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A Few Things to Watch For: Bears at Bengals
The Bears were feeling pretty good about themselves after Saturday’s exhibition win over the Colts. But after they reportedly came out on the short end in two days of practice leading up to the game, I’m inclined to think that was as much because of the Colts under-performing as it was the Bears performing well. The Bengals, similar to the Colts, didn’t play well on Monday night against the Buccaneers and I would expect them to pick it up in the last exhibition game in which the starters will see any time. at minimum, I would expect them to tackle better. So once again, we are looking at a good test for the Bears to judge how close or, more likely, how far away they are from being truly competitive.
This game should be about who steps up. The Bears are now officially looking for unknowns to emerge in the wake of injury to rookie WR Kevin White, a more minor, but lingering, injury to veteran Alshon Jeffery and a three game suspension to start the season doled out to defenive lineman Jeremiah Ratliff this week. Jermon Bushrod may also be on the sidelines with a bad back and its unlikely that Eddie Royal will play with a hip injury as well. . This is an opportunity for younger players to make themselves known as potential building blocks for the future. Marquess Wilson will be getting a long look at wide receiver and 2014 third round draft pick Will Sutton will undoubtedly get a good long look as well. Sutton is an interesting story. He was drafted as a 3-technique tackle for the 4-3 and most thought he wouldn’t have a place with the Bears. But he is reportedly emerging as a decent nose tackle. Now is his time to show us. Second round draft pick Eddie Goldman will now likely become the starter at nose tackle. He won’t be coming from nowhere but Bears fans will be watching to see if he continues to progress with what will likely be even more playing time. Other guys to keep an eye on are Willie Young, Brandon Dunn and Cornelius Washington. Each could step up and fill a void on the line in some capacity.
Competitions at OLB and safety continue. For now, Jared Allen appears to be holding on as a starter at the former with rookie Adrian Amos apparently still starting at the latter position. Both positions may still be in flux into the season.
Charles Leno is trying to hold on to the right tackle position. He’ll likely be doing that from the left side if Bushrod is out, giving us a good look at both him and Jordan Mills on the right. The side-by-side comparison could be interesting.
On a related note, with the wide receiver corp down to second and third string backups, it will be even more important for the Bears to be able to establish a running game once the season starts. Keep an eye on this aspect of the game. So far this preseason, I’d say the backups have run the ball well. But the best I can say about the first unit is that they’ve held their own. With or without Bushrod, with or without the wide receivers where a team like the Bengals might reasonably expect the Bears to run the ball out of necessity, if the running game stalls against the Bengals, it might spell bad things for the start of the regular season. Injuries are never an excuse. You either do or you don’t do.