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5 Bears to watch in preseason game vs. Seahawks

Bears rookie defensive back Kyler Gordon
Bears rookie defensive back Kyler Gordon

The Bears will play their second of three preseason games Thursday night against the Seahawks in Seattle. Here are five players to watch in the contest:

The rookie cornerback is expected to make his preseason debut after missing last Saturday's opener against the Chiefs with an undisclosed injury. Gordon, who returned to practice Monday, has displayed playmaking ability and ball skills in practice since being chosen by the Bears in the second round of this year's draft. Having grown up in the Seattle area and attended the University of Washington, Gordon is especially excited to return home for Thursday night's game at Lumen Field.

"We're getting a lot of guys back," said coach Matt Eberflus. "We're excited to see a lot of players that we didn't get a chance to see in the first game. This is their first performance. I told the guys we're only judged by our last performance. For those guys, like Kyler, it's their first performance in the lights, and it's kind of a homecoming for him, so he's really excited about it. He's going to get his plays in. We're excited to see where he is when he performs out there at his position."

This season, Gordon is expected to start as a rookie opposite Jaylon Johnson at cornerback, so any experience the 22-year-old gains in the preseason should be valuable.

Like Gordon, the rookie receiver returned to practice Monday after sitting out the preseason opener with an injury. Since being selected by the Bears in the third round of this year's draft of Tennessee, Jones has flashed his explosiveness and speed both on offense and in the return game. Built more like a running back than a receiver, the 6-foot, 200-pounder is known for his ability to generate yards after the catch, something he hopes to show in preseason games.

Jones also figures to audition for a role as a return specialist. In six college seasons at USC (2016-19) and Tennessee (2020-21), he averaged 24.4 yards with two touchdowns on 122 kickoff returns and 15.1 yards on 18 punt returns. Last year he was named SEC Co-Special Teams Player of the Year after averaging 27.3 yards with one TD on 23 kickoff returns and 15.1 yards on 18 punt returns.

"If they need me to be their kickoff returner or punt returner, [I'm] definitely going to go out there and give it my all," Jones said. "I know that's a big part of my game."

The second-year pro moved from tackle to right guard this week in practice, working with the second unit Monday and the starters Tuesday. As Jenkins continues to learn a new position, he likely will see expanded playing time against the Seahawks. An impressive performance could give the 2021 second-round pick an edge over veteran Michael Schofield III for the starting job.

Asked about switching Jenkins to right guard, offensive line coach Chris Morgan said: "It's a little bit of an adjustment, but we wouldn't ask him to do anything he couldn't handle. He's got some attributes that can really shine in there. So we're excited about it, excited to see how it looks."

Asked to expand on the attributes that Jenkins possesses, Morgan said: "He's got great size. He's got good strength. He's a smart football player. Those are all things you want inside, that translate inside. Things move fast inside."

The Bears hit the fields at Halas Hall for their final practice before heading to Seattle to take on the Seahawks Thursday night in their second preseason game.

The rookie fifth-round pick from Southern Utah will look to build on his performance in the preseason opener, when he displayed poise and athleticism while playing with the first-team offense at left tackle. Jones was elevated to that position midway through offseason practices and hasn't looked back. Another strong outing could help him solidify the starting job for the Sept. 11 season opener against the 49ers.

"Braxton is just trying to get better every day," Morgan said. "He really has a clear vision of his process. He has a clear vision of how he wants to attack it. He's got a clear vision of how to measure himself day-to-day. One of the things with Braxton is he gets to go against (Pro Bowl pass rusher) Robert Quinn every day. He gets to go against our defensive ends every day. That work he's getting is priceless."

After a breakout performance by the undrafted rookie linebacker from Wisconsin against the Chiefs, the biggest question is: What will Sanborn do for an encore? The Lake Zurich High School product starred in the preseason opener, generating two takeaways with an interception and forced fumble. He also had five tackles and one tackle-for-loss on defense and two tackles on special teams.

It's unrealistic to expect Sanborn to deliver a second straight outing that likely would have put him in contention for a player of the week honor during the regular season. But another strong effort on both defense and special teams would help Sanborn take another step toward earning a spot on the Bears' 53-man roster.

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