Top 5 Things To Watch in the Chicago Bears Preseason Opener vs the Panthers

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3. The Battle of the Bubble Guys

There are still quite a few bubble guys who will be battling for the professional football lives.  Here are some key battles to watch:

J’Marcus Webb vs Eben Britton – don’t look now but there might be a competition brewing for the right tackle spot after all.  While Jermon Bushrod and Jonathan Scott have been sidelined with injuries, Britton has stepped up and performed well at LT.

Brandon Hardin vs Tom Zbikowski vs Tom Nelson – depending on how the roster shakes out, there might be one safety position up for grabs.  Zibby and Nelson are vets while Hardin is coming off his redshirt season.  Will Emery give extra points to a draft pick with great measurables or will he favor a veteran?

Michael Ford vs Armando Allen – don’t just hand the third running back spot to Armando Allen.  He’s had some fumbles in camp and is far from assured a job.  Watch Ford to make an impression on the coaching staff.

The Fifth WR spot – the top four receiver spots appear to be pretty well set with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, (the concussed) Earl Bennett and Joe Anderson.  The fifth WR spot is up for grabs.  Veteran special teamer Eric Weems might have an inside track, but there are a lot of players vying for that spot.  Rookie Marquess Wilson leads a bunch of youngsters who will try to make an impression on the coaches.  Watch undrafted rookie Josh Lenz, who is my favorite to become a fan favorite with a late TD.

2. Special Teams

Generally speaking, the top 2/3 of the roster is pretty well set and special teams determine the last few spots.  Normally you go hit the bathroom and get a fresh beer during punts and kickoffs.  Go ahead and rewind all the coverage units because this is where you’re going to see guys going balls out to try to nab a spot.  Veterans like Blake Costanzo and Eric Weems need to be special teams standouts to earn their valuable roster spots.  If they can’t show well, or if they get outshined by some younger guys with more upside to contribute on offense and defense, they could become bubble guys.  Coach Joe DeCamillis will have a big say in the last few roster spots based on who can help him on special teams.

1. The Coaching Staff

Jun 11, 2013; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman during minicamp at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Almost the entire staff is new, so there is a lot to be learned.  They’re unlikely to show much, as the offense and defense are generally pretty vanilla, but there is still a lot to learn about the new coaches.

How will Trestman call plays?  Can they get the plays called fast enough so they don’t need to burn time outs?  Will the Bears run any different formations that we haven’t seen and what kinds of personnel groupings could we expect during the real action?  How will they handle challenges and instant replay?    Does Trestman keep the starters in longer than Lovie Smith did?  What will the post-game presser sound like?

These are just some of the questions that I hope to start to answer on Friday night.

Besides the typical “no injuries,” what will you be watching on Friday night?  What are you most looking forward to seeing?  Let’s see your comments.