(670 The Score) The Bears head to the Pacific Northwest to face the Seahawks on Thursday evening in Seattle in their second preseason game.
Following a mixed bag for the Bears in a 19-14 win against the Chiefs on Saturday at Soldier Field in their preseason opener, there’s plenty to build upon in the second exhibition game. Here are five storylines to follow for the Bears on Thursday.
1. Improvement for Fields, offense
What the Bears’ starting offense showed Saturday was similar to the product they've displayed throughout training camp. It has been a sloppy beginning for Chicago’s reshaped offense.
Bears second-year quarterback Justin Fields hasn’t been at fault for the inconsistent play, but he’s also being tasked with uplifting a young, unproven group. Fields was 4-of-7 for 48 yards in his 18 snaps Saturday. He was also hit far too many times for a preseason game, reminding of the concerns on the Bears' offensive line.
While Fields and the starters aren't set to play much Thursday, the Bears' goal is to have a sustained scoring drive with clean protection up front and execution by all 11 players.
2. On guard?
In the first week of training camp, many wondered whether Bears second-year offensive lineman Teven Jenkins would make the team’s initial 53-man roster. Now, he could be competing for a starting spot at right guard, which is the position he has been working at during practice recently.
After rotating in at right tackle with the second unit in the Bears’ preseason opener, Jenkins could see more snaps at right guard Thursday. The shift represents Jenkins’ best chance to stick on the active roster and perhaps stay in the Bears’ plans.
A second-round pick of the Bears in 2021, Jenkins has struggled to gain favor with the team’s new regime. That much was certain when rookie Braxton Jones was inserted at left tackle with the first-team offense over the summer, while Jenkins was demoted – two months before the team put the pads on for full contact.
Now, Jenkins has the chance to show what he can do at full speed with a new opportunity at right guard. What he shows in this audition could dictate the Bears’ plan for him moving forward.
3. Still no Ro
As star quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs marched 11 plays and 72 yards for their opening touchdown Saturday at Soldier Field, it showcased what the Bears were missing without linebacker Roquan Smith on the field.
The Bears have leverage in negotiations with Smith as he refuses to practice and play amid a contract hold-in, but it hurts that they're missing their best defensive player and such a key figure for the group.
Smith is a force against the run and a key presence in coverage. He’s the most important player in new coach Matt Eberflus’ defensive identity. With all due respect to fellow linebacker Nick Morrow – who has slid from the Mike position to Smith’s void at the weakside spot – there's no replacing Smith.
4. Velus’ debut
Bears rookie receiver Velus Jones Jr. is noticeable when he’s on the field, as his speed and athleticism stand out.
Jones will make his preseason debut Thursday after missing the opener with an undisclosed injury. He returned to practice Monday and has been deemed healthy once again.
The Bears selected the 25-year-old Jones in the third round of the NFL Draft in April with the belief that he could help solidify their receiving corps, a position that still lacks stability entering Fields’ second year. Jones now has the chance to step in and prove himself.
5. Flus’ operation
When asked Saturday to reflect on his first NFL game as a head coach, Eberflus didn’t get sentimental. With pride, he instead pointed to how his coaching staff managed the game cleanly as a group.
Eberflus expressed his appreciation for how the Bears got play calls in with ample time, mixed in personnel packages properly and communicated well regarding the details of a successful challenge.
Even a minor mistake can prove costly, which means how the Bears’ coaches operate Thursday is once again something to follow.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.