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Bears’ offense eager to get band back together

The preseason has been marked by unimpressive production, but also the absence of several key starters. The Bears are confident they’ll hit the ground running when the bell rings against the Rams on Sept. 12.

Bears quarterback Andy Dalton (14) has played 33 snaps in the preseason, but most of them without key starters, such as wide receivers Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney, running back David Montgomery and offensive linemen James Daniels, Jason Peters and Germain Ifedi.
Bears quarterback Andy Dalton (14) has played 33 snaps in the preseason, but most of them without key starters, such as wide receivers Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney, running back David Montgomery and offensive linemen James Daniels, Jason Peters and Germain Ifedi.
Kamil Krzaczynski/AP Photos

Tight end Cole Kmet is confident the Bears’ offense will get it together in the season opener against the Rams on Sept. 12 despite looking shaky, if not shoddy, in the preseason. But the former St. Viator star understands why a lot of Bears fans are a little more skeptical.

“A hundred percent. Trust me — a hundred percent,” Kmet said. “High school buddies text me all the time. So, yeah, I hear it.”

And what do they say?

“Just about what everyone else says,” Kmet said.

Coach Matt Nagy is putting a lot of faith in his first-team offense heading into the opener against the Rams at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. The Bears have four first downs and one touchdown and are 0-for-7 on third downs in eight series with starter Andy Dalton at quarterback in the preseason.

Nagy, in effect, is saying “I’m good” with the offense despite those subpar numbers. Dalton and most skill-position starters will not play in the preseason finale against the Titans on Saturday night in Nashville, Tennessee.

He’s counting on everything coming together when the entire starting unit plays together for the first time since training camp started in the regular-season opener. Among the expected offensive starters, only center Sam Mustipher (48 snaps), left guard Cody Whitehair (39) and Dalton (33) have played more than seven snaps.

On paper, the Bears’ offense at full strength figures to be improved and could even be above-average in a best-case scenario — even before Justin Fields becomes the starting quarterback. But at this point — especially with left tackle Jason Peters and right tackle Germain Ifedi playing for the first time against the Titans — it’s still a giant leap of faith for an offense that ranked 29th in yards and 22nd in scoring last season to suddenly get in gear that quickly.

Kmet gets that, of course. But still, he sees good things ahead for this offense. And as a second-year player who could blossom as a playmaker, he’s a big part of the plan.

“I think we feel confident with where we’re at,” Kmet said. “We’ve been with each other every day now for the past whatever-odd days. We know what we can do, and we know what we’ve been good at.”

But the preseason games . . .

“The preseason games, we’re not really looking at that as like, ‘Ah, not great,’ ’’ Kmet said. “But we feel good about where we were at with the Dolphins practices [the week of that game]. Those were two of the most intense practices I’ve been in, and that felt like two real games, those two days. I think we feel confident going into Week 1.”

Tight end Jimmy Graham, who played for offenses in New Orleans, Seattle and Green Bay that never had to fret about preseason results, knows the Bears have work to do but just has a belief the offense will respond to the moment.

“We’re focused on putting one step in front of the other and [working] to establish our identity and make progress for Week 1,” Graham said. “We’ve still got time.”

Graham pointed to Peters, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection who joined the team Aug. 19, as a key to the Bears’ growth on offense.

“We got a big add to our offensive line,’’ Graham said. ‘‘He’s an unbelievable pro. It’s been unbelievable to see how quick he is. [It’s] a true blessing to have a big old vet in there to add with Whitehair and a lot of experience.”

Therein lies a big key to the Bears’ offense in 2021. Peters and the offensive line have to go from an X-factor to a strength. And while some are dubious, Graham already has seen indications that Peters still has it.

“A hundred percent,” Graham said. “He’s a beast.”