Well folks, we made it. The Bears partake in their first live game this week against the Carolina Panthers. This will be the first time the team has taken the field since they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wildcard round back in January. This time of year, fans and analysts alike are prone to overthinking both individual and team performances. It is at this time I must remind you that the 2008 Detroit Lions (the team who went 0-16) went undefeated in the preseason while in contrast the 1985 Chicago Bears finished 1-3. While having football back is exciting, it’s important to not take too much stock into these games.

 

The preseason is a period for front office personnel and coaches to gauge all levels of the roster. Last preseason, the Bears offensive starters played on 6 series total in 5 games (via ESPN.com). It seems that this year will follow a similar pattern, prioritizing the rest and health of players rather than take the unnecessary risk of playing them in meaningless games. However, just because the starters won’t be on the field much, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any storylines worth monitoring. Here are 5 things Bears fan should be monitoring during the game on Thursday.

 

David Montgomery

When the Bears traded up to draft former Iowa State Cyclone David Montgomery, it was pretty much assumed that he would have a sizable role in the offense. While Montgomery got most of his reps with the second team offense to start camp, he is fully expected to become the team’s workhorse running back at some point during the 2019 season. Montgomery hit the ground running, and I mean running HARD to open camp (see clip below). While he may not be someone who’s going to burn you with open field speed, the rookie is incredibly agile in and out of his cuts while also possessing the power to punish defenders that refuse to meet him in the hole. Viewers of the game this week can expect him to get quite a few totes with the rock. Matt Nagy even said himself that he expects Montgomery to receive “a fair amount of carries” throughout the entirety of the preseason. Giving the rookie meaningful snaps versus Carolina this Thursday will allow him the opportunity to gain reps against an above average, well coached defense.

 

The Kicking Situation

Would it really be a Bears article without some mention of the ongoing kicking battle? Elliott Fry and Eddie Pinero have gone back and forth to start training camp, both putting their best foot forward in their efforts to earn the team’s kicker spot (that was a sick pun don’t look away). Both players had the opportunity to kick at Soldier Field this past Saturday during the Bears Family Fest for the first time this season, which yielded strong results for both guys.

  • Eddie Pinero
    (Image via the Chicago Sun Times)
    • 10/10
  • Elliott Fry
    • 6/7 (Missed from 60)

 

While Pinero seems to have the upper hand at the moment, Thursday will provide them with the first chance to actually kick in a game situation. While Nagy might not trot them out there on a 3rd down or earlier, it certainly is not out of the question that the team might purposely stall drives in order to give them the opportunity. Nailing down this position has been one of the team’s primary goals this offseason and they would be doing themselves a disservice by not letting these guys kick in high pressure situations.

 

While Pinero seems to have the upper hand at the moment, Thursday will provide them with the first chance to actually kick in a game situation. While Nagy might not trot them out there on a 3rd down or earlier, it certainly is not out of the question that the team might purposely stall drives in order to give them the opportunity. Nailing down this position has been one of the team’s primary goals this offseason and they would be doing themselves a disservice by not letting these guys kick in high pressure situations.

 

The Battle for the Final Wide Receiver Spots

Outside the highly publicized kicker battle, the other big competition brewing in Bourbonnais has been between the guys on the back end of the wide receiver depth chart. The current locks for a roster spot are Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Riley Ridley, and Cordarrelle Patterson. With 5 spots already filled, many would argue that there is only more spot available. Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy are committed to fielding the most talented 53 man roster they can, regardless if they must overload at one position. The wide receiver position is the one fits that criteria. Javon Wims has been one of the hottest names in Bears camp thus far, seemingly making plays on a daily basis. He is even listed as Allen Robinson’s immediate backup on the team’s first unofficial depth chart. While he doesn’t offer much in special teams value, the former Georgia Bulldog is just too talented to let go at the moment.

One player who does possess some special teams prowess is free agent signing, Marvin Hall. The former Atlanta Falcon returned kickoffs in 2018 while also playing a role on their coverage teams. Hall reportedly ran a 4.28 at his Pro Day for Washington back in 2016. The only real competition he faces comes from UDFA Mizzou product, Emmanuel Hall. Emmanuel Hall was projected as a potential 3rd-4th round pick by many draft analysts but slipped due to injury concerns and his lack of a full route tree. While Emmanuel does have track speed similar to Marvin’s, he was held out at the start of camp due to injury and lacks the same experience on special teams. Emmanuel has the potential to play a role in an NFL offense, but it may prove difficult to choose an unproven commodity over an experienced NFL contributor in Marvin Hall. To make matters worse for the rookie, Emmanuel was listed dead last on the Bears wide receiver depth chart. However, Thursday is the first true opportunity for Emmanuel Hall to showcase what he can do in a game environment.

 

(Image via 247Sports)

Duke Shelley

While the Bears starting defense is pretty much set in stone, there are a few younger guys who could make a name for themselves. The first player that comes to mind is late round Kansas State product, Duke Shelley. Shelley is another player that has received hype throughout both minicamp and training camp. It isn’t too often that 6th round rookies work themselves into sizable roles yet the opportunity is there for the young corner. Buster Skrine has the makings of a solid veteran, but Shelley has shown he has a nose for the football, recording multiple interceptions throughout camp. The recurring theme of this article is that it is important not to overreact to individual practices so Shelley’s performances

should be taken with a small grain of salt. With that being said, if Shelley continues to showcase his abilities in game scenarios, he could find himself playing meaningful snaps on Sundays this season.

 

Tight End Group

On this week’s episode of the Halas Hall Brawl, we broke down the depth chart and the tight end position is beginning to look like one of the Bears more glaring issues heading into the season. Starter Trey Burton hasn’t practiced for a few days now and will miss the game versus the Panthers on Thursday. Former 2nd round pick Adam Shaheen has struggled mightily with injuries and drops throughout camp. Ben Braunecker is a hardly a name this will excite fans while Bradley Sowell will most likely fill out the group as a blocking tight end.

When you dive a little deeper, you’ll find undrafted roster hopefuls such as Ian Bunting and Dax Raymond. Bunting, a relatively unknown commodity out of the University of Michigan and California, is currently listed as their 5th tight end. Raymond received some draft day buzz, but ultimately fell out of all 7 rounds. While it is unlikely these two will make the roster, a good preseason from either of them could put them in consideration for not only the Bears 53 man, but other team’s rosters around the league as well.

 

The preseason isn’t quite what fans want it to be, yet it is football nonetheless. There are only 29 more days until the Bears kickoff the season versus Green Bay so these exhibition matchups will have to provide us our fix for now. Soon enough we will have Bears football and NFL Sundays back in our lives.

 

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