The Bears figure to get a final evaluation tonight of the wide receivers and how the position will stack up, at least to start the season.
Brandon Llloyd figures to have an edge for a starting job now after his strong performance last week with Kyle Orton. The team is going to have to whittle down the position and make a decision if five or six wide receivers are kept on the 53-man roster. Mike Hass was on the team all last season but dressed only for the Philadelphia game. There could be more pressing needs elsewhere, especially on the lines. The Bears also like to stock Dave Toub's special teams with reserve linebackers and defensive backs.
It's not a given yet that veteran Marty Booker makes the team in his return to the Bears. Booker has been quiet in the preseason and didn't fill training camp with highlights. Still, he's a player who shows up on Sundays and you can't say that about many of the others in the bunch. Rookie Earl Bennett's strong camp showing has disappeared in preseason. His hands have not been reliable. Mark Bradley has been the antithesis of reliable in his first three seasons. Devin Hester has a spot locked up as does Rashied Davis. It will sort itself out soon enough.
But the receiver situation has to take a back seat tonight to the running game. The team that gets off the bus running must establish some rhythm on the ground tonight for the sake of rookie Matt Forte and the line alike. As successful as the offense was running the ball against Kansas City in the first preseason game--175 yards on 29 rushes--most of that came against Chiefs' reserves. Forte had 25 yards on seven carries.
The running football team must establish the run.
A few other things to watch for:
1. Defensive tackle rotation. Dusty Dvoracek gets into the mix for the first time after a pulled calf muscle sidelined him for the first two-plus weeks of training camp. Israel Idonije made a real impact at Seattle but will get a look outside at end. Rookie Marcus Harrison has flashed signs of ability to contribute immediately and Anthony Adams has been solid. Matt Toeania is in the mix as well and it will be worth watching how the players are used and in what combinations.
2. Backup linebacker. Nick Roach will sit out with a concussion. This is where the Bears build their special teams. Does Mike Okwo, a third-round pick last year, have a chance to state his case for a job? The backups aren't going to get a lot of time but they have to shine when they are in there. Right now, Jamar Williams, Darrell McClover and Rod Wilson figure to be pretty secure. Roach has done well for himself also. It might be a stretch for the Bears to keep eight linebackers which is the number they would need to hit to keep Okwo also.
3. First team. Hate to harp on the offense over and over again but with at least a half of football tonight, and likely time into the third quarter, the first team needs to produce some points. Touchdowns.