In the Chicago Bears’ first preseason game against the Denver Broncos on Thursday, there are several players that you should keep a more watchful eye on.
The 2016 Chicago Bears’ season is officially underway!
After a near seven-month hiatus, the Bears are finally ready to take the field again on Thursday against the defending champion Denver Broncos. Even though it’s preseason football, it’s still going to be pretty cool to see football back at Soldier Field.
Starters figure to only play a series or two, and by the time the fourth quarter rolls around, you’ll be watching players who are fighting for their Bears’ careers (let alone, their NFL careers) to continue for just a little longer.
Preseason games are important for the starters, as it’s a great time for them to get back into football shape, but these games are really all about those players fighting for jobs—whether it be a larger role on the team, or, simply put, a spot on the team.
There are a lot of players that have the spotlight on them, but here are some that you should be watching a little more closely than others:
TE Tony Moeaki
The Bears’ tight end position is in flux, as starter Zach Miller is currently battling concussion symptoms and has a long list of injuries in his career. Moeaki, an Illinois native, has had a productive training camp thus far, and a productive game against Denver’s staunch defense could go a long way for him securing the number two tight end position. One of the best receiving tight ends on the Bears’ roster, Moeaki would love to prove that he could be a solid spot-starter if Miller were to go down with another injury during the regular season.
Braverman, a seventh-round pick, has been a fan favorite in Bourbonnais, running smooth routes and catching nearly everything in sight. With slot receiver Eddie Royal coming off a disappointing 2015 season and currently battling injuries, Braverman has a chance to not only solidify his spot on the roster, but also possibly earn a much larger role in the offense. Expect to see Braverman return a few punts as well.
Larsen and Whitehair were battling for the starting left guard spot, but with starting center Hroniss Grasu tearing his ACL during Family Fest on Saturday, the center job is suddenly wide open. Both Larsen and Whitehair have experience at center (Whitehair took snaps there at minicamp), so both should be in the conversation for the job.
Larsen figures to get the first crack at the center job, with Whitehair staying put at guard, but both players should get their fair share of snaps at both positions. The center-quarterback exchange is certainly one to watch on Thursday!
Howard’s tough, bruising running style makes it hard to evaluate him in practice. While his feet, speed, and vision/decision-making can be evaluated, it’s nearly impossible to determine if he could have broken a would-be “tackle” or not.
Well, that all changes in the preseason, as Howard finally will be able to put his biggest strength on display. He’ll be able to break tackles, punish defenders, and fight for the extra yard, all things that he is being counted on doing during the regular season serving as the Bears’ short-yardage back. With Matt Forte gone, this is Howard’s first chance to show the coaching staff that he’ll be able to help fill the void.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio loves to rotate his defensive linemen in order to keep them fresh, so it’s vital that Bullard shows he is able to contribute right away and earn some time in the rotation. Bullard is seen more as a run-stuffing five-technique defensive end, but he has impressed the coaches at training camp with his surprisingly quick first step and pass rushing moves. A strong performance against the Broncos would give Bullard some confidence moving forward and a shot to potentially compete for a starting job.
This has been a battle all training camp long, and it doesn’t figure to end anytime soon. Jones-Quartey is getting first-team reps at strong safety, but Deon Bush has been running with the second-team and has flashed some of his impressive skills.
Like Jordan Howard, Bush is a thumper who loves to bring the wood when tackling. His physical style of play should be on full display on Thursday, and if he shows well, it wouldn’t be surprising if he slowly earned some first-team reps as training camp progresses. Meanwhile, Jones-Quartey will be doing everything in his power to prevent this from happening, so . . . this should be fun to watch.
No one is really talking about Callahan, but in a pass-happy league, his role as the Bears’ slot corner figures to be pretty significant in the upcoming season. After a solid debut last season, the Bears are counting on him to be able to defend dynamic slot receivers (such as Randall Cobb) and provide support in the run defense. There’s really no one pushing Callahan for the job, so it would be nice to see him have a productive game and come out unscathed.
This list wouldn’t be complete without 2015 first-round pick Kevin White and 2016 first-round pick Leonard Floyd on it. For White, it’s all about just seeing him healthy, wearing a Bears’ uniform for the first time, and running around on the field. For Floyd, it’s about seeing his explosion and quickness, and then trying to find him some food to eat on the sideline to help him bulk-up!