Emma: Observations From Bears-Titans

Alex Bars and James Vaughters impressed in the final preseason game.

Chris Emma
August 29, 2019 - 10:29 pm
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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- Next week, Soldier Field will be filled with anticipation as the Bears and Packers open the regular season in a game that has long been marked on calendars around this city.

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But first came the conclusion of the Bears' preseason with a 19-15 loss to the Titans at Soldier Field on Thursday night. It offered general manager Ryan Pace and his front office one last evaluation of some players -- and a night of rest for 32 key players who were held out of action.

What was on display in the preseason finale? Let's break down a few moments of significance before the new season begins.

Ragone calling the shots

Matt Nagy has often credited mentor Andy Reid for empowering him as a rising assistant, explaining that was a vital part of his journey to becoming the Bears' coach. In the preseason finale, Nagy appeared to be paying that deed forward.

Bears quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone was calling plays from the sidelines, as 670 The Score reporter Mark Grote observed from the sidelines. That's the duty of Nagy during regular-season games.

Ragone, 39, has been the Bears' quarterbacks coach since being hired by then-coach John Fox in 2016. He was the lone assistant on offense retained by Nagy from Fox's staff and is well-respected around the league. Ragone was in consideration to become the Titans' offensive coordinator this past offseason.

January will again bring the coaching carousel, and Ragone could be up for consideration for a major jump -- perhaps even as a head coach.

Oh, Eddy

At long last, the Bears will put to rest an exhaustive search for a kicker this weekend and decide on the man whom they hope kicks in Chicago for years to come. 

In his final impression this preseason, Eddy Pineiro badly shanked an extra-point attempt in the first quarter and walked off the field to boos. Pineiro rebounded by hitting field goals from 32, 39 and 34 yards out later in the game.

The Bears opted to waive kicker Elliott Fry two weeks ago, setting up a kicking competition between Pineiro, his own worst self and the other kickers who potentially become available around the league as rosters must be cut by Saturday afternoon.

Pineiro converted 8-of-9 field-goal attempts this preseason, including a 58-yarder against the Colts last Saturday.

Lynch plays

The presence of veteran outside linebacker Aaron Lynch in the second quarter of the exhibition finale was notable.

Lynch was sidelined for most of the preseason due to a shoulder injury suffered early in training camp. He returned to practice this past week, albeit in a limited role. 

The Bears have held out most of their key players since the first quarter of the first preseason game, including players dealing with injuries. So Lynch's presence on the field was curious Thursday. Could it indicate uncertainty regarding his place on the 53-man roster?

It's worth noting Lynch missed the entire 2018 preseason due to a nagging hamstring injury, then had a productive season in which he recorded three sacks as the Bears' third man in the outside linebacker rotation.

Blindside Bars

With T.J. Clemmings on injured reserve and Rashaad Coward working back from an elbow injury, the Bears turned to Alex Bars as their starting left tackle Thursday. He excelled.

Bars primarily played guard at Notre Dame and arrived in Chicago as an undrafted rookie stepping in at both guard spots. But with the injuries at tackle, Bars was asked by Harry Hiestand, his offensive line coach at Notre Dame and now with the Bears, to move in at tackle.

Bars went undrafted in part because he was still recovering from a torn ACL suffered last September. What he needed was the chance to showcase his abilities now that he's back in good health, and he got that Thursday.

Hiestand knows what Bars possesses, and now the Bears have a glimpse of that at tackle. It positions him to make the 53-man roster this weekend.

Playmaking Vaughters

A Chicago native, outside linebacker James Vaughters has made the most of his preseason audition with the Bears.

Vaughters recorded a sack in the preseason finale after previously producing strip-sacks in consecutive games. He spent the last two seasons playing for Calgary in the Canadian Football League, recording 11 sacks over 33 games.

How the Bears round out their depth at outside linebacker remains to be seen, but Vaughters has at the least put himself firmly on the bubble for the weekend.

Extra points

-- Rookie receiver Thomas Ives has likely done enough to land on a team's 53-man roster this weekend. While the Bears may be set at his position, their attempt to potentially stash him on the practice squad could be squashed if he's claimed off waivers. Ives finished with five receptions for 99 yards.

-- After players work through the entire offseason program, training camp and the preseason, injuries in the exhibition finale are horrible to see. Rookie tight end Dax Raymond (concussion) and guard Blake Blackmar (ankle) likely saw their bids to make the Bears' roster end Thursday.

-- The Bears added running back Josh Caldwell to the roster last week, and he was heavily involved in the offense. He rushed 16 times for 68 yards and had some slippery runs.

-- The Bears finished the preseason 1-3. The 1985 Bears also finished the preseason 1-3.

-- One week remains until the Bears and Packers kick off the regular season at Soldier Field next Thursday.

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