After leading three unsuccessful offensive series, Jay Cutler and the Bears are back in action tonight in Chicago against the San Diego Chargers. In just a week the Bears have seen the right side of the line virtually become a tutorial for rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills after a solid but unimpressive game from James Brown, and an abysmal game from THE J’marcus Webb. In addition to starting two rookies, the three weeks of practice against the Bears base 4-3 cover 2 defense won’t adequately prepare the line for the 3-4 based Chargers’ attack. For this reason, I wouldn’t read too much into the overall performance by Long and Mills, but rather watch for the nuances of their job: passing off defenders, communicating on stunts and avoiding pre-snap penalties. There is no doubt they will get beat by newly acquired OLB Dwight Freeney and Co., but do they learn from it and prevent it from happening a second time? That’s the important aspect to watch.
Another rookie headlines the other side of the ball as well. With D.J. Williams’ calf out of a boot and no word on a timetable for return, Florida product Jonathan Bostic gets a second opportunity to display his speed, instincts and maturity in the cover 2 scheme. Transitioning from a collegiate defense based on hunting the ball carrier, Bostic’s responsibilities are now predicated on coverage and gap filling, two things he admitted were unnatural to him. He was successful last week against Cam Newton, taking a 51- yard interception return to the house, but can he do it against an established pocket passer in Phillip Rivers?
With the starters expected to play roughly the first quarter, the real players to watch will be the second string guys still battling it out for roster spots.
Rookie Marquess Wilson has been a hot topic in camp and is duking it out with veteran Devin Aromashodu for the final receiver spot and a role on special teams. It is imperative that he shows the coaches he can be a physical player if he hopes to be one of the 53 on Sept. 9th.
Fendi Onobun arguably had a worse first game than J’Marcus Webb, which is really saying something. He must prove he can catch the ball and utilize his freakishly athletic gifts if he hopes to beat out Steve Maneri and Leonard Pope for the right to play opposite Marty Bennett.
An impressive performance a week ago put Zack Minter in the mix for some looks at defensive tackle and could wind up winning a job with Nate Collins backing up Henry Melton, still concussed, and Stephen Paea.
Matt Blanchard had a turnover last week, but shaped up and played well for the remainder of the game. Unfortunately he won’t be afforded the same amount of reps tonight as he was last week. Trestman has repeatedly said: the way Matt makes the team is by taking care of the ball and showing an understanding for the offense. Deep down I’m rooting for Matt to make the team, but he didn’t last year and there is a chance he gets left off the roster come the regular season.
Overall, this is just another tune-up, but results must be achieved to keep the skeptics of Trestman an Cutler at bay for another week.