SAN DIEGO - AUGUST 14: Defensive end Julius Peppers #90 of the Chicago Bears (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Last week's first preseason game did not provide as many answers as questions. We learned that Devin Aromashodu and Johnny Knox are going to be good. We learned that Major Wright will start at free safety for the Bears this season, but because of the fractured finger, probably not in week 1. That's about all the real positive things to come out of San Diego. Last week I detailed a lot of battles to watch for in preseason week 1. All of those battles bear watching again on Saturday night vs. the Oakland Raiders.
Last Week's Leftovers:
- Offensive Line: how does it improve? Look out for Frank Omiyale (#68) & Lance Louis (#60).
- Safety: Josh Bullocks (#36) & Al Afalava (#24) are battling for the last safety spot and will get a lot of playing time due to injuries to Wright and Steltz. And if he plays, keep on eye on Danieal Manning (#38).
- Defensive Line: Marcus Harrison (#99), Matt Toeaina (#75), Jarron Gilbert (#93), Henry Melton (#69) & Corey Wootton (#98) are all very much in the cross-hairs. Toeaina is getting some 1st team reps (he replaced Adams on obvious passing downs to rush from the DT position), Harrison showed little impact last week, Melton has gotten more praise for his burst, Wootton did not do much last week, Gilbert was ineffective and now is nursing some kind of neck/shoulder/back injury.
- Wide Receiver: Rashied Davis (#81) vs. Juaquin Iglesias (#17)
- Tight End Watch: Will they actually get a catch from Cutler? Does Manumaleuna play this week? how is he used?
What's new this week?
If Earl Bennett (#80) plays this weekend, then he should be watched closely. How do his routes look? He's got a hurt hamstring, so does he get separation and can he run away from the defense? Is he coming in with the 2nd group or deep into the 4th quarter?
Brian Iwuh (#62) is now back from injury. He made some plays in last night's practice and has been mentioned by Lovie for his good work. Where & when will he be put in the game? Hunter is nursing an injury; is his roster status in jeopardy? What about Tim Shaw (#58)? I did not see him with the linebackers much on Saturday, but we KNOW he's an absolute beast on special teams. But last weeks special teams were awful, so should Shaw (#58) be looking over his shoulder?
Because of very pressing roster issues in the secondary & on the defensive line, the Bears probably won't keep 7 linebackers. Who doesn't make the cut? (Urlacher, Briggs & Roach or Pisa are a given.) The Roach vs. Pisa loser via trade? Hunter due to injury? Shaw or Iwuh? If Iwuh establishes himself as a very good backup LB & a great special teamer, then the Roach/Pisa non-starter becomes expendable. Will another team be interested in a quality starting linebacker just before the season starts? The matchup to really focus on Saturday will be Shaw and Iwuh.
The cornerback battle is getting good. D.J. Moore (#30) is much improved. Tim Jennings (#26) made a few plays last week. Joshua Moore (#31) is making plays in practice and needs to translate that to the game on Saturday. Corey Graham (#21) is a young veteran who is a very capable backup and possible nickel. Keep an eye on the all.
The battle for the 3rd running back slot is heating up:
Lovie Smith on RB Garrett Wolfe [#25]: "Right now he's in a battle. Kahlil Bell [#32] has had a good training camp so there's good competition."
Look out for both guys on Saturday. Lester will have much more on them tomorrow.
And last, but definitely not least, who is playing quarterback besides Cutler & LeFevour?