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4 things to watch: Bears-Titans

Posted Aug 26, 2017

Senior writer Larry Mayer identifies four things to watch in Sunday’s preseason game between the Bears and Titans, including rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky's first reps with the No. 1 offense.

The Bears travel to Tennessee to face the Titans Sunday in their third preseason game, which is traditionally the one that serves as a dress rehearsal for the regular season. Here are four things to watch:

(1) How will Mitchell Trubisky fare in his first action with the No. 1 offense?

After excelling in the Bears’ first two preseason contests, the promising rookie quarterback is slated to take his first game reps with the first-team offense. Eager to gain what he called a "true evaluation" of the second overall pick in the draft, coach John Fox revealed Wednesday that Trubisky will open the second half with the No. 1 unit in relief of Mike Glennon, who remains the Bears starting quarterback.

Mitchell Trubisky
Rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky will get reps with the starters in the second half of Sunday's game.

Following Glennon and veteran Mark Sanchez into each of the first two preseason games against the Broncos and Cardinals, Trubisky has completed 24 of 33 passes for 226 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 111.4 passer rating.

"From OTAs to now, he just looks like a different guy," said veteran cornerback Prince Amukamara. "As a rookie, you come in here and get your feet wet, usually feel it out a little bit. I feel like that’s the stage he was going through in the OTAs. And then in training camp to now he just looks more comfortable and more confident. I haven’t really talked to him to get his insight, but he definitely looks great."

(2) Will Glennon take another positive step after improving in the second preseason game?

After throwing an interception for a touchdown and posting a 0.0 passer rating in the preseason opener against the Broncos, Glennon rebounded last Saturday night in Arizona to complete 13 of 18 passes for 89 yards with one touchdown and a 78.2 passer rating. On his final possession, he connected on 4 of 5 passes for 36 yards, including a 7-yard TD to receiver Kendall Wright late in the first half that gave the Bears a 10-7 lead they would not relinquish.

Glennon will look to build on that performance Sunday in Nashville; he’s expected to start against the Titans and play the entire first half. With Trubisky taking first-team reps for the first time this week, the pressure on Glennon no doubt has intensified. But the five-year veteran has vowed not to change his approach.

"I just have to control what I can control, and that’s going out there and playing good football for the Bears," Glennon said. "That’s really all that came to my mind is just focus on what I can control and go out and prepare this week to go out and execute."

(3) Will the Bears’ No. 1 defense continue to excel?

The Bears defense has performed well in the first two preseason games. The unit only allowed a field goal on eight possessions through three quarters against the Broncos and then permitted just one touchdown on five drives in the first half versus the Cardinals.

"One thing that the captains of our defense have been challenging all of us is just to play relentless and play with a type of speed and a type of energy because in the preseason and training camp you’re really just trying to find out your identity and what you want to be known as a defense," Amukamara said. "Seattle has an identity. Broncos have an identity. The Giants have an identity. Great defenses have an identity, and I think this is where we find ours."

The Bears will be challenged Sunday by one of the NFL’s top young quarterbacks in Marcus Mariota, whose 114.6 passer rating in the red zone over the past two seasons is the best in the league. Last year the second overall pick in the 2015 draft ranked 10th in the NFL with a 95.6 passer rating while throwing 26 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.

(4) Will rookie running back Tarik Cohen keep turning heads with his play?

Since he first stepped on the practice field, the fourth-round pick has displayed the electrifying moves that earned him the nickname "The Human Joystick" at North Carolina A&T. But when Cohen started last Saturday night in Arizona in place of the injured Jordan Howard, the 5-6, 181-pounder also showed that he could break tackles.

"I feel like that’s something I can do," Cohen said. "I feel like that’s something I wanted to prove to everybody watching, that even though I’m a small back I have good knee drive and I can break tackles."

Cohen rushed for 77 yards on 11 carries in just over a quarter against the Cardinals, including runs of 16, 16 and 25 yards. He’ll get another opportunity in Tennessee to prove that he deserves a regular role in the Bears offense this season.