On Thursday night the Chicago Bears kick off the preseason in a game against the Denver Broncos. While the starters may only get a few snaps, it’ll be interesting for Bears fans to see their team in action against real competition.

Outside of the third preseason game, there’s never any “real” football during exhibition games. The starters rarely get any run and teams are more focused on preserving their stars health than winning.

However the preseason allows fans an opportunity to see some of the players towards the bottom of the roster. They may not make an impact during the regular season, but the preseason gives them an opportunity to prove they belong.

The Bears regular season doesn’t start until September 10th against the Falcons. But fans will still be interested to see their Bears finally in action. Here are the three main things you should be watching for on Thursday night.

The Rookies

Adam Hoge of WGN recently wrote an article detailing how the Bears rookies have faired in Training Camp. Overall he feels that there is something special about Ryan Pace’s third draft class. Many of the rookies could have big roles out of the gate, how they perform against NFL level competition will be the first step.

First rounder Mitchell Tribusky is the player most fans are excited to see. After trading up to the second pick, Pace has essentially bet his job on the former North Carolina quarterback. How Tribusky does in his first shot against NFL level competition could do wonders for his potential as the QB of the future.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Bears use him. He is listed as the third string quarterback, although John Fox may not want to play him behind the third string offensive line. Perhaps Tribusky gets some run with the twos or maybe even the ones.

It’s not yet known how much playing time Tribusky will get, but he will certainly be one of the most fun players to watch on Thursday.

Speaking of fun, both second rounder Adam Shaheen and fourth rounder Tarik Cohen have proven to be electric play makers during Training Camp. While they both come from small schools, they look to have big roles right out of the gate for the Bears.

Shaheen has been deemed “Baby Gronk” due to his play style being similar to Rob Grownkowski’s. He was been elite in the Red Zone during Training Camp and has apparently “caught everything”. Shaheen won’t start over Dion Sims and Zach Miller Week One, but there’s a chance he earns more and more snaps as the season goes on. He played at D2 Ashland last season, so Week One of the preseason gives him a shot to prove himself against NFL competition.

Cohen has done it all during Bears Training Camp. He consistently has made play after play and looks to be a Chicago version of Darren Sproles. He is currently third on the depth chart but could jump up with a strong preseason and if Jordan Howard continues to struggle in the passing game. The 5’6″ former NC A&T running back is dubbed “The Human Joystick”, Thursday night he gets to showcase his play making ability against NFL level competition.

Third rounder Eddie Jackson hasn’t gotten the same hype as the aforementioned three, but he has the same level of potential. He is the center field type of safety the Chicago Bears need in the secondary. He is a hard hitter and a player who could realistically unseat Adrian Amos. Coming off of injury, the preseason not only allows Jackson to prove his health, but it gives him an opportunity to show off his skills against NFL level quarterbacks.

Jordan Morgan, the fifth round offensive guard out of D2 Kutztown, has barely been mentioned this offseason. But following the injury to Eric Kush, he has a shot to prove he deserves a top interior offensive lineman backup role with a strong preseason.

Overall, the Chicago Bears draft class is starting to look like one of the best during Pace’s three year tenure. While it was flooded with small school prospects, all five players look like they could contribute at some point in 2017. The first preseason game gives them an opportunity to show off against superior competition. Fans should be excited to see the newest Chicago Bears play in their first NFL game.

The Training Camp Battles

Specifically wide receiver, tight end, defensive end, cornerback and safety. Training Camp gives the Bears’ coaches an idea of the types of players they have on the roster. Preseason games give them a chance to see how they’ll perform against real competition. Fans should be excited to see exactly who will come out victorious in each battle.

At wide receiver, both Cameron Meredith and Kevin White are locked in as starters. However behind them is a mix of veterans and rookies looking to earn a spot on the team. All three of Markus Wheaton, Victor Cruz and Kendall Wright are battling for slot duties. Who ends up with the job Week One will come down to who performs best during the preseason. Outside of those three there’s players such as Rueben Randle, Alton Howard and Tanner Gentry (we’ll get into into), who are looking to make the 53. The Bears wide receiving core is up in the air at this point and it’ll take the preseason to determine roles.

Tight end features veterans in Dion Sims and Zach Miller followed by intruguing young players such as Shaheen, Daniel Brown, Ben Braunecker and MyCole Pruitt. Sims is locked in as the starter, so the battle comes at the backup position. Will the Bears stick with the veteran Miller or allow one of the younger guys make the roster instead? A strong preseason from one of those final three guys could earn them a spot on the final roster while getting Miller cut.

Akiem Hicks is locked in at one defensive end spot, but the other is up in the air. Currently Mitch Unrein is the starter, but he hasn’t been special during his time with the Bears. Chicago brought in Jaye Howard this offseason and former third round pick Jonathan Bullard has been on the rise. If Howard proves to be his 2015 form (5.5 sacks) or Bullard proves to be his Florida form (PFF voted him best pick of the draft), then there’s a chance Unrein doesn’t enter the regular season as a starter on the defensive line.

Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper are locked in on the outside, while Bryce Callahan is locked in on the slot. However much like wide receiver there’s a mix of veterans and rookies vying for a spot on the team. The most intriguing is perhaps former first rounder Kyle Fuller. If he struggles to have a solid preseason, there’s a good shot he is cut/traded. Overall, there’s positions to be won at cornerback and the depth chart will be determined in the preseason.

The safety battle basically boils down to Adrian Amos vs. Eddie Jackson. There are other intruguing prospects like Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson, but with Demps locked in at one spot, only one starting safety role is up for grabs. Amos hasn’t been bad, but he has yet to record an interception during his NFL career. The Bears need a center fielder who can rack up takeaways; which is exactly what Jackson is. Both parties need a strong preseason, but it’s up in the air for who starts at free safety in 2017.

The Bears are still rebuilding and have multiple positions up for grabs. The preseason will determine who has won the battle and will start. Chicago’s game against Denver will give each party the first chance to gain the upper hand.

Tanner Gentry

No player has made more noise at Chicago Bears Training Camp than Tanner Gentry. The UDFA from Wyoming has caught everything thrown his way while making some miraculous catches. It seems like everyday Gentry’s name is being thrown out as a player who has stood out.

Of course, we heard the same thing about Daniel Braverman last year and he did not make the 53-man roster. Just because he’s had a strong Training Camp doesn’t mean Gentry is guaranteed a spot on the team. He is going to have to prove that he can play and succeed against NFL level cornerbacks. Gentry can start that process with a strong game against the Broncos.

Gentry played at Wyoming for four years, appearing 42 games. He caught 180 passes for 2,815 yards and 20 touchdowns. Gentry jumped onto the scene his senior season catching 72 passes for 1,326 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Gentry had a solid Pro Day running a 4.58 40 yard dash with 19 reps on the bench press, 38″ vertical and a 10’3″ broad jump. His bench press number would’ve been second best among wide receivers at the combine while his vertical jump would’ve ranked fourth.

Gentry has great size at 6’2″ and could eventually take over the slot receiver role. However he needs a strong preseason to make the roster. He has more talent than Braverman but could fall to the same fate he did in 2016.

Nonetheless, Tanner Gentry has been one of the most exciting player of Bears’ camp and most Bears fans will finally get a shot to see him in action.

 

Feel free to continue the conversation on Twitter: @DFappiano14 or @spot_bears

SHARE
Dan Fappiano is the Chicago Bears Lead Writer for Pro Football Spot. He is also currently a Journalism Major at Central Connecticut State University. He is a passionate Bears' fan who is still reeling after the 2006 Super Bowl loss. You may follow him on Twitter @DFappiano14 where he loves receiving compliments and arguing about how the Bears totally won't suck in 2017.