ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Bears will play the third of their five preseason games Saturday night against the Broncos in Denver. Here are four storylines to watch:
(1) After a brief and uneventful appearance in last week's preseason loss to the Bengals, will the Bears' No. 1 offense begin to build some momentum?
The first-team unit was held to minus-one yard on eight plays in Cincinnati, but it was too small of a sample size to draw any meaningful conclusions. In addition, running back Jordan Howard and receivers Allen Robinson II and Taylor Gabriel did not suit up, while running back Tarik Cohen played one snap but did not touch the ball.
Heading into Saturday night's preseason game against the Broncos in Denver, there are certain things that coach Matt Nagy would like to see from the starting offense, which figures to benefit from the return of Howard and Robinson.
"Obviously, you want to score touchdowns," Nagy said. "You want to be able to put points up on the board. But I want to see some first downs. I want to see a balance of run and pass. I want to see protection. You have protection, you give the quarterback green grass regardless of who it is, they'll produce. They'll make the throws. So it all starts up front. Can we match then up front, and then can we get the run game going."
(2) Will recently-signed first-round draft pick Roquan Smith make his preseason debut after ending his 29-day contract holdout and rejoining the Bears Tuesday?
Smith performed well in two joint practices with the Broncos, displaying some of the special attributes that led the Bears to select him with the eighth pick in the draft.
"The reps that he got I thought there were some plays where he showed some flashes of speed and cutting down angles and the instincts," Nagy said. "I thought his instincts showed up. He still didn't get a whole bunch of reps; he got enough, which was good. We didn't want him to get a lot of reps. But I was happy with what I saw on tape."
Fellow inside linebacker Danny Trevathan felt that Smith rejoined the Bears without missing a beat. "He fit right in, no fall off," Trevathan said. "We knew what type of player he was. We just had to get him here, get him listening, get him fine-tuned, and he'd be all right."
Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd is excited about the intangibles that Smith—his teammate for one season at Georgia—brings to the table. "He's a good kid," Floyd said. "He's tough, Chicago tough already, and he works hard."
(3) Will Trubisky continue to develop timing and a rapport with his top targets?
It was evident that the Bears passing game took a major step in the two joint practices with the Broncos, as Trubisky connected repeatedly with an array of receivers, most notably Robinson and tight end Trey Burton.
"The one thing in the last two days that I've seen is 12 (Robinson) and 80 (Burton), both their timing is really starting to click with 10 (Trubisky)," Nagy said. "Trey's a smart kid. He understands leverage. He understands timing. When you get pressed at the line of scrimmage, your timing's going to be off a little bit with the quarterback. He gets that."
Saturday night's preseason game will provide another valuable opportunity for the passing game to continue its rapid development.
"I'm really surprised how far we've come along with the timing in such a short amount of time, just knowing these guys," Trubisky said. "But I think it just speaks to the type of guys they are, their knowledge of the game and their work ethic, as well as mine. We've just been getting on the same page, repping over and over again and really developing that trust and chemistry on and off the field."
(4) Will Floyd carry his strong training camp performance over to game action?
Healthy enough to stack practices, the 2016 first-round pick has consistently flashed as a pass rusher in workouts, using both speed and power moves to get to the quarterback.
"He's still fast, still getting off, [but] he's more disruptive," Trevathan said. "I see him trying to create more big plays—instead of just a sack, a sack/caused fumble. He's dropping back [into pass coverage]. He's doing everything that 'Flo' is supposed to do even better now. He's feeling more comfortable. I'm just happy with the direction he's heading. It's just going to make our defense better with 'Flo' flying around."
Floyd, who has also performed well against the run, is rebounding from a knee injury that forced him to miss the final six games last season. The Georgia product has shown promise in two seasons with the Bears, recording a total of 11.5 sacks. But he has missed 10 of 32 games due to injuries and must remain healthy to reach his high ceiling.
A strong outing in Saturday night's preseason game in Denver no doubt would boost Floyd's confidence and give the No. 1 defense some momentum.