After playing a less than stellar game against the San Diego Chargers just a week ago and losing their second string quarterback,the Bears will host their first home game of the season against the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are coming off of a 17-9 win over the Dallas Cowboys while the Bears, as mentioned, lost in San Diego 25-10.
The Bears will be without several key players for this game, including backup quarterback Caleb Hanie and safeties Craig Steltz and Major Wright. They may also choose to sit some other players that have a few less serious injuries. We won’t know much on who is sitting and who isn’t until just before the game.
Here are some things that fans (and perhaps the coaching staff) will want to look for in Saturday night’s game.
How long will quarterback Jay Cutler play?
This has been a question that has been asked thousands of times since he only had eight snaps in the Bear’s first preseason game. This can be answered in two different ways.
First, because of the lack of players at the position, Cutler may end up having to play a little bit longer than first thought. However, if the team feels that they can get some work out of Gutierrez then he may be able to do something. Otherwise they may have to rely on LeFevour to take them through a majority of the game.
Another reason why Cutler may play more is so that he can develop a real “game” rhythm with the rest of the starting offense. It’s important that this group works together in games where they aren’t playing against their own defense so that they can develop cohesion and communication between one another.
How long will the defense play?
For the same reasons outline above, the starting defense should get to see some significant playing time so that they can build together as a unit and get that communication going between them. Look for the starters to play about one and a half quarters or more of football on Saturday as they prepare for the upcoming NFL season.
Will the Bear’s special teams look any better?
Special teams units will typically look pretty rough the first two or three games of the preseason as new players come in to show that they can play (or try to at least) on the unit. Almost every player will get a chance to play on special teams so that special teams coach, Dave Toub, can find those guys that he feels will work best and make a case to keep them on the roster to help out on special teams.
Bears on Offense
In their game against the Chargers, the Bears did a very poor job of blocking for the run and running back Matt Forte looked very tentative as he approached the hole (on one play in particular) so keep an eye on the Bears running game to see how well that is working.
Obviously we all want to see the offensive line play and how well they can protect the Bears quarterbacks. This should offer us a chance to see just how well they have done and how much (if any) they have improved in protecting the Bears quarterbacks.
Finally, we will want to see how well newly acquired backup quarterback Matt Gutierrez can do with just three days of practice and check on Dan LeFevour and see how far he has come.
Bears on Defense
I hope we will get a chance to see more of Julius Peppers in this game than we did in the last one. If he does see some significant time, watch the defensive line and see how his play impacts theirs. If the Raiders choose, they may try to double team Peppers which will leave someone free to make a play.
With any luck, defensive tackle Tommie Harris will be able to show something with Peppers in the lineup. He’s been practicing consistently and doesn’t appear to have any health problems. Watch him play in this Saturday night and see how he does.
Keep in mind that the battle for the starting spot opposite Lance Briggs at linebacker still isn’t settled. Pisa Tinoisamoa and Nick Roach are still battling things out for that spot and a decision may not be made on who wins that job until after the third preseason game.
In the secondary, it will be interesting to see how the Bears handle their current lack of depth at the safety position. Both Major Wright and Craig Steltz are out and Josh Bullocks has been sidelined with a quadriceps injury and may not play so look for the Bears to use a lot of Al Afalava, Danieal Manning and Chris Harris in the lineup. It will also be a good time for undrafted free agent rookie Quentin Scott to see some action.
At the cornerback position, the Bears may not end up keeping starters Zachary Bowman or Charles Tillman on the field that long since both are prone to injuries. Look for some of the younger guys to see some action in this game and help solidify a roster spot.
Bears on Special Teams
This is where a lot players who are close to making the team end up making it. Special teams play is very important to the Bears and you can be sure that they are keeping their eye out for anyone that they believe can help them out on that unit. Keep an eye on some of the lesser known guys as they may end up being part of the regular roster when the season starts.
The Bears should be much more prepared for this game than they were in their first game of the preseason and we should see the starters play a lot more than they did in that first game. Key things to watch will be how long the starters play and how quickly the coaching staff will adapt to whatever the Raiders are throwing at them. Remember last week’s game. Instead of adapting to what the Chargers were doing the Bears started pulling starters and just took it on the chin.
They shouldn’t do that in this game.
The Bears are playing at home and will have the home crowd behind them making things difficult for the Raiders. Expect the starters to play a while and the Bears to finally start showing some signs of life as they will beat the Raiders and get their first win of the preseason.
Chicaco 24 Oakland 17