Chicago Sun-Times

What not to look for in Bears' preseason opener

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As a football coach, Lovie Smith is the anti-fan. He never rushes to judgment. He's never pointedly critical. He rarely tips his hand on even the most inconsequential strategy or personnel issues. And when he watches the Bears play, he never drinks beer. We are impatient to a fault. He is patient to a fault.

It's maddening at times. But if there's ever a time where he sees things better than we do, it's the first exhibition game of the season. There might never be a greater disparity between the anticipation and the substance of any event in an NFL season. (The final preseason game is a shadow-boxing event, but even we know that.)

So when Lovie avoids specifics when asked what he's looking forward to seeing when the Bears play the Buffalo Bills at 7 p.m. Saturday night at Soldier Field, you can't blame him.

''As much as anything, just to see where we are,'' Smith said after practice Thursday at training camp in Bourbonnais. ''I mean, you never know. This is a new year. They'll tell us a lot. I just want to see where we can get a good evaluation of a game situation and start adjusting the depth chart from there.''

Not that the first preseason game can't be an indicator. Jay Cutler was much better against the Chargers in 2010 than he was against the Bills in 2009. He connected with Johnny Knox on passes of 34 and 13 yards, but eventually was overwhelmed by pressure the Bears were not prepared for. That's pretty much was the story of the regular season, when Cutler was good when he had time to throw, Knox was his most productive receiver and protection was an issue most of the season. That Devin Aromashodu was the Bears' leading receiver (4 catches, 78 yards, one TD) and Al Afalava had an interception proved inconsequential in the long run.

So it'll be interesting to see if Cutler connects with Roy Williams; if Dane Sanzenbacher can be as productive in a game as he is on the practice field; if Marion Barber can score from inside the 5-yard line; how Major Wright handles things as a starter at free safety; and if the Bears run-dedicated tight ends make a difference in the running game.

But if Gabe Carimi gets beaten at right tackle; if Roberto Garza struggles with shotgun snaps; if Amobi Okoye doesn't make an impact; if Knox doesn't get as many snaps as Williams; if Matt Forte doesn't play, this is the one time we are better off thinking like Lovie Smith.

''We have time,'' he said.

So first and foremost, keep your eye on the one facet of this game that, more than anything else but an injury, will be a harbinger of things to come if it fails tonight: the grass surface at Soldier Field. The Chicago Park District already has proven it's never too early to worry about that.

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3 Comments

And some place in the bowles of Halas hall Martz speaks. "Looks like were in for a bit of a blow, evast me hearties yoho."

Itresting weather for a field they have been watering and are trying to dry out now. Hope the field holds up.

So Mark we know what not to look for but what should we look for? Is it Blitz pick up and the O-Line not getting beat inside? Should we watch to see if Williams can handle a pass he has had some drops. Do you think they are working on anything specific as most teams do in a pre season game, so maybe execution. Do we look to see what UFA's play hard and are trying to earn a job as opposed to those who have already been handed jobs?

Hey Mark was it me or was Webb screaming "HELP I FEEL LIKE TILA TEQUILA"

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on August 13, 2011 9:37 AM.

Bears' strength at LB paper thin behind Urlacher, Briggs was the previous entry in this blog.

Putting Amobi Okoye's performance in perspective is the next entry in this blog.

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