The Bears open their preseason slate when they welcome the Miami Dolphins to Soldier Field on Thursday night.
After over seven months of NFL action, players, coaches and fans will now be excited for the road ahead. NFL rosters sit at 90, but that number will drop very soon.
Right now, the starters are just trying to work out kinks on their side of the ball while competitions are still being figured out and rookies aplenty are trying to showcase what they can do for their team and the 31 other ones.
With that being said, here are five Bears to watch in Thursday night’s meeting with the Dolphins.
Running back Jacquizz Rodgers
Even at 5-foot-6, 196 lbs, Jacquizz Rodgers has a legitimate chance to be the No. 2 running back and direct backup to Matt Forte.
After four seasons in Atlanta where Rodgers made five starts, he added 1,116 rushing yards, 1,104 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns (5 rushing, 4 receiving).
Fourth-round pick Jeremy Langford can eventually overtake Rodgers on the depth chart if he can continue to mature as a pass blocker. The Bears also have last year’s fourth-round selection Ka’Deem Carey along with second-year special teamer Senorise Perry and fifth-year veteran Danieal Thomas.
For now Rodgers is the No. 2 back in the Bears’ unofficial depth chart. This is his chance to create some separation in the competition. Expect to see plenty of Rodgers against Miami.
Wide receiver Marquess Wilson
For the second straight year, Marquess Wilson has put together a nice showing in training camp. The third-year wide receiver made six starts late last season with Brandon Marshall out with an injury. Wilson missed the first 10 weeks of the season after breaking his collarbone in training camp.
He is in line for a big time role to start the season with Alshon Jeffery locked in as the No. 1 receiver and Eddie Royal the No.2/slot guy. Wilson should get opportunities inside and out. Rookie Kevin White will be eased back after battling shin splints the past eight weeks. He might not even play in the preseason at all, according to wide receivers coach Mike Groh.
This is the time for Wilson to make the most of his opportunity by showing that he has improved from a weak showing during his first two seasons (2013-14).
Defensive tackle Eddie Goldman
In the new 3-4 defensive scheme it was expected that veteran Jeremiah Ratliff would anchor the line. He has the versatility to play all three positions and was likely going to start at nose tackle.
Ratliff is listed as the starting nose tackle with second-round rookie Eddie Goldman his backup. However, the 6-4, 332-pound Goldman has a chance to be a starter at nose tackle moving Ratliff to one of the end spots.
Run stuffer Jarvis Jenkins would be best served as a rotational piece while second-year LSU product Ego Ferguson should be a staple at end next to Ratliff and Co.
Goldman has been out of shape this off-season, but he has been making plays at times. The preseason is gigantic for the FSU product as he has the biggest chance out of any rookie on the team to win a starting spot.
Center Hroniss Grasu
Ninth-year veteran Will Montgomery is the No. 1 center for the Bears and rightfully so. That means third-round rookie Hroniss Grasu is his direct backup.
Montgomery has the edge simply because of his experience and his familiarity with John Fox and Adam Gase previously with Denver. Grasu is a smart and athletic lineman, who will find his way on the field soon. He was a four-year starter at Oregon and is good buddies with Bears’ two-time Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long.
Grasu can overtake Montgomery by putting together good tape this preseason. That starts on Thursday night against the Dolphins.
Cornerback Sherrick McManis
Kyle Fuller is the feature cornerback in the second-year of his career while Tim Jennings is listed currently as the other starting cornerback. The plan is to have Jennings play both inside and outside in Vic Fangio’s defense.
Veterans Alan Ball, Tracy Porter and Sherrick McManis are all vying for playing time along with second-year players Al Louis-Jean and Terrance Mitchell.
McManis has seen time with the first team with Ball still being eased back from a foot injury. Porter has lined up with the first team as well and made some plays, but is likely out Thursday with a hamstring injury. While Mitchell has stood out by creating turnovers with the second team defense.
Entering his sixth season, McManis is looking to be more than just a special teamer and he should get plenty of time to prove that he is.
Others to keep an eye on: OLB David Bass, DL Cornelius Washington, ILB Jon Bostic, S Sherrod Martin, KR A.J. Cruz, RB Danieal Thomas
What will you be watching on Thursday night? Make sure to comment below.
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