Chicago Bears to face starters in final preseason game
Chicago Bears coach Matt Eberflus will reverse the tradition of a meaningless preseason last game and instead play most of his starters Saturday against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Ahead of practice Tuesday at Halas Hall, Eberflus announced quarterback Justin Fields will lead a contingent of starters who will play until halftime with the goal of getting 25-30 plays. He said the Bears could attract some experienced players sooner.
The final game of the preseason was primarily the territory of the reserves battling for spots on the final roster. But the reduction of the preseason schedule from four games to three last year, coinciding with the move to a 17-game regular season schedule, has given teams one less chance to get their starters working in the preseason. .
And with a new Bears coaching staff this season, Eberflus sees the benefit of more game action together, even if the outcome ultimately doesn’t make sense.
“It establishes your identity,” he said, “establishes your style of play, the effort we give, the execution we give, situational football, third down, if we get a drive from two minutes, how we operate in the red zone. All those things that come into play that are good football.
“We want to play with a good, clean operation and we want to be aggressive in our style and aggressive in our approach.”
Fields played 27 snaps in the first two preseason games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks, completing 9 of 14 passes for 87 yards without a touchdown or interception. He was sacked twice and rushed twice for 11 yards.
After leading a practice that ended in a field goal in Seattle, Fields said he would consider more playwork under offensive coordinator Luke Getsy as “an opportunity for me to improve” before the Bears don’t open the season Sept. 11 against San Francisco. 49ers at Soldier Field.
It’s unclear how many of Fields’ injured offensive playmakers will be ready to leave on Saturday. Eberflus said the Bears will assess the status of running back David Montgomery later in the week. Montgomery missed the first two preseason games but participated in intense practice on Tuesday.
Wide receivers Byron Pringle, Tajae Sharpe and N’Keal Harry stayed out with injuries, and rookie Velus Jones Jr. was also absent from practice.
Veteran tight end Ryan Griffin echoed Eberflus’ sentiment that Saturday’s game will be a chance for the offense to set the tone and establish its identity. Griffin said this mission for Game 3 of the preseason is consistent with how Eberflus have operated during training camp.
“It seems like he wants us to be very intense and locked in every snap, so that’s pretty much what I think he would do for Game 3 of the preseason,” Griffin said. “That’s who his identity is, and it permeates the whole team, the organization. For four quarters, it will be “finish”. We’ve been playing our best for four quarters.
Eberflus, who said he told Browns coach Kevin Stefanski of the Bears’ plans, also said he expects linebacker Roquan Smith to play in his first game after Smith ended his “hold.” -in” after stalled contract negotiations. Smith trained for the first time on Saturday and is ramping up more than five workouts ahead of Saturday to get in shape.
While Smith is a fifth-year veteran who could probably be ready for Game 1 without playing in a preseason game, defensive coordinator Alan Williams said Sunday that it’s beneficial to put Smith into action on the field.
“He was at all the meetings. He was attentive. But there’s nothing quite like going out there and doing it live,” Williams said. “There is a coach view and a player view. He was in the trainer’s view in the way he looked at things on film, from reviews he hadn’t been in.
“Now he’s in there, so he just needs to get familiar with what we call, queries, communication with the defence. He will be fine.