As the Bears head into Game 3 of the preseason tonight against San Francisco, there are even more intriguing things to watch. A lot of people like to call this the “dress rehearsal” for the regular season because it’s the one game for which all teams game plan and each team’s starters will see action into the third quarter. Ultimately, though, it’s still just a practice game with highs not too tall and lows not too deep to overcome by opening week. As you watch tonight, remember to keep things in perspective.
Here are ten things to watch in the third game of the preseason:
1. Kyle Orton – Everyone is anxious to see the anointed one take the field with the first team offense as the undisputed starting quarterback. I’m interested in seeing how the golden boy will be received by the faithful Bears fans who booed Rex Grossman until their voices went hoarse, especially if Orton throws an interception or fumbles a snap. Still, all Bears fans should give Orton a chance and stand behind him through thick and thin.
2. Matt Forte vs. Kevin Jones – Forte figures to be the starting running back in the season opener against Indianapolis, but the veteran Jones likely will get his first action of the preseason tonight. Jones pulls a lot of weight with the other veterans on the team and I’m interested in seeing how he jells with the offense and how he handles his recovery from injury. Forte, meanwhile, needs to show me more consistency in pass protection, something he lacked last week at Seattle, but he’s looked good so far running with both strength and speed.
3. Wide Receivers – Tonight could be pivotal for many of the receivers on the depth chart looking to make their case for roster spots. There are few guarantees — I’m thinking Devin Hester, Rashied Davis, and Earl Bennett — but a couple other safe picks — Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd. Will Mark Bradley make a last-ditch effort to save his job? I don’t expect much out of Mike Hass, Brandon Rideau, Marcus Monk, or Ryan Grice-Mullen. However, as Ron Turner said earlier this week, tonight’s playing time, or lack thereof, does not necessarily mean much in the grand scheme of things.
4. Kellen Davis – With Desmond Clark missing time, it’s a great opportunity to see the other tight ends, and I’m interested in seeing more of rookie Kellen Davis. The guy needs to improve his blocking, but he’s got excellent hands in the receiving game and would make a nice target in the red zone, should the Bears decide to use him there this season. Also, last year’s number one pick, Greg Olsen, has been rather quiet this preseason and I’d like to see if he’ll be more involved in tonight’s offense, knowing that they’ve actually game-planned for the Niners.
5. Offensive Line – Let’s be honest. We all know that the success of not only the offense, but the team in general, hinges on the five guys up front. In this “simulated regular season game” that we’re supposed to witness tonight, I want to see if the o-line can knock people off the ball and create running lanes for Forte and Jones. Plus, we can’t really gauge where Orton is as a player if he’s under constant pressure.
6. Defensive Tackle – Hark! It’s the long awaited return of Dusty Dvoracek! Okay, that was a little sarcastic, but Dvoracek has been constantly injured throughout his first two years in the league, heading into his third. And while he’s shown some intensity in the one regular season game and the few preseason games he’s played in throughout his short career, he needs to stay on the field. Let’s see if he goes full speed or not tonight and how he fares in competition with fellow tackles Anthony Adams, Marcus Harrison, and Israel Idonije, who will also see some time at end with Mark Anderson out.
7. Linebackers – Specifically Michael Okwo, who, like Dvoracek, can’t seem to stay healthy, I want to see some of the younger guys play well tonight. Fearful of losing Lance Briggs via free agency, the Bears’ front office drafted several linebackers over the last few years and now the position is deep. Jamar Williams, Rod Wilson, Darrell McClover, Okwo… how will these guys play not only on defense, but on special teams, too?
8. Young secondary – We haven’t seen or heard much from Zackary Bowman and that’ll likely continue with the first team playing deeper into the game tonight. But we still should see a lot of Trumaine McBride and Corey Graham. I don’t know what the injury status on Kevin Payne is, but he’s the third amigo (along with Dvoracek and Okwo) of guys who can’t stay healthy. He looks like he could be a decent player if only he could stay on the field. Craig Steltz needs to step up his game if he’s going to challenge for playing time on the defense this year. We’ll certainly see him on special teams, though.
9. Special teams coverage – Last week’s coverage teams were atrocious. Plain and simple. I don’t want to see any big returns tonight and it’s up to the young group of linebackers to make the biggest impact. Just like on defense, we can’t see any missed tackles or over-pursuit on special teams.
10. Robbie Gould – Normally the sure thing, not only did Gould miss the game winning field goal attempt last week, but he had several short kickoffs as well. I want to see him perfect on his field goals tonight and kickoffs no shorter than the 5-yard line.