Much about the Bears will remain hidden during the preseason, but there were some important offensive developments in the exhibition opener Thursday against the Panthers.
Several starters sat out and Mitch Trubisky was done after three handoffs, but rookie running back David Montgomery, kicker Elliott Fry and backup quarterback Chase Daniel showed they’re on track with the regular season less than a month away.
Coach Matt Nagy likely will try to get more of his core offensive personnel together next week against the Giants, but here are three telling observations from the 23-13 loss to the Panthers:
MONTGOMERY SAYS HELLO
The Montgomery hype seems justified.
The Bears don’t have many fresh faces on offense, so there has been a lot of attention on Montgomery. He seems fine with that and repeatedly confirms what the team saw in pre-draft scouting.
Montgomery’s 46 all-purpose yards and a touchdown on six touches is small on its own but meaningful in his overall trajectory. He has been trending the right way for the Bears the last four months, and his performance against Carolina was another step forward.
His seven-yard TD run was brilliant. Montgomery took a handoff to the right, had no space, then darted left and outraced three defenders to the end zone.
“It’s fun to watch,” Daniel said. “I can’t imagine making cuts like he made, especially on the touchdown run. There was nothing there, and he made a touchdown out of it.”
Montgomery and the Bears are a great fit. The Bears have the type of running back they need — a runner with Jordan Howard’s power, plus other skills — and Montgomery landed in a spot where he can develop organically into a multidimensional threat.
The Bears won’t need to run him into the ground. They’ll want him to chip in along the lines of what he did Thursday, and he is up to that task.
NEW TWIST IN KICKER BATTLE
Anybody else getting motion sickness from the topsy-turvy competition between Fry and Eddy Pineiro?
A week ago, Pineiro seemed to have the lead after a perfect practice at Soldier Field that included a 60-yard doozy, but Fry won the latest round by drilling a replica of the Cody Parkey kick and bringing the crowd to a roar at the end of the first half.
There was equal noise — in groans — when Pineiro went wide left on a 48-yard try in the second quarter. He came back with a 23-yarder in the fourth, but Fry claimed the night with the 43-yard make and an extra point.
“We’ll go through this thing and let them see what kind of production they show us,” Nagy said. “This was the biggest stage for them. This is as big as we can get before the season starts.”
Fry appears to have an edge in technique and accuracy, but Pineiro has the leg strength. This could go back and forth a dozen times before the Bears make their final choice — and ultimately that choice might be an outsider such as Carolina’s Joey Slye or Baltimore’s Kaare Vedvik.
Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace were preoccupied with their own game, but there’s no doubt they checked the tape of Vedvik hitting field goals from 55, 45, 29 and 26 yards.
IMPORTANT TIME FOR DANIEL
Odds are, the Bears are going to need Daniel at some point this season. He started twice last year and played 148 snaps in five appearances.
An 11th-year pro, Daniel looked sharp. He went 11-for-13 for 120 yards for a clean 105.1 passer rating. Nothing amazing, nothing disastrous — exactly what most teams realistically expect from their No. 2 quarterback.
His best play came in the last minute of the first half. He was under pressure and fired a 45-yard pass down the middle to undrafted tight end Ian Bunting to set up Fry’s long field goal.