The Chicago Bears play their final tune-up game tomorrow, which will end what has been an injury-fueled, nightmarish preseason. However, at least we got some good news regarding Cam Meredith’s season-ending knee injury.
Over at CBS Chicago, Chris Emma reports that Meredith suffered only a minor MCL tear in addition to the torn ACL. He’ll have surgery soon, and the hope is he will be ready to return for OTAs in May 2018. This is a minor victory for Meredith, as the knee injury he suffered in Sunday’s preseason win against the Tennessee Titans could have been much worse than initially feared.
- Meredith’s breakout 2016 season came, in part, because of a season-ending leg injury to Kevin White, a four-game suspension for Alshon Jeffery, and a general lack of depth at wide receiver. With Jeffery now playing in Philadelphia, and Meredith injured himself, there is a bulk of the pass-catching load that could fall into White’s hands this season. To that end, White told the Associated Press he feels a need to “step it up” in Meredith’s absence. After being held without a catch in the preseason opener, White has caught a pair of passes in each of the last two games. I’m curious to see if the Bears will play him in tomorrow’s preseason finale against the Browns.
- Naturally, White is not the only receiver feeling this way. Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times writes about the decisions the Bears have to make at the position with Meredith out for the season. Among the players who could be on the chopping block is Victor Cruz, who signed with the team as a free agent. Cruz’s roster spot is not guaranteed, and while he believes he still has the quickness and playmaking ability to succeed, it also sounds like he understands what’s at stake. “It’s meant a lot, just to be given an opportunity,” Cruz told the Sun-Times. “That’s all you can ask for, and that’s all I’ve ever asked for my entire career, a chance to perform, to prove myself. And I thank the organization for giving me that, and now it’s time to potentially build on that and see how we go moving forward.”
- Tanner Gentry is also on the fringes, but he has flashed in training camp, as well as preseason games. Gentry has also picked up responsibilities in a role that could help his case by taking game snaps as a gunner on the punt team. Being a special teams ace is something that could separate Gentry from the pack, and the Wyoming product knows it. Gentry’s play isn’t going unnoticed, with Kevin White telling the Sun-Times: “You throw it to [Gentry]; he’s going to catch it. He runs really fast. He works really hard. He does everything right.”
- One player who won’t have any impact on which receivers will make the team is quarterback Mark Sanchez, who won’t play in Thursday’s preseason finale. As ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson points out, Sanchez wraps up his preseason stint with the Bears having thrown a grand total of six passes in 14 live game snaps despite being listed second on the depth chart all summer. Mitch Trubisky (who has received the most game reps this preseason) will start, while Connor Shaw will provide the mop-up work against the Browns. Head coach John Fox says Trubisky and Shaw are the only quarterbacks who will play on Thursday.
- Linebacker Danny Trevathan adds to the positive buzz surrounding the Bears’ first-team defense, telling CSN Chicago’s JJ Stankevitz he feels like he’s ready to perform and could be in play to start the regular season opener against the Atlanta Falcons. This would be a welcome addition to a first-team defense that has allowed just 55 rushing yards to running backs, according to Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune. That 2.12 yards per carry average would be quite the turnaround compared to how the Bears ended the season. Winning the turnover battle will eventually tell us how well the defense performs, but plugging holes in the run defense will help matters.
- Brad Biggs of the Tribune has a breakdown of Charles Leno Jr.’s contract extension, which seems like a bargain compared to what the going rate for left tackles has been in recent years. While Leno Jr. isn’t an elite left tackle, he has proven to be serviceable and reliable, two things the Bears front office seems to value.
- You can’t blame Jay Cutler if he wasn’t 100 percent invested in his broadcasting gig, especially since he felt he could still play quarterback in the NFL. In a nugget in Peter King’s MMQB column, Cutler was asked if he practiced a lot for his gig as an analyst for FOX-TV and said “I mean, I’d be lying if I said I did.” Despite the lack of practice reps, Cutler was viewed as a potentially good hire for FOX’s coverage of the NFL because of that precise brand of honesty. Hopefully, Cutler succeeds with the Miami Dolphins and then takes his talents back to the broadcast booth when it’s all over.
- Nothing ushers in the official return of the NFL schedule like Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfice facing a potential five-game suspension. Burfict has racked up about $800,000 in fines, and yet, Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman doesn’t see any change in the talented, yet dirty Cincinnati star.
- Aaron Donald is arguably the best defender in football, and the Los Angeles Rams need him in the lineup to make their defense go. Hence, I’m surprised Donald’s holdout has lasted this long and could go into the regular season. Donald is set to make $1.8 million this year and $6.9 million in 2018, and while the Rams would agree his is more valuable than what his contract currently pays him, the two sides haven’t come to an agreement on what his restructured value should be.
- The return of the NFL regular season also means Madden NFL is back in our lives … which also means Maddon Glitch Season is back. Deadspin has some of the best of the best here. This one is my favorite because I’m surprised it hasn’t happened in real life with as often as receivers ask for a penalty flag after a play: