The first preseason game is all about making a positive first impression. But the Bears Saturday night game versus the Chargers offers some intriguing storylines too. Consider the game will be the first time…
- Lovie Smith gets to see his shiny new defensive monster, Julius Peppers, harass an opposing QB. This one just so happens to be Jay Cutler’s old AFC West archrival, Phillip Rivers. Peppers has looked dominate at times in camp against the Bears tackles. But now it’s time to see how he fares (in limited action) against another team.
- Bears fans get to marvel in the formation shifts, 7-step drops and 3- and 4-wide receiver sets of offensive guru, Mike Martz. It will be interesting to see how in-sync Cutler and his talented young receiving corps are after offseason OTAs and two weeks of training camp.
- We see the reportedly rejuvenated Matt Forte run in an offense that could allow him to put up All-Pro numbers. He won’t get more than 8 carries on Saturday, but Bears fans should see a swifter, smoother #22.
- Defensive rookies Major Wright and Corey Wootten get the chance to stand out on tape…and potentially move up the depth chart. Don’t be surprised if these guys play a half or more.
And of course, we have to add in some drama in the form of…
Cuter vs. Rivers revisited. After battling head-to-head for three years and cussing each other out from across the sidelines during games, it’s obvious these guys can’t stand each other. I’ll be almost as interested in seeing whether they exchange pleasantries before or after the game as the game itself.
Lovie vs. Rivera. Ron Rivera, the popular defensive coordinator Lovie canned after the Bears went to the Super Bowl, will get to show off his 3-4 defense while the three guys who tried to replace him as Bears d-coordinator (Babich, Marinelli and Lovie) watch from the opposing sideline.
Players to watch:
Jaron Gilbert and Henry Melton. For the last year, we’ve heard coaches rave about their physical talent. But now it’s time to see if the young d-linemen can use those skills to disrupt an offense.
The revolving door that is the Bears starting safety combo. How long will 1st team tandem Chris Harris-Danieal Manning play? Will Major Wright or the steady Craig Steltz start pushing Manning back to nickelback?
Greg Olsen. He’s been a favorite target of Cutler during camp, but when the lights go on and 70,000 fans pack the stadium, will Cutler still find comfort in his BFF?
Offensive line. This is a group that will be under the microscope all preseason. Their ability to protect Cutler and open up running lanes have been the biggest camp question mark so far. With Lovie facing a make-or-break year, it’ll be interesting to watch how patient he is with his new guy (RG Lance Louis) and old guys at new positions – Roberto Garza at LG and Frank Omiyale at right tackle.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Earl Bennett (hamstring), Kellen Davis (back), Kahlil Bell (hamstring), Hunter Hillenmeyer (ankle) and WR Greg Mathews (shoulder) nursed injuries late this week and may not play.