Note: That little fella to the far left of the image above is the one and only Mr. Caleb Hanie.
The first preseason game has less meaning than the first training camp practice. Substantially less, if that's possible. There are two teams. Neither has game-planned for the other. Both have practiced for barely a week. And every starter worth their salt is terrified by one thing: turning the wrong way on the left knee and watching their season end before it has begun. (At least in the first training camp practice of the starters don't spend 7/8 of the session chatting with sideline reporters.)
But are there things worth paying attention to? Sure. Since most of us are going to watch the game, we might as well pay attention.
- Health. Here is my list of players I'd prefer see the field for (at most) 3 plays: Cutler, Marshall, Forte, Hester, Peppers, Melton, Briggs, Tillman, Payton, Butkus, Sayers, Kramer, George, Hampton...etc. I could seriously keep going. Nothing good can come from the first preseason game.
- Caleb Hanie. I know he's no longer on the Bears but it'll be interesting to see how Hanie bounces back from one of the worst performances in the history of the NFL (and arguably the world). Knowing Hanie's track record, I expect him to perform terrifically and give Broncos fans a terribly false sense of security should Peyton Manning see extended time on the bench.
- Defensive Line Rotation. There is "buzz" - that most meaningless of noises to emanate from Bourbonnais this time of year - around a pair of defensive linemen: Stephen Paea & Corey Wootton. Julius Peppers is the rock. Israel Idonije and Henry Melton will be productive. Shea McClellin will develop over time. If Paea and Wootton turn the corner at DL, the Bears could have a ferocious attack up front.
- Offensive Line. This will be probably be the starting unit that sees the most field time throughout the preseason but we'll learn very little tomorrow night. That being said all fan eyes will be fixed squarely on big ol' J'Marcus Webb on the blindside. Some to watch his development. Some hoping he'll fail and be unceremoniously cut by halftime.
- Dane Sanzenbacher. The Bears don't exactly have 75 receivers in their camp currently so it's conceivable Sanzenbacher could be catching passes in the second half of this game. As we (I) predicted here MONTHS AGO Sanzenbacher is one of the major stories of camp and I bet there will be a decent number of folks watching late into this one to monitor his progress. No Bear will play harder during these four preseason games.
- Depth Chart. One of my favorite things about training camp is the first preseason depth chart posted by the Chicago Bears on their website. It is very silly. But here are a few names worth focusing a bit of attention on tomorrow night and throughout the preseason: OT James Brown, DTs John McCargo, Brian Price & Nate Collins, RB Armando Allen.
- Rookies. Ultimately they are camp/preseason's most important tale and the Bears top four will be fascinating to watch throughout the preseason. If Shea McClellin is playing against opposing 2s and 3s, we'll want to see production. How will Alshon Jeffery get off the line of scrimmage against NFL corners? Can Brandon Hardin stay healthy and challenge for field time at safety? Will Evan Rodriguez ultimately be part of the offense's base package as a hybrid H-back/tight end? We won't know tomorrow night but we may know by Wednesday September 5th.
We end with a blog open debate. If your eyes were not going to leave one Chicago Bear tomorrow night, whom would it be? Meaning: who are you most interested in watching against the Denver Broncos?
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