Four down, none to go.
The Bears played their fourth and final preseason game Thursday night and can now turn their undivided attention to next Thursday night’s regular-season opener against the rival Packers at Soldier Field.
For the Bears’ starters and key reserves who didn’t see any preseason action, next Thursday’s opener will mark their first game reps since last season.
“I like where we’re at,” said coach Matt Nagy. “I thought we had a really good training camp. We grew as a team, we grew as a family. We got better, and now the true test is going to be with our starters, making sure that we understand the length of the season and seeing where we’re at.”
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky handed off on the Bears’ first three snaps of the preseason and then didn’t play again. But Nagy said after Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Titans that he has “ultimate confidence” in the third-year pro.
“I feel really, really good with where he’s at,” Nagy said. “I know that he’s worked really hard. Just seeing where he’s grown from, I think about last year to this year, where he was at in the questions that he’s asking me and the questions that he’s asking Rags (quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone) and coach [Mark] Helfrich.
“We’ll see when he’s put to the test. We won’t really know that until we get going, but I have ultimate confidence in where he’s at. I know I’m excited to see what this year is going to bring for him.”
Before the Bears return to the practice field Sunday at Halas Hall, they’ll need to release 37 players to reach the NFL’s mandatory 53-man roster limit by 3 p.m. Saturday.
“I think we’re in a really, really good place right now in the depth of our roster,” Nagy said. “That’s part of the reason why I feel like we’re a little bit different than other teams and why we could do this year in the preseason with trying to see who our backups are in a lot of spots.
“That’s a credit to [general manager] Ryan [Pace]. Ryan has done an amazing job at making sure that he has a plan, and then he communicates that plan to his personnel staff. He communicates the plan with us as coaches. We talk through it, and just to see what he’s done from when he got here to right now, and you look at that roster right now, it’s pretty amazing.”
Even with the roster depth, Nagy acknowledged there are still some areas that need to be upgraded.
“There are a couple spots throughout this roster that we know without getting into detail or giving it away, we know that we either need to get better there or we’re going to have to make a decision on keeping those guys and trying to develop [them],” Nagy said. “There are a couple of those spots, and so really tonight and tomorrow morning for us, we’re going to have some good conversations as to what’s best for the Chicago Bears.”
The most intriguing decision the Bears will make this weekend involves whether to anoint Eddy Pineiro as their starting kicker.
Pineiro rebounded after missing an extra-point attempt in Thursday night’s 19-15 loss to the Titans by making all three field goals he tried from 32, 39 and 35 yards. The second-year kicker completed the preseason by converting 8-of-9 field goals—making his last eight straight after an early miss—and 3-of-4 extra points.
Asked if Pineiro has done enough to win the job, Nagy said: “We’re going to continue to work through it right now. We have a couple days here, and part of that answer right now from what I've seen is I've liked what I’ve seen.
“He comes out and he misses that extra point, and right away everyone, we all (thought it’s) one of those deals of, ‘Here we go again.’ But what I thought was pretty powerful is that he came back and made the next kick and then made two more after that. We talk about it’s not how you start; it’s how you finish. I like the fact that he came back and made those. I like what he’s done so far, and I’m proud of the kid.”
Nagy acknowledged that it would be a challenge to bring in a kicker who has not been with the Bears.
“That would be a major concern, I think, to go get somebody to come in here that's never kicked in here or doesn't have that experience,” Nagy said. “We've fought through to this point right now, and I like where he's at. We'll discuss it and decide, ‘Is that the route we want to go?’ And if it is, then we just need to have a little bit of patience. But I'll go back to I want to see a great success story from this kid. Hopefully we all do, and hopefully he's somebody that we end up going with and then we stick with and then he wins us games.