The Chicago Bears opened the 2023 preseason with a bang. Actually, there were a couple of them, especially from Justin Fields, who threw two touchdown passes that covered 118 yards.
Fields and the offense stole the show, but the positives from the Bears’ 23-17 win over the Tennessee Titans run deeper than Fields to DJ Moore.
However, it wasn’t all good news for players battling for roster spots. Some player performances will be hard to forget as GM Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus try to trim the roster to 53.
Here are the winners and losers from the Chicago Bears’ first preseason game.
Winner: Khalil Herbert
Khalil Herbert was on the receiving end of one of Justin Fields’ touchdown passes. It covered 56 yards and was a showcase of Herbert’s burst, vision, patience, and overall feel for the open field.
Herbert was solid as runner, and he didn’t have any glaring problems in pass protection.
The Bears offense looked explosive with Herbert in the backfield, which I think is a sight fans should get used to seeing.
Loser: Velus Jones Jr.
Velus Jones Jr. began training camp on the roster bubble and his performance in Saturday’s preseason game against the Titans didn’t help his cause.
It’s hard to figure out what’s wrong with Jones. He has rare speed and was a fantastic player at Tennessee, which is why he was a third-round pick in the 2022 NFL draft.
But mental lapses and costly mistakes have marred his pro career, and they continued Saturday.
Jones muffed his first punt return; the Titans recovered. It may have been the final blow to his chances of making the team. There’s no way the Chicago Bears can trust him as a return man at this point, and if he can’t play on special teams, he won’t be a Bear in September.
Winner: Darnell Wright
Darnell Wright was exactly who the Bears thought he is in Chicago’s Week 1 preseason win over the Titans.
He looked athletic, strong, and downright dominant at times. His most impressive play came early in the game when he showed off his athletic ability to seal the edge and spring Khalil Herbert free for a chunk play.
Wright won’t have a perfect rookie season. But first-year offensive linemen rarely do.
Darnell Wright flashed elite ability against the Titans, and if he stays healthy and remains focused, he could become the best Chicago Bears offensive lineman in decades.
Loser: PJ Walker
The Chicago Bears may not be as settled at backup quarterback as they think.
Is PJ Walker a capable player? Sure. Is he the kind of backup quarterback who can keep the Bears competitive if Justin Fields suffers an injury? It certainly didn’t look like it against the Titans.
Walker completed 4-of-8 passes for 19 yards and an interception. And while it isn’t totally fair to hit the panic button on any player after one preseason game, it’s hard to ignore how bad Walker looked.
Don’t be surprised if the Bears keep three quarterbacks on the final roster, especially if Walker doesn’t rebound against the Indianapolis Colts next week.
Winner: Trevis Gipson
Trevis Gipson played Saturday’s preseason game against the Titans like a guy who knows his job is on the line.
It probably isn’t anymore.
Gipson was arguably the best defensive player on the field Saturday, finishing with three QB pressures and a sack. The best word to describe his performance is relentless. If he continues to play at that level, he’ll pair with Yannick Ngakoue to form a quality pass-rushing tandem.
Loser: Trestan Ebner
Trestan Ebner wasn’t particularly bad against the Titans. But he wasn’t memorable, and in a game that featured big plays from Khalil Herbert and an impressive 24-yard run from rookie Roschon Johnson, Ebner can’t afford to be forgettable.
He ended his day with three carries for nine yards.
Ebner failed to make an impact as a rookie in 2022, and with the additions of D’Onta Foreman, Travis Homer, and Johnson this offseason, Ebner could end up being the odd man out.
He’ll need a few flash plays this summer to avoid that.
Winner: Tyrique Stevenson
There were several impressive Chicago Bears rookie performances, but cornerback Tyrique Stevenson’s stood out the most.
Stevenson led the Bears with seven tackles, and he showed an impressive skill set in coverage. He was sticky, smart, and physical.
When Chicago selected Stevenson in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft, there were several analysts — me included — who thought it was a bit of a reach. After Saturday’s preseason showing, it now looks like Stevenson may be a steal.
Loser: Rasheem Green
The Chicago Bears signed Rasheem Green to a one-year, $2.5 million deal during the offseason, and he’s consistently lined up with the starters in training camp before Yannick Ngakoue’s arrival. But he was ineffective as a pass rusher and struggled against the Titans.
Green won’t be a starter for long, and he should get surpassed by Trevis Gipson on the Bears’ next depth chart.
Winner: Bears fans
The biggest winners from Chicago’s win over Tennessee are Bears fans. It’s been a long time since there’s been so much excitement about the offensive weapons on this team, and DJ Moore’s sensational 62-yard touchdown poured gasoline onto the fandom fire.
Critics will say Justin Fields was the beneficiary of spectacular after-the-catch plays. To that, I say, great. That’s what outstanding offenses do; playmakers make plays, much like Tyreek Hill did for years for Patrick Mahomes. It’s what Ja’Marr Chase does for Joe Burrow. AJ Brown did it last season for Jalen Hurts.
Finally, Fields has that guy. And Bears fans can sit back and enjoy the ride.