster construction. Have a young QB with a team friendly deal and spend elsewhere to enhance the roster.
General manager Ryan Pace and the rest of the Bears’ front office has done a fantastic job of doing just that, despite what ESPN’s star employee John Fox has to say.
Training camp can be an interesting time for fans. Too much stock is put into how well player A and player B did at practice. It’s important to keep in mind that coaches may be working on different schemes with different players.
Matt Nagy could tell Mitch Trubisky to unleash a deep ball into double coverage because he wants to see the third year QB throw the ball more downfield. That pass may get picked off because Chuck Pagano was running a defense that Trubisky had never or will ever see in an actual game.
The point here is to take everything you see in both training camp and the preseason with a grain of salt.
Is the preseason completely useless? No, in fact, it can help identify talent. Take WR Javon Wims last year. He balled out in the preseason catching 15 passes for 227 yards and a TD.
Similar to last year, the Bears will play mostly a vanilla version of their offense and defense. The starters will also see a very limited amount of action…if any. It worked for the team last year, so if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
Still, there will be things to keep an eye this preseason, starting with Thursday’s game against the Panthers.
Let’s dive in.
1st Down: David Montgomery Playing…
I mentioned above that the Bears would sit most of their important players in the preseason. That does not include rookie running back David Montgomery, who will see a decent amount of time this preseason.
Head coach Matt Nagy had this to say.
“I think he should get a fair amount of carries in the preseason.”
Does this make you nervous? It sure as hell makes me nervous. Montgomery is one of the Bears’ most important players heading into the 2019 season. Early reviews have been stellar on the rookie from Iowa State.
So why take a chance of him suffering a serious injury by playing him in the preseason?
It could be because he needs work in areas like pass protection. The Bears may also want to see him in live NFL action. However you want to put it, it’s a bit risky. Remember, just two years ago the Bears lost Cameron Meredith for the season in the third game of the preseason.
The Bears not only lost their top wideout, but Meredith’s career has never been the same because he was hurt in a meaningless football game. While I’m eager to see Montgomery in action, walking away from Thursday’s game being 100% healthy needs to be his No. 1 priority.
2nd Down: Tight Ends
Trey Burton hasn’t practiced in a while and Adam Shaheen is shaky at best…the Bears are thin a tight end. They are going to need have players that can step in a produce if either Burton or Shaheen can’t go, which is more likely than not at this point to happen in the regular season.
The Bears released their first depth chart and behind Burton and Shaheen was Ben Braunecker and Bradley Sowell. Doesn’t exactly fill the void does it? These players will have to show something in the team’s four preseason games to make the roster and be in a position to contribute with the starters. Dax Raymond, Ian Bunting and Ellis Richardson were all undrafted free agents that are untested at best. I will be watching them closely on Thursday and throughout the entirety of the preseason.
If either Braunecker or Sowell struggles then Raymond or Bunting could have a chance to make the final roster.
3rd Down: Kevin Toliver, John Franklin and Duke Shelley
The Bears have one of the best secondaries in the league. They also have a lot of young, intriguing talent behind their stars. That makes for interesting football even if it is in the preseason.
Kevin Toliver is in his second season and played some meaningful snaps last season due to injuries. It’s time to see if John Franklin and rookie Duke Shelley can make plays when they’re called upon.
There were reports out of camp that Shelley could actually start in the slot, with Buster Skrine being on the field strictly in nickel packages. Time will tell, but Shelley has a lot to prove in the preseason if he’s going to play significant time when the games actually count.
Toliver earned his spot last preseason as undrafted player, both Franklin and Shelley could do the same this preseason.
4th Down: The Kickers, Duh.
Who would have thought that both of the kickers the Bears brought in at the start of camp would still be here, battling their tails off to make the team? Not this guy that’s for sure.
The reports out OTAs were awful surrounding the state of the kicking game. It’s safe to say that has done a complete 180. Both kickers have been solid in camp and that’s not giving them enough credit.
There is a real kicking competition going on right now and the winner is going to be the guy that has the best preseason. It’s unknown how the Bears will divvy up kicking duties, but if anyone has a slight edge, it’s Eddy Pineiro, who was perfect at Family Fest while kicking at Soldier Field.
Elliott Fry isn’t far behind though.
This kicking competition is going to come down to the wire and these four preseason games should determine who the kicker of the 2019 Chicago Bears will be. Gut feeling says it’s Pineiro, but let’s see how he kicks under pressure.
Let’s keep in mind the Bears will also be keeping a close eye on the rest of the kicking battles going on throughout the league. No one knows what’s going to happen with the kicking game. We do know Cody Parkey is getting paid $3 million for not playing football this year :(.
I’ll leave you with this awesome video:
— Nick Petro (@PetroTLS) July 28, 2019
Nick is the editor-in-chief at TheLoopSports.com. He is also a Chicago Sports fanatic, avid sports bettor, fantasy sports nut, and totally didn’t try to sell his soul on eBay (which he’s still waiting for by the way). For more fun, follow him on Twitter @PetroTLS.