The Chicago Bears could have three starters return to the lineup as early as Sunday’s Week 3 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
During his weekly radio show on WBBM AM-780, head coach John Fox said he hopes Sunday will mark the return of left guard Kyle Long, wide receiver Markus Wheaton, and cornerback Prince Amukamara to the lineup. The team will continue to evaluate this trio’s progress, but it seems as if there is a glimmer of hope. No one from this trio of Bears starters has played a single snap during the regular season, and only Amukamara saw playing time during the preseason.
Long hasn’t played in a game since Nov. 13, 2016 when he suffered a season-ending ankle injury that has lingered into the 2017 season. The three-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman has been missed as the Bears’ ground game hasn’t gained much traction through two weeks. Tom Compton, Bradley Sowell, and Cody Whitehair have each seen snaps at left guard in Long’s absence.
Right guard Josh Sitton left the team’s Week 2 loss to the Buccaneers early because of a rib injury, leaving the Bears with an interior trio of Sowell and Whitehair at guard, with Hroniss Grasu at center. Long’s return could help stabilize what was considered to be a position of strength prior to the season.
Wheaton could be a nice addition to an offense that has lacked a threat in the vertical passing game, but he didn’t play in the preseason either. The free agent addition who signed a two-year deal in the offseason missed the preseason because of an appendectomy and a broken pinkie finger that required surgical repair. The Bears suited up just four receivers in their season-opening loss to the Falcons, but added Tre McBride and Tanner Gentry to the 46-man active roster in Week 2. McBride didn’t play at all, while Gentry saw only eight snaps of playing time.
Amukamara looked like the Bears’ top corner throughout training camp and the preseason. Unfortunately, he hasn’t played a snap since injuring his ankle on the first play of the Bears’ preseason Week 3 win against the Titans. Even though Julio Jones wasn’t able to get into a rhythm against the Bears’ secondary in Week 1, Mike Evans played well for the Buccaneers and scored a touchdown in Week 2. Kyle Fuller has filled in as a starter for Amukamara, but the Bears’ best corner (by Pro Football Focus’ grading standards) has been nickel defender Bryce Callahan.
The Bears could use some good news on the injury front after more injuries piled up during Sunday’s loss.