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What (not who) to watch in the HOF game

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A lot of future practice squad and Canadian football players will see the field tonight but it’s still worth watching

NFL: Chicago Bears-Training Camp Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Hall of Fame game will be fans first taste of football after a long offseason full of excitement and anticipation.

Unfortunately, it is also a preseason game, right up there with the fourth preseason game, as the worst of the bunch, with many starters being held out and tons of backup and end-of-roster guys getting long looks. It usually more closely resembles a low-level college game than an NFL game.

However, that shouldn’t be a fly in any starved football fan’s bowl of Cheerios. There’s still plenty of interesting things to keep an eye on.

Offense

Mitchell Trubisky may not even see the field tonight to give fans a brief glimpse of where he’s at in processing this new offense, but his back ups, Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray, should get long looks.

Both back ups have spent a good amount of time in Matt Nagy’s offense and that means they should command it pretty well. So, even without a game plan, playcalling could be relatively open, unless the coaches really want to reserve what’s on film.

Keep an eye on formations and personnel. Reports from camp say that there has been a ton of substitutions and personnel packages. Tonight will be the first shot at getting a look at how certain position groups are used (see TEs, RBs) as well as how they line up. Look out for lots of presnap motions and, of course, those “kill, kill, kill” calls and/or RPO looks after the snap.

Tempo will be another thing to watch: will coaches want to go up tempo just to practice real game situations with play calls from the sideline and lining up with a ticking clock.

Defense

Preseason defenses are typically quite vanilla and there’s a good chance that doesn’t change much, but playcalling could be worth watching here.

Vic Fangio finally gets full say over his unit, after the past three seasons working under John Fox, where it was rumored the former coach meddled in the defensive calls.

Will Fangio show different looks or personnel sets here? There’s certainly not going to be a ton of blitzing but there’s still some new wrinkles that might show up.

Also watch out for the flags: how will these new helmet contact rules be called? Is it going to be a sloppy penalty-fest? The referees are the same ones that spent time with the Bears in Bourbonnais so there should be a level of familiarity there.

Special teams

Lots of the bottom of the roster players and UDFA guys will get a chance to make the squad in the third phase here.

Check out Jacob Infante’s great series looking at some of those players.

There’s also plenty of intrigue as this will be the first look at the new kickoff rules. Will players false start or are they used to now waiting until it’s kicked. Even downing the ball has changed.

So dismiss the game as bad football all you want, but there is still plenty to learn about these new-look Chicago Bears in Canton tonight.