The Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins have struggled in recent years, both failing to make the playoffs in each of the last four years. They’ll meet on Thursday night in Week 1 of the 2015 NFL preseason as the teams look to evaluate potential contributors for the upcoming year.
The established starters on both sides will see limited playing time on the field, and quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Ryan Tannehill shouldn’t play for more than a series or two. Chicago and Miami used their first-round selections on wide receivers, but neither will make their NFL debuts on Thursday.
Kevin White won’t suit up for the Bears, having suffered a hamstring injury. The wide out from West Virginia is considered to be the best rookie at his position among many experts, but it could still be a few weeks before he can play in an actual game.
DeVante Parker was taken No.14 overall by the Dolphins, and he is rehabbing a foot injury. The ailment is expected to keep him out for the entirety of training camp and most of the preseason.
Amari Cooper was the only receiver drafted ahead of White and Parker, and both players are expected to play significant roles in 2015. Chicago traded Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets in the offseason, and Miami doesn’t have a wide out on the roster that even totaled 900 receiving yards a year ago.
The Bears are hoping that potential contributors on offense emerge in their first preseason game. The team ranked just 23rd in scoring last season, while Cutler was so inconsistent that he was even benched for a game.
“We want to get in and out of the huddle,” Cutler told reporters on Tuesday. “We want to limit our mistakes, our mental errors. We want to get some first downs and move the ball and just kind of attack just like we have been trying to do throughout camp.”
Miami’s biggest struggles came on defense last year, ranking 20th in the league by allowing 23.3 points per contest. Ndamukong Suh was the biggest free-agent signing of the offseason, and he’ll make his debut as a member of the Dolphins when he takes the field on Thursday night. He’ll make his first appearance on Miami’s defensive line along with Jordan Phillips, who was the team’s second-round draft pick.
The most interesting competition for the Dolphins might come at running back. Lamar Miller is first on the team’s depth chart, but LaMichael James and Jay Ajayi will also compete for carries. Ajayi was drafted in the fifth round, but he’s currently battling a hamstring injury. James has just 193 rushing yards in three seasons, but he’s been impressive in training camp. Second-year running back Damien Williams will also see time on Thursday.
Start Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS (Miami) and FOX (Chicago)
Betting Odds: Chicago-1, 37