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G-Jun Yam/Associated Press
The Chicago Bears remain on the road for the third week of the preseason, next making a stop in Tennessee for a date with the Titans.
While head coach John Fox and his staff picked up a win against the Arizona Cardinals a week ago, the team left the desert with more questions than answers.
Not only has the offense been slow to develop and only fueled the fire known as the Mike Glennon-Mitchell Trubkisy debate, injuries have started to pop up and alter the team’s plans in certain areas.
Call it the perfect time for the Bears to encounter some controversy—Week 3 is the portion of the schedule where teams play starters for the most snaps of any week and Fox has some tough decisions to make in this area.
As the Sunday encounter with the Titans inches closer, let’s take a look at some of the most important details.
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Ralph Freso/Associated Press
The injury news is both good and bad in the aftermath of Chicago’s trip to the desert.
A 50-50 split there is a whole lot better than the terrible news a few weeks ago when the team lost backup guard Eric Kush for the season.
Let’s start with the bad news. Defensive end Jonathan Bullard missed practice early this week because he suffered an apparent injury against the Cardinals, according to ESPN.com’s Jeff Dickerson. For shame, too, because he was one of our biggest risers after a monster breakout game, reaffirming the coaching staff’s decision to throw their weight behind him.
The good news? Linebacker Pernell McPhee was back at practice recently. He’s not activated off the physically unable to perform list yet, but starting to get back in the swing of things is a good sign because the Bears need him on the field alongside Leonard Floyd this year.
For now at least, the injury developments aren’t all bad for the Bears. Another grueling practice before a game awaits, though.
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Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press
Look how quickly a strength can turn into a major question mark.
The aforementioned loss of Kush delivered a big hit to Chicago’s depth behind its interior starting line. As a response, the Bears trotted out Hroniss Grasu at center a week ago so Cody Whitehair could slide to guard in place of the injured Kyle Long.
In Arizona, the results were…not good. Grasu visibly struggled, and the offensive line watched as the Bears only rushed for 102 yards on a 3.3 per-carry average. Even those numbers are inflated because elusive rookie Tarik Cohen broke free for 77 of those yards on 11 carries, bumping his personal average to 7.0—no other rusher came within five yards.
Whitehair had a breakout season a year ago, performing as one of the game’s best centers. If Long can’t get back soon, he’ll perhaps need to stay at guard and Grasu is clearly rusty after missing all of last season.
Away from home, the line needs to improve its play so the coaching staff can better figure out the quarterback situation.
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Ralph Freso/Associated Press
The Bears are doing everything they can to figure out the wideout spot.
It seemed easy after a busy offseason: Behind Cameron Meredith, the Bears added Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton and Victor Cruz. Sprinkle in guys like Kevin White, Deonte Thompson and Josh Bellamy and away they went. Except not really.
Cruz is a good example of this. After looking good in the team’s first preseason game, he hardly saw the field in Arizona.
“He’s primarily a slot,” Bears coach John Fox said, per Dickerson. “He’s a guy that’s got a lot of experience. I think he understands the game. He hasn’t had a whole lot of opportunity yet. We’ll kind of keep rolling those guys through there. I felt our first group of receivers improved from Week 1. I expect the same thing from Week 2.”
It’s all going according to plan right now, apparently, though few guys have done much to stand out. White has been silent, Wheaton remains sidelined with an injury and even practice standouts like Titus Davis and Tanner Gentry have mostly been quiet.
Granted, issues along the line and under center aren’t helping. But Bears wideouts need to make their presence felt in Tennessee, as Chicago’s initial aim was to field the best depth chart there possible, not randomly slap something together because nobody emerged from the pack.
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Ralph Freso/Associated Press
The Bears have a multifaceted problem on their hands heading into the game against Tennessee.
A week ago, Trubisky took a few nasty hits while playing with reserves. He’s technically the backup to Glennon, but at some point, his getting beat up while playing behind reserve linemen doesn’t make sense for a guy who is supposed to be the future of the franchise.
But, if the Bears let Trubisky get some first-team work in, fans and the media will erupt and crown the situation in Chicago a “controversy.”
Fox doesn’t sound ready to rule out first-team reps for his rookie, though.
“We haven’t talked about that,” Fox said, per Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun Times. “Obviously, we’re very, very early. We’re not even into preparation for the Titans yet. We’ll meet on that. We’ll talk, and we’ll keep you guys posted.”
Part of the problem for the Bears here is Trubisky passing the eye test much more than the veteran in the first place. Glennon threw an ugly pick in the first game, then turned around and threw another last week, the gaffe coming in the red zone.
Regardless of the motivations behind the move, when and how Trubisky plays this Sunday will be under the microscope more than anything since draft day.
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Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press
Quietly, Tennesse has one of the league’s better up-and-coming running games.
Even without DeMarco Murray so far, Tennesse has put up big numbers this preseason thanks to Derrick Henry and other names. In their first contest, the Titans ran for 136 yards on a 6.5 per-carry average, then turned around a week ago and went for 134 on a 3.6 average, yet they scored three rushing touchdowns.
So far, Chicago has shown the push and depth against the run most expected for a defense that doesn’t get enough national love simply because it suffered from droves of injuries last year.
To reinforce these thoughts, though, Chicago—sans Bullard or otherwise—will need to hold up strong in a game that typically showcases starters for significant playing time. And this means accounting for the rushing ability of Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota, too.
Week 3 of the preseason is by no means the biggest indicator of success during the regular season, but fans sure wouldn’t mind seeing their base defense stand up tall.
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Nam Huh/Associated Press
The fact that chatter surrounding White went from non-stop to zero after a pair of preseason games isn’t a good sign.
Were White performing ahead of schedule on his redemption tour after basically seeing the coaching staff still classify him as a rookie, well, the headlines wouldn’t be able to get enough of the welcome development.
Instead, the silence is a result of White doing nothing in Chicago’s first exhibition, then finishing with two catches for as many yards on three targets in Arizona.
To be fair, though, White has only played with Glennon so far. Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times provided a sobering outlook: “I get why we’re obsessed with Kevin White’s production. But I’m finding it hard to evaluate him when his QB can’t get him the ball.”
Here’s the caveat: If Trubisky does get some first-team reps on Sunday and White looks good in the process, Fox and his staff will have some tough calls to make going into the fourth preseason game.
But any noise with White would be great at this point. He’s a special talent, and his starting to live up to his warranted out-of-college hype would work wonders for a lagging wideout depth chart, not to mention help along the process at quarterback.
All contract information courtesy of Spotrac unless otherwise specified. Stats courtesy of NFL.com. All advanced metrics courtesy of Pro Football Focus.