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From Mitch Trubisky to (maybe) Roquan Smith, 4 Bears things to watch vs. Broncos

DENVER — The first time outside linebacker Bradley Chubb saw Mitch Trubisky, the quarterback came off the bench for one pass — North Carolina starting QB Marquise Williams’ helmet had popped off — and threw a touchdown against his North Carolina State team.

“I knew he was special then,” said Chubb, whom the Broncos chose No. 5 overall this year.

The next year against Chubb, Trubisky threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 55 yards.

“Tough guy,” Chubb said. “I’d try to be in his face as much as I could, but he was still getting up and throwing the ball and doing everything he needed to do.”

Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, left, looks to pass the ball after taking a snap from center Cody Whitehair on Thursday. | David Zalubowski, AP photo

Chubb saw the same flashes during the Broncos’ two joint practices this week.

“He looks exactly the same,” he said. “Mitch has been consistent.”

After a strong week of practice, Trubisky will try to carry that over into the Bears’ third preseason game Saturday night. Here’s a look at what else we’ll be watching:

Progress

Trubisky went 2-for-4 for four yards in his preseason debut. Let’s see how he does with a lineup that actually resembles the Bears’ opening-day depth chart.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson will make his preseason debut. Running back Jordan Howard said he will, too, and Tarik Cohen will play more than the one snap he saw against the Bengals.

“It’s definitely exciting to have those guys out there,” Trubisky said. “We continue to create that chemistry in practice, and my job is just to get the ball to the playmakers. . . . It’ll be nice to see those guys with the ball in their hands this weekend.”

Coach Matt Nagy’s first-team offense has yet to have success. He wants to see it against Denver.

“For us, obviously, you want to score touchdowns,” Nagy said. “You want to be able to put points up on the board. But I want to see some first downs. I want to see a balance of run and pass. I want to see protection.

“You have protection, you give that quarterback green grass regardless of who it is, they’ll produce. They’ll make the throws. So it all starts up front. Can we match them up front? And then, can we get the run game going?”

Catching on

After fans spent the offseason wondering how Howard will fit into the Bears’ offensive scheme, he finally gets to show what he has worked on — becoming a three-down back.

“I get to catch the ball in a real game and see how far my improvements have come,” he said. “I’m really excited about that.”

So is Robinson. Since the end of the 2016 season, he has played exactly three regular-season snaps.

His return to game action for the first time since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee is significant — even if it’s an exhibition.

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“It’s been a lot of training and the least amount of games,” he said. “It’s been awhile. I’m really looking forward to it. And I’m excited. That’s why you put in all the hard work, to play in games.’’

Roquan watch

Nagy could have quelled any speculation about inside linebacker Roquan Smith playing by saying the word at any point this week. That he hasn’t is telling.

Still, it will be interesting to see how the Bears weigh the benefits of playing time against the fact that Smith has participated in one padded practice since January. That the game is at altitude — and Smith can’t possibly be in football shape — further complicates matters.

By ending his holdout Monday night and practicing with the Bears from Tuesday through Thursday, Smith has guaranteed his availability for the season opener. Would the Bears feel the need to push him?

It’s a snap?

Like he did for stretches last year, Bears center Cody Whitehair has struggled with snaps during training camp, leaving them too high or too low and messing with the timing of the Bears’ plays.

Asked whether his struggles were physical or mental, Whitehair was honest.

“I’m not sure — it’s probably both,” he said. “I just have to keep working on it. The only way to get better is practice.”

And to do it in games. The Bears’ starting offensive line figures to play most of the first quarter. Whitehair’s snaps need to be perfect to calm a brewing controversy — second-round pick James Daniels is playing center almost exclusively and could force the Bears to move Whitehair to left guard.

“I’m a team guy,” Whitehair said. “And wherever they need me to play, I’ll figure out a way to get it done.”