All eyes on Mitch Trubisky’s preseason debut when the Bears play the Bengals
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The Bears will resemble their regular-season version a tad more in their second preseason game.
Mitch Trubisky will start at quarterback, and many of the 24 regulars who spent last week on the sideline figure to play at least a little.
Still, the Bears won’t show much of their offense. There’s little reason to.
“Nobody’s going to show their complete hand, but at the same time, you can’t not practice it,” coach Matt Nagy said. “So what better way than in a preseason game to show some things.”
So sorting through the Bears’ road game Thursday against the Bengals requires a discerning eye. Here are four things we’ll be watching:
1. Trubisky’s debut
Expect to see Trubisky play a drive or two — depending on the length of the former — and run low-risk pass plays to avoid any threat of injury.
For reference: Nagy’s Chiefs left starting quarterback Alex Smith in for one drive — an eight-play touchdown march — in last year’s exhibition opener. Smith was a veteran, though; Trubisky is still learning the offense.
What does Nagy want to see from Trubisky? Two words: positive plays.
“We want to [see] command in the huddle, which he has,” Nagy said. “He does it — let’s see it now in a game. And then just good and bad plays that occur. If it’s a good play, don’t get too high. Make a good play, follow it up, and then if it’s a bad play, if there’s a mistake or there’s something wrong, don’t worry about it.”
Tight end Trey Burton said Trubisky has nothing to prove in Cincinnati.
“No matter how he does Thursday,” Burton said, “he’s really good.”
2. Pass rush, Part 2?
The Bears’ pass rush was the most pleasant surprise of their first exhibition. Of the nine players who had at least a half-sack — the Bears totaled eight — outside linebackers Kylie Fitts and Isaiah Irving represent the team’s best hope to solve a problem that has been simmering all offseason. Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd is recovering from offseason knee surgery but could play against the Bengals, and free-agent signee Aaron Lynch has missed most of camp with a hamstring injury.
Irving, who hurt his ankle in practice Sunday, was one of four players the Bears said didn’t make the trip to Cincinnati. The others were wide receiver Josh Bellamy, defensive back Rashard Fant and tight end Dion Sims. Bellamy has a shoulder injury.
Fitts impressed outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley with his in-game adjustments. When Staley showed him photos of previous plays on the sideline, he understood what he needed to do on the next series.
“You don’t know until it’s live how these guys are gonna be,” Staley said. “That’s what was great about the [opener] — to be with those young guys in that environment.”
3. Miller time
No hyperbole: Rookie wide receiver Anthony Miller has been the Bears’ best player in training camp. After sitting out the preseason opener, the Memphis alum figures to make his debut.
Miller has focused on the details of his routes after a dominant college career that highlighted his freelance tendencies.
“Sometimes when you get out there and you want to just do your own thing, we have to reel that in,” Nagy said. “That’s what’s been so neat in the last couple of weeks. You’re seeing him start to see, ‘OK, this is why we do this,’ and it starts making sense.
“And then when you take that part of it . . . and you kind of mix that mental, physical thing together, good things happen.”
4. More opportunities
Nagy hesitates to make grand statements about any one preseason game — “If somebody comes out and has a poor game, it doesn’t mean they’re getting cut,” he said — but exhibitions are vital for the bottom half of the roster.
“These games are monumental,” guard Jordan Morgan said.
Morgan is the forgotten man from last season’s rookie class.
He was put on injured reserve with a shoulder injury on cut day, making 2017 a redshirt year. Morgan didn’t take up football until his senior year of high school, so the year off helped his football IQ. The lack of game experience — and practice snaps — hurt.
Few players need in-game experience more than Morgan, who played at Division II Kutztown. His employer agreed — he started and played every offensive snap against the Ravens.
Preseason games matter — for the Bears to form an opinion based on his play and for teams to scour film when cuts come.
“For me, I treat it almost like it’s the last game for me,” he said. “This is my life. This is my career. And I need to be able to show that I can perform constantly.”