What to look for in the Bears’ 2022 preseason opener

LAKE WALD – In a way, it’s a sportingly expected moment like in summer, even if it doesn’t count in the overall ranking.

The first preseason game is an opportunity to see a team on the field for the first time in a season and a sign that football season is almost upon us. Often the competition doesn’t live up to the modest hype it gets, as the early part of the preseason, even with three games, is usually pretty easy to get started.

So the biggest question for the Bears ahead of 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 starts at 12 p.m.

“With the starters, they’re going to do about 15 to 20 games that are starters,” Eberflus said Thursday, answering the question many had for the coach ahead of the opening game. “We’ll get a chance to work through the rest.”

But the head coach, who is in his first NFL game in that role, declined to elaborate on how much each player would play even given that number of snaps.

“That’s not every starter,” said Eberflus. “Some guys go 10-15, some 15-20, but again that varies from guy to guy. It’s really individual depending on the type; where he stands and what his maturity is in terms of his game.”

Usually that number of games keeps the starters on the field in the first quarter and maybe the second at the top end. That means it’s another competition with many backups competing for either a spot on the depth chart or the list itself.

Much focus will be on offense as the unit tries to find a starting five for the upcoming season. Lucas Patrick, who will be in the starting XI, sustained a thumb injury on day two of training camp and will not be available until late in the preseason.

The first depth chart released this week called Riley Reiff as the right tackle starter with Michael Schofield at right guard, Cody Whitehair at left guard and rookie Braxton Jones at left tackle.

The 2022 NFL Draft fifth-round pick gets a big shot 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.

“They’ve been preparing for a game like this all along, and obviously it’s my first NFL game. It’s a great testament to my preparation and the way I build from it,” Jones said of his first game. “I was field tested and all that stuff. I think it’s great for me to just go out there and do my job and play hard. That’s the biggest thing.

“You might make mistakes here and there, but how do you recover from a mistake or something and just have a quick take on the next game and just give everything you’ve got, all game.”

Seeing which receivers will stand out is key, as Justin Fields takes over the offense for a second season. But a problem for the bears right now is that some of them are not healthy enough to go to the field. N’Keal Harry, David Moore, Byron Pringle and Velus Jones Jr. are all struggling with injuries of varying degrees ahead of the preseason opener.

Equanimeous St. Brown, another player in his first season at Chicago, is ready to go and is listed as a starter opposite Darnell Mooney in the first depth chart.

Roquan Smith won’t be out there on the Bears’ defense as he continues his hold-in while he negotiates a new contract, but defensive end Robert Quinn will be there to play along with his returning starters Eddie Jackson and Jaylon to take some snaps Johnson.

A number of new players will get a chance to show what they’re made of, including the team’s top two picks from this spring’s draft: cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker. Both are listed as starters for the competition. What to look for in the Bears’ 2022 preseason opener

Grace Reader

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