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Chicago Bears vs. Carolina Panthers: compelling preseason match-ups

With the first-string offenses playing so few snaps, it's likely that the preseason contest between the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers will be a defensive standoff.

With the first-string offenses playing so few snaps, it’s likely that the preseason contest between the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers will be a defensive standoff.

The preseason opener between the Chicago Bears (0-0) and Carolina Panthers (0-0) should be a rare treat — a match-up that actually tells us something. The contest kicks off 7:00 p.m. CT at Bank of America Field.

Neither starting offense is expected to see much action. The Panthers starters shouldn’t be on the field more than 10 or 15 snaps, while Chicago starting quarterback Jay Cutler will probably get a quick hook. If the first teams combine for four drives, fans should count themselves lucky.

A number of key players will be sitting this one out, including Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart, linebacker Jon Beason, wide receivers Dominik Hixon and James Shaw, fullback Mike Tolbert, and guard Edmund Kugbila and Chicago wide receiver Earl Bennett, offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod, and linebacker D.J. Williams.

Areas to watch

Offensive lines

Chicago has addressed their offensive line woes in the offseason, bringing aboard left tackle Jermon Bushrod from the New Orleans Saints. The Panthers spent a fourth-round pick on guard Edmund Kugbila, who has yet to practice. Both fanbases have reason to worry, as these shaky units will be tested by highly capable front sevens tonight. If any offensive lineman on either team represents himself well, he may rocket into the starting lineup.

Carolina defensive line

Defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy and defensive tackles Dwan Edwards and Star Lotulelei will on the field together for the first time tonight. Highly anticipated rookie defensive tackle Kawaan Short and defensive end Frank Alexander will also be making their debut appearances. Success up front will be imperative for Carolina to win this season and head coach Ron Rivera to keep his job.

Watching the development of the Chicago Bears' linebacking corps will be one of the more compelling story lines of the preseason.

Watching the development of the Chicago Bears’ linebacking corps will be one of the more compelling story lines of the preseason.

Chicago linebacking corps

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, running backs DeAngelo Williams and Kenjon Barner, and tight end Greg Olsen will test how well Chicago’s linebackers are gelling as a unit and how they are responding to incoming defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.

Special teams

The Panthers have added some spice to their kick and punt return games in Ted Ginn, Jr. and Armanti Edwards, while the Bears have standouts at all the special teams positions. Players trying to make the cut will have the opportunity to do so as special-teams standouts. Watching these match-ups will be the best part of the game after the middle of the first quarter.

Players to watch:

Jimmy Clausen

The Panthers’ running joke and goat of the 2010 season, Jimmy Clausen has actually received glowing review of late and could make the race for the No. 2 quarterback spot spot very tight if he shows poise in game situations.

Jay Cutler

Between head coach Marc Trestman’s new offensive approach and the recent report of numerous interceptions and balls batted at the line in camp, every snap Bears quarterback Jay Cutler takes will be overanalyzed and dissected.

Kenjon Barner

A late-round gem, running back Kenjon Barner has received lavish praise from observers in camp.

Kyle Long

Bears general manager Phil Emery took a gamble on guard Kyle Long in the first round. His camp so far has been a mixed bag, so his performance in game situations will speak volumes.

Ted Ginn, Jr. and Armanti Edwards

Ted Ginn, Jr. and Armanti Edwards were brought into be return specialists with an eye on the No. 3 wide receiver spot. Both players have talent but have rarely shown it on the field. Who will emerge as the frontrunner?

The front sevens of both these teams will play pivotal roles in the outcome of the preseason opener.

The front sevens of both these teams will play pivotal roles in the outcome of the preseason opener.

Jon Bostic and James Anderson

Much ink has been spilled about the loss of Bears linebackers Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach, along with head coach Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Can newcomers Jon Bostic and James Anderson help Lance Briggs continue to meet the high standards the Chicago linebacking corps has maintained for decades?

Mike Mitchell, D.J. Campbell, and Charles Godfrey

Charles Godfrey returns to his natural spot at free safety. Mike Mitchell has played well in camp, while D.J. Campbell has nipped at his heels. Above-average safety play would go far toward relieving Carolina’s secondary concerns.

Isaiah Frey

With the loss of nickelback Kelvin Hayden to a torn hamstring, cornerback Isaiah Frey will get propelled into the limelight.

Pointless prediction

The defenses will dominate the first-team offenses, while special teams and defense score more points than all the quarterbacks combined. Carolina wins a battle of third stringers.

Final score: Panthers 17, Bears 13

5279 comments
The Real CJammin
The Real CJammin

Ok time for a serious question.  How many rushing yards will Lacy get this season?

The Real CJammin
The Real CJammin

Judging by the reaction to preseason games, the first Monday of the regular season is going to be a lot of fun.  Especially if the Saints get beat on their home turf.

nonstradamus
nonstradamus

I see that Troy is editing BBAO. That's cool. I will have a Know Your Enemy installment out around lunch time or so.

The Real CJammin
The Real CJammin

So Manuel and Tuel both did excellent for the Bills.  Granted it was against the Colts, but nonetheless, good showing from both.  I think that Buffalo offense could be dangerous if things go right.  We all know Spiller can be a killer in the ground game.  That will open up the passing game and who knows what will happen.

rocketman6969
rocketman6969

Julio Jones was able to return to practice yesterday. Spoon, Bradie Ewing, and Antone Smith continued to be held out, while Robert James suffered an injury (unspecified) during the Bengals game and was held out as well.

LKP
LKP

@The Real CJammin the Packers scored 0 points. They will probably be held scoreless this season

LKP
LKP

@Buhlitz The Ansah pick 6 was a fluke!!!!!!!!!!!

LambeauOrWrigley
LambeauOrWrigley

@Preparation_A But he looked awesome in pre-season last year!  I am beginning to wonder if my excitement over pre-season performance should be tapered.

niemerg1
niemerg1

@Buildingwithclay well, he only looked at one play...so...

Buildingwithclay
Buildingwithclay

Only thing I took away from the preseason fame was that bak can handle blocking bigger defenders. Shaugnesse is 6'8"

 ✔ESPN OUTsider
✔ESPN OUTsider

@Buildingwithclay  Let's see how he is on a rug Friday night.

LKP
LKP

@Buhlitz Or just a terrible play by Sanchez. That is not a fluke

LKP
LKP

@Buildingwithclay and not the starter

niemerg1
niemerg1

@jwoude23 Bear Down did you see in the article on ESPNChicago where he says he views the entire bears line as HOF worthy...

lol wut?

rocketman6969
rocketman6969

@CONCHS333 @rocketman6969 My guess is that he will miss the entire preseason. He should be ready for game 4, but Smith typical doesn't play starters for that game, so I would guess his return will be against the Saints.

LKP
LKP

@Buhlitz Mosely and Young broke up the screen allowing Sanchez to float it up to Ansah. That was nice

rocketman6969
rocketman6969

@CONCHS333 @rocketman6969 Interestingly, he didn't fracture a bone. The main issue is with the ligaments, which stretched to the point that a bone broke through the skin. However, the bones themselves did not suffer a fracture.