With the NFL preseason approaching, the rebuilding Chicago Bears are trying to put all of the pieces together. They've undergone top-to-bottom changes during the offseason, and there are plenty of new faces as they practice in pads this week. Not only that, but the remaining veteran players are adjusting to new playbooks and responsibilities.
How everyone jells together will ultimately decide if Year 1 of the Matt Eberflus era will be successful. Here are five players who will be under the thinnest of microscopes as this process plays out.
Justin Fields, QB
The second-year signal-caller has been getting rave reviews from his teammates, his new coaches, and his backup quarterback Trevor Siemian. The general consensus is that Fields has shown growth from a rookie season that was full of adversity, and he's been praised for the work that he's put in during the offseason. The ultimate test will be when Fields lines up against an opposing defense for the first time this year, but the fact that he's progressing in workouts is a sign of hope for this Bears team.
Darnell Mooney, WR
The third-year pass-catcher has already made some highlight-reel catches in practice, and new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy likes what he sees so far. Mooney is expected to take over the No. 1 receiver slot, a job previously held by Allen Robinson II from 2018-21. The hope is that the combination of Fields and Mooney, who connected for two of Fields' seven TD passes last year, will be the driving force of the offense this season. The Bears haven't had a top-10 passing attack since 2013.
Al-Quadin Muhammad and Justin Jones, DL
Outside of Robert Quinn, the rest of the defensive line is fighting for jobs amid all of the new faces added during the offseason. Two names that already have a leg up on the competition based on past production are defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad (107 career tackles and 11.0 sacks) and defensive tackle Justin Jones (118 career tackles). However, everyone other than Quinn will ultimately have to earn their spots through practice reps and preseason games.
Roquan Smith, LB
He has yet to participate in training camp, as he's been on the PUP list. But multiple reports say that he's actually in the midst of a soft holdout while he hopes to get a much-deserved new contract. Smith has been seen riding a stationary bike on the sidelines during practice. But practicing would be especially beneficial right now, seeing as how he's switching to a 4-3 defense for the first time in his career, and because of that, there will be new terminology and coverages to adapt to.
Eddie Jackson, S
The former two-time Pro Bowler is enjoying practicing alongside fellow safety Jaquan Brisker. The rookie from Penn State is the favorite to win the starting job alongside Jackson, which has been a revolving door over the last few seasons. The hope is that having a long-term starter next to Jackson will make things easier for him as he adjusts to the new defensive scheme, but he also needs to clean up the issues that caused his mishaps last season.
— Written by Gabe Salgado, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.