The Chicago Bears dropped to 0-2 in the preseason after falling to the New England Patriots by a score of 23-22 on Thursday night, but the team looked fairly competent on the field after a poor showing in the preseason opener.
Many of the team’s veterans saw limited action in the first two preseason games, meaning Chicago’s rookie class got an opportunity to showcase their talents. Notable names like first-rounder Leonard Floyd and second-round pick Cody Whitehair both got extensive work with the first-team offense and defense, but other rookies also flashed their potential when given an opportunity.
How has the rookie class looked through two preseason games?
OLB Leonard Floyd
The biggest knock on Floyd coming out of Georgia was his lack of bulk, and that has been evident through two preseason games. His explosiveness and speed have been on display, but he struggles to disengage at the line of scrimmage.
In two games he has recorded four tackles, a half sack and one quarterback hit. He combined with fellow rookie Jonathan Bullard to sack Patriots backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett in the second half of Thursday night’s contest.
Floyd has the speed and athleticism to be an effective pass-rusher in the NFL, but he will need to continue to improve his strength before being considering an every-down player for the Bears in 2016.
G Cody Whitehair
Whitehair cemented himself as the team’s starting left guard early in training camp, but he has been less than impressive in two preseason games.
He held his own at times in the opener against the Denver Broncos before he was asked to play center. The team experimented with him up the middle, but he struggled with shotgun snaps and was beaten a couple of times in pass protection. Veteran Ted Larsen is expected to be the team’s starting center in Week 1, but experiment with Whitehair in the middle helped give the young rookie some experience in case of an emergency.
Thursday night against New England his struggles continued when he was overmatched by defensive lineman Trey Flowers on a third-down sack. Flowers used his hands to fight past Whitehair and was able to take down Cutler in the process.
The team still has high hopes for Whitehair, but he will need to pick up on the speed and physicality of the game quickly.
DE Jonathan Bullard
Many draft experts named Florida defensive end Jonathan Bullard the steal of this year’s draft, and the third-round pick has not been a disappointment.
Bullard has been explosive off the snap, disruptive in the backfield and has proven to be effective against both the run and the pass. He has been in competition with veteran Mitch Unrein all offseason to be the team’s starter at the 5-technique opposite of Akiem Hicks, and another strong performance in the third preseason game could help him earn the starting nod in Week 1 against the Houston Texans.
ILB Nick Kwiatkoski
Expected to give the team much-needed at inside linebacker behind Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, fourth-round pick Nick Kwiatkoski has been sidelined throughout training camp and the preseason with an injured hamstring.
The team has offered no timeline for his return.
SS Deon Bush
A standout contributor at Miami, Deon Bush was expected to push 2015 undrafted free agent Harold Jones-Quartey at strong safety this offseason, and so far, he is making a case to earn the starting job.
He played 55 of the team’s 63 snaps on defense against Denver and finished with three tackles while nearly picking off quarterback Trevor Siemian. Against the Patriots he suffered what looked to be a serious injury and was helped off the field only to return a few plays later.
The strong safety job is currently wide open with Jones-Quartey, Bush and veteran Chris Prosinski fighting for playing time.
CB Deiondre’ Hall
Since arriving in Chicago, Northern Iowa’s Deiondre’ Hall has been compared to former Bears Pro Bowler Charles Tillman, and he proved why in his debut against the Broncos.
Hall has long arms and broke up two would-be touchdowns against Denver in the preseason opener. He finished that game with five tackles and backed up that strong performance with two tackles against New England.
The young corner still needs to work on turning back to the ball once it is in the air, but he clearly has the talent to be an NFL cornerback with a little more fine tuning.
RB Jordan Howard
The running back position is still a bit of question mark in Chicago following the departure of Matt Forte, and Indiana’s Jordan Howard could push for significant reps this season if he continues to play like he has in the first two preseason games.
In the first preseason game he carried the ball just five times for 12 yards, but in the second preseason game he recorded 46 yards on 11 carries. He has shown great vision and a willingness to drop his shoulder to pick up more yards. He still needs work in pass protection, but he has potential.
Jeremy Langford is the favorite to be the starter to begin the season, but Howard has a chance to carve out a nice role for himself if the team opts to use a running back by committee.
SS DeAndre Houston-Carson
After recording two tackles against the Broncos, safety DeAndre Houston-Carson suffered a neck injury/concussion in practice and was placed in the concussion protocol early in the week. He was cleared to play against the Patriots but recorded just one tackle.
He will likely earn most of his reps on special teams this year and has not shown much yet on the field to warrant any playing time at either safety position.
WR Daniel Braverman
Daniel Braverman was the darling story of the team’s training camp in Bourbonnais, Illinois, because of his ability to catch nearly every pass thrown his way, but that success hasn’t quite translated to the preseason.
He caught two passes for seven yards against the Broncos before being held without a catch on one target against New England. He is a shifty receiver who works well out of the slot, but the Bears may not have enough room for him on the roster unless he can prove his worth on special teams.
TE Ben Braunecker
With the Bears lacking depth at the tight end positiong after trading Martellus Bennett in the offseason, Harvard undrafted free agent Ben Braunecker was expected to push for the No. 2 spot in training camp because of his ability in both the running and passing game.
Braunecker hurt his ankle in training camp, but he was seen warming up before Chicago’s game against New England. If he is healthy, he will only have a few more chances in the final two preseason games to prove he can handle the heavy workload at this level.