It took 24 practices and five games, but the Bears’ preseason is finally over. Hallelujah. The real fun begins in just over a week with a Sunday night trip to Lambeau Field.
So we’ll leave the preseason behind with some final thoughts after the Bears’ 28-27 loss to the Buffalo Bills Thursday night at Soldier Field:
And the starting O-line is…
While Matt Nagy wasn’t ready to officially name his starting offensive line, it was noteworthy that Eric Kush did not play Thursday while James Daniels did for the entire game at left guard. And because of that disparity, it’s fair to pencil in Kush as the starting left guard for Week 1.
“I’m not going to say 100 percent, but we would probably lean toward that,” Nagy said.
Daniels won’t turn 21 until next month and still has some things on which to work. Specifically, Nagy pointed to Daniels needing to improve his recognition of fronts and blitzes and play with better leverage. He brought up one play on Thursday on which Daniels “over-reached” on a run, which led to him getting beat for a tackle by a Bills defender.
That Daniels all but assuredly won’t start Week 1 doesn’t change the Bears’ long-term outlook for him, but it is a reminder that a player as young as him does have some work to do before he can be a starting offensive lineman in the NFL.
“He’s a rookie,” Nagy said. “He’s young. He’s going to be tested and we just want to stay away from making those same mistakes twice.”
And the O-line depth is…
Kush, Daniels, Charles Leno, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long and Bobby Massie are locks to make the 53-man roster. Swing tackle Bradley Sowell seems likely to make it, too, despite suffering a sprained in last week’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. So that gets us to seven.
Teams usually take nine or 10 offensive linemen on their roster, but the Bears do have some versatility among those seven guys (Daniels can play guard and center, for instance), so let’s say the number is nine. Could Rashaad Coward, the converted defensive linemen who’s played a ton of snaps at right tackle, be part of the 53-man roster?
“He showed me a lot, he really did,” Nagy said. “This is a kid that was playing defensive line last year. And last week, for him to be lining up against Justin Houston and Dee Ford and hold his own, pretty good. We’re proud of him. That’s a kid that is continuing to grow. You see him growing every day in practice. He’s very, very coachable, so when Harry tells him something, he usually gets it done. And that’s a benefit for us.”
That sounds like a decent endorsement, especially given the upside the Bears believe Coward possesses. If he’s the eighth, the ninth is less clear, with interior guys Will Pericak and Hroniss Grasu likely topping the list of players there.
Grasu, though, is only a center, and with Whitehair and Daniels on the roster he may not have a spot.
“It’s hard when you start thinking about that, but once you train your brain to think that way (control what you can control), you’re at peace with a lot of things,” Grasu said. “I truly believe in that and it has helped me out to get to this point.”
Tight end Daniel Brown (shoulder) and outside linebacker Kasim Edebali (leg) both left Thursday’s game with injuries suffered in the second half.
Brown seemed ticketed for a spot on the 53-man roster given his receiving upside and special teams ability, but his injury could potentially throw that into question.
“I don’t know how long or if it’s day by day or week by week,” Nagy said, adding the Bears would have an idea of the severity of the injury soon.
Edebali’s injury looked serious when it happened in the fourth quarter, with the veteran linebacker being carted to the locker room after not being able to put weight on his right leg. The good news, though, is that Nagy said he only had a “leg whip,” which is “more of a contusion.” That, theoretically, shouldn’t prevent the Bears from taking Edebali on their 53-man roster if they’re so inclined.
Javon Wims, come on down
While Ryan Nall's day was notable for what he did on the field, Javon Wims' evening was notable for what he didn't do. Specifically: Wims didn't play on offense, perhaps signaling that, yes, the seventh-round pick will make the cut onto the 53-man roster.
Wims did see the field on two special teams units (punt return and onside kick), which was probably a good sign for him, too. But his 15 catches, 227 yards and one touchdown compiled over the Bears' four preseason games likely got him on the roster regardless, as other teams were able to take note of his big frame, good hands and improved route-running ability on tape. He's a player that exits the preseason trending in the right direction.
"I just want to go out there, not stay stagnant and just keep growing," Wims said. "If it’s something small, just grow and I just think every practice, every game, every opportunity I just showed that I’m getting better, I’m growing, I’m getting more comfortable."
Still, the next 48 hours can be stressful for anyone on the cut-down bubble. So how is Wims going to spend his time?
"Relax, get in the playbook," Wims said, "and hopefully the Georgia Bulldogs win on Saturday."
(Georgia opens its season against FCS opponent Austin Peay. They'll win on Saturday.)