The Chicago Bears first preseason game kicks off Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens in the 2018 Hall of Fame Game and will give the NFL its first look at Lamar Jackson, the dynamic dual-threat quarterback chosen in the first round of April's NFL draft.
Jackson should see a fair share of reps in the preseason opener. Robert Griffin III will get the start (assuming Joe Flacco sits this one out) and will probably play deep into the first quarter, if not more. But the real fun begins once Jackson takes the field. He'll challenge Bears defenders, especially the edge defenders and second-level linebackers, with his escapability and dynamic speed.
Here are four Bears worth watching when Chicago is on defense:
Nichols will see his first NFL action after coming to Chicago as a fifth-round pick from the FCS ranks. Not only will he be challenged by bigger and stronger linemen, but he'll square off against one of the scariest athletes playing quarterback to enter the NFL since Mike Vick. If he's able to create some pressure or wrangle Jackson to the ground, he'll build a lot of momentum for an even bigger role as a rookie.
Robertson-Harris is in a training camp battle with Jonathan Bullard for a starting job alongside Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman. He's overflowing with potential and has a freakish combination of size and movement skills. If he can run down Jackson and flash some of that ability during the Hall of Fame Game, his stock will be on the rise.
Irving is fighting for a roster spot this season and is something of a fan-favorite to actually challenge for starter's reps at outside linebacker. With Aaron Lynch continuing to miss time and Sam Acho already a known commodity, Irving has a wide open opportunity to carve out a pass-rushing role in the preseason.
Will the Bears play Kwiatkoski, currently a starter, in the Hall of Fame Game with Roquan Smith's contract status still a great unknown? They should. Kwiatkoski is a very talented player and one who likely has a long-term future in Chicago, but once Smith returns from his holdout, the third-year pro will revert to backup reps. The Bears should continue to build as much tape as they can on Kwiatkoski to help evaluate his role and status for the future. Plus, if he shines? Maybe it forces Smith's hand a little.