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Prelude to a Preseason Game: Things to Watch Saturday Night

| August 26th, 2022


Last one!

Last practice game of the 2022 off-season!

And with the starters expected to play a majority of the first half (supposedly), might there by more to watch in this practice game than in previous ones? Not really. But here’s what I’ll be watching.

  • INJURIES. This season is not going to be a fun one if the young talent isn’t on the field and that includes the quarterback, the three defensive backs, the left tackle, the right side of the line, etc. It would be devastating to not have this full complement when the scores actually count.
  • SPECIALS. The Bears seems to have decided upon Velus Jones Jr. as their primary kickoff and punt return man, with Dante Pettis the reliable alternative for the latter when they require a fair catch guy. It will be interesting to see if they deviate from that plan Saturday night. (Also, pay attention to which players are being used on the coverage units. It’ll be a strong clue as to who will be on this roster for the regular season.)
  • ROQUAN’S RETURN. Is this interesting to watch? No. Roquan Smith is a great player. He’ll be a great player against San Francisco in a few weeks. But it’ll be nice to see him again, I guess.
  • THE ACTUAL OFFENSE. David Montgomery hasn’t played in a preseason game. Byron Pringle hasn’t played in a preseason game. Equanimeous St. Brown doesn’t have a preseason catch. Velus hasn’t run a go route. Is there any chance we’ll see the actual offense tomorrow night? Doubtful. But maybe with the extended playing time, we get a hint of what’s to come?

It is a practice game. And there are still two weeks until the regular season. But hey, it’s something to do on a Saturday night that doesn’t involve drinking too much. (Spoiler alert: I will watch the game and also drink too much.)

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As Summer Unofficially Begins, Reasons to Be Optimistic About the 2022 Chicago Bears

| May 27th, 2022


Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer. It launches a period of cold beer in ice-filled coolers, attractive people strutting their tattoo-riddled muscles down the boardwalk, the sweet green fairway grass of golf courses across the north and just general happiness. It is the season of optimism, so this seems like the right moment to look at why a Chicago Bears fan should be optimistic about the months to come.

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(1) Justin Fields is going to be fun to watch. 

Is Fields a sure thing to be a franchise quarterback? Of course not. But he brings two things to the position this franchise has lacked for an awful long time: athleticism and charisma. Fields is fun to watch play football and that has not been the case for most of the quarterbacks in the history of the Chicago Bears.

And now he’s the starter. He’ll get an entire summer to be “the guy”. And that’s not a small thing. Fields was neutered in 2021 by a GM and coach that had no interest in playing him; a pair that believed Andy Dalton could win enough games to solidify their standing in the organization. This is not an excuse for his struggles on the field. Those come with being a rookie. But Fields will now exist with the freedom of knowing this is his team. And it should allow his personality to flourish on the field.

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(2) The potential impact of the 2022 draft class.

Kyler Gordon, Jaquan Brisker and Velus Jones Jr. are all expected to start come September and the early word on Gordon and Jones – inside the building – is remarkably positive. (It’s a bit hard for a safety to wow people before pads get involved.)

Off-ball linebackers and running backs – the specialty of the Bears – are important pieces to a championship puzzle. But those positions, and even offensive/defensive linemen, don’t give you much to watch during the summer months. Corners are different. Receivers are VERY different. These are guys that can start to brandish their reputations in camp and create genuine excitement for the coming campaign. Gordon and Jones have that potential.

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(3) A new culture. 

Justin Fields has already mentioned it, and it has been the most consistent thing I’ve heard from folks around ownership over the last few months: the culture has shifted.

Give it a name.

Intensity.

Professionalism.

Business-like approach.

There was plenty of excitement about the prospects of the previous regime, a duo that promised to bring Bears football into the modern age with a dynamic offense reminiscent of what’s happening in Kansas City. But when that promise remained unfulfilled, the excitement turned to concern.

This group is only making one promise: they are going to build a team and coach a team that plays hard and plays fast. Ownership is already seeing that. Poles and Flus believe it will be noticeable to the fans soon too. Soon means this summer.

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WR Coach Tyke Tolbert on Velus Jones Jr.

| May 24th, 2022

For those concerned about Velus Jones’ age, sometimes it’s worth considering the benefits that comes from age, maturity, etc. The Bears are already experiencing those benefits. From Josh Schrock, NBC Sports Chicago:

Jones, who the Bears drafted in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, believes his age will benefit both him and the Bears early in his NFL career. At rookie minicamp, Jones painted a picture of a mature receiver focused on excelling at his job for the franchise that has faith in him.

“I think he has hunger,” wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said Tuesday during OTAs. “And you hit the nail right on the head: he has maturity. He already has his Master’s degree. So, he’s a smart guy, mature beyond his years, takes his job very seriously. He’s in the meetings taking really good notes. He brought his own little whiteboard, erase board. He’s taking notes and erasing, and he’s drawing plays. So, he takes his job very seriously.

“We’ve thrown him into the fire pretty quick, put him at two positions immediately. Get him to learn it now. Because we want him to learn the whole concept. But specifically, a couple of positions to get him going, so whenever he can … the more he can do, the more obviously he’ll have a chance to play. So, we’re going to throw it all at him and see what he soaks in, and hopefully, he’ll get out there and make some plays for us.”

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