The Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins are two of 12 teams that will play their first preseason games of 2015 on Thursday night. They will meet at Soldier Field, where they faced off 10 months ago in a regular-season contest.
The result of Thursday’s game is of little importance, but it provides an important audition for players seeking a spot on the final 53-man roster. The Bears are looking for players to emerge on defense after allowing more points than all but one team last year. The Dolphins were no better than average on both sides of the ball in 2014.
Chicago is looking to start 2015 off on the right foot, bringing in a new coaching staff after four straight seasons without a playoff appearance. Miami has made the postseason just once in the last 13 years.
The Chicago Bears won’t see their No.1 draft pick take the field on Thursday, though there has been some good news regarding Kevin White. The wide receiver from West Virginia has not needed surgery to repair his injured shin, which he continues to rehab. The ailment will prevent White from playing in Chicago, as he looks to replace Brandon Marshall in the lineup.
Jay Cutler is hopeful that White can get healthy and give him a weapon alongside Alshon Jeffery. Following a poor season in which the quarterback led the NFL with 18 interceptions, Cutler has done a good job of protecting the ball in training camp. He’s yet to throw a pick in practice, and he’ll look to continue that trend when he goes against another team’s defense on Thursday.
Matt Forte is the team’s starting running back, but a few players are vying to be the No.2 rusher. Coming from the Atlanta Falcons Jacquizz Rodgers will look to prove he deserves to get carries after Forte. He’ll compete with Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey, who were drafted by the Bears in the last two years.
On defense, Jared Allen missed a day of practice for personal reasons this week, but he returned to the field. Cornerback Tracy Porter was forced to sit with a hamstring injury.
While some teams will choose to sit a few of their top players in Week 1 of the preseason, all of Miami’s healthy starters will be on the field in Chicago. It’s possible that some of the team’s starters will play the entire first quarter, but head coach Joe Philbin says they aren’t likely to go much longer than that.
Ndamukong Suh was the biggest signing of the offseason, and he’ll make his Miami debut on Thursday night. First-round draft pick DeVante Parker will sit out after undergoing foot surgery in June.
One starter that won’t be on the field is Branden Albert. The offensive lineman suffered ACL and MCL tears in Week 10 last year that caused him to miss the remainder of the season. He’s still not ready to play in a game, and he could miss the start of the regular season.
The game won’t be broadcast nationally on live TV, but it can be seen on delay on NFL Network on Friday morning at 10 a.m. ET.
In Miami, the game will be broadcasted on CBS4 (WFOR), and in Chicago the game will be broadcasted on FOX 32. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET.