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5 things to watch for in tonight’s Bears game

Updated: August 15, 2013 11:08AM



The preseason with a new coaching staff is all about incremental progress. And setting the bar low.

‘‘When you’re a new staff on a new team, it’s going to come slowly,’’ Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. ‘‘We’re trying to get a feel for the players and what they do best. As they learn our system, they’ll fit themselves into it. It’s going well. It’s on pace. [But] would you say we’re ready for the Cincinnati Bengals in Game 1? I’d say no.’’

After an uneven offensive performance in the preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers last week, Jay Cutler and the Bears’ first-team offense are expected to make at least a small step forward against the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night at Soldier Field.

Cutler threw an interception on his first attempt against the Panthers and was 6-for-8 for 56 yards for a 54.2 passer rating. He’s generally better in his second preseason game. In four seasons with the Bears, Cutler has no touchdown passes and three interceptions in his first preseason game but three touchdown passes and no interceptions in his second.

Cutler will be the focus as fans search for indications that he and the offense eventually will click under coach Marc Trestman. But from the starting debuts of guard Kyle Long and tackle Jordan Mills to the emergence of middle linebacker Jon Bostic to the search for a third receiver with Earl Bennett out with a concussion, the night will be loaded with intrigue if not entertainment.

Staff reporters Mark Potash and Adam L. Jahns offer their top five things to watch in the Bears’ second preseason game.

MARK POTASH’S WATCH LIST

C.J. WILSON, CB: The undrafted rookie from North Carolina State had three tackles against the Panthers, including one on special teams and has caught the attention of Marc Trestman, who referred to Wilson as one of the bright spots of training camp.

BRITTAN GOLDEN, WR: While the focus often is on other receivers, Golden, an undrafted rookie in 2012 from West Texas A&M, seems to find his way into the picture with a big catch in practice. He’s an overlooked playmaker who might click if the stars align.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A lot of fringe players need to make an impact on special teams to make the roster, so it will be interesting to see if the production can match the effort. Newcomer Brandon Hartson will be the long-snapper for injured Pat Mannelly. Will Kyle Long still be on special teams as an offensive starter?

JOSH LENZ, WR/KR: Wes Welker-types will always be intriguing players in Trestman’s offense. The 6-0, 194-pound rookie from Iowa State runs a 4.36 40, has a 38-inch vertical and could find a niche if he gets an opportunity.

NATE COLLINS, DT: After getting the Bears’ lone sack and also a tackle-for-loss against the Panthers, Collins ­figures to get an even better shot against the Chargers with Henry Melton out with a concussion.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash

ADAM L. JAHNS’ WATCH LIST

THE FIRST SERIES: Coach Marc Trestman won’t be merely calling in plays to quarterback Jay Cutler on Thursday. There actually will be some game-planning involved for the first time. The first series could the first true glimpse of how much progress they have made offensively.

MARQUESS WILSON, WR: The rookie showed he can be a playmaker against the Panthers. But the Bears are trying to find out if Wilson can contribute on special teams, too. He will get his first look on special teams this preseason.

TIGHT-END BATTLE: The Bears need another tight end to emerge behind Martellus Bennett and Steve Maneri. Fendi Onobun has all the physical attributes, but had a drop in the end zone vs. the Panthers. Leonard Pope has grasped his responsibilities and routes quickly and should get more opportunities.

JORDAN MILLS, RT: It’s really not a surprise that rookie guard Kyle Long is on the first team, so it’s Mills’ quick ascension at right tackle that has thrilled the Bears. That said, Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin gave Mills problems in practice, making him a must-watch player on Thursday.

ROOKIE LINEBACKERS: Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene showed off their play-making abilities in their first NFL game. But more progress is expected in Game 2, especially when it comes to handling their assignments and using proper techniques.

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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