The games that take place during the final week of the preseason are never sexy, but if you think there is nothing to play for then think again.
Third-string quarterback Tyler Bray gets the start for the Chicago Bears and he has quite a task on his hands. Bray, who has one career regular season pass attempt to his name, will be handing off to running backs looking to snatch a spot on the depth chart behind Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, and Benny Cunningham, throwing to tight ends jockeying for position with Adam Shaheen’s health status up in the air, and targeting wide receivers eyeing to lock in a position in a revamped position room. And yet, we don’t know much about Bray himself. So let’s do that. He is, after all, the Bears’ starting quarterback tonight.
Bray went undrafted out of Tennessee, but the 6-foot-6 signal caller had his moments for the Volunteers. He went 4-1 as a starter during his freshman year, posted four 300-yard passing games, and even led his team to a spot in the Music City Bowl. After a 3-1 start, a broken thumb in his throwing ham caused him to miss five games and he never recaptured that early season form. Bray’s junior season was a disappointing one as UT went 5-7 and Head Coach Derek Dooley was dismissed at season’s end.
Interestingly, NFL.com’s 2013 draft profile of Bray describes him quite ideally (for a QB prospect). The profile highlights Bray’s “elite” arm talent (which allows him to throw tight spirals with velocity), and the ability to throw accurately from different arm slots among his strengths. And if you’re a quarterback with high-end arm strength, you’re going to catch a few eyes along the way. While there was clearly a ton of love for his arm talent, his weaknesses (tendencies to stare down targets, taking too many unnecessary risks, issues with accuracy and footwork, struggles to get a feel for game situations) were too overwhelming to overlook.
Funnily enough, the pro comparison thrown at Bray at the time was Jay Cutler, which will probably make you feel all sorts of things without enough context. Because, of course, there’s no denying that, back then, a Cutler comparison might have meant something different to you than it does now. Indeed, your reaction to the comparison might also depend on whether or not you remember that we’re talking about a third-stringer here.
In other words, being compared to Cutler now isn’t something many Bears fans would want from their starting quarterback and justifiably so. But that’s not who Bray is. He’s a third stringer. Under those circumstances, I think we can all agree that there are far worse comps out there. At the same time, I have to admit that I had flash backs to another Bears QB, Mike Glennon, when Bray’s strengths included how he could used his height and arm strength to his advantage. So … yeah, it’s not all good. But again, remember: he’s not the starter.
Yeesh … that profile made me think of things I had previously hoped were buried deep within my memory bank.
In any case, all Bray has to do tonight is be someone who can put his teammates who are fighting for roster spots (either in Chicago or elsewhere) in the best position to be successful. THAT would be a good night of the third stringer.