The Bears’ star attractions won’t play much in the preseason opener against the Denver Broncos on Thursday at Soldier Field. Some players – i.e., receiver Alshon Jeffery – might not play at all.
But don’t schedule a full night of watching Olympic swimming, gymnastics, soccer and volleyball. The Bears said farewell to Bourbonnais with some intriguing storylines to follow.
Kevin White’s development
Every preseason snap is invaluable for White, who’s expected to see his first NFL action after missing all of his rookie season because of shin surgery.
White last played in a game Dec. 29, 2014, at West Virginia. He made seven catches for 129 yards and a touchdown in the Mountaineers’ 45-37 loss to Texas A&M in the Liberty Bowl. But a lot has changed since then.
White has to do and know much more with the Bears. His route-running has expanded significantly. Receivers coach Curtis Johnson has said he’s a work in progress.
In the preseason, White can improve his chemistry with quarterback Jay Cutler and learn more about defensive schemes.
The games also allow White to face different cornerbacks, starting with Broncos standout Chris Harris Jr., a better challenge than the Bears can provide.
“[White is] getting there,” Cutler said. “The preseason is going to be big for him, just playing football again because it’s been awhile.
“You can only recreate so much at practice. So [it’s] just getting that game and going through the motions — the pregame, the fans, the jitters — just feeling that out three or four times to get him ready.”
Leonard Floyd’s place
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio still is experimenting. With so many new additions, he isn’t sure who does what best from where.
That’s especially true for Floyd, who has lined up in several spots in training camp.
The rookie outside linebacker’s freakish athleticism, speed and length make him a unique threat for Fangio. But Floyd’s camp was full of bumps and lumps, which included the stomach flu and a sore shoulder. He needs to improve his handwork to ward off blockers better and add power moves to complement his speed.
“I definitely believe I got a lot to improve on,” Floyd said. “I’ll just go out, play as hard as I can, look at film [and] what I’ve made mistakes on and try to correct them.”
Floyd has played with the first, second and third teams in camp, meaning he could see plenty of action.
“Oh, I’m very excited,” Floyd said.
Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer had a rough start to camp, but he steadily improved, unlike his predecessor, Jimmy Clausen. Hoyer particularly excelled on play-action plays, often displaying touch on long throws.
Hoyer and the No. 2 offense are expected to be on the field for the second and third quarters Thursday. It’s an opportunity for Hoyer to show that the Bears are in better hands if Cutler goes down.
“He’s everything we thought he would be,” coach John Fox said. “Now it’s just turning it over, how he operates in 11-on-11 game conditions.”
Rookie receiver Daniel Braverman was nearly unstoppable in camp, beating bigger defenders and making tough catches in contested situations. He was seemingly always open, and everyone took notice.
“He’s quick. He’s smart,” Jeffery said. “He’s got what it takes to belong in this league.”
We’ll see. Some players struggle to take practice-field success into games. A seventh-round pick, Braverman also needs to excel as a returner in the preseason.
Center of attention
Who is Cornelius Edison? The second-year center is the main reserve behind new starter Ted Larsen, who replaced Hroniss Grasu, who’s out for the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
The Bears will scour all avenues to improve the line’s depth. But for now, Larsen’s competition is Edison, who was named the top center in the FCS after his senior season at Portland State in 2014.
“I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Cornelius Edison,” Fox said.
There are three draft picks from the Phil Emery era to watch on the defensive line: ends Ego Ferguson and Cornelius Washington and nose tackle Will Sutton.
All three are reserves, and all three are on the bubble.