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Chicago Bears gear up for Carolina Panthers

Preseason games are the perfect opportunity to watch the development of young players like Chicago Bears defensive end Shea McClellin (99).

Preseason games are the perfect opportunity to watch the development of young players like Chicago Bears defensive end Shea McClellin (99).

The long-awaited day has finally arrived. Football is upon us!

Okay, so it’s not quite that exciting. It may only be the preseason, but it’s real football with real scrubs and real plays and real tackling. It’s better than six months of nothing.

Most of the best players won’t be playing, or at least playing much, so I’m not going to talk about evaluating Jay Cutler based on one or two passes. Instead, this preview will focus on issues that we will be able to learn something about. That means a heavy emphasis on backups and players fighting for roster spots.

Rookie Jordan Mills could be a starting offensive tackle for the Chicago Bears in 2014.

Rookie Jordan Mills could be a starting offensive tackle for the Chicago Bears in 2014.

Offensive line

Chicago has had a terrible offensive line for the last four or five years, but they have worked hard this offseason to change that. Included in those efforts has been the acquisition of several young players who are viewed as possibly being part of the long-term solution.

The four players I have my eye on are guards Kyle Long and James Brown, tackle Jordan Mills, and center P.J. Lonergan. Long, Mills, and Lonergan are rookies, while Brown is a second-year player, and all should see extended time in this game.

Long and Brown will be particularly interesting to watch, as they are competing for the starting right guard job this year. Brown will get the start here, but will likely move over to left guard when Long comes in, so both should play most of the first half. Mills and Lonergan, meanwhile, are more developmental prospects hoping to impress enough to stick around the team and have a chance at a starting job in 2014.

Emery’s first draft class

General manager Phil Emery took over after the 2011 season, and his first class of draft picks largely underwhelmed last year. Fourth round pick Evan Rodriguez was jettisoned from the team this summer for off-field problems, but five players remain and will be looking to make an impact this year.

Four of them—receiver Alshon Jeffery, guard James Brown, defensive end Shea McClellin, and cornerback Isaiah Frey—are expected to be starters or key reserves on offense or defense this year, meaning they will have ample opportunity to impress and prove the critics who have panned them (and the man who drafted them) wrong. Jeffery, who is firmly entrenched as a starter, will likely not see much playing time, but the other three should all play a healthy amount, as will second-year safety Brandon Hardin.

Linebacker Khaseem Greene will get his first taste of NFL action against Carolina.

Linebacker Khaseem Greene will get his first taste of NFL action against Carolina.

Defensive youth

Chicago’s veteran defense has an upcoming youth movement as some of their established stars get older, and plenty of those young players should have an opportunity to make their presence felt with the first or second team. Defensive ends Shea McClellin and Cornelius Washington, linebackers Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene, and defensive backs Isaiah Frey and Brandon Hardin are all in their first or second year in the NFL and have a chance to be starters in coming years.

Farther down the depth chart, there are several undrafted free agent rookies who are fighting for spots on the roster or practice squad with hopes of being contributors in the future. These players should get plenty of playing time in the second half and are worth keeping an eye on. I am especially interested in seeing defensive tackle Zach Minter and cornerbacks C.J. Leslie and Demontre Hurst.

Young receivers

Chicago has undergone a nearly complete overhaul at the wide receiver position in the last two years, a process that is still in progress. They brought 12 wide receivers to camp this year, eight of whom are in their first or second NFL season. The ones to watch here include Marquess Wilson, Joe Anderson, Brittan Golden, Josh Lenz, Marcus Rucker, and Terrance Toliver. Most of them will be gone in a few weeks, but three or four will stick around.

What will Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestmans' sideline demeanor be like?

What will Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman’s sideline demeanor be like?

Trestman coaching style

It may only be a preseason game, but Friday night still marks the NFL debut of Marc Trestman as a head coach. After nearly a decade of watching the stoic Lovie Smith on the sidelines, it will be interesting to observe how Trestman acts. We might even be able to glean a little bit about his play calling style and how he manages risk and reward when making pivotal decisions.

Overall

It is important to remember that this is just the first preseason game, and the final score does not matter at all. Enjoy the game for what it is, but don’t overreact to anything that happens (except for serious injuries — those still matter). Watching players on the fringe of the roster and try to figure out who deserves to stick around, but resist the temptation to think someone is going to be a star based on one or two great plays made against second-rate competition.

Most importantly, remember that every preseason game takes us one step closer to when the games actually matter.

416 comments
gatrbuc17 again
gatrbuc17 again

It looks pretty safe to say that Kirk Cousins is being wasted behind RG3. That dude can Flat out Play

Evil Donkey
Evil Donkey moderator

We are doing a vodka tasting tonight if you guy want to stop by.

Childerz...
Childerz...

@gatrbuc17 If Ponder fucking sucks giant dick this year... I say the Vikings make a push to get him from Wash

Childerz...
Childerz...

interesting Twist..... either she's scared into doing what he says... or maybe she convinced him to do all of this... 

LKP
LKP

@Buhlitz Remember when our mascot took out Jamaal Charles

nonstradamus
nonstradamus

@Childerz... One of the dirty secrets of the missing-children industry: far more of them a runaways than actual abductees.

Big Deal
Big Deal

@Nonstopdrivel @Childerz... 

I convinced my kid there's a fat bearded guy that comes through our dryer vent and leaves presents under the tree each winter.

You can convince kids of a lot of things. Teens in particular aren't known for having well-developed decision-making abilities. They're easily manipulated. "Consensual" is a questionable term to use in this case.

nonstradamus
nonstradamus

@Childerz... She wouldn't have been the first teenage girl (or boy) to have murdered her family.

Obviously, I have no idea what is going on here, but it does annoy me when people presume it must not be consensual.