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7 Bears players to watch against Giants


The Bears' second of four preseason games Friday night against the Giants will present another golden opportunity for young players to impress. Here are seven individuals to watch in the contest at MetLife Stadium:

Kerrith Whyte Jr., running back
The speedy seventh-round draft pick from Florida Atlantic hopes to build on his debut performance after rushing for 35 yards on six carries with a long of 23 yards in last Thursday night's 23-13 preseason loss to the Panthers.

"It's a great opportunity to showcase my skills," Whyte said. "I'm pretty sure I'll be getting a lot of playing time, so it will be a great opportunity to show what I've got."

Whyte, who has been timed at 4.38 in the 40-yard dash, appeared in 37 games the past three seasons at Florida Atlantic, rushing for 1,358 yards and 11 touchdowns on 232 carries and catching 22 passes for 227 yards with two TDs. He also averaged 26.1 yards on 81 kickoff returns with two touchdowns.

Asked what he hopes to show coaches against the Giants, Whyte said: "My long speed, my big-play ability, to break for plus-50 yards or whatever it may be. Also on special teams, show that I can make tackles and show the physicality I have."

Riley Ridley, receiver
The fourth-round pick from Georgia returned to practice Aug. 5 after missing a week-and-a-half of training camp with a hamstring injury. Ridley was held out of the preseason opener but likely will see his first game action against the Giants.

In his final season at Georgia last year, Ridley established career highs with 14 games played, 43 catches, 559 yards and nine touchdowns. The Bears like the 6-1, 200-pounder's size, hands and route-running ability.

"I love throwing to Riley," said quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. "He's very savvy. He can run the whole route tree. We can put him in a lot of different spots, and as a rookie and in his first year in this offense he picked it up really quickly. You can tell he's got a high football IQ. He studies a lot.

"He's very competitive. He wants it really bad. And you love to see that as a quarterback. He's going to be in the right spot at the right time. He gets out of his cuts. And he's just smooth. I just want to put it up in his area and let him go do it and I'm proud of the way he's picked up this playbook really quickly."

Rashaad Coward, offensive tackle
A converted defensive lineman, Coward is auditioning for the third swing tackle position behind starters Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie.

Coward joined the Bears in 2017 as an undrafted free agent from Old Dominion. After appearing in one game as a defensive lineman in 2017, he was moved to offensive tackle in 2018 but did not play in a regular-season game.

Coward is expected to see expanded playing time against the Giants. A strong performance could greatly enhance his chances of earning a spot on the 53-man roster as a valuable reserve.

Josh Woods, linebacker
Woods has studied tape of Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher and others who successfully switched from college safety to NFL linebacker and hopes to make the same transition.

Woods played safety at Maryland but was moved to linebacker after joining the Bears last year as an undrafted free agent. He spent last season on the Bears practice squad and hopes to earn a roster spot as a reserve on defense and special-teams contributor.

"I feel a lot better just all around when it comes to playing linebacker," Woods said. "At this time last year, I felt like it was a whirlwind, and now the game's starting to slow down for me. I feel like everything in my game has taken a step up because last year wasn't good enough."

Woods showed his play-making ability in the preseason opener. He recorded five tackles and generated a takeaway with a hard hit on running back Elijah Holyfield, causing a fumble that linebacker James Vaughters recovered. 

Kevin Toliver II, cornerback
Battling for a roster spot on a deep and talented defense, Toliver should see expanded playing time against the Giants after missing the preseason opener with an illness.

Toliver showed promise as a rookie last year after signing with the Bears as an undrafted free agent from LSU. After being inactive for the season opener in Green Bay, he appeared in the Bears' final 15 games in addition to their wild-card loss to the Eagles. He registered 15 tackles and two pass breakups.

Toliver made his only start of the season in place of the injured Prince Amukamara last Sept. 30 and led the Bears with seven tackles in a 48-10 rout of the Buccaneers.

"I'm a lot more comfortable," Toliver said about entering his second NFL season. "Just being out there having a start last year in one game and replacing Prince or Kyle [Fuller] whenever they go down, I feel good, I feel comfortable."

Elliott Fry and Eddy Pineiro, Kickers
The two kickers remain even in their competition heading into the Bears' second preseason game. In the opener against the Panthers, Fry made his only two kicks, a 43-yard field goal and an extra point, while Pineiro went 1-of-2, rebounding to convert a 29-yard field goal after missing a 48-yarder wide left.

When they last spoke to the media last Sunday, both kickers indicated that they were pleased but not content with how they've performed.

"I feel like I've kicked well," Pineiro said. "I feel like we've both kicked well. I think I have; I've just got to show it in the games now. I missed one. But you're going to miss. As a kicker, you're not going to make every single field goal. So it's just how you bounce back."

"I think I've done well," Fry said. "As a kicker, you want to be 100 percent no matter what, so if you came in here and were 99 percent, you're going to want to strive to get 100. You can always improve, but I thought I've done well."