Bears Insider

Test for Bears' O-line depth, Tyson Bagent's shot among things to watch in preseason finale vs. Bills

The Bears will close their preseason slate Saturday against the Buffalo Bills, and there will be plenty to watch

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After watching the Bears' preseason loss to the Indianapolis Colts from the sideline, quarterback Justin Fields and the healthy starters will take the field Saturday in the exhibition finale against the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field.

Bears head coach Matt Eberflus announced Thursday that Fields and the rest of the good-to-go starters would play "select snaps" in the preseason finale.

While Eberflus did not offer a list of said healthy starters, it's fair to assume that Thursday's non-participants, including Darnell Wright, Eddie Jackson, Chase Claypool, Jaquan Brisker, Nate Davis, and DeMarcus Walker, will not play.

It's unclear if offensive lineman Cody Whitehair, who has been practicing with a wrap on his right hand, will be given the green light.

Even if Whitehair plays, only two-fifths of the Bears' starting offensive line will be in pads Saturday against the Bills' starters.

That depth, or lack thereof, is where we will begin our things to watch list for the preseason finale.

Find out what you got

The Bears' offensive line is currently in a state of flux.

Left tackle Braxton Jones is the only fully healthy member of the planned starting five. Left guard Teven Jenkins is week-to-week with a leg injury and could miss a chunk of the early part of the regular season. Jenkins' injury caused the Bears to move Whitehair from center to left guard, where he has practiced with the aforementioned wrap on his hand. Backup center Lucas Patrick and right guard Nate Davis have missed most of camp with injuries deemed day-to-day that have kept them out for weeks. Meanwhile, right tackle Darnell Wright suffered an ankle injury Tuesday. He did not practice Wednesday or Thursday.

With all those injuries, the Bears' starting offensive line in front of Fields likely will be Jones, Whitehair, Doug Kramer, Ja'Tyre Carter, and Larry Borom. Alex Leatherwood could slot in at left guard if Whitehair doesn't play.

The Bears thought about not playing Fields on Saturday due to the offensive line situation but view the live reps as too valuable to pass up.

The Bears' lack of quality offensive line depth has stuck out like a sore thumb all offseason. With the Buffalo Bills set to play their starters, Eberflus and his staff will get a full measure of how playable the backups are against the likes of Ed Oliver, Leonard Floyd, and Greg Rousseau.

Eberflus, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, and offensive line coach Chris Morgan must already have a good feel for Kramer, Leatherwood, Borom, and Carter.

But the Bears have remained outwardly confident about their offensive line depth during training camp, with Logan Stenberg being the only August addition.

Saturday will give us a good sense of how much trouble the Bears are in if the offensive line doesn't find a way to get mostly whole by Sept. 10.

Proof of progress?

Eberflus was frank last week following joint practices with the Colts. The Bears' head coach lauded his offense's performance in individual and 7-on-7 drills, but he noted there has been a lack of execution, attention to detail, precision, and speed in team drills.

Saturday's dress rehearsal is the final chance for Fields and the healthy starters to work through some issues plaguing them in camp.

Fields, Jones, Khalil Herbert, DJ Moore, and Darnell Mooney should all play. Tight end Cole Kmet left Wednesday's practice early but returned Thursday. Eberflus said Kmet was "normal," indicating he would also be good to go on Saturday.

The first-team offense scored two touchdowns in seven snaps during the preseason opener, with Moore and Herbert each scoring long touchdowns on screen passes.

If the offensive line can be semi-serviceable, the first-team offense should get at least three series. The Bears' offense has kinks to iron out, and Eberflus doesn't think work on the back fields at Halas Hall is enough.

Given the issues upfront, I'd expect the Bears to try to work and fine-tune the quick passing game on Saturday while staying away from the longer-developing concepts.

Things have been choppy and uneven for the first-team offense in camp. The Bears need to see consistency in all phases to feel comfortable heading into the regular season.

Bagent Mania makes closing statement

The Bears didn't anticipate a backup quarterback battle in camp, but undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent has "created" one with the help of some lackluster play from P.J. Walker.

Bagent impressed during the second preseason game against the Colts. He led a 17-play, 92-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, showing poise, command, and accuracy.

Walker, meanwhile, has been off all of camp, which opened the door for the intriguing Division II record-holder to oust him.

"I'm not going to answer that," Eberflus said Thursday when asked who his No. 2 quarterback would be Saturday. "That's still a competition though, as we've said all along, and we're open to that. That's exciting. And that was created. It wasn't like we created it — when I say we, the coaching staff. That was created by pure competition. Like I said, if you keep an open mind and you let things play out, then good things will happen. A lot of times I've seen that coaches predetermine things a lot of times and we just based it on performances and we're going to continue to do that and let the competition play itself out."

Whether he comes in second or third, Bagent will get a chance to make his final case for a roster spot on Saturday. His calmness, moxie, and work ethic have impressed the Bears' staff. His surgical precision against the Colts was the first real evidence he might be able to handle the backup quarterback duties.

The Bears guaranteed Walker $2 million when they signed him. They like his experience, but they aren't going to weigh the past more than the present.

What wasn't meant to be a competition has turned into one because Bagent kicked the door open. Saturday, we'll see if he can walk through it.

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