It’s not hyperbole: A late-night preseason game in mid-August could change the course of the Bears’ quarterback competition for the 2017 season.
Here’s what we’ll be watching when the Bears visit the Cardinals on Saturday:
Mitch, the Sequel
If rookie Mitch Trubisky makes another emphatic case to be the starting quarterback, the Bears have to listen — regardless of what they promised Mike Glennon.
Trubisky won’t have the element of surprise to help him this time. Teams don’t necessarily game-plan for preseason games, but you can bet the Cardinals are well aware of the Bears’ offense with the No. 2 overall pick on the field in their preseason opener — rollouts, play-action passes and a moving pocket.
Can they stop it? The Cardinals’ defense will throw more at the Bears than the Broncos’ vanilla second-half schemes.
The Bears always have been impressed with Trubisky’s accuracy on the run.
“I never try to panic — you just always try to play cool, calm, collected,” said Trubisky, who coach John Fox said will be the third quarterback to play. “I got the ball in my hand, and I got to make the defense wrong.”
Trubisky was comfortable against the Broncos because offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains designed a sheet filled with plays he liked running in practice.
When Loggains expands that list, will the result be the same?
The Bears’ opinion of Trubisky won’t change if he plays poorly.
Glennon might not be able to say the same.
The Bears trust their starter will bounce back from his worst game as a pro when he had a 0.0 passer rating, threw a pick-six and led the offense to a net gain of zero yards on his first three possessions.
Fox said that of all the facets of his team, he’s most interested in seeing improvement from his first-team offense — and, by extension, Glennon.
“Our team is our biggest critic,” wide receiver Cam Meredith said. “We try to stay encouraging for Mike, and we don’t listen to the outside noise too much.”
Glennon refused to call the game crucial for him — but it is.
“I mean, it’s bigger than the first but not as big as the third,” he said. “I don’t really know how else to say it. . . .
“Obviously, I want to play well, but I don’t want to make it too big a deal and put too much pressure on a preseason game.’’
Lost in the hubbub of Glennon’s pick-six was another drive-killer: Center Cody Whitehair snapped the ball over the 6-6 quarterback’s head on third down, and the Broncos recovered.
It happened again when the Bears went back to Bourbonnais, but Whitehair, who had only one botched snap last year, says he has fixed the problem. He wasn’t following through with the ball and, rather, was turning his hand.
“I’ve really focused in on it and really tried to dissect it and see where I was mistaken,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ve got that problem fixed now.”
With guard Kyle Long still recovering from ankle surgery, the Bears could turn to Hroniss Grasu to start at center and shift Whitehair to guard. They’ve practiced with that first-team lineup lately, Fox said.
Whitehair began last offseason at guard before moving to center when Grasu tore an anterior cruciate ligament and the Bears signed Josh Sitton.
“[Guard] is obviously a little bit different because I haven’t played it in a year or so,” Whitehair said. “But I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge.”
Kyle and Kevin?
Prince Amukamara’s hamstring strain will spell opportunity — maybe the last one — for fellow first-round pick Kyle Fuller.
Fuller, who figures to start at cornerback in Amukamara’s place, will have a chance to impress his bosses and put his performance on film for the rest of the league to watch — and judge — as teams consider trades before cut day.
Wide receiver Kevin White, a 2015 first-rounder, continued his ho-hum preseason in the first exhibition when he wasn’t targeted at all.
“Like I’ve said before, he’s missed almost two years of football,” Fox said. “So we’re seeing him every day in practice. The more he stacks those together, the more you’ll see him in games.”
White’s preseason comes with more pressure than most. He has started four games in two years because of injury. But the Bears need to start seeing progress, and White could use the confidence boost of a strong preseason game.
Connor Barth went 12-for-12 in his first practice after the Bears claimed second-round flop Roberto Aguayo from the Buccaneers. Still, there’s a reason the Bears were comfortable with the new kicker’s contract, which will cost them $428,000 if they cut Aguayo and no one re-signs the former Florida State star.
Will Aguayo get a chance to kick against the Cardinals? Will he try kickoffs? The Bears don’t have long to learn about Aguayo; it seems unlikely he sits the entire game.
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.