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6 Bears to watch in Saturday's preseason opener

Bears quarterback Justin Fields
Bears quarterback Justin Fields

The Bears will open their preseason slate Saturday afternoon by hosting the Tennessee Titans at Soldier Field. Here are six players to watch in the game:

Offense

All eyes have been on the electrifying third-year pro throughout training camp—and that won't change Saturday when he starts against the Titans.

Fields revealed that one of his main offseason goals was to get the ball out of his hand quicker. That aspect of his game will be tested Saturday against a live defense for the first time. It will also be interesting to gauge Fields' rhythm and timing in the passing game and whether the cohesiveness that he's displayed with receiver DJ Moore in training camp carries over to a game.

Asked what he hopes to see from Fields Saturday, coach Matt Eberflus said: "I would just say when you're looking at the quarterback position, the operation No. 1. Can we get in and out of the huddle crisp and execute the play if we have any run-to-pass, pass-to-pass, run-to-run stuff going on? We've got to make sure we look at that. Can he make all the protection calls that he needs to make, make the adjustment? Just the operation; that's what we're looking for."

The rookie first-round pick from Tennessee will see his first NFL game action two days after celebrating his 22nd birthday.

Asked about his expectations for Wright, Eberflus said: "Just execution and him being able to play down-in and down-out. [He's] a really good talent, and we're looking forward to seeing him against an NFL rusher in a live game. I'm sure he's excited about it, too. Just the execution, down-in, down-out, when it's play eight, play nine of a drive, if we get there, just seeing the execution down the road."

Wright has impressed during training camp with his power and athleticism. He's committed some rookie miscues at times but appears to have learned from them.

"He's done a great job of not making the same mistake twice," said offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. "So [he's] going through an experience, learning from it and then improving on it. He's been doing a great job for how much we're throwing at him. We're kind of not holding back at all."

The rookie fourth-round selection from Texas takes pride in his physicality, both as a ballcarrier and special-teams contributor. He missed the first few padded practices with an undisclosed injury but has excelled since returning.

"I thought when he came back, he did a really nice job of leaving that little blip of an injury behind and just playing fast," Getsy said. "He really caught our eye a few times since he's been back. He's a smart kid. He's a tough kid. You [reporters] have seen him play with good pad level and knee drive and all that good stuff. We've just got to continue to get him to feel comfortable with everything that we're doing, and if we can do that, I think he's someone that can help us."

Johnson figures to be a mainstay on special teams as a rookie and could also earn a role on offense with a productive preseason.

Check out the photos from Thursday's practice at Halas Hall–where longtime Falcons quarterback and Ryan Poles' Boston College teammate Matt Ryan was a special guest–as the Bears get ready for Saturday's preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans.

Defense

The rookie second-round choice has been making strides as he adjusts to a different type of defense than the one he played in at Florida. After being asked to read and react with the Gators, the Bears defense requires tackles to penetrate and disrupt by firing off the ball while still maintaining gap integrity and discipline. 

Dexter feels the Bears' scheme suits his skillset and is eager to show what he can do against another NFL team in the preseason opener. 

"I'm ready to compete," he said. "I'm not looking at it as a preseason game. It's my first NFL game. I'm prepared for it. I'm just ready to compete. I'm going to showcase my talents."

Dexter has been watching extra film, working on getting out of his stance before practice and picking the brains of veteran teammates. 

"The most impressive thing right now is his disposition," said defensive line coach Travis Smith, "the way he wants to work, the way he is very focused on improving every day. It's extremely important to him and he loves it."

The rookie second-round pick from Miami hopes to inch ahead of fellow rookie Terell Smith in their battle for the starting cornerback position opposite veteran Jaylon Johnson. Smith has missed recent practices due to an undisclosed injury.

Stevenson has displayed excellent ball skills and instincts throughout training camp. On Tuesday, he intercepted Fields' deep pass intended for Darnell Mooney during 11-on-11 drills. The Bears need to generate more takeaways this season, and Stevenson possesses the ability to help in that area.

He also excels in run support. "We know he tackles," Eberflus said in June. "We know he likes to hit. That's why he's here. Corners need to tackle. They need to be a physical force out there and he's going to do that, and we're excited about that."

With second-year pro Jack Sanborn continuing to work his way back into the lineup following an injury, Sewell has made the most of first-team reps alongside veteran free agent acquisitions Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards.

The rookie fifth-round pick from Oregon has shown his physicality and playmaking ability since the start of training camp. He figures to contribute on both defense and special teams this year and could be one of the Bears' most pleasant surprises.

"As a rookie, he's doing well," Eberflus said. "He's very strong. He's very instinctive. He's got good ball skills. I just like the way he knows where the ball is."

Sewell will continue battling Sanborn for a starting position.

"It's a good competition," Eberflus said. "We're leaving it there, and I know that Jack hasn't had a bunch of reps to be able to fully compete in there. I'm excited about when he gets back to be able to compete at that spot and we'll see where it goes."

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