This Saturday night, the Chicago Bears make their home debut in a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. Action starts at 7:30 pm CT on FOX. Last week's preseason opener offered more questions than answers.
The roster scrum is heating up: LINK
The offensive line is squarely in the cross-hairs: LINK
79: Still the number of Bears on the current roster. The NFL roster cut down date to 75 is August 31st, so most of these guys will get 1 more chance after Saturday to impress the coaches.
8: Number of plays Jay Cutler participated in last week. This should triple at a minimum.
1: Number of real practices 3rd-string QB Matt Gutierrez had. How many snaps will he see in the 4th quarter? Over/under is set at 5.
874: Number of practice/game days missed by Darren McFadden in his short career. (Number not exact.)
RAIDERS: Darren McFadden, RB (hamstring) is out. Charlie Frye, 2nd string QB (out for season, IR, wrist). Bruce Gradkowski, 3rd string QB (groin) is out.
BEARS (in my best Wanny voice): Major Wright is out with a finger. Caleb Hanie is out with a shoulder. Earl Bennett is questionable with a hammy. Hunter Hillenmeyer is questionable with a groin.
The status of Craig Steltz (ankle), Brian Iwuh (knee), Brandon Manumaleuna (knee), & Josh Bullocks (quad) is not known yet. They all missed practices this week.
When the Raiders have the ball:
Look for a heavy dose of Michael Bush between the tackles. 6' 1", 245 lbs of battering ram will be a nice test for the Bears' defensive line. As far as the passing game goes, Jason Campbell is much, much better than Purple Drank. Look out for Chaz Schilens and Louis Murphy on the outside and Zach Miller (TE) in the middle.
On defense, Chris Harris and Danieal Manning figure to be the starting safeties and play a lot because of injuries at the position (Steltz, Wright, & Bullocks could all miss the game). Let's hope they do better than last week.
The defensive line should see a pretty good test. The Raiders offensive line is pretty good, and Michael Bush is real good. Players to watch on the Bears are Henry Melton, Jarron Gilbert, Corey Wootton, Marcus Harrison, and Matt Toeaina; not all of these guys will make the final roster.
Key Matchup: Michael Bush vs. Bears' defensive line
X-Factor: Darrius Heyward-Bey is really fast (and that's about all); Oakland will probably try at least 1 attempt down the field to him. If D. Manning loses Bey behind him for a TD, I will demand he get cut on the spot.
When the Bears have the ball:
The tight ends should be in focus. We've heard all camp about how much Jay has thrown to Greg Olsen, but we did not see it last week. With Nnamdi Asomugha shutting down 1 side of the field (real good test for Knox-DA-Hester), the TE's should be targeted by any offense facing the Raiders.
The Bears' offensive line did not open up many running lanes last week. Can they succeed versus the Raiders? Tommy Kelly, DT, is pretty good (way overpaid though), and Richard Seymour, DT/DE, is real good for their defensive front. Rookie linebacker Rolando McClain was drafted 8th overall to bring more bite to their run defense. Can the Bears' take it to 'em?
Key Matchup: Bears' offensive line vs Raiders' defensive line (see Nique's post for a great writeup)
X-Factor: Dan LeFevour will see a lot of PT this week with Hanie's injury. This gives us (& maybe the coaches) a great opportunity to evaluate him. Will Gutierrez see the field?