The Chicago Bears showed promising signs in their preseason opener on Saturday, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 19-14 at Soldier Field as a handful of young players stepped up and played with the competitive edge coach Matt Eberflus seeks.
Another test awaits Thursday night at Lumen Field with the Seattle Seahawks welcoming the Bears for a nationally televised game (7 pm, ESPN). Here are four stories worth following.
Fields won’t have much time to prove much with Eberflus planning to play his first-unit offense for a series or two. But it’s still worth focusing on each of the plays the second-year quarterback is asked to make.
From group command to pre-snap insight to his ability to process and make good decisions, Fields’ preseason representatives remain under the microscope. The Bears are pushing him to raise the bar as the season approaches, demanding better footwork and better timing and feel in the pocket.
Thursday’s game is another chance for Fields and the offense to get better, and the coaches love how open Fields has been to hard training.
“He loves it,” quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko said. “You talk about a guy who just loves football and wants to be great and wants to elevate everyone around him. He is quite impressive.
At the start of training camp, Eberlus promised he would mix and match combinations on the offensive line to identify the most unified and reliable quintet. The latest combination has Teven Jenkins, who was drafted in the second round in 2021 to be a starting left tackle, auditioning at right guard.
Jenkins played 36 snaps at right tackle against the Chiefs but it was hit inside this week for his latest challenge. He’ll likely start Thursday, but he’ll get a lot more playing time than the rest of the projected Week 1 starters down the line.
“Like any position, if you’re not an experienced guy at your position, we’re going to try to give you a little bit more (playing time),” Eberflus said Tuesday.
As the Bears try to find a position where Jenkins can help them, the coaching staff has praised his intelligence as a plus for this latest move. Offensive line coach Chris Morgan sees a combination of size, strength and speed in Jenkins that he’s intrigued to test on the inside.
“It’s a little adjustment,” Morgan said. “But we wouldn’t ask him to do anything he couldn’t handle. He has some attributes that can really shine there. So we’re excited about that, excited to see what it looks like.”
A pair of Day 2 draft picks, cornerback Kyler Gordon and wide receiver Velus Jones, are expected to make their preseason debuts after missing Saturday’s game with injuries. It’s an exciting homecoming for Gordon.which is from Everett, Washington, and puts him back in the city where he played in college with Washington.
“It was meant to be,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jones is expected to play various roles for the Bears throughout the season. So getting a chance to try it out in game conditions on offense and special teams will be valuable.
As for the rest of the rookie class, keep an eye on fifth-round pick Dominique Robinson and undrafted rookie Micah Dew-Treadway on the defensive line. It will also be interesting to see if running back Trestan Ebner can build on his performance against the Chiefs; he had a 12-yard touchdown reception to go with a 27-yard run and a 34-yard kickoff return.
In the long run, Ebner made a sweet cut in the backfield, hitting cornerback Jaylen Watson as he burst into the open field. But it was his shoulder-down, gritted-teeth ending to that career that impressed offensive coordinator Luke Getsy the most.
“It was an impressive cut,” Getsy said. “But I think when you have one of these little kids (running) on that sideline and there’s a guy there and you can go out of bounds … but the way he put his foot down and got us 5 more yards, that it is the mentality that we are trying to build here. That’s one of those philosophical plays that we’re going to present in the offensive unit room.”
Yes, yes. It’s a big request to ask him to give up part of his Thursday night to watch punts in a mid-August preseason game. But hey, anything for a dose of football, right?
This is a second chance for Bears fans to get acquainted with Trenton Gill, a seventh-round draft pick who threw seven punts in the preseason opener. Gill showed a good combination of leg strength and touch and forced the Chiefs to start possessions at 12, 5 and 3 yards. His growth is worth monitoring. The Bears might need to use him a lot this season.
Meanwhile, Seahawks punter Michael Dickson is in his fifth season. The Aussie signed a four-year, $14.5 million extension last season and followed up with a solid year in which he averaged 46.9 yards per punt and had a league-high 40 punts inside the 20-yard line.
Dickson will present a challenge for the Bears as they look for a winner for their kick return job. Dazz Newsome, Dante Pettis and Chris Finke took cracks on Saturday.