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Chicago Bears Early August Scouting Report
News and notes from training camp and preseason game #1 at Soldier Field against the Chiefs...
According to Josh Schrock, who has done great work since taking over as NBC Sports Chicagoâ€™s Bears insider a few months ago, QB Justin Fields has looked solid in camp so far. Yes, there have been occasional picks, throws behind receivers, late throws, etc. But those sorts of things are par for the course when installing/running a new offense. New OC Luke Getsyâ€™s scheme has Fields on the move often with the kind of designed rollouts/bootlegs that fans begged for last season. The offense in camp has been clunky overall due to new scheme growing pains like alignment and penalty issues, O-line inconsistency, and wide receiver attrition (more on that later). Despite these issues, Fields has generally been able to make the best of them and still have some success, particularly in red zone drills.
In yesterdayâ€™s preseason opener, Fields completed four of seven passes for 48 yards, had a ten-yard run, and was sacked twice. In three drives, he made a couple of nice throws, including a beautifully-lofted ball to WR Darnell Mooney for a 26-yard gain.
RB David Montgomery missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday with an undisclosed injury, but HC Matt Eberflus said that heâ€™ll be fine and will return quickly. There hasnâ€™t been much focus on the running game in camp, but according to Schrock, Montgomery and RB Khalil Herbert have shown good vision, and the O-line has run blocked better than it has pass blocked.
With Montgomery out, Herbert got the start against the Chiefs and looked ok, but it was rookie RB Trestan Ebner who stole the show with a 27-yard run featuring a nasty juke and a 12-yard TD reception. The sixth-round pick showed why the Bears drafted him: heâ€™s got great speed, he catches the ball very well, and he has surprised some with his physicality. He also had a couple of kickoff returns, including a 34-yarder to open the game. This kind of versatility should help him make the team.
Mooney has looked the part of a #1 receiver. He has great chemistry with Fields and is the one sure thing in this receiving corps. Equanimeous St. Brownâ€™s familiarity with Getsyâ€™s scheme from their days in Cheeseland gave him a leg up going into camp, and he looks to have solidified his role as the #2 receiver with a solid showing so far, including effectiveness as a red zone threat thanks to his 6-5 height. The rest of the receiving corps looks like a MASH unit...
WR Byron Pringle, who was thought to be the leading slot candidate going into camp, was already struggling to get on the same page as Fields when he suffered a quad injury that may keep him out for the rest of the preseason. WR Nâ€™Keal Harry was having a decent camp until he suffered a high ankle sprain on the first play (first play!!!) of live tackling when LB Nicholas Morrow hit him low (guys, donâ€™t injure your own teammates...). He had tightrope surgery on his ankle and could be out for around eight weeks. Rookie WR Velus Jones Jr was doing a pretty good job of flashing his speed and playmaking ability until he... got injured (see a trend here?), though Eberflus says itâ€™s just a day-to-day injury. WR David Moore got carted off with a leg injury a few days ago. WR Dante Pettis was also injured but returned to practice on Thursday.
With so many guys out, WR Tajae Sharpe and WR Isaiah Coulter have stepped up in recent practices. According to Schrock, Fields and Sharpe have connected for several TDs in red zone drills. Mooney said that Coulter always does extra work after practice and comes to his house to use the JUGS machine. Against the Chiefs, it was Sharpe who stood out again with a couple of leaping grabs, including a spectacular mostly one-handed snag of a Fields throw for a 27-yard gain. Coulter had a couple of short catches, and Pettis had a 25-yarder. Second-year man WR Dazz Newsome muffed a punt but recovered to later haul in a 13-yard TD reception from backup QB Trevor Siemian. He also showed his quickness later on a 13-yard end-around run.
TE Cole Kmet was having a solid camp until he, you guessed it, got injured a few days ago (though Eberflus said heâ€™ll be fine and back quickly). Schrock said that Kmet has made some great catches in third-down situational drills.
Things got off to an inauspicious start for this group when new C Lucas Patrick broke his thumb early in camp. He had surgery on it, but thereâ€™s a chance he could be back in time for the season opener. Then there was the T Teven Jenkins saga. In the midst of missing seven consecutive practices with an undisclosed injury, there were reports of him having a "disconnect" with the coaching staff, then reports that the Bears were trying to trade him. Despite all that, he recently returned to practice and did play on the second unit against the Chiefs, doing a decent job. He seems to be healthy at the moment, but who knows what the future holds for him.
The likely starting five has started to come into focus over the past week or two. Against the odds, rookie T Braxton Jones looks like heâ€™s on track to begin the season as the starting left tackle. Heâ€™s been impressive in camp going against vets, and he played fairly well against the Chiefs. G Cody Whitehair will be the left guard. C Sam Mustipher will likely be the man in the middle until Patrick gets back. G Michael Schofield probably will be the right guard, though he struggled against KC. T Riley Reiff looked likely to start on the left when the team signed him, but with Jones locking down that side, Reiff will now start on the right. T Larry Borom, who has started on both sides at times over the past few months, looks like heâ€™ll be the swing tackle.
The LB Roquan Smith soap opera has been the big story here. Heâ€™s in camp but not participating because he wants a massive contract extension. Then last week, he put out a statement saying that the Bears hadnâ€™t negotiated with him in good faith and that he wanted to be traded. Bears fans will remember that it was a pain in the ass to sign him to his rookie contract as well. This time, he doesnâ€™t have an agent and is trying to negotiate this deal himself, which obviously complicates things. I can see both sides here: GM Ryan Poles probably doesnâ€™t want to give a linebacker a record-setting contract whenâ€™s he starting a rebuild, and heâ€™d like to see how Smith does in Eberflusâ€™ defense before giving him that kind of money. But Smith is clearly the best player on the team and one of the top off-ball linebackers in the league. However this is going to be resolved, it needs to happen quickly.
After he didnâ€™t participate in the offseason program, it looked like there would be a similar saga with DE Robert Quinn. But to his credit, he reported to camp, he participated from the start, he said that he was just getting his mind and body right in the offseason, and he said that he expects to stay with the team. Good on him. Now of course, he could still be traded at some point, but heâ€™s here for now and helping young players like Jones learn the ropes of the NFL.
Rookie second-rounders CB Kyler Gordon and S Jaquan Brisker have continued to impress, though Gordon still has on-and-off injury issues. Brisker had a nice debut against the Chiefs, making a few tackles and nearly snagging a pick. The guy is always around the ball, and he is always looking to lay the wood. As upset as Bears fans were that the team didnâ€™t take a receiver with that second-round pick, I think theyâ€™ll love this guy. Another guy who impressed against KC was rookie undrafted free agent LB Jack Sanborn, who had an INT and a fumble recovery.
PK Cairo Santos, with new holder P Trenton Gill, hit both of his field goal attempts and his lone extra point against KC.
More to come later this month!
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