LAKE FOREST – In some ways, it’s as anticipated a sporting moment as there is in the summer, even if it doesn’t count in the standings.
The first preseason game is the chance to see a team on the field for the first time in a season and a sign that football season has almost arrived. Many times, the contest doesn’t live up to the modest hype it gets since the early part of the preseason, even with three games, is usually fairly starter-light.
So the biggest question for the Bears as they approach their first preseason game of 2022 on Saturday against the Chiefs is how much the first team will see at Soldier Field when the game kicks off at Noon.
“With the starters, they’re going to go about 15-20 plays, the starters are,” said Eberflus on Thursday, answering the question that many had for the coach ahead of the opening game. “We’ll get a chance to work through the rest of that.”
But the head coach, who is in his first NFL game in that role, wasn’t about to get into how much each player specifically would play even when giving that number of snaps.
“That’s not every starter,” said Eberflus. “Some guys are going 10-15, some guys are going 15-20, but again, that changes by guy. It’s really individual based on the guy; where he is and what his maturation is, in terms of his play.”
Typically that amount of plays keep the starters on the field through the first quarter and perhaps into the second on the high end. What that means is another contest full of plenty of backups who are either vying for a spot on the depth chart or the roster itself.
Plenty of focus will be on the offensive line as the unit looks to find a starting five for the upcoming season. Lucas Patrick, who will be the starting center, suffered a thumb injury on the second day of training camp and won’t be available till late in the preseason.
In the first depth chart released this week, Riley Reiff has been slated as the starter right tackle with Michael Schofield at right guard, Cody Whitehair at left guard and rookie Braxton Jones at left tackle.
The fifth-round pick of the 2022 NFL Draft is getting a major opportunity early in his career to win one of the open tackle spots on the line and has been one of the surprises of training camp so far.
“You’ve been preparing all this time for a game like this and, obviously it’s my first NFL game. It’s a big testament to my preparation and kinda building up to this,” said Jones of his first game. “I’ve been tested in practice and all that type of stuff. I think it’s huge for me to just go out and do my job and play hard. That’s the biggest thing.
“You might mess up here and there, but how do you rebound from a mess up or something like that and just have a quick mindset to the next play, and just give it all you have all game.”
Seeing which receivers will stand out is key as well as Justin Fields takes the reigns of the offense for a second season. But a problem for the Bears at the moment is that a number of them are not healthy enough to take the field. N’Keal Harry, David Moore, Byron Pringle, and Velus Jones Jr. are all dealing with injuries of varying severity ahead of the preseason opener.
Equanimeous St. Brown, another player in his first season in Chicago, is ready to go and is listed as the starter opposite of Darnell Mooney in the first depth chart.
Roquan Smith won’t be out there for the Bears’ defense as he continues his “hold-in” as he negotiates a new contract, but defensive end Robert Quinn will be there to take some snaps along with fellow returning starters Eddie Jackson and Jaylon Johnson.
A number of new players will get the chance to show what they’ve got including the team’s first two picks of this spring’s draft: Cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker. Both are listed as starters for the contest.