Bears-Giants Primer: Storylines To Watch

Competition at tight end will continue for the Bears in their second exhibition.

Chris Emma
August 15, 2019 - 5:22 pm
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(670 The Score) For the second time this preseason, the Bears on Friday will take the field with preserving key players' health as their top priority.

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With that goal in mind, the Bears held a game-simulating structured scrimmage at Halas Hall on Wednesday evening, playing their first-team units against reserves and running 60 plays on each side of the ball. It was a controlled and constructive format that coach Matt Nagy appreciated.

"You can’t mock that in a preseason game," Nagy said. "(Not) to take away from that."

As for the actual preseason games, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears' starters are unlikely to play much against the Giants on Friday -- if at all. They did suit up for take the field for a series at Soldier Field last Thursday, though that was more about preparing for a game than playing in it.

So, what will there be to watch as the Bears and Giants square off? It will be another evaluation of Chicago's roster depth.

Round II at tight end

As the Bears continue to evaluate their depth at tight end, it was undrafted rookie Ian Bunting who received the most opportunity in the preseason opener.

Bunting could again lead the Bears' tight ends in targets a week after he led the team in receptions. He had three catches but also had two penalties and a fumble in a mixed performance last Thursday. The Bears are expected to give fellow undrafted rookies Dax Raymond and Jesper Horsted plenty of snaps as well.

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Meanwhile, third-year tight end Adam Shaheen didn't suit up last week, and it's unclear if he'll be participating Friday. Shaheen was active in the scrimmage Wednesday.

Converted tackle Bradley Sowell will get another preseason opportunity at his new position, and Ben Braunecker will receive playing time too.

Top tight end Trey Burton saw an increased role in the scrimmage after being held out for much of training camp. But Burton has already said he won't be playing at all in the preseason.

Bars none

Rookie guard Alex Bars is far from a new player to Bears offensive line coach Harry Hiestand.

Hiestand recruited Bars to Notre Dame and helped develop him into an NFL-caliber player. So it was noteworthy that Bars saw some reps with the Bears' first-team offense in place of Kyle Long and Cody Whitehair on Wednesday.

Bars was signed to the Bears as an undrafted free agent but likely would've been drafted if he wasn't recovering from a torn ACL suffered last September. Bars has been practicing with the Bears since the offseason program, continuing on the foundation he had set previously with Hiestand.

It seems the Bears are giving Bars a real chance to make their 53-man roster. Let's see if he can take advantage.

Rising defenders?

The Bears have little competition for starting roles on the defensive side of the ball, but there are a number of players looking to earn reserve spots.

Undrafted rookies Clifton Duck and John Franklin III have looked strong in their battles for a spot at cornerback, and each should see a lot of playing time Friday. Duke Shelley, a sixth-round pick this past spring, will also be on the field plenty.

At inside linebacker, Josh Woods has displayed some intriguing upside in his bid to make the team.

On the defensive line, 2016 third-round pick Jonathan Bullard is a bubble player with little certainty to his future. He will hope his play can help him stay with the Bears.

Whyte in

While rookie running back David Montgomery drew plenty of attention in the preseason opener, another rookie rusher made quite the impression too.

Kerrith Whyte Jr. rushed six times for 35 yards, including a 22-yard scamper through traffic. In doing so, he showed Nagy the combination of speed and vision that led to the Bears to draft him in the seventh round.

Nagy has suggested Montgomery -- along with Mike Davis and Tarik Cohen -- won't play much the remainder of the preseason. Many of those carries will go to Whyte, who could find a place as the Bears' fourth running back and as yet another option in the offense.

Still kicking

There are just three weeks remaining until the Bears kick off the regular season, and neither Elliott Fry or Eddy Pineiro have separated themselves in the kicking competition.

The preseason opener featured Fry making a 43-yard field-goal attempt while Pineiro missed from 48 yards out but connected from 23.

Expect the Bears to continue alternating Fry and Pineiro with the hopes of one ultimately standing out.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.