Bears set to close training camp

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The Bears will have their final practice of the 2008 training camp Thursday, and it will be closed to the public. Even though there are still three and a half weeks of preseason remaining until the Bears kick off the regular season in Indianapolis, I feel it’s a good time to do some reflection.

I think the only certainty that we’ve witnessed through the three weeks of training camp is that there is an awful lot of uncertainty. The quarterback position is no less resolved than it was in the off-season. The receiving corps is still a conundrum, with different players stepping up on various days. There appears to be a three-way competition between Anthony Adams, Dusty Dvoracek, and rookie Marcus Harrison to see who will get the most playing time at tackle alongside Tommie Harris. Mike Brown remains healthy for the moment and Brandon McGowan, while presently hurt, appears to be playing well enough to keep his starting position, but how will second-year players Kevin Payne, Corey Graham, and Trumaine McBride factor into the secondary? Did Danieal Manning find a home at nickelback and will Ricky Manning be traded or released within the next few weeks?

The defensive ends, linebackers, and cornerbacks are all solid and healthy and the tight end position is the deepest and most steady position on the team. However, the two positions I haven’t mentioned yet are arguably the most important. Offensive line and running back.

Will the left side of the line be the Achilles heel to the Bears’ offense and the season in general? Will Matt Forte be the primary ball carrier, or will Kevin Jones get plenty of carries when he starts to get into the flow of the game more?

I have a strong feeling that we’ll have a better idea of which player — Rex Grossman or Kyle Orton — has the upper hand for the starting quarterback job following Saturday’s game at Seattle, unless both players perform equally well or poorly.

Finally, once a starting lineup has been established — preferrably by the third preseason game against San Francisco, or a few days after that at the latest — my main concern is for the team to be healthy and mentally prepared for what should be one of the toughest games of the season Sept. 7 in Indianapolis.

If they can come out with the effort and performance that they displayed in the first half of last season’s opener against San Diego — when they shut out the Chargers and held LaDainian Tomlinson to just 12 yards on 11 carries — then I’ll be more than satisfied, even if they don’t come away with a ‘W’.

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