The Bears’ regular season opener is only 16 days away. However, before they can take the field in Week 1 against rival Green Bay, the Bears have two more preseason outings, beginning with the dress rehearsal on Saturday night in Cincinnati.
Game three of the preseason is where we see the first-team units for much of the night. Bears’ head coach John Fox said he plans to have his starters play into the third quarter, according to the Tribune.
Just following the third week of the preseason schedule, all 32 NFL teams will have to trim their rosters down to 75 players by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Then after the preseason finale next Saturday, all rosters must be at 53. The Bears face Cleveland in the final preseason game on Thursday.
Playing a solid team like Cincinnati will be a good test for the revamped Bears on Saturday night. With that being said the Bears have a vast amount of guys simply fighting for a chance.
Here are five players to watch against the Bengals on Saturday night at Paul Brown Stadium.
For now 12th-year veteran Jared Allen is in the starting lineup. He has the clout and he certainly has the smarts, but does he truly have what it takes to be a full-time outside linebacker?
That remains to be seen.
Allen has two tackles, a quarterback pressure and a pass breakup in two preseason games. The pass breakup, which really should have been an interception can be seen below.
— Jake Perper (@BearsBacker) August 16, 2015
He hasn’t looked bad, but he hasn’t looked great either. Outside of the quarterback pressure he generated last week against the Colts in the 4-3 sub package, Allen has been rather quiet. With Sam Acho showing well so far this preseason, Allen has to be worried about his starting gig.
However, defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff’s three-game suspension will give starting outside linebacker Pernell McPhee a chance to move inside at defensive tackle at times which could mean Allen and Acho will play together at linebacker. Either way, Saturday night is a big game for Allen.
The second-year offensive tackle drew the start last week at right tackle with Jordan Mills not holding his own in the preseason opener against Miami and in practices during training camp. Charles Leno had an up and down performance against Indianapolis, but he should get another crack at locking down the right tackle job.
With Jermon Bushrod’s back issue flaring up again this week in practice, Leno lined up with the first-team at left tackle with Mills back at right tackle. Hopefully, Bushrod’s health improves before the season opener against Green Bay or the Bears could be in big trouble.
The right tackle spot is the weakest part of the Bears’ offensive line, but if Leno keeps improving it could be patched up so to speak. A second straight start in the dress rehearsal on Saturday is huge for Leno.
In his second season with the Bears, Houston has a lot to prove. Coming off a torn ACL, the sixth-year Texas product missed the final eight games a year ago. He is finally healthy and is running with the second-team opposite his former Longhorn teammate Sam Acho.
At 6-foot-3, 270 lbs, Houston has the ability to play all over the Bears’ defense including at defensive end or even defensive tackle if need be. Much like Pernell McPhee, Houston is a versatile defender.
Saturday night will be Houston’s biggest test to date. He recorded one tackle and a quarterback pressure last week in his preseason debut against the Colts. Along with Allen, Houston is an expensive player, who needs to showcase what he can bring to the table in a key role in Vic Fangio’s defense.
Second-year cornerback Terrance Mitchell has flashed playmaking ability with two tackles and an interception this preseason. The interception which was reeled in just over Colts’ wide receiver Donte Moncrief’s reach can be seen here. Mitchell is an underdog in the race for playing time next to starters Kyle Fuller and Tim Jennings.
Right now off-season additions Alan Ball and Tracy Porter are battling back to full strength just in time for this game. Sherrick McManis has played well alongside Mitchell too. The two youngsters have a chance to be solid depth, who could emerge at some point this season.
The battle for the No. 3 slot corner spot might not end until after the matchup with the Browns on Thursday.
Perhaps one of the strongest positions coming into training camp was wide receiver with Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson as the top four guys is now the weakest. All four players are out with injuries as Jeffery is battling a calf issue, White (shin) is on the PUP and is out the first six weeks while Royal (hip) and Wilson (hamstring) are being held out.
Jeffery is expected to return for Week 1 as the Bears are just being safe with their top target. Now, some younger guys will get a shot.
One of those players is second-year Northwestern product Rashad Lawrence. He has six catches for 60 yards this preseason. Fourth-year man Josh Bellamy, undrafted rookie Cameron Meredith and Marc Mariani will all be running with the first-team on Saturday night alongside Lawrence.
— Jake Perper (@BearsBacker) August 16, 2015
This third preseason game will be crucial for the Bears to figure out the depth behind the starters. It is very important considering how banged up the position is right now.
What will you be watching on Saturday night in Cincinnati? Make sure to comment below.
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