December 06, 2021


Analysis

Hub Arkush: Don’t tell Bears youngsters and backups Saturday’s exhibition doesn’t count

The outcome of Saturday night’s final exhibition game for the Bears and Titans is irrelevant, and it will be extremely difficult to evaluate individuals with no certainty as to how many snaps they’ll get against first-, second-, third- or fourth-stringers.

As of this writing, Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel and at least nine Titans players, including quarterback Ryan Tannehill, had tested positive for COVID-19. We have no idea how many players could be sidelined because of close contacts.

But this game still is critical to a number of Bears battling for starting jobs or just roster spots.

QUARTERBACK

His status will remain unchanged regardless, but it will be interesting to see how Justin Fields performs after going through the NFL starting QB routine for the first time.

He has started slow coming off the bench in his first two games. Will he start quicker as the starter?

Could Nick Foles look sharp enough to encourage another club to make the Bears an offer they can’t refuse?

RUNNING BACK

Khalil Herbert appears to be locked in behind David Montgomery and Damien Williams, but it also appears likely Tarik Cohen will start the season on the physically unable to perform list, leaving Ryan Nall and Artavis Pierce locked in a cage match for likely one roster spot after ripping off 39- and 51-yard runs, respectively, two weeks ago against the Dolphins.

WIDE RECEIVER

After Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney and Marquise Goodwin, Damiere Byrd is the next closest to a sure thing.

But do they keep five, six or seven? Among Riley Ridley, Rodney Adams and Dazz Newsome, who swims, and does anyone sink?

Adams looks the safest of the three.

TIGHT END

Will it be three or four? We know Cole Kmet, Jimmy Graham and Jesse James are the first three.

If they keep four, which I suspect they will, can J.P. Holtz hold off Jesper Horsted, or can Horsted change minds against the Titans?

OFFENSIVE LINE

How much of Jason Peters and Germain Ifedi will we see, and how will they look?

Then it will get really interesting as Alex Bars, Larry Borom, Elijah Wilkinson, Lachavious Simmons and Arlington Hambright battle for three or four spots, knowing that the one who survives still will go when Teven Jenkins is ready.

They’d like to keep eight, but with uncertainty at tackle, it could be nine.

Hard to imagine Bars and Borom aren’t safe, but at this point, is Wilkinson more valuable than Simmons?

DEFENSIVE LINE

This group probably is set with Akiem Hicks, Angelo Blackson, Eddie Goldman, Khyiris Tonga, Bilal Nichols and Mario Edwards Jr., but don’t forget Edwards will be suspended for the first two games.

This could be Tonga’s and Blackson’s chance to earn extra early regular-season reps. Daniel Archibong is an undrafted free-agent rookie out of Temple. This could be his chance to lock up a spot on the practice squad.

LINEBACKERS

Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan, Jeremiah Ataochu, Trevis Gipson, Christian Jones and Alec Ogletree should be safe, and we probably won’t even see the four starters. It leaves one or two spots for James Vaughters, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Josh Woods, Charles Snowden, Sam Kamara and Caleb Johnson, who’s flashed quite a bit lately.

These could be thee guys to watch in what may be the best competition of the night.

CORNERBACKS

With Jaylon Johnson, Kindle Vildor and Artie Burns seemingly set to take three of five or six spots, and no certainty what Desmond Trufant’s status is as he continues to deal with a “personal issue,” Duke Shelley, Thomas Graham Jr. and Tre Roberson are the guys to focus on here.

SAFETIES

Will they carry two or three in addition to Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson?

Deon Bush seems a lock, so whoever shows the least in Nashville among DeAndre Houston-Carson, Marquis Christian and Teez Tabor will be in jeopardy unless the Bears keep them all.

SPECIAL TEAMS

This is huge for all the RBs, WRs, LBs, CBs and safeties. I’ve mentioned battling for those last few spots, and although it appears Herbert will start the season returning kickoffs, short of a miracle burst from Cohen, the opening night punt return job is waiting to be claimed by Newsome, Byrd or Mooney.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is a Bears/NFL Insider for Shaw Media