It's preseason, and there are certain players who stand out in these pretend contests.
When the Bears play the Carolina Panthers Thursday night, you're not going to see anything from Mitchell Trubisky except maybe hollering support to Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray.
"You know me, I'm ready to go and compete at any time," Trubisky said after practice this week. "So if coach says go out there I'll go out there and be ready to go. If he says rest, it's another opportunity for someone else to shine."
Maybe next week he can shine for a couple plays.
Trubisky won't get past the sidelines Thursday except during warmups, although he expects to improve. He'll improve by watching.
"Mental reps. Mental reps," he said. "You can always learn from other people, especially Chase and Tyler, they taught me a lot over the span of last year going into this year and we stick together.
"Just continue to have my head in the game and take mental reps and just go through the situational play and progressions and where I would go with the ball and what they’re seeing. Whatever it is, I’m hoping to get a bunch of reps and if not, you just have to stay in it mentally and support our guys."
So while Trubisky is imagining himself taking a snap, dropping back and imagining a defense facing him, then thinking about throwing, here are the six players most likely to stand out for the Bears in their game against the Panthers.
They are to be known as the princes of preseason.
1. Running back Ryan Nall
Kerrith Whyte would have rated right up there with Nall but a hamstring slowed him less than a week into camp and he's not likely to get too many snaps or be rushed out there in the first preseason game. But Nall last year became the preseason darling of Bears fans. He finished the preseason second in the NFL in rushing last year and averaged 7.0 yards an attempt. Nall isn't just a power back. In fact, he really is more of a regular running back in a big 6-foot-2, 235-pound body. He has very good quickness the first 10 yards and can get outside on passes or on stretch plays. He'll do it again.
2. Wide receiver Tanner Gentry
Gentry has been around the NFL for a couple years without making any kind of impact in the regular season, but because he knows the offense well he finds it easier to get open for the backup quarterbacks. Gentry last year finished tied for first in the NFL in preseason receptions with 16, although he spent the season on the practice squad. He averaged just 9.0 yards a reception. He'll be the easy target again for Daniel and Bray.
3. Wide receiver Javon Wims
Wims will make an impact early in preseason and in the first half of preseason games, but he's climbed the ladder a little. He's not going to be getting too many receptions later in the game now. Last year he tied for fourth in the NFL in preseason receptions. The other impact he'll likely have is on punt coverage. He's trying to take the job abandoned with Josh Bellamy was allowed to leave in free agency.
4. Quarterback Tyler Bray
Expect the Bears to start Chase Daniel at quarterback, but they're not going to give him the full first half and risk harm to Mitchell Trubisky's backup. Last year Bray led the NFL in preseason passing yards with 652. He had 128 more than anyone else, partly because the Bears played an extra preseason game and he saw most of the action that one. Bray will be on sometime in the second quarter and play out the game.
5. Outside linebacker Kylie Fitts
Fitts flashed in preseason a few times last year and then was buried at the back of the depth chart. He hasn't shown much in training camp, but it's not easy for a pass rusher to make much impact in non-contact work. He mad 2 1/2 sacks last year in preseason and will apply the heat again with extended playing time.
6. Cornerback John Franklin III
This is going to be more a case of athletic ability standing out against lesser athletic ability. Franklin's speed is world class, but his knowledge of the cornerback position is in a lower class. He'll be able to take advantage of some inexperienced, less talented receivers. His speed has been apparent in some coverages in camp, but his own lack of experience also is obvious at times. Once during camp he had a receiver completely blanketed and didn't take into the account the possibility of an underthrow, and it happened. It wasn't a back-shoulder pass but an underthrow. The catch was made behind Franklin while he was still running straight down the field. It was rather embarrassing.