The Bears departed for Cincinnati last night and four players stayed behind in Chicago. Starting tight end Dion Sims, linebacker Isaiah Irving, wide receiver Joshua Bellamy and defensive back Rashard Fant didn’t make the trip, with Bellamy the only player with a known shoulder injury at this time.
Sims has been described by new head coach Matt Nagy as an important piece of the team. He is probably the Bears best all around tight end, and definitely the best at blocking. His roster spot is very secure and his absence is precautionary I’m sure.
With 2nd year tight end Adam Shaheen struggling last year, the signing of free agent Trey Burton was an important addition to the tight end group. The Bears will carry 4 tight ends and have carried as many as 5 onto their regular season 53 man roster’s in recent years. Tonight’s game will be a great opportunity for Shaheen, a former 2nd round pick, to get valuable playing time and get some confidence before the season starts. Colin Thompson, Daniel Brown, and Ben Braunecker will be fighting for the last tight end spot and will also see plenty of playing time tonight.
This nagging shoulder injury could be problematic for Josh Bellamy to make the team. He has been a valuable member of the Bears special teams for years. But with a new regime in place and a lot of young receiver’s looking for jobs and making good impressions, Bellamy might be on the bubble with this injury. In the pre-season opener, rookie Javon Wims made a tremendous impression catching 7 balls for 89 yards. He will get more playing time tonight as will Tanner Gentry, Demarcus Ayers, Bennie Fowler, and Malachi Jones. Those players will be fighting for the last 1 or 2 spots among wide receivers and be looking to make an impression on special teams as well. If any one of them can turn into a special teams contributor, it might become difficult for Bellamy to make this roster.
If there was a player Bears fans really wanted to see more of against Cincinnati, because of his play against Baltimore , it was linebacker Isaiah Irving. I’ve seen no reports of any injury outside of a hamstring two weeks ago when camp opened. With the absence of first round pick Roquan Smith still holding out, and Irving being labeled a standout performer in the first pre-season game against the Ravens, it’s possible this is strictly precautionary. I would imagine that Irving is secure in his spot on the team and this presents an opportunity to look at Bears draft picks Kylie Fitts and Joel Iyiegbuniwe (eye-bun-eh-way), as well as rookie free agents Andrew Trumbetti, Ro’Derrick Hoskins, Elijah Norris, Josh Woods and veterans John Timu, Jonathan Anderson and Kasim Edelbali.
Even if some of those players I just mentioned don’t make the final 53, the best of the rest will be placed on the 10 man practice squad for sure. Keep an eye and an ear out, on the special teams plays to see who makes an impact and gains the upper hand in the roster battle’s at inside and outside linebacker.
Rashard Fant is a very long shot to make the team in the secondary, where rookie free agent Kevin Tolliver has been intercepting every quarterback in camp. Tolliver, out of LSU, is a big (6′ 2″) cornerback who is displaying game speed as opposed to his slow 40 time’s during the pre-draft process. Also keep an eye on CB Jonathon Mincy, a free agent from the Canadian Football League by way of Auburn, and Doran Grant a 3rd year player from Ohio State. They will all be pushing to win the backup job from veteran Marcus Cooper.
Unlike last week pre-season game which was mostly a waste of time to watch, this game against the Bengals gives the fans an actual measuring stick. The Bears and Bengals are close together in terms of overall talent. Cincinnati closed last season by winning their last 2 games. Head Coach Marvin Lewis has been crazily optimistic, talking Super Bowl, not just playoffs.
Starters for both teams will take the field and play a series or two, before the backups take over. I will be measuring Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky against veteran Bengal’s QB Andy Dalton, because when I looked into my crystal ball last year and evaluated Trubisky’s potential career. I used Dalton as my career comparable. I took a lot of heat and criticism from Bears fans on message boards. Tonight is the first step in about 20 this season, to see who is right. Enjoy the game!