The day before the preseason starter is essentially the calm before storm that comes before the real calm before the storm (where’s my Pulitzer?)
Preseason games are a necessary evil, but there are only four of them – so let’s get through this together. I know we can do it.
- Chris Burke of SI.com brings a big picture perspective on the Bears after his recent visit to Bourbonnais. One of his major takeaways is that the defense will ultimately determine how good this team will be. Yes, there has been a major focus on what’s happening at quarterback and throughout the offense – and rightfully so (getting the QB situation settled (and most importantly, correct) is a high priority) – but the Bears’ defense will carry quite the load.
- The front seven has the potential to be great, but won’t be able to reach its ceiling if its key members aren’t on the field. The secondary is improved after an offseason in which the team added three new starters, but each of those players comes with questions that need to be answered. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio definitely has his work cut out for him, but at least he has a talented group to work with.
- Over at CBS Sports, Sean Wagner-McGough writes that the Bears’ defense is nearly at a point where it is ready to take down Aaron Rodgers. While I’m not quite there just yet, there is no doubt GM Ryan Pace has built his team with the idea of toppling the mighty Green Bay Packers – starting with their quarterback. While there has been a focus on how the offensive line was built into a projected top-5 unit, Wagner-McGough notes that Pace has assembled what could be a potentially menacing front seven that features five players acquired since 2015. As we alluded to earlier, health will dictate how well this unit performs. If it stays healthy, it could have a fighting chance – and it all starts up front.
- As a reminder, not everyone is as high on the Bears’ front seven as Wagner-McGough or even Burke. Pro Football Focus ranked the Bears’ front seven in the bottom third of the league coming into the season. That’s quite a disparity in perspective, but the only way we’ll find out which analysis is more accurate will be to watch how it all unfolds on the field.
- Mitch Trubisky and the rest of the Bears’ rookie class will make their NFL debuts on Thursday, and while this team is loaded with youth, there are enough veterans who can be looked to for sage advice. Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times caught up with some of the team’s more experienced players who shared memories of their first games and even some advice on how to handle the moment. How Trubisky responds to his first snaps as a pro will be worth watching, no matter when he gets into the game.
- Trubisky, tight end Adam Shaheen, and running back Tarik Cohen are among the rookies who will receive the most attention as they make their pro debuts, but there are some late-round picks and undrafted free agents who shouldn’t be overlooked tomorrow. Adam Hoge’s annual look at how the Bears’ draft class has fared at Bourbonnais mentions a name that has hovered under the radar. Offensive lineman Jordan Morgan, a fifth-round pick from Division II Kutztown University who is making the transition from being a four-year starter at tackle to life as a guard in the NFL. His development will likely be followed more closely now that versatile offensive line swingman Eric Kush is out for the season.
- Hoge also notes the performance of undrafted free agent wide receiver Tanner Gentry, who has become a training camp superstar with his flair for down-the-field catches as he aims to make the cut and avoid being mentioned with the likes of Dane Sanzenbacher and Daniel Braverman.
- If you thought the Bears’ wide receivers room was an unsettled mess, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve checked out the New York Jets. A year ago at this time, the Jets were flying high coming off a 10-6 season in which they narrowly missed the playoffs. Part of the team’s optimism was tied to having a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Fast forward to 2017 and neither is with the team, and our old friend Josh McCown is throwing to one of the most inexperienced groups of pass catchers in the league. At least McCown will recognize a familiar face in Marquess Wilson, who signed with the Jets in the offseason after spending the last four seasons with the Bears.
- Devonta Freeman is now the highest-paid running back in the league. The Atlanta Falcons and the two-time Pro Bowl running back agreed to a five-year extension that pays out $17.3 million in fully guaranteed money and as much as $41.25 million over the life of the contract. Freeman has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, gaining 2,135 yards and scoring 22 touchdowns in 31 games since the start of the 2015 season. The Bears will get a good look at Freeman in Week 1 when the defending NFC champions travel to Soldier Field for the season opener.