In Week 2 of the preseason, Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus, satisfied with his team’s work of practice, opted to sit the majority of his starters.
That provided several players the opportunity to make an impact and some stepped up.
Bears Players That Hurt and Helped Their Cause in Preseason Week 2
Helped: Tyson Bagent Steals the Spotlight
With Justin Fields and Co. resting, it was the backups’ turn to run the operation. Undrafted free agent rookie Tyson Bagent was the second quarterback in the game for the Bears. But he ended the night “first” in the race for the No. 2 job behind Fields.
Bagent completed 9-of-10 passes for 76 yards, a 98.3 quarterback rating, and two scrambles for four yards. That’s including a short jaunt into the end zone.
Dudes got talent. His dad raised him for this!!!
— bart wallen (@bartamber) August 20, 2023
This isn’t a new development either.
Bagent does not get many live reps as the third-string quarterback. But he has been impressive throughout with his poise in the pocket and touch on his passes. He entered the league with plenty of experience. Bagent passed for 159 touchdowns in his collegiate career at Shepherd University – a school with a student population of less than 4,000.
After the game, though, Eberflus said that “everything” was “open” in terms of position battles, save for Fields and some of the other obvious spots on the revamped roster.
The 6-foot-3 rookie is 14-of-15 113 yards with zero touchdowns or interceptions this preseason.
Bagent’s performance certainly tilted the scales quite a bit for anyone observing, possibly even Eberflus. But it wouldn’t have been as significant if the current No. 2 quarterback, P.J. Walker, hadn’t struggled as much as he did which leads us right into our first entry for players who hurt themselves with their performance.
Hurt: P.J. Walker Struggles Again
Walker – who signed in free agency from the Carolina Panthers – completed just 1-of-4 passes for six yards before ceding duties to Bagent. He did not turn the ball over but had passes batted down and looked uncomfortable in the pocket, a trend this preseason as he’s completed just 5-of-12 passes for 25 yards with zero scores and one interception.
One could try to argue those numbers by adding the context that he’s surrounded by backups (against backups, mind you).
Some of his drives have also been stopped by teammates’ turnovers.
— CHGO Sports (@CHGO_Sports) August 20, 2023
But the most concerning thing, however, is quite possibly that he’s shown very little as a runner.
Whether that is by design or, even less likely by coach’s decree is unclear. It almost certainly would have helped elevate Walker’s production this preseason.
This is not a total surprise, though. Walker is not a prolific runner in terms of production on the ground like Fields – not many players are. But the undersized passer has not even been a frequent carrier of the football despite being a good athlete with just 18 total in three seasons.
It makes sense, then, that there would at least be an opening for Bagent to assume those duties with Walker’s skill set even further from Fields’, perhaps, than they initially had hoped. Bagent is not the athlete that Fields is, either – again, few players are, let alone quarterbacks. But he more closely aligns with what the Bears already have going with Fields.
The Bears can still turn to Nathan Peterman if they want to go in a different direction than Walker but aren’t quite comfortable with Bagent just yet. Peterman has completed 14-of-24 passes for 173 yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions through two games.
Helped: Roschon Johnson Ups His YPC
In Week 1, rookie running back Roschon Johnson ran the ball 12 times for 32 yards, a modest 3.7 yards per carry. He was much more efficient in Week 2, tallying just seven totes but taking them 44 yards on the night.
Through two games, his 19 carries for 76 yards give him an even 4.0 yards per carry.
That mark would have ranked 36th among qualified runners last season, tied with former Bear, David Montgomery. But that isn’t the impressive part; not by a long shot. Johnson has been decisive with his runs and held up moderately well in his few in-game pass-blocking reps this preseason.
— John Bianco (@UT_Bianco) August 20, 2023
His 72.5 pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus ranks just ahead of starter Khalil Herbert. Neither player has had many reps at this point, though. He is still well behind D’Onta Foreman and even Travis Homer in that regard.
Still, only Homer has graded higher as a runner so far.
That could change if they get team-specific with their game plan against the Buffalo Bills in Week 3 preseason finale. And Johnson is likely to enter the season third in the pecking order at best, even with a strong showing in the preseason finale. What he has done, though, is show that it’s not too big for him.
Seeing it play out this way should give the coaching staff faith in him should they need to call his number at some point during the year.
Hurt: Tyrique Stevenson Too Aggressive
One of the things touted about rookie cornerback Tyrique Stevenson coming out of college was his physicality. It is a must-have trait in a quality defensive back in today’s NFL. But, one week after experiencing a peak with a strong showing in his debut, Stevenson showed the valleys that can come with rookies playing prominent roles.
He was flagged for unnecessary roughness after officials deemed he slung Colts running back Kenyan Drake to the ground while making a tackle and going out of bounds
“I could have been better with my head across the ball, so I could see where I was at on the field,” Stevenson said, per Josh Schrock of NBC Sports Chicago. “So just gotta be a better rookie and have a lot more smarter plays and not cause the team any harmful penalties.”
Tyrique Stevenson. Love him.
But he can’t do this in the regular season. pic.twitter.com/jaOGttfvxs
— Dave (@dave_bfr) August 19, 2023
It’s the second week in a row that Stevenson has been called for such a penalty.
Stevenson’s current plight is similar to that of teammate Kyler Gordon. The latter had to adjust to the NFL’s style of officiating as a rookie last season. Gordon ranked second on the team in penalties last season. He ranked behind only fellow rookie and starting left tackle Braxton Jones. Jones started every game as a fifth-round pick out of Utah State, per Football Database.
Like Gordon, Stevenson is a second-round pick. Expectations are inherently higher for him than a player such as Jones who was a pleasant surprise for a moribund team in 2022.
Helped: Terrell Lewis Embodies the H.I.T.S. Principle
There is an art to getting to the quarterback in the NFL. Even top Bears pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue has spoken of needing to be technically sound on the field “because guys are strong” at this level.
Lewis explained how he “set up” the offensive tackle, logging a strip sack in Week 1.
He followed that up with another one in Week 2, getting to quarterback Sam Ehlinger. The Colts were able to pounce on the loose ball, though. Lewis had the Bears’ only sack in Week 2 after they recorded eight sacks in Week 1 versus the Titans.
Terrell Lewis has earned the opportunity to be on a team desperate for pass-rushing talent. Gotta at least give guys like this a chance and hope you eventually find something. pic.twitter.com/4hyer1AI1k
— Matt Clapp (@DaBearNecess) August 20, 2023
He finished the game with two total tackles.
Through three games, Lewis is the Bears’ third-highest-graded player behind Gordon and Trevis Gipson, per PFF. That surely is far from a deciding factor for the coaching staff. But it does align with what Lewis’ flashes would seem to suggest and could help him make the 53-man roster.
An honorable mention goes to Daurice Fountain who made a spectacular grab for the second consecutive week. This one went for a touchdown. Fountain is the Bears’ second highest-graded wideout behind DJ Moore who was inactive in Week 2, per PFF. He has six catches (on seven targets) for 111 yards and one score this preseason.