By Laurence Holmes-
(WSCR) The second preseason game is here and there is plenty to look at. Here’s what I’ll be watching for tonight:
Offensive Starters Reps
The offensive line played the entire first half last week against Buffalo. It’s a big week for the Bears tackles. J’Marcus Webb struggled one-one-one vs. Shawn Merriman. Gabe Carimi looked decent. If Webb falters, do the Bears start looking at flipping the tackles? Consider that Webb played well on the right side at the end of the year last season and Carimi would be going back to his natural position. Will Chris Spencer, who got some reps with the first unit this week (due to illness), get some during the game?
Jay Cutler didn’t play a lot of snaps last week. Neither did Matt Forte. I think their playing time will be contingent upon how well the offensive line performs. The skill position guys need some work, so the line has to play well. Roy Williams was a ghost in that first game. He and Cutler need time to perfect timing in-game situations.
The Backup RB Spots
Marion Barber was a beast last week, powering his way through runs. He finished averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Most of those yards were made after contact. Kahlil Bell helped his case with a strong showing, 73 yards on the ground and 46 yards receiving. Chester Taylor wants to make this team, but if the Bears have heavy numbers at other spots (WR, DL, OL), does it really make sense to keep three tailbacks that don’t play special teams (Forte, Taylor & Barber)?
Defensive Line Play
You know what you have in Julius Peppers, Anthony Adams, Matt Toeina and Israel Idonije. The other spots are up for grabs. Corey Wooton’s injury has opened the door for other players at DE. Vernon Gholston, played like a man who wanted to make a team last week in the game. Mario Addison (#78), an undrafted free agent out of Troy, has been strong this week in practice. At the defensive tackle spot, Amobi Okoye impressed the coaches. He got penetration and made plays and got the quarterback on the ground. Henry Melton got up the field and made plays behind the line of scrimmage. Will Stephen Paea impress? Can Marcus Harrison play well enough to stick around?
At times when you watch Mike Martz pull Hanie aside during practice, he looks like Bill Lumberg asking for TPS reports. Hanie has looked shaken and unsure in practice. He was indecisive vs. the Bills. One of his strengths is his improvisational skills during a game when plays break down. Martz wants him to make plays before that happens. Last week, Hanie spent a lot of time patting the ball in his drop backs. Can he make the quick reads tonight and instill some confidence? Or do the Bears need to start allocating money to coax Marc Bulger out of retirement?
Zack Bowman has struggled with a head injury all week. That gives guys like: Joshua Moore and Corey Graham a chance to shine. Lovie Smith wasn’t satisfied with the lack of turnovers last week. n practice this week, Charles Tillman has amped up his stripping of wideouts. Will he get one vs. the Giants?
And D.J. Moore… All he does is make plays. Always around the ball when the Bears are in nickel.
The edict has come down from the league. KICK THE BALL OFF FROM THE 35! Whether the Bears were protesting the new rule or legitimately looking at the young guys in coverage, it’ll be interesting to see where they line up on national television. Maybe Robbie Gould will just kick it through the end zone. Johnny Knox had a 70 yard return. It was good to see him take his demotion to the No. 2 “X” receiver and still want to play a role.
I’ll be on 670 The Score at 6 p.m. to preview the game, so be sure to listen. With the game on Monday, we’ll move the mailbag back to Wednesday, so send your thoughts via email to me at Laurence.Holmes@cbsradio.com. You can also follow me on Twitter (@LHolmes670)