The Chicago Bears open up their preseason schedule against the Denver Broncoson Thursday night, and they introduce a brand-new offense in the process. Bears fans will get a brief look at the new offense led by Jay Cutler, who will be throwing to Brandon Marshall for the first time since the two played together with Denver. While the duos appearance figures to be brief, there are some questions on offense that need to be addressed during the first game.
First Possession The first thing I'd like to see from the Bears is a big offensive drive by the first-team offense. According to Troy Aikman's defensive efficiency ratings, the Broncos finished 21st in the league in 2012. The Broncos added to their defense in the offseason, but there weren't any big names added to their defense via free agency. They traded out of the first round of the NFL draft and took a defensive tackle in the second round. I wouldn't expect a rookie to come in and make a big impact in his first preseason game. Therefore, the Bears should not have a problem moving the ball on offense. Armando Allen
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Scoring thee or seven on the first drive should be the goal. Cutler needs to make a big opening-season statement to show how far this offense has come during training camp. Cutler has been bragging to the media (via ChicagoBears.com) about this offense; well, go out there and make a strong statement. No, it's not something that is going to make or break the season, but it would be appropriate for the product to match the hype.
Running Back Battle The battle for the third running back position between Kahlil Bell and Armando Allen will be key during most of the four games this preseason. Bell has had fumbling problems in practice, but he has improved of late. He is a strong, efficient option, who chose to stay with the Bears and is essentially battling for his NFL career. Allen, on the other hand, is the new kid on the block. The second-year running back has placed himself firmly in the running back battle (via ESPN) by having a strong offseason and an even better training camp. Allen is a very fast back who goes all out in practice. He has put it on tape, as the Bears like to say, and is being talked about highly by the coaching staff. He and Bell need to show up from the start of the preseason games. Whoever shines more in these tuneup games should get the nod for the third running back spot.
Second-Round Pick Alshon Jeffery The first real look at Alshon Jeffery takes place versus the Broncos, and he should get plenty of reps. If Jeffery is truly behind Devin Hester on the depth chart, then he needs to play a lot in the preseason. Jeffery should be a big target and possibly lead the team in receiving against the Broncos. Expectations for Jeffery are high, and he'll have a more-than competent backup quarterback getting the ball to him in Jason Campbell. Let's see what the rook looks like under the bright lights of Soldier Field.
Offensive Lineman James Brown All camp long, James Brown has looked good at each position he's played. Brown started at guard, moved to right tackle and is now taking reps in practice as the primary backup at left tackle. While Brown in not officially the backup left tackle, he'll likely be the first one off the bench once J'Marcus Webb takes a seat. Now let's see if his play backs up what I've seen of him in practice. I like what I've seen out of Brown, and to this point, he's matched the third- or fourth-round grade he received coming into the draft. He went undrafted, but the Bears made a strong play for him. Some live action will be a great way to judge just how far along Brown is.
Tight Ends Second-year man Kyle Adams and rookie Evan Rodriguez should get a lot of playing time in the opener. The Bears have shown a lot of two tight end looks, and when they go four wide, it always includes a tight end. Adams has played well, and Rodriguez, to his credit, looked great in camp as well. I would love to see both of these tight ends stand out in their first real action. The opportunities will be there for both, and they'll likely be a part of the 53-man roster.
Conclusion Some of these fringe players may turn out to be very important once the season officially gets going. There always seems to be a few under-the-radar players who offer a jolt of energy once they see some time. Some of these players may need to play big minutes due to an injury, while others represent the future of the Chicago Bears.