By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) — Any player will tell you the third preseason game is as close to the regular season as you can get. After tonight’s game against the Raiders, the next time you see the starters — with a few exceptions — will be Sept. 8 against the Bengals.
And that’s exactly why head coach Marc Trestman would like to see progress with his first-team offense tonight in live action. He wants a better start and general consistency from his quarterback.
Of course, there are still jobs to be won as well. Here are 10 players — some starters, some backups — to watch tonight in Oakland:
QB Jay Cutler – Believe it or not, there are signs that Cutler will improve in this offense. He’s 10-of-13 so far during the preseason and that’s partially a result of Marc Trestman’s scheme creating more friendly passes for the quarterback. The problem is, he’s still fighting the demon in his head asking him to make the tough throw, and two of his three incompletions have been interceptions. Cutler has to avoid the turnover devil tonight.
WR Alshon Jeffery – Cutler said Jeffery has had the best training camp of anyone on offense, but we’re still waiting to see the connection between them blossom in a game this preseason. Part of that may be a result of the Bears not wanting to show their hand on offense, but you’d like to see Jeffery get involved Friday night in Oakland.
TE Martellus Bennett – Two games, zero targets. It’s probably not a big deal, but like Jeffery, the Bears would probably like to see Bennett at least get a catch tonight.
WR Joe Anderson – With Earl Bennett still out, there are touches available for guys like Anderson, who looks like a lock to make the 53-man roster. Like everyone else not named Brandon Marshall, Anderson didn’t get any looks last week against the Chargers. He’s still pretty inexperienced as a wide receiver and can use the work.
WR Marquess Wilson – It’s still premature to consider Wilson a lock for the roster. The Bears don’t want to lose him in waivers, but they’re also going to keep the best 53 players on the team and Wilson still has work to do. He was hurt by Matt Blanchard’s injury last week as the Bears couldn’t run what they wanted to run late in the game. Wilson needs to continue to prove his worth as a receiver and special teamer tonight.
LB Jon Bostic – Both of the first two preseason games have been up and down for Bostic, but he’s definitely earning the trust of defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. With D.J. Williams’ status still in doubt for the start of the regular season, Bostic has a chance to cement his starting spot tonight.
LB Lance Briggs – There have been zero complaints about Briggs taking over the play-calling duties, but tonight will be his first real test recognizing formations and making checks as both teams game-planned a little more against each other this week. It will be interesting to see how he handles it.
DE Julius Peppers – Expected to play for the first time this preseason, it will be interesting to see if Peppers is fully healthy. He likely won’t play as much as the other starters, but the Bears at least want to get him in there so they can see what the unit looks like with all 11 projected starters on the field at once.
RT Jordan Mills – The right tackle job is his to lose at this point and the rookie needs to continue to show he can handle the job. Last week’s performance against the Chargers was a welcome surprise for the Bears, but they need to see it continue against the Raiders before they anoint him the starter.
RG Kyle Long – Long obviously has a leg up on James Brown right now at right guard, but Brown has been impressive too. That should motivate the first-round draft pick to keep ascending as he continues to catch up.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.