The third preseason game has become the new dress rehearsal for the season opener in the NFL. Most teams play their starters sparingly or not at all in week four of the preseason. With that in mind, the Bears face a good test on the road against the Giants. Many questions remain for the Bears as they open their season two weeks from Sunday against the Colts.
The Offensive Line
The battle for left tackle and offensive line depth continues for the Bears. Earlier this week on the Score 670am, Offensive Coordinator Mike Tice in reference to his offensive line said “You really get a chance to evaluate your players and see where they are at” Widespread speculation has been that the starting left tackle will be named after the game on Friday night.
With Tice as the Bears offensive coordinator, the success of the offense will begin and end with the offensive line. Through the first two preseason games only the Jets and the Cardinals have given up more than the Bears ten sacks. Those two rank 32nd and 30th in offensive so far. After finishing 28th in sacks allowed last season, that will have to be a priority in 2012.
On Bears.Com, Tice was quoted as saying “Tackle-wise there was not a lot to beat up I didn’t think,” Tice said. “They both played well, so we’ll see. Let’s face it; this is going to be the week. We’ll all know when we watch the game.” ESPNChicago.Com mentioned that Chilo Rachal and Chris Spencer continue to battle for the starting position at left guard. Webb is expected to start Friday at left tackle. There has been no word that if Webb wins the position if Williams would return to guard where he has played in recent seasons.
The Giants front four offers left tackles Chris Williams and J’Marcus Webb a significant challenge. Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck will provide them a stiff challenge. The Tribune reported via ESPNNewYork.Com that Jason Pierre-Paul is expected to miss the game with back spasms.
Safety seems to be the pet position of Lovie Smith. The Bears have drafted a safety in eight consecutive drafts and have made 56 changes at the position in Smith tenure dating to the 2004 season according to Brad Biggs of the Tribune. With Chris Conty and rookie Brandon Hardin out for Friday's game Craig Steltz will get a lot of opportunity in the defensive backfield. Major Wright should get the majority of the snaps as well. Second year man Anthony Walters should also get a look Friday night.
Smith’s defenses have always been predicated on forcing turnovers. They finished sixth in 2011, but have forced just three turnovers through the first two preseason games. Steltz played well starting in the final four games in place of Wright at the end of last season. His 37 tackles placed third behind Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs during that time frame.
Can the Newcomers Continue to Shine?
Michael Bush, Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall all played well against a good Redskins defense last week. Bush carried five times for 21 yards with two touchdowns, Marshall caught two passes for 61 yards and second round pick Jeffery caught two passes for 62 yards. Through two weeks Jeffrey has seven catches for 97 yards. Shea McClellin has for tackles and a sack in the first two weeks.
So far so good for Phil Emery.
Can this be the Bears Best Offense Ever?
Its always dangerous to take anything out of a preseason game. Nonetheless, the Bears first and second team offense was very impressive against the Redskins last week. Jay Cutler and Jason Campbell combined to go 16-28 for 263 yards without an interception, Bush and Matt Forte had nine carries for 37 yards and two touchdowns and Marshall and Jeffery combined for five catches for 123 yards.
Even the Bears depth was impressive. Backup tight end Evan Rodriguez caught three passes for 49 yards, Eric Weems who was signed in the offseason because of his special teams prowess has two catches for 38 yards. Lorenzo Booker who is in a fight with Anthony Allen and Bell for the third running back spot returned the second half kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown.
Robbie Gould was given the player of the game on Fox with four field goals including 57 yard field goal for a late game winner.
The Depth at Linebacker
With Brian Urlacher’s injury still not completely disclosed someone is going to have to step up in his absence if he can’t go in the season opener. Blake Costanzo had six tackles against Washington, J.T.Thomas had four tackles and three assists in the preseason opener against Denver.
Backup MLB Dom DeCicco is injured. The likelihood is that with Urlacher out, Nick Roach would slide over to MLB. J.T Thomas and Geno Hayes will also get looks at LB.
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Tags: alshon jeffery, brandon marshall, brian urlacher, chilo rachal, chris spencer, chris williams, craig steltz, evan rodriguez, geno hayes, j'marcus webb, jay cutler, jt thomas, lance briggs, lorenzo booker, lovie smith, matt forte, michael bush, mike tice, nick roach, phil emery, robbie gould