Emma: Observations From Bears-Giants

The Bears lost 32-13 to the Giants at MetLife Stadium.

Chris Emma
August 16, 2019 - 10:00 pm
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(670 The Score) Bears coach Matt Nagy was plenty comfortable resting his key players in his team's second preseason game and evaluating the reserves who led the way.

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Without almost all of their regulars, the Bears lost 32-13 to the Giants at MetLife Stadium on Friday night. As they did, they gained a more thorough evaluation of some intriguing players fighting for spots on the roster.

What was learned from the action Friday night? Well, plenty.

Who's in and who's out?

Prior to kickoff, the Bears announced 26 players weren't schedule to play, including Pro Bowlers in quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, star pass rusher Khalil Mack, cornerback Kyle Fuller, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks and running back Tarik Cohen. 

Nagy has made it a priority to preserve his key players' health. For some players not among that group of 26, their playing status was also an acknowledgement of their roster spot perhaps being in jeopardy.

Fourth-year defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard is among the players with an uncertain future. A third-round pick in 2016, Bullard has fallen out of favor during his time with the Bears. Fellow defensive linemen Bilal Nichols and Roy Robertson-Harris saw more reps than Bullard last season alongside Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks.

Bullard has flashed as a strong presence against the run but remains behind Nichols and Robertson-Harris on the depth chart. 

Another member of that 2016 draft class, fourth-round pick Nick Kwiatkoski, is also fighting for an inside linebacker spot. The Bears have some intriguing players at the position in Josh Woods, Joel Iyiegbuniwe and Kevin Pierre-Louis. While Kwiatkoski has experience, he lacks the speed to be a major factor in the defense. He does have special teams value in his favor.

It's also worth noting rookie running back David Montgomery was sidelined from action. That seems to be a strong statement of confidence from Nagy.

No kicker yet

In a rare interview appearance prior to kickoff, Bears general manager Ryan Pace said the team's kicking battle is "close." With the way Elliott Fry and Eddy Pineiro have performed this preseason, that wasn't exactly a compliment.

Neither Fry or Pineiro have separated themselves to this point of the preseason, with each having good moments and bad. Pineiro missed a 48-yard field-goal attempt in the exhibition opener at Soldier Field. On Friday, Fry missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt. Pineiro was 2-for-2 on field-goal attempts, connecting from 27 yards and 41 yards. 

Pace did mention the Bears are still evaluating roster battles around the league with the cutdowns from 90 to 53 due in two weeks. That's certainly the case at the kicker position, which the Bears need to get right.

Wims-ical

After cornerback Prince Amukamara and receiver Javon Wims were involved in a heated altercation in practice Tuesday, Amukamara was quick to sing the praises of the second-year Wims, who threw punches.

Amukamara said he could see how Wims had a productive offseason, adding speed and catch radius. Wims showed that Friday, as he hauled in five receptions for 64 yards.

The Bears selected Wims in the seventh round of the 2018 draft with hopes he could develop into a quality target. They're now watching the fruits of his labors.

Vaughters makes a play

This time of the preseason is all about putting out good tape for young players who are fighting for a job. Linebacker James Vaughters did just that in the second quarter, ripping through the Giants' protection and delivering a strip-sack and even scooping up the loose ball. 

A Chicago native and Stanford product, Vaughters is an interesting player, having played for the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League the past two seasons. He posted 11 sacks over 33 games in Calgary and now has a chance to stick in the NFL.

If Vaughters doesn't stick with his hometown team, perhaps he could be heading to another NFL city.

Tackle depth tested

Rashaad Coward has been in line to be the Bears' swing tackle and first man off the bench, so his third-quarter injury was notable.

Coward suffered what the Bears called a left elbow injury after teammate Jordan McCray appeared to slam that elbow in a friendly fire incident. 

Without Coward, there are questions to the Bears' tackle depth. Cornelius Lucas and T.J. Clemmings are next up if Coward's injury is serious.

Setback for Smoke

Taquan "Smoke" Mizzell is facing an uphill battle to earn a place with the Bears. A reserve running back last season, Mizzell shifted to receiver this offseason.

Mizzell still found himself taking carries out of the backfield and lost two fumbles in the fourth quarter Friday night. With receivers like Wims, Riley Ridley and Marvin Hall standing out during the preseason, Mizzell needs to make an impression every rep.

Two weeks left

Saturday marks just a fortnight until NFL teams are forced to cut their rosters from the 90-man limit down to 53. Time is running out for players looking to make an impression in the preseason.

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