ARKUSH: Rookies’ performances will be keys for Bears in 3rd preseason game
BY HUB ARKUSH For Sun-Times Media August 22, 2013 10:25PM
Chicago Bears' Jon Bostic (57) spikes the ball in the end zone after returning an interception for a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of a preseason NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
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Updated: September 24, 2013 6:42AM
The Bears will roll into Oakland for their third preseason game and final dress rehearsal for the regular season with starters with a full agenda and a long wish list, as well.
First up for coach Marc Trestman’s team is to get the offense rolling through the air and on the ground. They need to pile up some yardage and points and try to accomplish that task with multiple weapons while securing the right side of the offensive line.
On its face, this game and this opponent appear to offer the offense a perfect canvas on which to paint. The Raiders had one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2012, and a number of the unit’s best players — Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Michael Huff, Philip Wheeler — are gone.
True, a few solid veteran journeymen — Kevin Burnett, Tracy Porter, ex-Bear Nick Roach, future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson — have been added. But this is a defense the Bears should beat, and beat up on, if they’re truly improved on offense.
Most important, Kyle Long and Jordan Mills need to put firm grips on their starting spots at right guard and right tackle as Trestman has said Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson and Roberto Garza are definitely the other three starters.
The Raiders were 18th against the run last year and 30th rushing the passer, and the only defensive lineman on the roster of note is 13-year veteran Andre Carter, who will be a backup at end and a situational pass rusher. Long and Mills must win the night to allow Trestman and Jay Cutler any confidence heading into the season.
The hysteria over Cutler focusing on Brandon Marshall against the Chargers was over-the-top silly, but with a full half and possibly a series in the third quarter, it’s critical that Cutler shows he knows where all his weapons are, and perhaps more critical that Martellus Bennett, Alshon Jeffery and at least one wide receiver among Joe Anderson, Marquess Wilson and Devin Aromashodu prove they’re worthy of his attention.
Earl Bennett almost certainly will be a spectator. But Steve Maneri, Fendi Onobun, Leonard Pope, Kyle Adams and Gabe Miller can’t afford to be the spectators they’ve been in the first two preseason games. The Bears especially would like to see Onobun take the No. 2 tight-end job.
Defensively, while the Bears certainly aren’t worried about Julius Peppers, it would be nice to see him take his first snaps of the season, and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker wants to see consistent pressure on Raiders QB Matt Flynn every time he goes into his nickel package with Peppers, Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin rushing at the same time.
It is also critical that the Bears find a fourth defensive tackle. Henry Melton and Stephen Paea are locked into the starting lineup, and Nate Collins appears to be a solid No. 3. But the Bears will play a three-man rotation at tackle, and with Melton out with a concussion and if any of the three get nicked during the season, depth is critical. At the moment, there doesn’t appear to be any.
Most important for the defense, Jon Bostic needs to take a big step forward in Oakland. He has had a nice training camp for a rookie and shows great promise, but that does you no good in Week 1 when he’s your starter, which he clearly is going to be because D.J. Williams won’t be ready.
When the Raiders run Darren McFadden, Marcel Reece and Rashad Jennings at you, they can be a lot more than the JV. This is going to be the hardest and biggest final exam of Bostic’s young life, and Bears fans have to hope he gets to the right place at the right time a lot more than he has.
Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.