The Bears offense will be without any or perhaps all of their top wide receivers when it goes against the No. 1 defense of the Cincinnati Bengals. That won’t affect either the game planning or the player usage plan for coach John Fox, who is still more interested in evaluations that even outcomes, despite a stated desire to win preseason games as a way to continue changing the culture at Halas Hall.
“I think it [the third preseason game] is a little bit unique when you're a new staff,” Fox said. “I think, truth be told, I've only seen these guys play in two preseason games. I'm talking about feeling the emotion, feel the energy, see their eyes. You know, things that are all important when you sit in my seat."
The third preseason game is always the most important by virtue of the playing time accorded to starters. It also precedes the first round of cuts by Tuesday, so it also is extremely important to several players on the cutdown bubble.
And not just the offense and fringe players are dealing with squeeze situations.
Because the Bears are also going to be without defensive lineman Jeremiah Ratliff for the first three games of the season because of a suspension, the defense is also in the process of getting a correct mindset as those first three games – Green Bay, Arizona, Seattle – loom closer.
“It's going to be key for me to set the mindset with these guys,” said defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins, “because we're kind of taking a step back, but that doesn't mean we won't come out and play like we're down a man. We have to step up and play football.”
[NBC SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
In fact, the short stack of receivers may be a positive for quarterback Jay Cutler, who is settling into yet another offensive system but with less-experienced players who need more from the quarterback.
“Yeah, it just makes me have to work a little bit harder,” Cutler said. “It makes me have to communicate with them and make sure they know exactly what they're supposed to do, so I've got to be on it on my end as well. It's a challenge for us. Like I said, it's a really good group of guys, so I enjoy working with them.”