With the Bears scrimmaging with the Denver Broncos this week the storylines for the upcoming preseason game between both teams tomorrow kind of write themselves. There are a few things I will be watching out for specifically due to some of the events that have been reported during this weeks scrimmages. There are also some competition questions to be answered as we head into the third preseason game for the Bears. While preseason game results are rarely indicative of how well or how poorly a team will do during the regular season there are still plenty of things to look out for in these games. Things that can be indicators of how this team is shaping up roster wise as well as schematically with the installation of the new offense.
Leno and Massie vs. Miller and Chubb: While it’s not known how much any of these players will play and go against each other it certainly is a great litmus test for the Bears two Tackles going against one of the most dynamic tandems off the edge the game has to offer. Sure, it’s probably premature to assume Bradley Chubb is worthy enough to mention as being a part of a dynamic tandem, but all indications are this kid will be a sure fire hit especially with so much attention being paid to one of the top 3 best NFL Edge Rushers in Von Miller. Shane Ray who has been mentioned as a possible trade target and a likely Free Agent target at seasons end for the Bears isn’t exactly chopped liver either. So the Bears Right and Left tackles will have an early challenge in this 2018 preseason game tonight. Will they be up to the task?
Cody Whitehair’s shotgun snapping yips? To say Cody Whitehair had a rough two days of practice snapping the ball out of the shotgun is like saying breathing is essential to staying alive. It’s well known Whitehair had his issues snapping the ball out of the shotgun last year which may one of the reasons the Bears didn’t work out of shotgun last season as much as most teams do these days. It’s at the very least a legitimate suspicion considering the weeks events with Whitehair. Benjamin Albright who covers the Broncos was on with Mully and Haugh on 670 am The Score this Thursday and said he saw at least a half dozen blown snaps and up to a dozen snaps off target that made it difficult for Mitch Trubisky to pull the ball in and affected the timing of the play at the first practice between the two teams. To make matters worse there were more reports on day 2 of the scrimmages that the same kinds of things were happening once again from Whitehair. At this point you have to wonder if it’s in his head and if James Daniels is that much closer to starting at Center to start the season and Whitehair moving over to his natural position of Left Guard.
Deiondre Hall’s ascension up the depth chart: So far Hall has been physical and a sure tackler and has ball skills as he is a former Cornerback. He is currently listed as second string behind Adrian Amos at Strong Safety but it’s very possible he’s the first guy in to backup Eddie Jackson as well should he go down or need a blow over Deon Bush who has been dealing with injuries so far in camp. Another strong showing this evening and Hall may surpass Bush as the main backup Safety at any one of the two spots. It’s my belief Amos will price himself off this team when his contract is up and Hall will be his eventual replacement but I would not be a bit surprised if Hall even leap frogged Amos should he regress or sustain any prolonged injury and Hall stars in his absence. Hall is a player I’ve been high on ever since he was drafted because of his physicality and especially his ball skills on the backend.
Trubisky’s chemistry with Allen Robinson: So far Trubisky has been on with his Tight Ends and a little off at times with his Wide Receivers in his one preseason game and in camp. He has made some connections in practices this week with his Wideouts said for Robinson thus far. It’s early in the process and Robinson is trying to come back from his ACL repair and he and Trubisky have not put in a ton of time together so there is plenty of time to get this smoothed out before the start of the season. There is no reason for panic at this point and too much stock shouldn’t be put into the results of this upcoming game good or bad, but it will be something I’ll be paying close attention to when watching tonight’s game.
Who gets the most snaps and production at running back Nall or Davis? This will be one of the more interesting final depth charts of any position group on this roster when all is said and done. It’ll also have an impact on the entire roster because it’s entirely possible the Bears will keep up to 6 Running backs on this roster. Extremely doubtful but possible if they decide to keep a Fullback which would be Michael Burton. It was to assume Ryan Nall was a good bet to make the team before the acquisition of former Kansas City Running back Knile Davis. Someone Matt Nagy is very familiar with and knows the offense very well. It’ll be interesting to see who gets the most snaps from here on out and especially in this upcoming game. Of course, there’s no guarantee Benny Cunningham makes the roster either so he is in this equation as well. As for Taquan Mizzell he’s on the outside looking in at this point with the arrow pointing way down.
Who steps up at Edge Rusher? No position group has gotten more scrutiny or has caused the most stress among fans than Edge Rusher and with good reason. The player who emerged in the last preseason game against the Bengals was Kasim Edabali. If he follows up on that performance from here on out he has a great chance at making the roster. Especially with Aaron Lynch out with an injury. Isaiah Irving is on track to play tonight and Kylie Fitts has yet another opportunity to make an impression and move his way up the depth chart and get more and more snaps. This position is up for grabs right now and players should be chomping at the bit to pin their ears back on 3rd and longs. It’ll be interesting to see if someone emerges and distances themselves from their competition in this game.
Will the Bears find this years Cre’Von Leblanc after this weeks scrimmages? Three seasons ago when the Bears scrimmaged with the New England Patriots, Ryan Pace liked what he saw from one of their undrafted Cornerbacks in the form of Leblanc. When the Patriots waived him and tried to sneak him on their practice squad the Bears put in a claim on him and added him to their 53 man roster. It’ll be curious to see if Pace has his eye on anyone of the likely cuts by the Broncos this season. I’ll be paying close attention to those fighting for a roster spot with the Broncos particularly low round picks and especially undrafted Free Agents. Some names I’ll be paying attention to are their 6th round pick ILB Keishawn Bierria, UDFA OLB Jeff Holland, UDFA Safety Trey Marshall, and 4th year veteran OLB Shane Ray.
It’s doubtful Ray gets cut, but possible. He has been a disappointment since being drafted and is coming off a pretty unproductive 3rd season where he had only one sack. If they decide to keep Holland perhaps Ray gets cut loose. It’s probably more likely the Bears work out a trade for him rather than he getting cut if he impressed them during team practices and if he stars tonight against the Bears.
Holland is another intriguing name. He’s someone I was hoping the Bears used a late pick on. It’s possible the Broncos keep him on the 53 man roster, but should they try to sneak the undrafted rookie on the practice squad the Bears would be wise to claim him off the waiver wire and put him in the mix at the Edge where the Bears are in desperate need of impact players.