Eberflus says all starters will play in preseason opener

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bears head coach Matt Eberflus greets fans as he walks to training camp, Saturday, July 30, 2022, in Lake Forest. Eberflus said he plans to play his starters in the first preseason game of the year Aug. 13 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

    Bears head coach Matt Eberflus greets fans as he walks to training camp, Saturday, July 30, 2022, in Lake Forest. Eberflus said he plans to play his starters in the first preseason game of the year Aug. 13 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 8/3/2022 5:55 PM

Matt Nagy made many poor decisions during his four years as head coach of the Bears.

The biggest -- in my mind -- was to leave Mitch Trubisky affixed to the bench during the entire 2019 preseason.

 

Nagy and his staff thought a few weeks of training camp would suffice for Trubisky, who was about to begin his second year as a full-time starter.

How wrong they were.

The Bears' offense stumbled all over itself in a 10-3 season-opening loss to Green Bay and looked no better in a miraculous 16-14 win at Denver the next week.

Trubisky never looked comfortable all season and ended up throwing a meager 17 TD passes, along with 10 interceptions -- and he was sacked 38 times in 15 games.

Fast forward to this season, and it appears the Bears have a coach who understands the importance of preseason games, especially when it comes to dealing with a second-year quarterback, a group of unproven wide receivers, an offensive line trying to gel and a defense that features a pair of rookie defensive backs.

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Yes, indeed, coach Matt Eberflus told us Wednesday that he plans to play the starters when the Bears host the Kansas City Chiefs at Soldier Field on Aug. 13.

"We need to play these guys, just like we're doing a lot (in) these 'play-it' periods (at practice)." Eberflus said. "We have to see where they are (and how) they function. ...

"We have to see what they look like when they're playing in a football game."

Huh. What a crazy thought.

Eberflus wouldn't say how long the starters would go and also didn't discuss his plans for Games 2 and 3 against the Seattle Seahawks on Aug. 18 or the Cleveland Browns on Aug. 27.

NFL teams have become more and more nervous about preseason injuries over the last decade -- and rightfully so.

So there's a fine line for sure.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Ideally, Eberflus will play the offensive starters in all three games because there's still a long way to go before this unit is anywhere close to proficient.

Now, there were a few promising moments at practice Wednesday. One came as Justin Fields moved his squad into field-goal position during an end-of-half drill. Fields hit tight end Cole Kmet early in the drive and then connected with wide receiver N'Keal Harry for a 17-yard gain on third-and-10.

The final play was a short pass to running back David Montgomery in the flat with about 20 seconds remaining. Montgomery fell down on purpose after a short gain, and Fields then spiked the ball to stop the clock.

It wasn't what Fields was expecting, and he told Montgomery so afterward.

"He could have got more yards and even a first down to where we could have clocked the ball and maybe (had) one more shot at the end zone," Fields said. "So that's just on me to tell him, 'Hey, we don't have to necessarily get down right after you catch the ball. You can try to get as many yards as possible (because) 20 seconds on the clock -- that's still a lot of time.'"

While this little victory for the offense was nice, there's still a lot of work to be done.

Fields was off-target twice Wednesday during a simple five-and-out drill with no defenders involved. He also threw an ugly pass to an open Harry during an 11-on-11 session. Fields was on the move and feeling pressure, but the ball nose-dived and hit the ground before reaching Harry, who was only 20 yards away and in the middle of the field.

It's honestly a throw pro QBs should hit 95% of the time.

On the bright side, Fields has shown a willingness to scramble, and is also throwing the ball away more when nobody's open.

How it all comes together is anybody's guess. But at least Fields, Montgomery, Darnell Mooney and the rest of the offense will have a chance to fine-tune things against actual foes this preseason.

That -- at the very least -- is one win for this coaching staff.

And maybe, just maybe, it will translate into more victories than most expect out of the Bears this season.

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