CHICAGO – The issue with trying to preview these Bears exhibition games for our readers is the degree to which Matt Nagy seems to revel in being as mysterious as possible as to who’s going to play.
But there will never be any glory in copping out, so we’re giving it a go again, and this week it’s my turn to look at five key guys/positions on the offensive side of the ball.
RB Mike Davis: The normal M.O. from Nagy is for veterans to grab some pine and a bag of popcorn for these pillow fights. But in his camp-opening presser in Bourbonnais, Nagy promised running back reps in preseason games to try and sort out the regular-season workload, and it’s time we actually saw something from this veteran free agent.
Nagy has been complimentary of Davis’ practice production, but it’s sure been hard to see.
Based on his lack of production over his first four years in the league in San Francisco and Seattle, it would be great to see him put up some numbers in this offense in a game situation — and my gut tells me he will be asked to early against the Giants.
WR Javon Wims: Forget this sophomore’s tussle with Prince Amukamara in practice the other day. He has been one of the most improved and impressive players in camp to date, and with Emanuel Hall now gone and Anthony Miller certain to be on the sidelines Friday night, Wims can stake a claim to the No. 4 receiver spot, if he can make some plays in live game action.
We know he can win contested balls from smaller defenders. Now, we need to see him actually working the route tree at game speed and with defenders actually looking to knock his block off once he touches the ball.
WR Riley Ridley: Ridley missed valuable time in camp with a hamstring strain, but he’s been back at it this past week, and there is little question he and Wims are going to make this team, but they are competing for the same targets and playing time, and whichever one shows more in the remaining exhibitions is going to get it.
Ridley has the stronger resume and great bloodlines, but his hamstring strain gave Wims a head start, and now it’s time for the rookie fourth-rounder to play catch up.
TEs Adam Shaheen, Ian Bunting and Dax Raymond: I’ve lumped these three together in one spot because every day that goes by without us seeing more from Shaheen makes this position more critical and it’s time to find out if this kid can stay on the field, number one, and if he can how much he has learned heading into his third season.
Shaheen has been splitting first-team reps with Ben Braunecker, and when I asked Nagy if it was because he’s injured and they are just protecting him or whether Braunecker is threatening to take the position, he said it’s just maintenance to try and get Shaheen to opening day healthy.
But if he’s not healthy, what are they maintaining, and if/when he is healthy, can he play, because he didn’t show much the second half of last season playing while rehabbing his ankle/foot?
Either way, it’s looking more and more like either Bunting, Raymond or both are going to make this team, and though Raymond was the solid favorite going into camp, Bunting has now blown by him in most likely competing for one spot.
They both can catch, but can either run routes and block?
OT Rashaad Coward: The Bears love this kid’s upside, but it feels like they expected him to be further along at this point than he is after struggling last week vs. the Panthers.
There is also the question of whether Coward can play both sides — to date, we’ve seen him strictly at right tackle. At some point he has to take some reps on the left side.
Veterans T.J. Clemmings and Cornelius Lucas are competing with him for the backup swing OT spot and neither has shown much to date, but they are vets with experience, and if Coward doesn’t stake a strong claim soon, the two veterans could take more and more playing time from him in the final two exhibitions.