The Chicago Bears will take to Soldier Field again this Saturday for their second preseason game of the 2012 season. After a lackluster performance last Thursday against the Denver Broncos, the Bears will be seeking improvements in all phases of the game.
The second preseason game is usually much like the first: limited time for the starters, simplified offensive and defensive schemes, and a chance to view the back-end of the roster.
Here is my list of five Bears players to watch in Thursday night’s game.
Kyle Adams is an intriguing player on this Bears roster. With Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth firmly planted at the top of the tight end depth chart and rookie Evan Rodriguez more than likely to make the team, what shot does Adams actually have?
Adams has found himself getting a lot of reps with the first team when running a two-tight end set along with taking reps away from Tyler Clutts at fullback. Rodriguez has not progressed along as well as expected but it would be a shock if he did not make the final roster.
Adams’ versatility, along with his ability to contribute on special teams, gives him a real shot at taking a spot away from Clutts. It will be interesting to see if the Bears utilize Adams in two-tight end sets this Saturday and whether or not he takes reps away from Clutts.
With a solid performance from rookie Shea McClellin in last Thursday’s preseason opener and lack of depth at the defensive tackle position, Israel Idonije has found himself once again in the defensive tackle rotation.
Idonije saw work at the three-technique defensive tackle position early this week and has prior experience working on the inside. The Bears appear to like the combination of Peppers and McClellin at defensive end along with Idonije and Henry Melton on the inside during passing downs. The Bears will likely want to get more looks at Idonije on the inside with a lack of true depth behind Melton, Stephen Paea, and Matt Toeaina.
Despite the Bears being adamant that Brian Urlacher will be ready for the season opener, the Bears need to have backup plans in place. Nick Roach is solidly entrenched to take over the middle linebacker position if Urlacher cannot play and veteran Geno Hayes will be expected to fill the void at strongside linebacker in place of Roach.
Hayes came to the Bears this offseason after starting his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Hayes has prior experience starting in a similar defense while in Tampa and has very good speed and coverage skills, both desirable traits for a strongside linebacker, but needs to work on his tackling skills.
Hayes likely won’t have much competition as the backup to Roach, but many believe that J.T. Thomas has made strides and Hayes will need to perform well to keep his grasp on his place on the depth chart.
According to Bears’ offensive coordinator Mike Tice, left guard Chris Spencer did not play well in last Thursday’s preseason opener:
"Grade-wise for us last season he had the second-highest grade,” Tice said via ChicagoBears.com. “Everyone wants Chris Williams and Chris Spencer to be like [right tackle] Gabe [Carimi]. It is two different styles. That is why we have Gabe on the right-hand side. He is a bruiser. But I was very surprised [about Spencer]. It was certainly not a tape—and Chris knows this; we spoke about it—you want on your résumé.”
Spencer appeared to struggle in both the passing and running game most of the night, allowing a sack and never generating much of a push in the running game. Spencer played very well last season on the right side and will need to step up his game Saturday night against the Redskins, with veteran Chilo Rachal pushing for his spot.
What will undoubtedly be a story for the rest of the preseason, the left tackle position will once again be the most watched battle of the night. J’Marcus Webb struggled mightily in last Thursday’s preseason opener and unlike all the other starters, Webb continued to play into the fourth quarter.
For a competition once thought to be closed, offensive coordinator Mike Tice has said that Chris Williams will see work with the first team at the left tackle position Saturday night against the Washington Redskins.
Left tackle has been a weak spot for the Bears since Jay Cutler’s arrival in Chicago and Tice let it be known he was uncomfortable with where they currently stand:
“I have trouble sleeping at night until I know that our quarterback is protected”
Both Williams and Webb will likely get an opportunity with the first team on Saturday night and it should be interesting to see whether or not Williams can help Tice finally get some sleep.