With cut day looming, how Bears on the bubble fared in preseason finale
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Forty-five days after the first players reported to Olivet Nazarene University, the Bears, mercifully, played their last preseason game Thursday night. They looked to answer the few remaining roster questions before they make cuts Saturday to get their roster down to 53 players.
Here’s how players on the bubble fared in the Bears’ 28-27 loss to the Bills at Soldier Field:
Nall makes a statement
Ryan Nall first signed with the Bears as an undrafted free agent because they gave him a chance to play halfback, not fullback or tight end. For someone who scouts worried lacked sufficient wiggle for the NFL, Nall has had some of the team’s most exciting plays this preseason, rattling off runs of 69, 32, 24 and 17 yards.
Against Buffalo, Nall made an emphatic case to make the 53-man roster. He ran four times for 79 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown.
He said he proved he’s a runner — “That I am explosive, that I have quickness in and out of the hole, and I can make somebody miss in the open field.”
The Bears likely will end up choosing between the rookie from Oregon State and second-year running back Taquan Mizzell, who started. Mizzell offers the combination of pass-catching and speed that might better fit coach Matt Nagy’s offense.
Nall played fullback exclusively in the second half, giving the Bears a glimpse of his versatility if they decide to cut Michael Burton.
Nall and Mizzell are practice-squad-eligible if they clear waivers.
Daniels won’t start
Nagy started second-round pick James Daniels at left guard — and said after the game that he’d probably open the season as the backup.
“I’m not going to say 100 percent, but we would probably lean toward that,” Nagy said.
The 20-year-old Daniels, Nagy said, needs to improve in “recognizing fronts and blitzes and leverage of some of these guys.” Eric Kush figures to start at left guard in Green Bay, with Cody Whitehair staying at center.
Left guard was the only remaining starting job up in the air — not counting vacancies because of injuries.
Bray stands out
Tyler Bray’s employment status probably depends more on the Bears’ roster crunch at other positions than it does his own play. Still, the third-stringer made a strong case to stay against the Bills, completing 19 of 29 passes for 180 yards with an interception. He staked the Bears to a 20-0 halftime lead.
Bray’s value comes from his mentorship of Mitch Trubisky more than his in-game performance. And Nagy has preferred a three-man quarterbacks room before, keeping a trio last year in Kansas City.
It will be a long 36 hours.
“I have family in town,” Bray said, “so that will kinda help distract me.”
Outside linebacker Kasim Edebali was helped off the field in the fourth quarter and placed on a cart. The German was smiling after the game, though, lucky to have suffered merely a bruised right leg.
The 29-year-old would provide Week 1 depth behind Leonard Floyd, who’ll play with a club on his broken right hand, and Aaron Lynch, who sat out again with a hamstring injury.
“I felt good with what I put on the tape,” Edebali said.
Of the Bears’ other edge rushers, rookie Kylie Fitts had half a sack. Isaiah Irving was flagged for roughing the passer on fourth-and-22 from the Bills’ 4. They eventually scored with 13 seconds left to win the game.
What are you — Coward?
Asked on the team’s WBBM-AM pregame show about his biggest surprises of the preseason, general manager Ryan Pace immediately invoked offensive tackle Rashaad Coward, whom the team converted from the defensive line earlier this year. Coward’s work with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand has impressed his bosses.
“He showed me a lot, he really did,” Nagy said.
Could the Bears keep someone so inexperienced at swing tackle? If the Bears opt for veteran Bradley Sowell to back up both tackle positions — he didn’t play as he recovers from a sprained left ankle — is there still room for Coward?
More bubble bits
Tight end Daniel Brown, who caught two passes for 46 yards and seemed primed to make the team, left in the third quarter with a shoulder injury.
He wore a sling afterward, and Nagy said he wasn’t sure whether he was day-to-day or week-to-week.
With Adam Shaheen out with a sprained right foot and ankle, the Bears could keep five tight ends.
† Wideout Kevin White didn’t play, a good sign for his roster chances after an inconsistent preseason. Seventh-round pick Javon Wims played only on special teams. Both figure to make the team.
† Safety Deon Bush didn’t play and seems locked in as the team’s backup safety.
The other two will be unavailable, presuming they make the team: DeAndre Houston-Carson has a broken forearm, and Deiondre’ Hall is facing a one-game suspension for a drug of abuse.
† Cornerback Doran Grant might have earned a practice-squad spot when he picked off AJ McCarron for a 33-yard touchdown. He later broke up a third-down pass.