Bears preseason football is back, and for the first time since the Wildcard game against the Eagles, the Bears will face an opposing NFL team.
Many players will be fighting to keep their dream alive, so these next four weeks will be crucial to who makes the 53-man roster.
Here is a handful of players I will be keeping an eye on in the Bears’ first preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.
1. David Montgomery
Throughout training camp running back David Montgomery has showcased why he was the Bears’ first selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. From his contact balance to his receiving ability to his vision the former third-round pick from Iowa State has made a smooth transition so far in the NFL.
Now, he will get the opportunity to display his talent against the Carolina Panthers.
For Montgomery, I’m curious to see how he fares when his assignment is to pick up a blitzing linebacker. The other facets of his game should be natural for him: catching the ball out of the backfield and setting up defenders to force missed tackles.
While I was at training camp, Montgomery had his ups and downs when blocking, so that is the area in his game that I will be watching for tonight.
2. Elliott Fry AND Eddy Pineiro
Arguably the most talked about and interesting aspect of Bears Camp has been the kicking from Elliott Fry and Eddy Pineiro.
Both have done fairly well in Bourbonnais, but which kicker will Matt Nagy elect to go with when the Bears attempt their first goal? Who knows.
The Bears’ first unofficial depth chart was released on Tuesday and neither Fry or Pineiro were listed as the first-string kicker. Instead, the Bears have it listed as Fry “OR” Pineiro.
Regardless of who kicks against the Panthers, everyone will be watching whether these kickers can put the football through the goalposts.
3. Ian Bunting
With starting tight ends Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen both missing time at training camp, this gave undrafted free agent Ian Bunting plenty of opportunities to leave some good impressions on the practice field.
And when I was at training camp, Bunting was a player who consistently capitalized on his chances.
Bunting, who played his college ball at Michigan and California, made appearances with the first-, second- and third-team units during training camp.
If he is able to produce in the preseason as he has in Bourbonnais, Bunting will continue to prove to the Bears’ coaching staff that he deserves a spot on the 53-man roster.
4. John Franklin III
Someone who I did not expect to leave a strong impression in training camp is second-year player John Franklin III.
In my seven days in Bourbonnais, Franklin III made a number of plays at his cornerback position. On the second-team defense, he showed he could shadow receivers and break up passes when he was targeted.
In the 2018 preseason, Franklin III didn’t look like he belonged in the NFL, especially since he was playing a new position than what he was used to in college. But now he has a chance to prove he can be a backup corner on this Bears’ roster.
I’m interested to see how he performs throughout the preseason and if he can build off his training camp success.
5. Riley Ridley
My last day at training camp was when I got to see fourth-round draft pick Riley Ridley be utilized in the offense.
Although he primarily lined up with the second- and third-team offense, he was targeted by both Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray. He looked fluid in his routes and was able to get open throughout Tuesday’s practice.
Most likely the Bears will be cautious with how much they play Ridley in the preseason, especially in the game against the Panthers.
Last preseason, former Georgia Bulldog Javon Wims started to create a name for himself, and I expect Ridley to do the same if he can stay healthy.