EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – By not playing any of their starters in Friday night’s preseason road game against the Giants, the Bears gave their reserves a golden opportunity to impress.
Among the young players who made the most of their expanded reps in a 32-13 loss at MetLife Stadium were running back Kerrith Whyte Jr., receiver Javon Wims, linebacker James Vaughters, cornerback Clifton Duck and kicker Eddy Pineiro.
“We told these guys, ‘No regrets. You’re going to have more opportunities than a lot of other guys in your roles, so take advantage of it,’” said coach Matt Nagy.
With the Giants opening the game with their No. 1 units on both sides of the ball, the Bears were able to see how their reserves matched up against NFL starters.
“We just said in [the locker room], ‘The eye in the sky doesn’t lie. So we’re going to be able to watch that tape. We’re going to be able to see where you guys are at, and we’re going to be able to see where you’re at—for a lot of guys in that first half—against starters,’” Nagy said. “So how great is this for us as a team to be able to see our backup guys against starters to be able to know where we’re at depth-wise?”
Whyte performed well with the ball in his hands. Late in the second quarter, the rookie seventh-round pick returned a kickoff 103 yards for an apparent touchdown, But the play was nullified by a holding penalty. In the third period, he scored the Bears’ only TD of the game on a 1-yard run.
“Kerrith Whyte I thought really did a lot of good things tonight,” Nagy said.
Wims caught a game-high five passes for 64 yards, including a 29-yarder from Chase Daniel that set up Pineiro’s 27-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.
Vaughters did his best Khalil Mack impression with a strip/sack of quarterback Daniel Jones, scooping up the fumble he caused and returning it eight yards to the Giants’ 12.
“I was happy with our defense, playing opportunistic today,” Nagy said. “They got a good opportunity for some guys to make some plays and they did that.”
Duck produced an impact play as well. The Giants had first-and-goal at the 1 in the third quarter when the undrafted rookie cornerback dove to intercept an Alex Tanney pass in the flat at the 1. Duck then scrambled to his feet and returned the pick 62 yards.
“He’s been doing some good things in practice for us,” Nagy said. “They’re down inside the five. Our guys didn’t give up. They kept battling. He made a heck of a play, an acrobatic play, to make that pick and then run it back a little bit.”
Pineiro made both of his kicks Friday night, connecting on field goals from 41 and 27 yards, while Elliott Fry missed a 47-yard field goal attempt and made an extra point.
Some believe that the Bears are starting a new trend by not playing their starters in the preseason. But Nagy is more concerned with preparing his team for the regular season than being known as an innovator.
“I don’t know about that; my biggest thing is I’m trying to do what’s best for the Chicago Bears,” he said. “Every team is different, and that’s OK. Each coach has their own plan with their own team as far as where they’re at depth-wise.
“We love where we’re at right now in regards to our starters. We feel really good about it. Having a controlled scrimmage [Wednesday night at Halas Hall], playing a full game for our starters was good. It was good for them.
“And then on top of that it gives us a chance [in preseason games] to be able to check out the depth of our backups and then see where they’re developing. Overall, I think every team is different. But we’re just trying to do what’s best for us.”