While it was nice to see the Bears come out victorious in the preseason opener, the outcome of preseason contests really doesn’t matter all that much.
After all, the Bears were undefeated in last year’s preseason and won the same number of games in the regular season.

Likewise, the only two teams to ever finish a season without a single victory, the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2016 Cleveland Browns, famously (or, rather, infamously) did the same during their historic seasons.

However, the preseason is a valuable opportunity for young players to get valuable reps and prove their worth.

Darnell Wright

If Saturday’s contest is any indication, the Bears 2023 rookie class could repeat the performance of last year’s impressive class, which led the league in snaps played by first-year players. For starters, Darnell Wright looked the part in limited action, as he more than held his own on Chicago’s first two quick-strike touchdown drives. He notably blocked two players to help seal the edge on a Khalil Herbert pitch play early in the contest and stonewalled his defender on the Herbert screen TD. He passed his first performance with flying colors.

Wright may have been Chicago’s top acquisition through the draft, but the team’s best rookie showings during the first contest came via the trenches on the other side of the ball. Two of the class’s most impressive performances came from rookie defensive tackles Zacch Pickens and Travis Bell. The latter was stout against the run all game and flashed some pass-rushing ability, finishing the game with a half-sack and another quarterback hit. Meanwhile, the former had one of the week’s best plays when he blew by the Titans’ left guard and laid a massive hit on Will Levis for his first (unofficial) career sack, ending Tennessee’s drive in the process.

Jalen Harris

The two big guys in the middle were not the only standout first-year players on the Bears’ defensive front, as rookies accounted for five of Chicago’s eight sacks. Undrafted rookie Jalen Harris was surprisingly disruptive off the edge and finished the game with one-and-a-half sacks and three QB hits.

The Bears appear to suddenly have impressive depth at the defensive end spot (Terrell Lewis and Trevis Gipson both have cases for the top overall performances). Still, Harris has already all but locked up a spot on the practice squad, at the very least. Rookie linebackers Noah Sewell and Micah Baskerville also displayed solid versatility, each notching a sack of their own.

Tyrique Stevenson

When a defensive line puts constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks, that often allows the secondary to play much better, and that was the case against the Titans. Second-round selection Tyrique Stevenson got caught sleeping early in the contest, as he let his man get wide open for a 30-yard catch-and-run on the first play from scrimmage. However, he quickly settled in from there and was very active against the run all day, leading the team with seven tackles.

The cover man also displayed solid instincts and nearly caught an interception (you would have liked to see him come down with it) on an out route early in the contest.

Bralen Trahan

Meanwhile, undrafted rookie safety Bralen Trahan had a similar opportunity, and he took full advantage of it, catching the game-sealing interception in the waning seconds of the contest.

Roshon Johnson

Back on the offensive side of the ball, running back Roshon Johnson was a popular sleeper pick in the draft due to playing behind Bijan Robinson at the University of Texas. However, he is incredibly talented in his own right, and some of that talent was on display in Chicago’s preseason opener. His most impressive play came on a powerful 24-yard gallop early in the third quarter, as he displayed a great blend of balance and power, breaking four tackles along the way.

He also led the team with three catches (albeit for only two yards), which is an aspect of his game where he can provide an immediate impact for Chicago. The coaching staff rewarded him with an increasing number of first-team reps in practice this week, showing they took notice of his impressive showing.

There may have been plenty of positives from the first contest, but it was not all good from the rookie class.

Tyler Scott

Tyler Scott accounted for the team’s only offensive fumble when he coughed up the ball after catching a pass over the middle.

We saw what happened to Velus Jones Jr. last year when he couldn’t shake concerns over ball security issues, so the pass-catcher will want to shore that up to ensure he will have a role on game day.

Gervon Dexter Sr.

The team would have also liked to see more from their first second-round selection, Gervon Dexter Sr., who failed to transfer his impressive practice performances to gameday, finishing with only two tackles.

He has to show more promise over the next two preseason games to lock up significant playing time.

While the class got off on the right foot against the Titans, they will have to build on it to help the team field a competitive roster.
If they can do so, the Bears could really surprise many who don’t expect them to amount to much in only the second year after tearing it down.

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