When the Bears take on the Bills in their preseason finale this Saturday most fans will be dialed into Justin Fields and the first-team offense, then tune out. But when the starters leave the field after their prescribed amount of snaps, very serious work begins for the Bears backups. This is the last time many players will get a chance to prove not only that they can meet their coaches’ expectations, but that they’re deserving of a job.
Throughout the summer the Bears have kept 91 players on their roster as they try to determine who can help them win in all three phases of the game, but come Tuesday at 3 p.m. the team will have to trim that roster down to 53 players. On Thursday, head coach Matt Eberflus shared some of the criteria the team will use to determine who makes it, and who doesn’t. Their assessments will boil down to two big things: preparation and execution.
“Obviously you’ve got to know what to do,” Eberflus said. “Alignment, assignment and techniques and all that. And then you’ve got to be a performer. I talked to the guys about being a playmaker. Everybody’s a playmaker on the team. So you have to be able to make your plays.”
It seems obvious, but it’s those simple tenets that drive Eberflus’ program. The Bears aren’t looking for players to be heroes, they’re looking for players to do their job so that their coaches and teammates can rely on them when it matters.
The team will try to determine who can best come in and play if injuries take their toll on one particular position group, but when looking at the final guys who make the roster, special teams contributions are essential as well.
“When you get to the point of let’s say the fourth or fifth runner, then special teams is going to have more say than what we need from the offensive perspective,” said running backs coach David Walker. “So, with that said I don’t really need to slam the table for somebody if we’re talking about runner four and five, and special teams. Special teams is going to get what they need at that point.”
So if you’re looking to make your roster projections at home and you’re watching the third and fourth stringers battle it out with the Bills, you may want to pay more attention to the guy who makes a big tackle on a punt return, or the guy who makes a key block on a kickoff, rather than the receiver who racked up three catches on one drive.