The Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs, both 0-2 on the preseason, face each other for game three in a rare Saturday afternoon kickoff. The Chiefs are the third 2015 postseason team that the Bears are facing this summer. Both Andy Reid and John Fox plan to run their starters into the third quarter to give their teams the closest simulation to game conditions that they can get.
If there’s any fun to be had out of a preseason game it comes after the starters come out. NFL rosters need to be cut to 75 players by 4 p.m. EST Tuesday. The scramble will be on to make a play to stand out among the others. Playmakers will win a final chance to make the final 53-man roster next Thursday against the Cleveland Browns.
With so much at stake in all phases of this game, here’s what to watch for.
Kansas City surrendered 126 yards in 20 carries to the Rams last week. The Bears’ entire running back corps should be licking their lips in anticipation of what they could accomplish.
Jeremy Langford will start and look to improve on the eight carries for 55 yards and one touchdown night that he turned in against New England. Jordan Howard also showed up strong against the Patriots, picking up a majority of his 46 yards between the tackles and after contact.
Ka’Deem Carey will be back from concussion protocol and will look to pick up where he left off in game one. He and Jacquizz Rodgers have both run hard this preseason and have been major contributors on special teams. Barring major injury, both should be locks to make the final 53-man roster.
It will be fascinating to see how many times fullback Paul Lasike gets on the field in two-back sets. He ran through New England’s line for four yards on one carry, then spent the rest of his time serving as a road grader in front of Howard. Expect Lasike to survive the first round of roster cuts as the Bears explore the options he brings to their offense.
Unless he comes up with a play at running back or on special teams Saturday, Senorise Perry may be the odd man out in this group.
Cornerback Philip Gaines will see his first action of the preseason against the Bears opposite Marcus Peters. How Kevin White performs against those two will help determine whether the Bears bring him along slowly or if his development has been a lot slower than expected.
Daniel Braverman was a beast in training camp, catching everything thrown his way but he’s been practically invisible in the first two preseason games, both as a receiver and a punt returner. With Eddie Royal still sidelined he’ll have a chance to prove the Bears have more than Marc Mariani as a reliable slot receiver. Mariani has likely already cemented his spot on the roster because he’s shown to be the only reliable punt returner the Bears currently have.
Fortunately for the Bears, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston won’t be on the field to cause mayhem. Unfortunately, Kyle Long is sidelined for the immediate future with a shoulder injury. Expect Ted Larson to slide over to right guard to cover Long’s absence while Cornelius Edison and Khaled Holmes split time at center.
Their play, along with left guard Cody Whitehair will help decide whether Jay Cutler may finally get a chance to air it out downfield. Cutler hasn’t had the pocket time to attempt that so far this preseason.
Neither Jamaal Charles nor Charcandrick West will be available this week at running back, so the Bears are going to miss a great opportunity to work on their run game defense.
Defensive end Akiem Hicks and tackle Eddie Goldman have cemented their starting spots for Week 1. The competition will be to see if Olympic Trapshooter bronze medalist Corey Cogdell’s husband can hold off rookie Jonathan Bullard’s challenge to start at the other end position.
Keith Browner made a couple of big plays in the red zone last week against New England. Keep an eye on No. 28 when he’s on the field. His play so far this preseason has him making a serious challenge for a final roster spot.
The other defensive line battle will likely decide whether 2014 draft picks Will Sutton or Ego Ferguson will survive Tuesday’s first cut. So far Sutton appears to have the inside track.
With Danny Trevathan back from his knee injury the entire squad starting linebackers core will line up and play together in the first half. With Trevathan and Freeman locking up the middle it would be an improvement over the first two games to see Willie Young and Lamarr Houston make their presence felt on the outside.
Saturday will also be a test for Leonard Floyd. Fans will get a chance to see what he can do with Trevathan and Freeman locking down the middle.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has been talking about pushing the offense this week which means the Bears corners will be spending a lot of time chasing down Jeremy Maclin and Chris Conley.
With cornerback Kyle Fuller recovering from a knee scope Bryce Callahan, Deiondre’ Hall and Demontre Hurst should get plenty of opportunities to line up opposite Tracy Porter.
Per usual, the final score will be less important than who steps up in all phases of the game and makes plays. The ones who fail will be treading lightly around Halas Hall this weekend.