Bears

Jobs still at stake as Bears head to third preseason game

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Jobs still at stake as Bears head to third preseason game

When the Bears took the field Saturday night in their 23-11 win over the Indianapolis Colts, six of their 22 starters had fewer than two full seasons of NFL experience. What that means is change is afoot.

“We’re going to continue to compete,” said coach John Fox. “No jobs have been won yet. We’re still figuring out who our 53 best players are going to be. We’ll continue to do that. I thought we made progress tonight in really all phases, by no means have we arrived. If we can keep that mindset, I think we’ll continue to improve.”

Defensive lineman Ego Ferguson, cornerback Kyle Fuller and linebacker Christian Jones are in their second years. Will Sutton, also a second-year player, led all defensive linemen with 30 snaps, producing three tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit. Ferguson, Fuller and Jones already are starting, and Sutton has played his way into a prominent role in the defensive line "wave" that Fox and coordinator Vic Fangio want.

[MORE BEARS: Rookies already upgrading Bears’ No. 1 defense in win over Colts]

And those don’t include the impact rookies already projecting to be game-day factors:

Charles Leno Jr., OT

Another of the Year 2’s, Leno has gone from a spot player as a sixth offensive lineman as a rookie to — for now — starting right tackle. He started badly with a hands-to-the-face penalty on the third play, was beaten by a tackle-for-loss, but right tackle is his job to lose.

Whether the Bears bring in a post-cutdown veteran to anchor that edge of the line remains to be seen. In the meantime, “It went well,” Leno said. “I feel like ever since that penalty I slowed my technique down and got back to fundamentals. ... Just playing the way I’ve been playing, just doing my job day in and day out. Just focus on the play you’re in. Being consistent is probably the biggest thing I want to do.”

Adrian Amos, S

Replacing Brock Vereen at free safety, the rookie appeared to have a lapse in providing deep support, resulting in a 45-yard first-quarter completion. He did finish with three tackles

“I think I did OK,” Amos said. “There are some things I can improve on, and I’m pretty sure coaches will see more things I can improve on. I’ll just take it all in.”

[MORE BEARS: Bears offense makes strides as No. 1 unit scores three times]

Eddie Goldman, NT

The rookie nose tackle didn’t start but he played 29 of the Colts’ snaps (45 percent) to 16 (25 percent) by Jeremiah Ratliff, and not all of Ratliff’s were at the nose in a straight three-man line. Goldman played the run extremely well and was able to collapse the pocket in three-linemen packages.

While Ratliff is the Bears’ best defensive linemen, Goldman is poised to be a de facto starter based on personnel groupings.

“You get more comfortable out there,” Goldman said. “I try to do the same thing every week, be as efficient as I can in every facet of the game.”

Jeremy Langford, RB

The preponderance of runs in the “new” Bears offense had Langford finishing with nine carries, Jacquizz Rodgers with nine and Matt Forte with eight. Langford is averaging 6.2 yards per carry, 80 total, second to Senorise Perry’s 6.4, 91 total, with Bears running backs averaging just under 4.7 per carry.

Langford’s play Saturday at Indianapolis — 80 yards and a two-yard touchdown carry — was a dramatic step up from his four carries for one net yard vs. Miami. “He’s grown very well,” Forte said. “He had a nice (46-yard) run, was really patient and set up the safety real well. He was able to break the tackle and get a long run. He’s come along nicely. That’s what we’ve been trying to do, establish that run and help the quarterbacks.”

Bears confirm OLB Leonard Floyd underwent surgery to repair fracture in right hand

Bears confirm OLB Leonard Floyd underwent surgery to repair fracture in right hand

Bears head coach Matt Nagy confirmed to reporters on Monday that OLB Leonard Floyd underwent surgery to repair a fracture in his right hand he sustained in the first quarter of Saturday's 24-23 preseason win over the Denver Broncos.

The good news is, the Bears are optimistic that Floyd will be available to play in Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers. The bad news is, he'll likely have to play with a cast on until his injury fully heals.

"I don't think it's going to be healed, I think he's going to have to end up playing through it," Nagy said. "It might require something in regards to having a cast or a club-type deal. There's been evidence of guys that have had that and been productive, so that's what we're hoping." 

TE Adam Shaheen, who suffered a right ankle sprain on the first drive of the game, is still being evaluated and it's unclear whether or not he'll be ready by Week 1.

"We're not sure there yet," Nagy said. "We're hoping. We'll probably know more later today after the tests come back."

Bears position battles: Do the Bears have enough talent at outside linebacker?

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Bears position battles: Do the Bears have enough talent at outside linebacker?

The Bears didn’t immediately know the severity of Leonard Floyd’s hand injury following Saturday’s 24-23 preseason win over the Denver Broncos, but merely the fact that it happened brought to the fore a concerning question. 

What do the Bears do without their ostensibly No. 1 pass rusher?

Last week, we wrote that Floyd is the most important member of the Bears’ defense in 2018, but for that to be the case, he has to be able to stay on the field. And that hasn’t been part of his resume — Floyd missed four games his rookie year due to concussions and six games last year thanks to freak knee injury. Not only do the Bears need Floyd to be productive, they need him to be healthy, too. 

The best-case for the Bears is that Floyd’s hand injury won’t lead him to miss any time once the regular season starts Sept. 9. But in the event Floyd does have to miss time, there’s a wide-open competition to see who will start next to Sam Acho in Green Bay. And that’s where we’ll start our review of where some key position battles stand after the Bears’ third preseason game:

1. Outside linebacker: Isaiah Irving vs. Kylie Fitts vs. Aaron Lynch vs. Kasim Edebali vs. Elijah Norris

Irving didn’t do much on Saturday, and neither did Fitts, who didn’t record a pressure or a sack on 16 pass rushing snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Lynch didn’t play against the Broncos and hasn’t practiced since suffering a hamstring injury the first day of camp. The Bears took a one-year flier on Lynch back in March to see if reuniting him with Vic Fangio — his defensive coordinator his rookie year with the San Francisco 49ers — would nail a low-risk, high-reward type addition, but the injury issues that plagued him the last two years haven’t gone away. His Week 1 roster spot is hardly assured, and the Bears will have to see him at least practice, if not play, before they determine if he’s worth keeping on cut-down day. 

But that being said, this group of outside linebackers looks underwhelming. Irving has flashed at times, and so has Fitts, but neither has produced in the last two preseason games (Irving missed the Cincinnati game with an injury). 

Edebali could be a guy to watch in this battle, though. He had a sack on Saturday as well as a pressure and a tackle for a loss, and as recently as 2015 had five sacks with the New Orleans Saints. But the 29-year-old only played 102 defensive snaps last year with the Broncos and Lions and needed to try out to make the Bears back in May. Could he be a diamond in the rough? Sure. But counting on him, or Norris — an undrafted free agent — to be a significant part of this outside linebacker rotation could be dangerous. 

The Bears were already likely to be looking at acquiring another outside linebacker, either by trade or waiver claim, before Floyd’s injury. Depending on the severity of it, those efforts may have to be doubled. 

2. Center: Cody Whitehair vs. James Daniels

The Bears haven’t characterized this as a true competition yet, and until further notice remain committed to keeping Whitehair at center. A poor center-quarterback exchange that led to a safety on Saturday was the fault of Mitch Trubisky (“I just dropped it,” he said) and otherwise Whitehair’s snaps were not a problem. 

While the Bears may seem a little hard-headed regarding Whitehair sticking to center, this coaching staff is going to play the five best offensive linemen it has in Week 1. If Harry Hiestand believes his offensive line will be better off with Daniels at center and Whitehair at left guard, instead of Whitehair at center and Eric Kush/Earl Watford at left guard, then that’s how this thing will shake out. 

This coming week will be telling for the Bears’ Week 1 plans. If we see Daniels all of a sudden elevated to the first team offensive line, that’s probably the combination of five we’ll see rolled out in Green Bay. The Bears need to establish continuity up front, preferably by kickoff on Saturday. 

3. Defensive end: Jonathan Bullard vs. Roy Robertson-Harris vs. John Jenkins vs. Bilal Nichols vs. Nick Williams

With Akiem Hicks held out, all five of these players got some run with the first-team defense on Saturday. 

Robertson-Harris had another strong game, recording a sack on which he used his length and strength to stay with Broncos guard Ronald Leary and stretch his arm out to bring quarterback Case Keenum to the ground. He was credited with half a sack, too, and for what it’s worth he leads all defensive players with 3 1/2 preseason sacks and is second with six hurries. The impact he’s made this preseason has pushed him from being a rotational piece to, potentially, being a Week 1 starter. 

The Bears like Bullard’s steady play and his ability to play anywhere on the defensive line, and while Robertson-Harris could be in a position to start over him, he should play plenty this year. 

That leaves, likely, two open spots down the depth chart for the remaining three defensive linemen here (Jenkins, Nichols, Williams). Nichols has two sacks and three hurries, not that the fifth-round pick was ever really on a roster bubble, but that production has confirmed some of the things the Bears saw in him coming out of Delaware. Jenkins has played all over the place but would be a natural replacement for Eddie Goldman should something happen to the fourth-year nose tackle. That leaves Williams as, likely, the odd man out here if the Bears choose to keep six defensive linemen. 

4. Cornerback: Marcus Cooper vs. Doran Grant vs. Kevin Toliver II vs. Michael Joseph vs. John Franklin III

As things stand right now, four cornerbacks are locks for the Week 1 roster: Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Bryce Callahan and Sherrick McManis. LeBlanc is probably on the roster, and had a solid game Saturday despite fielding two punts inside the five-yard line (Nagy wasn’t too worried with that after the game, saying LeBlanc was only returning punts because of lack of bodies to do so). 

So that leaves, realistically, one spot open for five guys. It was worth noting Grant and Toliver were the first two cornerbacks to come in off the bench, and both got some reps against the Broncos’ first-team offense. Rookie wideout Courtland Sutton burned both of them, with Sutton drawing a pass interference foul near the goal line on Grant and then beating Toliver on a quick strike up the seam for a touchdown. 

Toliver, though, led the Bears in snaps played and gave up one yard after the three catches he allowed. Cooper didn’t play, while Joseph did and recorded six tackles. 

This is a battle that’ll likely come down to the last preseason game, or be pre-empted by a waiver wire transaction on cut-down weekend. The edge right now may be to Toliver, depending on how Ed Donatell and Vic Fangio grade his performance on Saturday. 

5. Wide receiver: Marlon Brown vs. Javon Wims vs. Bennie Fowler vs. Tanner Gentry vs. DeMarcus Ayers

It’s worth noting that Brown received plenty of work with the first-team offense on Saturday, though his only catch (a 30-yarder) came with Chase Daniel in the game. The 6-foot-5, 214 pound Brown does have some special teams experience in his career and caught seven touchdowns for the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted rookie in 2013, but hasn’t played in the NFL since 2015. 

Wims still may have the upper hand in this group just based on him being a draft pick, but more than likely this spot will come down to who 1) Has the biggest upside as a receiver and 2) Can successfully contribute on special teams. Production on Saturday between Wims, Fowler and Gentry was relatively equal, while Ayers missed the game due to an injury. Like the cornerback battle, this will go down to the last week of preseason, most likely.