If you watch preseason football as nothing more than just a football game, you will be bored out of your mind. By the time the second half starts the field will be filled with players you’ve never heard of that probably won’t make the team, and then that voice begins creeping into your mind, asking you just what it is you’re doing with your life.
And it’s very important to shut that voice up and stuff it back in its little hole where it minds its own god damn business. So how do you do that? It’s simple! You don’t watch tonight’s Bears game to watch the actual game, you just look for the interesting things inside the game.
Here are the things I’ll be doing my best to pay attention to tonight. You know, as long as the satellites don’t get all fucked up again like last week.
THE OBVIOUS STUFF
Debuts – Tonight will mark the first time that Jared Allen faces an opponent while wearing a Bears jersey. I don’t expect him to play much, nor do I think he’s somebody that needs to be studied considering how long he’s been doing what he’s been doing, but I’ll be on the lookout for him anyway. The Bears defensive line will be one of the most important units in 2014, and Allen will be a key part of it.
Aside from Allen tonight, we’ll also see Martellus Bennett’s preseason debut since he was suspended last week, and there’s a chance Chris Conte could play tonight as well.
The backup QB battle – Last week is was Jordan Palmer in the QB2 role, tonight it will be Jimmy Clausen. And it should be. I’ve never been shy about my opinion that Clausen is the better option, and he definitely looked like the better quarterback last week against Philadelphia.
Tonight we’ll get to see Clausen playing with the second-string rather than the third, which should make him look even better. Clausen completed only seven of his 13 passes last week, but I can remember at least three drops. Having a better cast around him should improve those numbers. Then there’s Jordan Palmer, who looked skittish last week, and will probably look even more so when he’s behind third-stringers.
Which is fine by me, because it serves my agenda to banish Jordan Palmer from the Bears roster.
I’ll also be watching David Fales, but I’m of the opinion is roster spot is secure. They drafted him to mold him.
Special teams improvement – Every single phase of special teams last week was terrible. Whether it involved kicking the football, covering the kicked footballs, or returning the kicked footballs, the Bears were bad at it. Which really isn’t that big of a deal since it’s the first preseason game, and you don’t really spend nearly as much time working on this stuff during camp as you will during the regular season when special teams roles are more defined, but I’d still like to see improvement.
The WR3 battle – We all fell in love with Chris Williams last week when he blew past a defender and brought in a 73-yard touchdown catch, but he pulled a hamstring shortly after and the dream died. That means Eric Weems, Josh Morgan and Josh Bellamy will get a lot of looks tonight in that role. I’d consider Morgan the favorite here, but I actually like Bellamy a bit stemming from his time in college, so I’m sort of rooting for him between those three.
THE NOT-SO-OBVIOUS STUFF
Will Sutton – I’ll be watching Will Sutton, as I’ll always be watching Will Sutton. It turns out I like Will Sutton. He’s the best. Now, last week he wasn’t great, as he got swallowed up by blockers a few too many times for my liking, but he also showed the flashes of dominance that make me like him so much. I’m hoping we’ll see more of those flashes tonight, and maybe we’ll see Sutton destroy Blake Bortles and force Jacksonville to head into another season with Chad Henne as its quarterback.
Kyle Fuller – I was so focused on Sutton last week that I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to Fuller until he was actually involved in the play and the ball found him. While I was initially skeptical about the Bears decision to take him, I did like what I saw last week. I’ll be following him a bit more closely this week when he’s on the field, though it’s hard to follow corners too closely without the All-22 or coaches film.
The offensive line – Last week did not fill me with a whole lot of optimism. The Bears only allowed one sack in the game, but every quarterback besides Cutler spent a lot of time moving around to avoid large men trying to hurt them. What concerned me was the run game, or the lack of it to be precise.
While the pass-blocking was good enough, the run-blocking was sub-par. The Bears rushed for only 92 yards on 32 carries, a 2.9 yards per carry clip. When you take away a 16-yard scramble from Clausen those numbers drop to 76 yards and 2.5 yards per carry. That’s terrible. The line just wasn’t getting any push off the ball, and that’s not a good sign.
And it wasn’t just the backup units, as Matt Forte finished with -5 yards on three carries. I know it’s only the preseason, and you don’t want to show a whole lot when the games don’t count, but I like to think that actually gaining yards is still allowed.
Backup tight end – Zach Miller got a lot of attention last week since he caught six passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns, but I wouldn’t go putting him on the roster yet. He’s going to have to prove he can contribute on special teams, because Martellus Bennett is always going to be TE1, and Dante Rosario helps out on special teams. Miller isn’t going to overcome Rosario on the depth chart without doing the same, even if he’ll always be a Preseason Hero.
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