What the BEARS are hoping to settle in their 3rd preseason game in Seattle…

Jay Cutler and the BEARS offense will look to continue building on a solid preseason showing against one of the best defenses and loudest opposing crowds in the NFL in their 3rd preseason game versus Seattle...
Jay Cutler and the BEARS offense will look to continue building on a solid preseason showing against one of the best defenses and loudest opposing crowds in the NFL in their 3rd preseason game versus Seattle…

Published by Jerz 8/18/2014

The Chicago Bears came into 2014 training camp with a “laundry list” of items to sort out. The derby at Safety is real and the juggling of Linebackers, revolving door at Running Back and battle for the #2 Quarterback position may all be coming to a conclusion.  Add to that the searches for a #3 Wide Receiver, #2 Tight End, Punt and Kick Returner plus a new Punter and Long snapper and this has been one of the most interesting preseasons in recent memory. There is no question that competition is good for your football team and this camp has been competitive as one can be. Having an opportunity to “dress rehearse”, for the start of the regular season, against the defending Super Bowl Champions in their building is as good as it gets. Playing in Seattle over the past few years has been a daunting task. Having to deal with one of the best defenses in football, a very efficient offense that runs the ball aggressively, a QB that doesn’t make mistakes all while dealing with the loudest home fans in the NFL is the best test you can have. Here are some things the BEARS will hope to settle in their visit to the Pacific Northwest…

The BEARS offensive line will be challenged to communicate effectively in the crowd noise and keep a very aggressive pass rush off the back of BEARS Quarterbacks. Jordan Mills (l) and Kyle Long (r) haven't played a lot together this preseason due to injury and will need to get on the same page quickly versus Seattle...
The BEARS offensive line will be challenged to communicate effectively in the crowd noise and keep a very aggressive pass rush off the back of BEARS Quarterbacks. Jordan Mills (l) and Kyle Long (r) haven’t played a lot together this preseason, due to injury, and will need to get on the same page quickly versus Seattle…

The BEARS Offensive Line was the MVP of last year’s team, in my eyes. Without it’s monumental improvement from the year before, BEARS Quarterbacks wouldn’t have enjoyed the success they did. The BEARS will look for this same unit (returning all 5 starters) to repeat the success of 2013, in hopes of helping this team make a playoff run. In addition to stellar pass protection, at times, the line helped Running Back Matt Forte rush for career highs in yards ( 1,339) and touchdowns (9). The expectation is the line play should be even better in 2014, with another season to build on their success. The unit knows they were fortunate, as far as injuries go, with all 5 starters being able to start all 16 games in 2013 (rookie Tackle Jordan Mills left the last game of the season with an injured foot). They are hoping to keep this unit healthy for all 16 games (and hopefully beyond), despite having 3 of the 5 coming into training camp recovering from some type of injury. Left Guard Matt Slauson missed some time early in camp recovering from off season shoulder surgery (though he should be ready to start the season) and both Jordan Mills and Kyle Long have been led along slowly in camp recovering from injuries of their own. If the BEARS offense is to come close to duplicating the success of 2013, the line will have to stay as healthy as possible. This visit to Seattle gives the unit a chance to work under some very strenuous conditions in preparation for the season as well as a chance to see how they fair against arguably one of the most physical defenses in the NFL.

You can't talk BEARS defense without mentioning playmakers Lance Briggs (l) and Charles "Peanut Punch" Tillman (r). Both are in the twilights of their very productive careers but the BEARS hope they have enough left in the tank to help lead their defense back to prominence...
You can’t talk BEARS defense without mentioning playmakers Lance Briggs (l) and Charles “Peanut Punch” Tillman (r). Both are in the twilights of their very productive careers but the BEARS hope they have enough left in the tank to help lead their defense back to prominence…

The BEARS defense will get a front row seat to watch what a mean, physical, aggressive defense looks like when they face Seattle. The defense hopes to regain it’s status as one of the best in football after going from a top five unit in 2012 to one of the worst in 2013. The Seahawks provide a great test for a unit that wants to be more physical at the point of attack against the run in 2014. This was an area that was hard to watch for fans as the BEARS were an absolute joke against the run. The additions of Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston coupled with the re-signing of former Pro Bowl tackle Jeremiah Ratliff gives the BEARS their best looking front four in recent memory (with holdover Stephen Paea playing for a new contract). Added depth in the draft to go along with veterans Nate Collins and free agent signee Willie Young include 2nd rounder Ego Ferguson and 3rd rounder Will Sutton. Veteran Defensive Ends Austen Lane and Trevor Scott have also shown flashes of life and are making things difficult for David Bass and Cornelius Washington who are hoping to make the team. There has been constant shuffling in the back 7 (at Linebacker and both Safety spots) but the front 4 seems about set. The BEARS will be looking for continued improvements from Linebackers Jon Bostic and Shea McClellin and hope to mix Safety Chris Conte into the competition in the secondary after being activated off the PUP list (physically unable to perform) to test a surgically repaired shoulder. My hopes of former Pro Bowler Adrian Wilson making this team are dwindling as his time with the 1st unit continues to diminish. He (and the likes of MD Jennings and Craig Steltz)  have these last 2 preseason games to show they have what it takes to make this squad.

The tandem of Alshon Jeffery (l) and Brandon Marshall (r) hope to continue building of each other's success as they seek to prove they are the best 1-2 punch in the NFL at Wide Receiver...
The tandem of Alshon Jeffery (l) and Brandon Marshall (r) hope to continue building off each other’s success as they seek to prove they are the best 1-2 punch in the NFL at Wide Receiver…

There is no question Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery pair up to make an unbelievable tandem of pass catchers that cause matchup problems for defenses every week. The real question emerged, when promising 2nd year pro Marquess Wilson went down with a broken clavicle, as to WHO now will step up in the battle to replace the production the 6’4″ Wilson was expected to provide? That scenario got more interesting as the team signed veteran receiver Santonio Holmes, last week, and cut ties with receiver and return specialist Eric Weems. Weems seemed to seal his own fate in last week’s preseason contest against Jacksonville with a fumbled kickoff (that turned into 7 points for the opposition) and a miscommunication on a pass play where he and Quarterback Jay Cutler weren’t on the same page. Weems was basically ineffective in both phases and now opens up the battle for punt and kickoff return duties as well. My hunch is the 30 year old Holmes may be given a shot to return punts in these next 2 contests (despite not doing so since 2010). Former CFL standout Chris Williams has yet to show what he can do in the return game as he continues to nurse a hamstring injury he suffered in the 1st preseason game against Philadelphia. Veteran Michael Spurlock hasn’t looked spectacular  fielding punts, so far, and really puts the team in a crunch to identify who will handle those duties to start the regular season. Veteran Josh Morgan has looked the best, of those competing for the 3rd receiver spot, but the addition of Holmes puts him and the rest of the guys in that battle on notice with 2 preseason games to go.

Veteran journeyman Quarterback Jordan Palmer may have lost what looked like a firm grip on the #2 Quarterback spot, behind Jay Cutler, largely in part to the solid play of fellow veteran Jimmy Clausen. The BEARS also look to identify their backups at Running Back and Tight End in these last 2 preseason games...
Veteran journeyman Quarterback Jordan Palmer may have lost what looked like a firm grip on the #2 Quarterback spot, behind Jay Cutler, largely in part to the solid play of fellow veteran Jimmy Clausen. The BEARS also look to identify their backups at Running Back and Tight End in these last 2 preseason games…

The question of who would backup Jay Cutler and Matt Forte in 2014 has, at times, taken a back seat to other position battles on the team. These could be 2 of the most important positions to fill on a football team and the BEARS will come one step closer to identifying those individuals after the contest in Seattle. As far as the Quarterback position goes, I think the forgotten about Jimmy Clausen is the direction the BEARS will go. He’s shown a very impressive control and poise when operating the offense and had to deal with some technical difficulties with the communication from the sidelines which Head Coach Marc Trestman felt he handled fairly well. Clausen has to be applauded for coming in (early June)and digesting as much of the BEARS offensive system as he has to this point. The loser of the battle between Clausen and fellow veteran Jordan Palmer will more than likely be kept on speed dial leaving rookie David Fales as the 3rd emergency Quarterback (if the BEARS keep 3 to open the season). If anything, I think Fales has done enough, to this point, to be tucked away on the practice squad for further development. The #2 Running Back position is ultimately up to veteran Shaun Draughn and rookie 4th rounder Ka’Deem Carey (with Draughn said to be the late favorite). Rookie Free Agent Senorise Perry has looked impressive, at times, but last year’s #3 Running Back Michael Ford and rookie Free Agent “folk hero” Jordan Lynch haven’t gotten many carries as of late. Ford was my early favorite (having a year of the offense under his belt and the ability to return kicks) but Draughn has come on strong and can also return kicks if needed. I, like many BEARS fans, will be glued to the television watching ALL of these developments fall into place and it couldn’t come against a better opponent…

Big Steve and I will be bringing the REAL on Wednesday Nights!

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