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4 things to watch in Bears-Bills game


The Bears will play their fifth and final preseason game Thursday night when they host the Bills at Soldier Field. Here are four storylines to watch:

(1) Will rookie offensive lineman James Daniels take another step and possibly win the starting left guard position?

Locked in a battle with veteran Eric Kush for the starting left guard job, Daniels will get a final opportunity to impress the Bears coaching staff Thursday night against the Bills. The second-round draft pick was Iowa's starting center the past two seasons, but Daniels possesses position versatility and has been getting reps at both center and guard this summer.

Asked what he hopes to see from Daniels Thursday night, Bears coach Matt Nagy said: "Just to keep improving with his adjustments at the line of scrimmage, of being able to try and get some reps here to help him slow this game down, whether it's at guard or center."

As Daniels gains more experience and a firmer grasp of the playbook while being tutored by veteran offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, the 20-year-old is becoming more confident. "He's a quiet type kid, but Harry has a good feel for him, a good relationship with him," Nagy said. "He just listens to everything Harry says. Every rep that he gets will help him out, so this will be a good opportunity for him against Buffalo to go there and get confidence."

(2) Will running backs Taquan Mizzell or rookie Ryan Nall earn a roster spot?

The Bears are stacked at running back with Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen and Benny Cunningham occupying the top three spots on the depth chart. If the team decides to keep a fourth back, they likely will have to choose between Mizzell and Nall.

Mizzell entered the NFL last season as an undrafted free agent with the Ravens out of Virginia. After failing to make Baltimore's 53-man roster, he was claimed off waivers by the Bears and appeared in three games, all on special teams. This preseason Mizzell has rushed for 58 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries and caught 11 passes for 55 yards and one TD.

Nall signed with the Bears this year as an undrafted free agent from Oregon State. He leads the team in rushing this preseason with 144 yards on 28 attempts, including a 69-yard romp against the Bengals. He has also caught three passes for 23 yards. Nall's ability to play both running back and fullback while also contributing on special teams could earn him a spot on the 53-man roster.

"We just have to decide at the end of this thing, we'll see our numbers and where we're at and then we have to decide the fit of what guys can do in certain spots," Nagy said. "Those are some of the tough decisions that we have. I feel like we have some pretty good players there [at running back]. I think this team has depth in a lot of positions and that's one of our strong ones."

(3) Will outside linebacker Kasim Edebali continue to impress and win a job?

A 29-year-old who grew up in Hamburg, Germany, Edebali has flashed pass rush ability in training camp and the preseason and could earn a spot on the 53-man roster with another strong performance against the Bills. He entered the NFL in 2014 as an undrafted free agent with the Saints when Bears general manager Ryan Pace worked in their personnel department.

Nagy described Edebali as "a kid that plays really fast. He's around that edge. He's making plays, high-energy guy, high-motor guy. He causes disruptions in the backfield. You love guys like that that just come to practice every day and work hard, and that's who he is."

After playing all 16 games with the Saints for three straight years from 2014-16, Edebali spent last season with the Broncos, Lions and Rams before rejoining the Saints. He's now trying to stick with the Bears and could win a job with a strong performance against the Bills.

(4) Can rookie receiver Javon Wims build on last Saturday's performance against the Chiefs?

The seventh-round draft pick from Georgia starred versus Kansas City, catching four passes for a game-high 114 yards and one touchdown. Wims turned a short pass into a 54-yard gain, made an outstanding 7-yard touchdown grab and hauled in a 44-yard pass down the right sideline.

"He's in a good spot," Nagy said. "He's a young kid. He's trying to hammer down the details of this offense. He's got really natural hands. He's a nice-sized kid. He's got good confidence, really great hands and really great route-running. He's doing well. That's important for us right now. That's a depth position. He's growing and he's a hell of a route runner as well."

With another impressive performance Thursday night, Wims could cement a spot on the 53-man roster, if he hasn't done so already.

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