The Bears have made it to the final preseason game of the season.
For the fans, this is an absolute blessing. For the players that are fighting for their NFL future, this is their Super Bowl.
Although the names that will be appearing in tonight’s game may not sound familiar to many, the last pieces of a team’s 53-man roster still can still be established if players take advantage of their opportunities.
Here are the five Bears that I will be paying attention to in the fourth and final preseason game against the Tennessee Titans.
James Vaughters is on a mission to make the Bears’ 53-man roster.
After creating a strip-sack on the Giants’ Daniel Jones, Vaughters followed that up in the next preseason game with a strip-sack on the Colts’ Philip Walker, which led to Joel Iyiegbuniwe’s 22-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
So far through three preseason games, it seems both Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd have rubbed off on the play-making outside linebacker.
Another turnover-creating play in tonight’s game should solidify a spot for Vaughters on the 53, especially since 2018 sixth-round draft pick Kylie Fitts has failed to make an impact this preseason.
With tonight being the last opportunity for Vaughters to prove he belongs on the team, let’s see what he does to leave one last impression on Matt Nagy and the rest of the coaching staff
Clifton Duck and John Franklin III
For cornerbacks Clifton Duck and John Franklin III, their performance against the Titans may be the deciding factor as to who sticks on the Bears’ roster.
Franklin had a good start to the preseason versus the Carolina Panthers. In that game, he displayed his ability to shadow receivers and tackle in space. Since then, Franklin has been quiet and, at times, been targeted by opposing quarterbacks.
After Duck’s 62-yard interception return against the Giants, he has also taken a step back in his play.
Earlier this week, Nagy was asked about his thoughts on the corners in the matchup with the Colts.
“There was some opportunistic play with some of them,” Nagy said. “But then there was a couple where I thought the coverage was a little soft. They had some chunks there … I feel like we have some good depth there, but there [are] some guys right there, and they know who they are, that are battling. They got another game here to see what they can do.”
Since Ryan Pace took over as the general manager of the Bears, six cornerbacks have made the 53-man roster three times, with the one exception being in 2016 when seven CBs made the team.
Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Buster Skrine, Kevin Toliver and Duke Shelley are locks, so that leaves, potentially, one spot left on the 53.
When Alex Bars was told to play left tackle after T.J. Clemmings left with a right leg injury in last Saturday’s matchup with the Colts, Bars was placed in position that he was familiar with.
According to NBCSChicago’s JJ Stankevitz, current Bears’ offensive line coach Harry Hiestand asked Bars back when they were in Notre Dame in 2016 to play tackle since there was a vacant spot at the position, even though his natural position was at guard.
In Lucas Oil Stadium, where both Climmings and Cornelius Lucas III were blocking air more than pass rushers, Bars’ play at tackle not only showed his versatility but also that he can be a potential option at tackle if the Bears decide to go that route.
The preseason is all about players displaying their abilities in hope that it resonates with an NFL team. Since Nagy became head coach, there has been an emphasis placed on versatility.
That quality may just land Bars a spot on the roster.
Kerrith Whyte Jr.
Regardless if Kerrith Whyte Jr. is in the backfield waiting to get a handoff or following his blocks after receiving a kickoff, he utilizes his best trait: elite speed.
At FAU’s Pro Day, Whyte clocked at running a 4.36 40-yard dash. Even though Whyte’s kickoff return against the Giants didn’t count, there was no way anyone was going to catch him once he was into the open field.
Bears fans know all about the phrase “Speed Kills,” as it was something that was associated with the best return man to ever step on a football field, Devin Hester. Whyte’s speed makes him dangerous and it is also what separates him from fellow running back Ryan Nall.
The Bears’ backfield currently consists of a diverse group of players in Tarik Cohen, David Montgomery and Mike Davis. Whyte could be the final addition to what is already considered one of the strengths of the roster.