Do you hear that? Can you sense the optimism and pessimism of practically every NFL team attempt to cancel one another out as the NFL preseason games begin across the league? Fans show up in droves to get an early glimpse of what they hope will be the team to raise the Lombardi trophy at the end of the season. No matter where your team finished the previous season, fans hold hope against all hope that this is year of “worst to first”, “the year we put it all together”, “make the in season trade that turns the tide”, or any other grasping at straws saying you can think of to describe your team’s chances this season. Be that as it may, OUR Chicago Bears are entering the pre-season with an agenda entirely different from most teams in the NFL and any Bears team in recent history.

Players vying for starting positions, whether it be rookies, vets, or undrafted free agents, are a thing of the past with this year’s team. With the offensive and defensive starters firmly entrenched, the only competition is the one we’ve all been following since free agency started – Kicker. While Elliot Fry created a little separation between himself and Eddy Pinero with last evening’s performance, we know this competition is far, far, far from over. More than likely the tide will swing Pinero’s way once or twice the rest of the pre-season. With no obvious choice for Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy, the high probability is that this season’s kicker is currently on another roster. So, while the kicker competition continues to unfold, Pace, Nagy and the rest of the staff gets to use the remainder of the pre-season to do what upper tier teams do – look for and develop depth at every position.

As far as the rookies are concerned, David Montgomery has more than demonstrated that, to borrow from Denny Green, “He is who we thought he is!!” After Thursday night and the few videos released from camp, Montgomery showed all the traits the Bears coveted in moving up to draft him in the 3rd round of this year’s draft. Elusive, powerful, calculating, and most importantly possesses the vision necessary to excel as an NFL running back. There is zero need to have him continue to play in these meaningless pre-season games. At a certain point of the season, Montgomery, Mike Davis or Tarik Cohen is going to end up getting the majority of the carries in critical spots of the season. Should that turn out to be Montgomery, as many analysts suspect, the wise move is to limit or eliminate his touches in the preseason.

Riley Ridley, Duke Shelley, Stephen Denmark, and Kerrith Whyte Jr. all stand to gain valuable experience and reps from the remaining pre-season games. While Ridley and Denmark are dealing with respective injuries (Ridley has since returned from his hamstring issue) Shelley and Whyte have been able to stay healthy and “flash” at moments during camp and Thursday night. Barring an extreme drop off, Ridley and Shelley should be locks for the final 53 man roster, but Denmark and Whyte need to set themselves apart or demonstrate their worth on special teams.

As far as the rest of this pre-season, we should expect to see more of the 2nd and 3rd team guys who are trying to unseat a veteran or make a good enough impression to get claimed should they not make the coveted final 53. Don’t be too surprised if some of these “no names” make the team either. Another facet we the fans tend to forget is the salary cap ramifications for this year and beyond. A younger, healthier AND cheaper player will tend to win out over a veteran. This is to help the number crunchers in the Ted Phillips wing of Halas Hall figure out how to keep as many talented Bears on the roster as possible. So guys like Alex Bars who can come in and show what made him one of the top college linemen before a season ending knee injury. If the medical staff gives the thumbs up, this allows him the chance to unseat a veteran like Ted Larsen. Kevin Pierre-Louis can ball out on special teams and make enough key plays to spark the debate about whether he or Joel Iyiegbuniwe deserve a back-up linebacker spot. In order to pay the Eddie Jacksons, Cody Whitehairs, Mitchell Trubiskys, and Khalil Macks the front office will need to squeeze every penny while still leaving Ryan Pace space to sign a veteran to fill an emergency need.

This Bears team, OUR Bears team is going to proceed this pre-season and into the season like none we’ve seen. The guys who play in the games, the number of snaps first stringers see, the rest/days off a veteran receives and the lack of razzle-dazzle offensively and defensively will be topics discussed to fill the void leading up to the regular season. Barring multiple catastrophic injuries and a locker room implosion, this team is going to be good again this season and potentially for many seasons to come. But because this is a “new” team, with “new” leaders who have tapped into a formula of success that hasn’t been a part of the Bears history, we fans need to adjust and believe in Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy, just as we have placed that belief in leaders of the past. We are on the cusp of something special. Let us learn to soak it all in and enjoy every new experience.