After all this time, we’ve finally arrived at the end of Bears training camp. There’s one preseason game left against the Titans, then onto preparing for Week 1 and the Los Angeles Rams. Most fans tune out at this point, since the final preseason game typically features very little action from the starters, if there’s any action at all. But for coaches and players, this is a uniquely exciting game, as it represents one last chance for many guys to make their final case to win a job.
“I always look forward to this one because sometimes you get that one player that maybe there might be, from coaches, a little doubt in, and then all of a sudden they prove you wrong in this game,” Matt Nagy said. “Whether sometimes that’s a practice squad player that catches your eye. That to me is something that’s important as well. I know we have a lot of talk about Justin and the quarterback position, but there are other guys that are fighting for depth and fighting to make this roster. This is a really huge game.”
Nagy really isn’t understating when he says it’s a huge game. Sure, Fields won’t be auditioning for a job. The Bears will still run vanilla concepts. But on special teams, it’s one last chance to clean up coverage issues that have plagued the team in their first two contests. It’s those special team contributions that could be the deciding factor for one man to earn the 53rd spot on the team over another, too.
“It could be a play or two when someone really jumps out at you,” Nagy said. “That is a difference, if it’s close.”
With final cuts due by 3 p.m. next Tuesday, there’s not much time for a player to impress his coaches after the final whistle blows against the Titans. That’s impressed upon the entire team, and the Bears are making sure to respect the game, even for players who won’t even sniff the field Saturday night.
“We always talk to our starters when guys don't play and are on the sidelines, 'Let's look sharp, let's be supportive, be coaches out there for them,’” Nagy said. “These are some of the biggest job interviews that these guys will ever have in their entire life so let's respect that. Coaches let's understand that as well. That's really big to me, it's big to our coaches, it's big to Ryan and we take it very seriously.”
Of course, the final preseason game will be an important barometer for some of the older players, or players returning from long injury stints, to see if they’re ready to play a full game. If not, it can help guide what players need to do to get ready.
That barometer is arguably most important for Jason Peters. He looks primed to take over the team’s starting left tackle job, but there are reasonable concerns about his conditioning, and if he can play a full 60-minute game right now.
“We'll get a good feeling of where he's at when he's out there,” Nagy said. “And we're going to rely on him. You know he's a guy that's played a lot of games and he can tell us ‘Ok, percent-wise, this is where I'm at.’”
Then, when it’s all over, things are really just beginning for the personnel department. Because as cuts trickle in across the league, Ryan Pace’s team begins to look for guys who could contribute for the Bears.
“They’re in here, all day and night, going through possible roster cuts of other teams,” Nagy said. “We wait and they come to us and say, ‘Hey, we might have this guy, that guy,’ pop on the tape real quick and look, or they just do it.”
The shuffle has already begun a bit. The Bears waived Badara Traore on Tuesday. Wednesday morning the Jaguars had announced they claimed him. On Thursday morning, the Bears made another move by waiving Javon Wims and bringing back DB Dionte Ruffin.
So it may seem like the offseason is winding down as training camp concludes, but really the engines at Halas Hall have just started revving up again.