Some Saturday art to get you visually stimulated prior to Sunday’s game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) September 16, 2017
- We won’t know who will suit up on the Bears’ active 46-man roster on Sunday, but we can’t help but wonder if Tanner Gentry – who was called up from the practice squad earlier this week – will make the cut and make his regular season debut. After all, the Bears suited up just four receivers last week … but then went out and threw it 40 times with Mike Glennon nearly leading a come-from-behind win thanks to a furious fourth-quarter rally. Over at Pro Football Focus, Mark Chichester analyzes Gentry’s potential impact if he was to be called upon in Week 2. Gentry finished with a perfect 158.3 receiver rating and averaged 1.40 yards per route run – meaning he wasn’t just standing at or behind the line of scrimmage waiting for the ball.
- At Wyoming, Gentry carved a niche as a reliable deep threat, which is something the Bears don’t have right now and could use with two starters out of the mix. Gentry led college football’s FBS division (or Division I, if it makes you feel more comfortable) in deep ball targets (49) and receptions (22). Lining up Gentry on the outside and sending him deep could be one of those things that pushes the defense out of the box and creates more lanes underneath and in the running game. The Bears could sure use it against a potentially stout run defense led by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
- The addition of free agent Markus Wheaton could also help the Bears’ passing offense take a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, Wheaton’s status for Sunday’s game is questionable because he’s still working his way back from a surgically repaired broken finger he suffered during the last open practice of training camp. ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson writes Wheaton is still building confidence as he gears up for his first regular season action. Wheaton’s presence in the lineup could potentially give Mike Glennon another reliable option, though the two haven’t had much time to build much of a rapport or chemistry.
- Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains wouldn’t mind adding Wheaton to the lineup because he could be placed in different spots in various formations. Wheaton was a serviceable slot receiver with the Steelers, but also served as a timely deep threat for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Glennon threw just one pass that traveled more than 20 yards in the air, and it was intended for running back Tarik Cohen – who lined up in the slot on the play. For as good as Glennon was in the fourth quarter, the Bears would be wise to take some shots downfield earlier to establish some semblance of a deep threat.
- Over on the defensive side of the ball, The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain writes about linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski getting his second shot as a starting inside linebacker. Even though he isn’t listed as a starter on the Bears’ official depth chart, Kwiatkoski figures to be thrust into the role he took over twice last year. If you’ll recall, Kwiatkoski started games when Danny Trevathan’s season ended with a knee injury and when Jerrell Freeman was sacked with a four-game PED suspension. And if Kwiatkoski takes to it, he’ll join running back Jordan Howard, center Cody Whitehair, and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd as second-year players who are full-time starters. To see the Bears’ 2016 NFL Draft class round into form would be big for the Bears’ rebuilding process.
- We saw Akiem Hicks dominate in the regular season opener against the Atlanta Falcons, but on the other side of the line of scrimmage was a rookie offensive lineman who struggled mightily. Falcons guard Wes Schweitzer wasn’t in much of a mood to re-visit his debut performance, in which he allowed Hicks to run wild pressuring the quarterback and stuffing run plays in the backfield. Schweitzer was given a 32.3 grade by Pro Football Focus, which ranked 61st among 63 guards who qualified for the site’s leaderboard.
- There is hope Hicks can repeat his performance on Sunday against the Buccaneers, putting pressure on quarterback Jameis Winston and possibly causing some questionable decision-making. On the other hand, Winston is in the third year of his NFL career and trying to take a step forward in the maturation process. Winston tells Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times he is working on being more patient as a passer. However, Winston also cautions “you are who you are” which suggests he will still be willing to take some risks downfield – something Bears defenders should be ready to pounce on if given the opportunity.
- Only three players are listed on Tampa Bay’s injury report, as the Buccaneers enter Week 2 healthy and rested after getting the week off while dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Linebacker Devante Bond is listed as out, while fellow linebacker Kwon Alexander (illness) and center Evan Smith (illness) are listed as questionable.