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Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
A sense of gloom hangs over the Chicago Bears after Sunday’s win, which is the most fitting thing anyone could attribute to an NFL preseason game.
The win doesn’t matter—losing several key players to injury before a season begins certainly does.
Wideout Cameron Meredith is the headliner. By now, Bears fans know he went down in Sunday’s 19-7 win against the Tennessee Titans. They also know he was far from the only one to suffer a setback, giving fans a sense of deja vu after last year’s injury-riddled campaign.
It’s not all bad for the Bears upon emerging from the preseason’s most important week. Chicago got notable performances in important places and the overall outlook is already miles ahead of last year’s miserable performance.
Let’s balance the scales a bit by breaking down a stock report as the Bears get ready for a quick turnaround ahead of Thursday.
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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Thanks to injuries (more on those in a bit), it seems like embattled defensive back Kyler Fuller was a lock for the final roster either way.
Bears fans know Fuller’s story by now. The 2014 No. 14 pick hasn’t seen a big commitment from the team because he played his best ball as a rookie and missed all of last season.
Fuller needed some time to get it back together this preseason after a few up-and-down performances, but he really put it all together on Sunday against the Titans.
Not only did Fuller play well with a notable moment coming via solid defense on a third down, he is doing so with the first-team defense. He seemed to get those snaps through his play and team necessity, a combination that means he looks poised to get one last chance as a starter during the regular season
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The Bears can’t catch a break.
A year removed from having some of the most salary cap on injured reserve of any team, Chicago leaves Tennessee hobbled in the worst way.
Meredith, a breakout player a year ago set to have an even bigger year thanks to better quarterback play, went down with a gruesome-looking injury—one head coach John Fox confirmed the team believes is a torn ACL, per the team’s official Twitter account. The same tweet described an injury to long-snapper Patrick Scales as “serious.”
As if that weren’t enough, No. 1 corner Prince Amukamara left the field early, opening the door for Fuller’s bump in playing time. He left with crutches and a boot thanks to an ankle issue, according to Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune.
The Bears are now left picking up the pieces across all three units. Fuller looked good but the depth chart behind him is a relative unknown, and as we’ll touch on, wideout might be the worst position on the roster.
It seems the injury bug has returned to Chicago.
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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Another week, more Eddie Jackson praise.
Chicago’s fourth-round pick this year didn’t blow up the stat sheet by any means. But he did blow up the highlight reel with a near-miss on an interception he stretched out for and dropped because he couldn’t get a grip on the ball.
That play happened in the end zone, by the way, and no—it isn’t hard to see why Jackson received run with the first-team defense.
Praised for his range due to sheer athleticism and the instincts to go with it, most could tell it was only a matter of time before Jackson broke his way onto the field and didn’t leave it again.
After some strong play by Quintin Demps as well, it is clear the Bears have a nice one-two punch at one of the last year’s worst positions.
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Every positive development for a guy at a position might create a negative reaction for somebody else.
When it comes to Jackson’s strong play, that somebody else is Adrian Amos.
The Bears haven’t given up on Amos by any means, but the 2015 fifth-round pick hasn’t exactly made major yearly leaps, which has played a part in Jackson’s quick ascension.
It doesn’t help that other veterans fighting for playing time or even a roster spot outright stepped up in a big way. Look at Lamarr Houston, who recorded a sack and a forced fumble to encourage the coaching staff to take their time with decisions.
Amos? He was on the field late in the game. Chicago isn’t the healthiest team right now, but Amos getting snaps with the third-team defense might be a sign the coaching staff is willing to hand off a critical safety spot to a rookie sooner than anticipated.
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Mark Zaleski/Associated Press
By the end of Sunday, it was Tanner Gentry who led the team in receiving thanks to his one catch for 45 yards and a touchdown.
Like we all predicted, of course.
Gentry is an undrafted free agent out of Wyoming who didn’t even get an invite to the combine, yet here he is making a serious case for the final roster.
It’s not just that Mitchell Trubisky threw him the touchdown dart, either. It’s that he looks like he belongs, and Chicago runs the risk of seeing him poached off the practice squad if they try to get sneaky with him.
And with what we’re about to touch on coming into consideration, Gentry making the final roster doesn’t seem so unrealistic.
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Chicago’s outlook at wideout is, in a word, grim.
With Meredith out of the picture, Kendall Wright looks like the most potent name. But he’s a slot guy and the Bears are counting on him to have a strong year like he has in the past with offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains elsewhere.
Good thing Wright at least occupies the slot. A week removed from the Bears not playing Victor Cruz much presumably because they wanted to give other guys snaps, Cruz didn’t see the field much on Sunday and struggled with drops on his way to a one-catch day.
What else? The Bears still haven’t seen much from Kevin White. Markus Wheaton is on the shelf with an injury. Deonte Thompson is more special teams than anything else.
It almost feels like the Bears need to make a move, especially with the performance of the wideouts influencing how things unfold under center. Those left standing still have the potential to be better than the group from last year, though by how much took a significant hit on Sunday.
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Mark Zaleski/Associated Press
At the end of the day, the best news the Bears could have received is that the approach at quarterback will work.
Said approach might not mesh well with fans, but Mike Glennon came in and played well despite Trubisky’s time with the first-team offense.
Trubisky threw that 45-yard touchdown pass, but Glennon went 11-of-18 for 134 yards and a score, slipping the touchdown to tight end Dion Sims from eight yards away.
While he was far from perfect, Glennon proved the coaching staff right—if the play calls are correct, he won’t turn the ball over often and the Bears will stick close in most games via a strong running game and defense. And the loss of Meredith is going to crush the offense’s spacing and timing moving forward regardless of who is under center, putting more pressure on those other areas, anyway.
That isn’t the sexiest outlook by any means and it is reasonable to expect to see Trubisky on the field at some point this season. Both guys looked good on Sunday, but the current plan seems like it will work out in the short term.
All contract information courtesy of Spotrac unless otherwise specified. Stats courtesy of NFL.com. All advanced metrics courtesy of Pro Football Focus.