In case you missed it, the Bears will be without running back Jordan Howard on Saturday, who suffered a minor eye injury during a walk through. Backup running back Jeremy Langford will sit this one out, too, as he continues to recover from ankle injuries.
It’s a late start for the Chicago Bears tonight as the team resumes its preseason schedule in Arizona when it faces the Cardinals. Here’s hoping you’re well rested.
- Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic has five sleeper-type players to keep an eye on during Saturday’s preseason tilt. Three of the five players are defenders at different stages of their respective careers. For example, Nick Kwiatkoski is a young player in a position to fill in for linebacker Danny Trevathan if his knee injury forces him out of action when games start to matter. While he seems to be a lock for the season-opening 53-man roster, outside linebacker Lamarr Houston always seems to be on the roster bubble. That tends to happen when you’re one of the few holdovers from the previous GM’s regime. Houston has been productive when he has played, but injuries have minimized his impact.
- On the offensive side of the ball, it’ll be worth noting how well (and how much) Hroniss Grasu plays. Grasu has been seeing first-team reps at center for an offensive line in flux without Kyle Long at left guard. The third-round pick out of Oregon in 2015 started eight games at center as a rookie, missed the entire 2016 season, and has been learning to play guard to increase his flexibility. A strong preseason performance could go a long way toward boosting his value.
- Cornerback Marcus Cooper is also worth keeping tabs on, as he returns to Arizona to face his former team. Cooper spent just one year with the Cardinals, but made the most of it as he came down with four interceptions in a season in which he started 13 games. The Bears hope Cooper brings those ball-hawking instincts to Chicago, a team that forced just 11 turnovers last season.
- Bobby Massie is another player who is making a return trip to face the Cardinals. The Bears’ right tackle has an up-and-down season, but was an overall disappointment, as he didn’t provide the kind of stability or production at right tackle that was expected. Massie earned a 72.0 grade from Pro Football Focus, which ranked him 39th among offensive tackles. Massie was replaced by D.J. Humphries, who earned a 72.0 grade from PFF … but has a little more upside at this point of his career than the player he replaced.
- On the other side of the offensive line, Charles Leno Jr. is playing for bigger things down the line. The Bears’ starting left tackle is in a contract year and stands to make a ton of money as a free agent after the conclusion of this season if he can stay healthy and be productive. However, that isn’t what’s on Leno’s mind right now. Instead, JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago writes Leno’s primary focus is in the present as he aims to improve at his position. Leno hasn’t been spectacular at the position, but he has been solid and reliable – something that isn’t lost on head coach John Fox.
- If Leno can prove to be a superb pass blocker for a second straight season, perhaps the Bears could explore re-signing him before he hits the market. Leno’s 71.2 grade from Pro Football Focus in 2016 ranks him 42nd among 76 qualifying tackles.
- There wouldn’t be much of a quarterback debate in Chicago if the team took its cues from Madden NFL ’18. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times has the rundown of Bears player rankings, which features Mitch Trubisky (77) edging Mike Glennon (74). With the team being settled under center, let’s highlight some other top-rated players and positions of strength such as inside linebacker (Jerrell Freeman, 88; Danny Trevathan, 84), offensive line (Josh Sitton, 89; Cody Whitehair, 86), and wide receiver (Cam Meredith, 83). Howard, who was the team’s best offensive player last season, received an 85 rating.
- Russell Wilson carved up a Vikings defense missing a starting safety (Anthony Sedenjo) and cornerback (Trey Waynes) in a 20-13 Seahawks win. You can check out some highlights here. Wilson played one half of football, but threw for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Former Vikings kicker Blair Walsh made a pair of 52-yard field goals for the Seahawks, and made sure the Minnesota sideline knew about it, too.
- Here’s what former Bears head coach Lovie Smith had to say regarding any potential protests his players might have in the wake of the current events happening in the U.S. and the world:
Illinois Coach Lovie Smith tells Steve Torre his reaction to the National Anthem protests and if he would welcome his players to take a knee pic.twitter.com/hrsTZFdR0O
— Mad Dog Sports Radio (@MadDogRadio) August 17, 2017