The loudest stadium in the NFL, CenturyLink Field will serve as “The Dress Rehearsal” for the Bears on Friday night.
Game three of the preseason is where the starters see the most action, so that means Jay Cutler and the first-team offense will play the entire first half. Lance Briggs and the defensive starters around him will as well.
The Bears won their first two preseason games if that means anything at all, defeating the Eagles in the opener at Soldier Field and then coming back to beat the Jaguars last week at home.
Through the first two games, the Bears have outscored opponents by seven points, outgained them by 51 yards and have won the time of possession battle by 18 minutes. The turnover differential is even.
Even though it doesn’t technically count, this game is important for many different reasons. With the home opener against Buffalo just 16 days away, some kinks need to be worked out for this revamped Bears group under head coach’s Marc Trestman’s direction for a second season.
Some areas that will be the focus against the Super Bowl champion Seahawks are the return game, special teams tackling, backup quarterback battle (Clausen vs. Palmer who wins?), linebacker play, and safety rotation.
Here are five players to watch closely in Friday night’s game in Seattle.
After missing the first 17 days of training camp recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, Conte seems to back in the mix at safety. He wasn’t cleared in time for last week’s game, but the fourth-year pro has a chance to regain some lost time. Ryan Mundy is locked in as the starting strong safety, while Danny McCray, Adrian Wilson, rookie Brock Vereen and Conte are all battling for the starting free safety job. Conte has six interceptions and 18 pass deflections in three seasons with the Bears. But he’s entering the final season of his rookie deal and he struggled mightily alongside one of the worst Bears defenses of all time last season. He needs to show plenty of progress if he wants his job back otherwise he could be relegated to a rotational or bench spot this season. This is a big game for the 25-year-old Cal product.
This year’s second-round pick out of LSU only started 12 games in his time there, so the run stuffer still has plenty of progress to make. Ferguson made two tackles, one solo against the Eagles, but was held off the box score against the Jaguars. He has looked good in training camp, especially in one-on-one drills, but he’s still rather raw. Ferguson, enters the league with his new buddy Will Sutton, the Bears’ third-round selection. That will help both of them learn together behind veterans Jeremiah Ratliff and Co. This is a big night for Ferguson, who could be a big part of the defensive line rotation alongside a new-look group.
Although Scott has only three sacks over the past three seasons with three different teams, the crafty veteran has 18 starts and 16.5 sacks to his name in six NFL seasons. A sixth-round pick by the Raiders in 2008, the now 29-year-old Scott signed with the Bears back in the first week of March. He’s made seven tackles this preseason and has shown nice burst off the edge. He also forced Nick Foles into making a couple mistakes in the preseason opener with two quarterback pressures, one that turned into an interception. At 6-foot-5, 260, Scott is a very elusive player and should lock in a substantial role behind Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston if he can continue his success in this third game.
The Bears’ fourth-round pick this year has been a big part of the team since the day he was drafted. He took the field with the first-team defense next to Mundy in OTA’s and has gotten plenty of work in training camp there as well. It remains to be seen if he can carve out the starting free safety gig, but he should be considered the slight favorite with a whole off-season of work under his belt. Like mentioned above Conte is late to the party which will make things hard for him to win the job right away. Vereen has nine tackles this preseason and has a huge shot at being a starter in Week One with a complete performance against Seattle.
The 29-year-old Virginia Tech product has five catches for 77 yards this preseason and can win the No. 3 receiver spot with more impressive plays this week in Seattle and next week in Cleveland. Santonio Holmes is working his way back into shape while learning the playbook and there isn’t much other competition for that spot with second-year man Marquess Wilson (collarbone) injured. Morgan has appeared in 79 games with 54 starts in six seasons with San Francisco (2008-11) and Washington (2012-13), hauling in 199 receptions for 2,488 yards (12.5 ypc) and 11 touchdowns. He’s a solid blocker and a steady receiver, who could be counted on to make big third-down catches in traffic. Consider him Earl Bennett of a couple years ago, when Cutler looked that way often on key third-downs. It’s Morgan’s job to lose. Let’s see what he can do.
Honorable mentions: Defensive tackle Will Sutton, returners Chris Williams, Michael Spurlock and Darius Reynaud and safety Adrian Wilson.
What will you be watching tonight when the Bears battle the Super Bowl champion Seahawks?
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