Everyone was caught off guard when Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy decided to rest his starters the day before last week's game against Kansas City so he made sure there was no confusion leading up to the team's preseason finale. Nagy has already made it known that the starters — as well as most of the second team players mndash; will not take the field against the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night.
In this final preseason game, the Bears still have some evaluations to make, some position battles to sort out, make some final roster decisions, and figure out where exactly everybody fits on the depth chart. Here are five things to pay attention to on Thursday night.
1. Tyler Bray
Mitchell Trubisky and Chase Daniel will not play, as Bray will get all of the snaps against Buffalo, barring any unforeseen circumstances. The fifth-year signal-caller outperformed Daniel during the first two preseason games, which kept the competition to back up Trubisky undecided. But Daniel redeemed himself by leading the game-winning drive against Denver and following that up with a near-flawless performance last week vs. Kansas City. Bray will have one more chance to show the coaching staff that he deserves to stick around or impress another team that could be looking for a different option down the road.
2. Tight ends
Trey Burton is a lock but Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen are out indefinitely with injuries. So this means that Daniel Brown, Ben Braunecker and Colin Thompson will get a major opportunity against the Bills. If Sims and Shaheen are out for an extended period of time (PUP list is a possibility), then the Bears will need bodies to back up Burton in the early going of the regular season.
The question for the Bears is whether or not they’ll actually have this position on the active roster. Michael Burton, who was on last year’s team, has mostly been used as a receiver (67 receiving yards, two TDs), while rookie Ryan Nall has been used as a runner (144 rushing yards). They’ll both get extended playing time against Buffalo and will need to show dependability in all facets (runner, receiver and on special teams) if they want to secure a spot on the 53-man roster.
This will be hardest position for the Bears' coaching staff to decide on. It’s entirely possible that first-round pick Roquan Smith (hamstring/prolonged holdout) may not play which means that we won’t know what he can do on an NFL field until the regular season starts. Aaron Lynch also is a question mark with a hamstring injury that’s lingered through all of training camp. Leonard Floyd is out with a broken hand, while Sam Acho, Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski will sit this one out. What this means is that we’ll get one more extended look at Isaiah Irving, Jonathan Anderson, Kasim Edebali, Kylie Fitts, Ro’Derrick Hoskins, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Elijah Norris, John Timu, Cavon Walker and Josh Woods.
5. Reserve offensive linemen
The starting five (Charles Leno Jr., Cody Whitehair, James Daniels, Kyle Long, Bobby Massie) are set. So this leaves tackles Dejon Allen, Brandon Greene, Matt McCants and Bradley Sowell; guards Rashaad Coward, Jordan Morgan and Will Pericak; and centers Eric Kush and Hroniss Grasu to battle it out for what figure to be three or four roster spots.
— Gabe Salgado 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's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Top photo courtesy of www.chicagobears.com)