It’s not hyperbole: a late-night preseason game in mid-August could change the course of the Bears’ quarterback competition for the year ahead.
Here’s what we’ll be watching when the Bears play at the Cardinals on Saturday:
Mitch, the Sequel
If Mitch Trubisky makes another emphatic case to be the Bears’ starting quarterback, the team has to listen — regardless of what they’ve promised Mike Glennon.
The rookie won’t have the element of surprise to help him Saturday. While teams don’t necessarily game plan for preseason games, you can bet the Cardinals noted the Bears’ offense with the No. 2 overall pick on the field in their preseason opener — rollouts, play-action passes and a moving pocket.
Can they stop it? The Cardinals’ defense will throw more at the Bears than the Broncos’ vanilla second-half schemes.
The Bears have always been impressed with Trubisky’s accuracy on the run.
“I never try to panic — you just always try to play cool, calm, collected,” said Trubisky, who coach John Fox said will be the third quarterback to play Saturday. “I got the ball in my hand and I got to make the defense wrong.”
Trubisky’s was comfortable against the Broncos because coordinator Dowell Loggains designed a sheet filled with plays the rookie liked running in practice.
When Loggains expands that list Saturday, will the result be the same?
The Bears’ opinion of Trubisky won’t change if he plays poorly Saturday.
Glennon might not be able to say the same.
The Bears trust their starter will bounce back from his worst game as a professional, when he posted a 0.0 passer rating, threw a pick-six and led the offense to a net gain of zero yards on his first three possessions.
Fox said that, of all the facets of his team, he’s most interested in seeing improvement from his first-team offense — and, by extension, Glennon.
“Our team is our biggest critic,” receiver Cam Meredith said. “We try to stay encouraging for Mike, and we don’t listen to the outside noise too much.”
Glennon refused to call Saturday’s game crucial for him — but it is.
“I mean, it’s bigger than the first but not as big as the third,” he said. “I don’t really know how else to say it. …
“Obviously I want to go out and play well but I don’t want to make too big a deal and put too much pressure on a preseason game. “
Lost in the hubbub of Glennon’s pick-six was another drive-killer: center Cody Whitehair snapped the ball over the 6-6 quarterback’s head on third down, and the Broncos recovered.
It happened again when the Bears went back to Bourbonnais, but Whitehair, who had only one botched snap last year, says he’s fixed the problem. He wasn’t following through with the ball, and, rather, was turning his hand.
“I’ve really focused in on it and really tried to dissect and see where I was mistaken,” he said. “Hopefully we’ve got that problem fixed now.”
With guard Kyle Long still recovering from ankle surgery, the Bears could turn to Hroniss Grasu to start at center and shift Whitehair to guard. They’ve practiced with that first-team lineup lately, Fox said.
Whitehair began last offseason at guard before moving to center when Grasu tore his ACL and the Bears signed Josh Sitton.
“(Guard) is obviously a little bit different because I haven’t played it in a year or so,” Whitehair said. “But I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge.”
Kyle and Kevin?
Prince Amukamara’s hamstring strain will spell opportunity — maybe the last one? — for fellow first-round pick Kyle Fuller.
Fuller, who figures to start at cornerback in Amukamara’s place, will have a chance to impress his bosses and put his performance on film for the rest of the league to watch — and judge — as they consider trades before cut day.
Receiver Kevin White, another former first-rounder, continued his ho-hum preseason in the first exhibition game, when he wasn’t targeted at all.
“Like I’ve said before, he’s missed two years of football, almost,” Fox said. “So we’re seeing him every day in practice. The more he stacks those together, the more you’ll him in games.”
White’s preseason comes with more pressure than most; he’s started four games in two years due to injury. But the Bears need to start seeing progress, and White could use the confidence boost of a strong preseason game.
Connor Barth went 12-for-12 in his first practice after the Bears claimed second-round flop Roberto Aguayo from the Buccaneers. Still, there’s a reason the Bears were comfortable with the new kicker’s contract, which will cost them $428,000 if they cut Aguayo and no one re-signs the former Florida State star.
Will Aguayo get a chance to kick Saturday? Will he try kickoffs? The Bears don’t have long to learn about Aguayo; it seems unlikely he sits the entire game against the Cardinals.