FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Bears will be tested in their second exhibition game Thursday night. Then again, they’ve been all week.
Here’s what to watch for, based on joint practices Monday through Wednesday at Patriot Place:
Playing the passer
Some Bears players have been impressed — if not star-struck — by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
“Today he said hi to me, and I thought my day was made,” rookie cornerback Deiondre’ Hall said Wednesday.
Safety Deon Bush broke up a Brady pass Tuesday.
“I just lit up in my face,” he said, “but it was no-huddle, so I had to get back over there.”
If Brady faces the Bears on Thursday, it won’t be for long. The sport’s most famous player is suspended for the first four regular-season games because of “Deflategate,” and the Patriots are more interested in developing his replacement, Jimmy Garoppolo, for that relief stint.
The Rolling Meadows High School alum looked sharp all week after Brady praised his work ethic Sunday. Garoppolo figures to test the Bears more than the Broncos’ quarterback trio of Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemien and Paxton Lynch did last week.
Garoppolo’s greatest test this preseason will be orchestrating the league’s most versatile offense. The Bears will be measured by how they defend it — particularly if Danny Trevathan, the quarterback of the defense, sits with an injury.
Brady, who missed the first exhibition because of a death in the family, has already taught lessons to the Bears.
“The presence that he has, and the way he carries himself on the field,” Hall said. “My man is in the pocket and he looks, it’s just go clean and so chill. And the secondary and defense is working. But with him just looking — you know one way, the other way, and finding his checkdown — is crazy to see and actually go up against.”
Kevin White said he’s gained confidence this week —“Just knowing that I can do it against another opponent” — but that he knows what rookie mistakes he needs to clean up.
Game speed and press coverage disturbed his routes in his first exhibition, in which he caught one pass for three yards on 10 snaps.
“I was going up to the line without a plan,” he said.
White consulted Alshon Jeffery about fine-tuning his approach.
“He tells me what I’m doing wrong and what I have to fix,” he said. “Just have to have that mentality basically: when we have one-on-one matchups, to take advantage.”
Quarterback Jay Cutler hasn’t impressed in the days following the exhibition-opening stinker. White and Jeffery have looked strong, gaining praise from Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
That’s an open challenge cornerback Malcolm Butler, who White credited with helping to improve his reads.
“Butler’s a creative guy — he switches things up by not just playing man,” White said. “He’ll try to make it look like Cover 2. Or he’s playing Cover 2 and he can try to make it look like man. He’s a good, competitive guy who works hard, and it’ll be fun to see what happens (Thursday).”
Floyd growing comfortable
From Nov. 29 to Aug. 10, Leonard Floyd faced exactly one opposing team — Penn State in the Jan. 2 Tax Slayer Bowl.
By the end of Thursday night, he will have played preseason games against the Broncos and Patriots, plus three practices against New England, in one week.
“It’s a great chance for us to get a different look, rather than keep going against our guys the whole time,” he said.
Floyd looked solid against the Broncos, but said later his need pass rush needed to be quicker. He stood out this week rushing the passer, and even shone in pass coverage by chasing Martellus Bennett down the seam.
It seems ever more unlikely Pernell McPhee, who had offseason knee surgery, will play in a preseason game. That uncertainty leaves an opportunity for Floyd, but also makes his growth — in a short period of time — more critical.
For rookies, Thursday represents the first time to apply coaching points from one game to another. Take Hall’s two end-zone pass breakups against the Broncos: Film study showed he was beaten off the line of scrimmage both times.
Rather than raking his hands through the receivers’ when the ball arrived, Hall said he should have gotten his hands into the pass-catcher sooner, turned his head and tried for an interception.
“Losing at the line, that was my biggest point of emphasis,” he said. “Getting hands on those receivers at the point of attack. Lost out on that.”
Bennett, who still wasn’t talking to the media Wednesday, clashed with Bears defenders this week.
“It’s football — he was getting that treatment when he was in Chicago,” tight end Zach Miller said. “That’s how he is. He’s a competitive guy, and that’s how things go on the offense and defensive sides of the ball.”
With stadium lights on, it could escalate further. If Rob Gronkowski remains out, Bennett will get even more chances to prove his former employer wrong.