Preseason games are where jobs are won and lost. Camp is great and it helps coaches evaluate a player's knowledge of the playbook, speed, and coachability, but nothing sets players apart like playing against live competition in a game situation.
The Bears have already suffered some blows on the health front meaning that you should expect to see a lot of the big names playing. Also, it's the first preseason games, so you shouldn't expect to see the big names for very long anyway.
With the spotlight on the back ups and the bottom of the roster getting an extended look, it is a good time to get a look at those players and see who might end up sticking and possibly becoming important depth.
So without further ado, here is what I will be watching for tonight:
Back up quarterback: This is obviously among the single biggest concerns on the Bears and one of the most hotly contested camp battles. Watch to see how Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen run the offense, how efficient they are, and do they take unnecessary risks? Look to see how the players around them respond to each QB and how smoothly they operate.
Safety: The other closely contested position battle is at safety. Never mind which duo starts the game: see how the reps split, who gets time early versus who is playing in the third and fourth quarter. If they rotate a lot early it means the coaches want to see how the guys at the top look against better competition.
Josh Morgan: It remains unknown how long second year receiver Marquess Wilson, who was expected to take on a much larger role this year, will be out with his broken clavicle. Morgan gets first crack at replacing him so pay attention to how often the QBs look his way and how close to Anquan Boldin he appears.
Eric Weems: At one point thought to be a cap casualty, Eric Weems has had, by most reports, a great camp and along with Morgan is in the mix to replace Wilson. He will likely be on the field with Jay Cutler and could feature in the return game battle, too (more on that in a bit). But watch Weems on offense and see how he fares as a pass catcher.
Extra points: Point After Touchdowns haven't been worth watching since the advent of side-foot kicking. However, the NFL is experimenting with a way to make them more difficult. For the first two weeks of the preseason, PAT attempts will be made from the 15-yard line (a 33-yard field goal). Robbie Gould is not impressed.
Punting: The Bears also have a punting battle on their hands between sixth-round pick Pat O'Donnell and Tress Way.
Coverage units: Sticking with special teams for one more point, watch kick coverage and returns. The Bears need to replace Devin Hester and the return battle is between Chris Williams, Michael Spurlock, Armanti Edwards and Michael Ford . Also the coverage units are going to be where Jordan Lynch's spot on the team is won or lost.
Chris Williams: Speedster Chris Williams has been buzzed about since the team signed him back in the winter. Aside from being entrenched in the return battle, he will also be trying to contribute at receiver. He was buried on the first official depth chart of the preseason so if he isn't on the field until the second half, he's not likely to make the team.
Shaun Draughn: The relative unknown in the back-up running back competition was listed as the No. 2 earlier this week. Draughn is on his fourth team and most people overlooked his signing but, if he's the second string, the coaches see something in him. Let's see what he's got.
Rookies: It's always nice to get an early taste of how the rookie class is shaping up. Kyle Fuller might get an extended look, and it will be interesting to see how he fares against Chip Kelly's blur offense and receivers like Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin (if the latter plays). Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson should get a plenty of snaps on the DL after the starters go out, and Ka'Deem Carey will be must-see as he states his case to be Matt Forte's back up. Brock Vereen will be in the mix of the aforementioned safety battle.
Tight end: It remains unknown if Martellus Bennett will return from his indefinite suspension and play tonight, but I would bank on no. If he does play it will be interesting to see the team dynamic with him, but if he doesn't it will be important to see how his back ups - Dante Rosario, and Matthew Mulligan - fare, and see if the Bears have a competent TE other than the Black Unicorn on the team.
Michael Ola: The guy who has been filling in for Kyle Long, Jordan Mills and Eben Britton at different times in camp appears to be in a good position to earn a roster spot as a key back up. How does he do against a pass rush that isn't his teammates?
Shea McClellin: No list of whom/what to watch when it relates to the Bears can be complete without a mention of McClellin and his transition to LB. He surprised some when he was listed as the No. 1 SLB on the depth chart. How does he look in No. 50?
Is there anything I missed? What will you be watching for tonight?