The Bears are set for the dress rehearsal for the regular season, the all-important third preseason game. They’ll face the New York Giants. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? World champs? Even though it’s preseason, this will be a good barometer for the Bears to see how they stack up to the best the NFC has to offer. The Giants are physical as hell on the defensive front and have been known to make Jay Cutler say”Uncle” in a 9-sack barrage a couple of years ago. With that, let’s take a look at the Top 5 Things I’ll be watching in this preseason matchup.
#5 Ryan Quiqley
It’s rare that a punter will make my things to watch, but with punter Adam Podlesh suffering a hip flexor injury, undrafted rookie out of Boston College Ryan Quigley gets to audition on Friday night. The Podlesh injury is concerning for the Bears, so they’ll keep a close eye on the rookie to see if he can handle the duties until Podlesh is healthy enough to go. If not, expect a parade of punters to make their way to Halas Hall next week.
#4 Armando Allen
The Bears sent third running back Kahli Bell packing, leaving him to wander the streets of New York and find his way home after he refused to take a pay cut. That makes the third running back spot Armando Allen’s to lose. Allen offers a nice change of pace from the 1-2 punch of Matt Forte and Michael Bush, so I’ll be watching to see what he can do in his expanded opportunity.
#3 Run Defense
I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in the first couple of preseason games and it’s the big runs that the Bears’ defense has given up. I don’t know if it’s the absence of Brian Urlacher or the defensive tackles being too focused getting upfield to rush the passer, but even in today’s pass-happy NFL, the Bears will need to stop the run. Let’s keep an eye on this on Friday vs the Giants.
With starting free safety Chris Conte out with a separated shoulder, it’s next man up and that man is Craig Steltz. In true Lovie Smith fashion, Steltz will step into the strong safety role and Major Wright will slide over to free safety. The safety position is key to the Bears defense and yet they can’t seem to figure it out or stay healthy long enough to do so. Steltz has had a good camp and is solid but not spectacular. I’m more interested to see if Major Wright can man the free safety spot capably and get through the game without getting a boo boo. Also be on the look out for Anthony Walters to get some extra playing time.
#1 Offensive Line
You had to know this was coming, right? The offensive line battle for the starting left tackle spot has been the highlight or lowlight of camp, depending on how you look at it. J’Marcus Webb looked like he seized control of the starting LT spot early, but after a lackluster first preseason outing, it was “Game On” against and Chris Williams got a shot to run with the 1′s. Both Webb and Williams took turns to with the first team last week and both played pretty well. Now they get a shot against one of the top defensive fronts they’ll see. The good news for them - and Jay Cutler – is that Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul is sitting this one out with a bad back, but there are still plenty of tests to come from the Giants’ D-line.
And just when Chris Spencer thought it was safe to rest on his laurels, Mike Tice brought newcomer Chilo Rachal to the party to compete for the starting left guard spot.
What will you be watching? What did I miss? Let me know in the Comments and as always…