The Bears head to Oakland to face the Raiders in the all-important dress rehearsal game. You can throw out about 99% of the preseason, but if there’s a meaningful 1%, it’s usually going to happen in the third preseason game. The teams will have a game plan and try to simulate regular season football. There usually isn’t much to watch, but I’ve managed to come up with 5 things to watch:
5. The Backups
Usually the backup players that comprise the last dozen spots of the 53-man roster are front and center in the preseason, as they fight for their football lives. Keep a close eye on special teams. Guys that are running with the first units on multiple phases have a leg up on those coveted few spots.
4. Jon Bostic
Bostic has made highlight reel plays in the first two preseason games, including a monster hit which drew a hefty $21k fine. With DJ Williams still nursing a sore calf, Bostic appears to be the first rookie middle linebacker to start the season for the Bears since Dick Butkus.
Bostic has a knack for making the big plays, but keep a close eye on him on other plays. Like any rookie, he’s still a little inconsistent. He needs to continue to improve and make strides to hold off Williams when he’s cleared to return to action. Now that he’s been fined for a big hit, it will be interesting to see if plays any differently this week. He’s got to get back on that horse and knock the snot out of someone to get over any lingering effects of complacency.
3. Receivers other than Brandon Marshall
A lot was made of Brandon Marshall’s targets in Game 2 vs the Chargers. All five of Jay Cutler’s passes were in Marshall’s direction. Meanwhile, new tight end Martellus Bennett only got his hands on a ball on a fumble recovery. Is he worried that Jay Cutler doesn’t see him?
“He sees me; I’m 6-foot-7, a big black guy running down the middle of the field. He sees me,” Bennett said. “I wear white gloves so he can see the white gloves when I wave them like Mickey Mouse. I clap when I’m open. So I do enough to let him know that I’m open when I have to tell him.
“Even when I’m not open I tell him I was open.”
Marc Trestman’s offense is supposed to spread the ball around. Martellus Bennett wants a few balls. So does Brandon Marshall. And Alshon Jeffery. Earl Bennett is still recovering from his concussion, so Joe Anderson and Marquess Wilson should get their opportunities as well. The Bears know what Brandon Marshall can do. They need to see what these other guys can do in Marc Trestman’s scheme.
2. The Rookie Right Side
Kyle Long and Jordan Mills had a terrific game against the Chargers. Long was beasting all night while Jordan Mills held his own and certainly looked like he belongs. I am trying to temper expectations. The Bears were very run-heavy, calling plays that allowed the rookies to get out and attack a weaker opponent. What happens when they’re asked to pass block in a hostile territory. All rookies hit some sort of plateau, where they level off or even regress while playing painfully inconsistently, so be prepared for some growing pains.
Former Packer Charles Woodson has had Jay Cutler’s number over the last few years, as the Packers D dominated Cutler and the Bears. Jay hasn’t had his best performances against the Packers and Woodson was more than happy to point that out:
“Heard some talk out of the Bears: Packers secondary not working coverage, bigger receivers … we heard about it,” Woodson told Rachel Nichols of ESPN. “We understand that Jay is excited about his new weapons, but it’s the same-old Jay. We don’t need luck; Jay will throw us the ball.”
Time for Jay to slay that dragon. Let’s see if he can through the game without a pick, especially one to his pal Woodson.
What do you think, Bears fans? What will YOU be watching as the Bears take the field?