Emma: 5 storylines to follow in Bears' preseason opener


(670 The Score) The Bears will take the field Saturday at Soldier Field when they host the Chiefs in their preseason opener.

For new Bears coach Matt Eberflus and a team in transition, it will mark the first chance to showcase something different for fans. The schemes have changed on both sides of the football. The roster has been drastically overhauled from last season. And Eberflus' intention is to elevate the standard as the Bears move forward.

Here are five storylines to follow as the Bears play their first preseason game.

1. Fields’ day
A year ago, the preseason gave us our first impression of then-rookie quarterback Justin Fields as he worked in a reserve role. In his second year, Fields is now established as the Bears' starter.

Fields and the Bears’ first-team offense are expected to work approximately 15 to 20 plays Saturday, Eberflus said. The Bears' hope, of course, is to have two sustained scoring drives that inspire confidence in the direction of the new-look offense – rather than a series of three-and-outs and punter Trenton Gill being busy at work.

More specifically, the Bears want to see Fields show command of the huddle, poise in the pocket and precision with his play. There are plenty of new pieces in Chicago’s offense and a number of injuries will likely leave the group shorthanded Saturday, but there's also plenty that can be learned.

If Fields can elevate his play this season, the Bears’ entire offense can find success.

2. Searching for targets
In all likelihood, the Bears’ offense will line up Saturday without running back David Montgomery, tight end Cole Kmet, receiver N’Keal Harry, receiver Byron Pringle and receiver Velus Jones Jr.

Fortunately, it's an exhibition. But it’s also an exercise in which Fields will be tested without his full supporting cast on offense. The situation will force Fields to trust other targets as the Bears look to get a better evaluation on players lower on the depth chart. Tajae Sharpe, Isaiah Coulter, Dazz Newsome, Chris Finke and Kevin Shaa will be among the receivers getting an increased look not only Saturday but in all three preseason games.

Fields has established a strong chemistry with top receiver Darnell Mooney and is building his connection with newcomer Equanimeous St. Brown, which they credit to his familiarity in the scheme. On Saturday, Fields will need to move forward with players who are still out to prove themselves.

3. O-line opportunities
When asked last week whether the Bears were getting closer to solidifying a starting offensive line, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy quickly responded with a “no.”

Getsy might not have been letting on to the full picture. It does seem the Bears have rotated on the offensive line less often as training camp has moved along, but there should be plenty of important snaps to evaluate Saturday.

The starting offensive line is currently in erasable pencil with Braxton Jones at left tackle, Cody Whitehair at left guard, Sam Mustipher at center for the injured Lucas Patrick (hand), Michael Schofield at right guard and Riley Reiff at right tackle. Still, there are plenty of others vying for a role.

Bears second-year tackle Teven Jenkins will have an important chance to showcase his physicality without the restraints of practice. With his place on the roster in question, Jenkins needs to assert himself well.

4. First impressions in the secondary
Bears rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon is considered day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. His absence from practice hasn't surpassed one week, and he's expected to rejoin the team soon, Eberflus said. Even so, it's unclear whether he'll play Saturday.

If Gordon plays, it will give us a good look at a reshaped secondary that includes him at cornerback and fellow second-round pick Jaquan Brisker starting at safety. Both players have looked prepared to start on this defense, and the coaching staff is ready to give young players key roles.

5. Ro's side show
It seemed carefully calculated Tuesday morning when Bears star linebacker Roquan Smith released a statement requesting a trade from the team. That was the day the Bears held their Family Fest event and practice at Soldier Field.

On Saturday, Smith’s contract impasse and hold-in will be top of mind. His place on the sideline will be noticeable. The Bears’ frustration with Smith has become clear, and it doesn’t seem like a resolution is near.

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

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