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5 things to watch for in tonight’s Bears vs. Giants game

There will be several things watch for tonight's Bears-Giants game New Meadowlands: Can Bears protect Jay Cutler? Will Roy Williams

There will be several things to watch for in tonight's Bears-Giants game in the New Meadowlands: Can the Bears protect Jay Cutler? Will Roy Williams make an impact? Can Vernon Gohlston regain form? Will any undrafted rookies make a splash? Did Caleb Hanie lose confidence?

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Updated: August 22, 2011 7:45PM

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.--Tonight (7 p.m., Ch. 7, ESPN, 780-AM), the Bears return to the site of the offense’s ugliest and scariest game of the entire 2010 season.

The offense looked completely inept, with offensive coordinator Mike Martz dialing up play calls as if Jay Cutler had spit in his Cheerios that morning. The Bears’ running backs averaged a healthy five yards per run, but they only got seven carries. Meanwhile, Cutler dropped back 21 times and got sacked an NFL record nine times.

The Bears defense played spectacular, allowing the Giants to only score a field goal in the first half, before things started to fall apart late in the third quarter of an eventual 17-3 loss.

As they return to the New Meadowlands, the Bears enter what should be a very intriguing preseason game. Here are five things I’m looking at:

1) Can Jay Cutler walk off the field in one piece?

Technically, he finished the first half, but he didn’t return in the third quarter because of a concussion. It was as if Cutler and center Olin Kreutz were the only two players representing the Bears offense because Giant defenders were racing to see who could level him first. Because it is the second preseason game, Cutler and the starting offense should play significantly more than the opener. But if he makes only a cursory appearance, it would be hard not to view that as an indictment of the o-line and assurance that changes -- including the addition of a veteran -- are imminent. The unit, though, surely doesn’t have any momentum; they looked dreadful in the last public practice of training camp.

2) Will Kellen Davis or Roy Williams please stand up?

Anyone who closely watches the team knows what Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Cutler are capable of. But the two new major additions to the starting lineup are Williams and Davis. The former hasn’t really distinguished himself in the last week of practice but maybe he was waiting to “turn it on” for the game. And, to be fair, he barely played in the preseason opener. As for Davis, he’s made a bunch of plays in practice, but he needs to show that huge target radius in a game, even if its only in the preseason.

3) What undrafted players are going to make some noise?

There’s no question that the overall depth of the 2011 Bears is far superior to the 2010 team. That this club reached the NFC title game was largely aided it’s tremendous fortune, in terms of health. The Bears have plenty of cap space to acquire a few more veterans, but they are very excited about a handful of undrafted rookies they have high hopes for. So players like defensive end Mario Addison, tight end Kyle Adams, receiver Kris Adams, linebacker Dom DeCicco and receiver Dane Sanzenbacher could really help themselves by standing out on special teams. The reality is, a player like DeCicco needs to have a big game, because the Bears are closely watching the linebacker market.

4) Can the Bears apply pressure on the Giants’ quarterbacks?

The Giants have had a lot of turnover along the offensive line. And throughout training camp, I’m not sure there was a better -- more encouraging -- unit than the Bears’ defensive line. But the final numbers against the Buffalo Bills wasn’t overwhelming. Sure, the Bills made sure to get the ball out of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s hand quickly. But, the Bears only had two sacks and three hurries, according to the game stats. The Bears defensive line needs to look more dominant against the Giants, especially veteran Vernon Gholston. He’s shown flashes at camp, but he’s neck-and-neck with the unheralded Addison. In returning to his home stadium (he played for the Jets), Gholston has all the motivation in the world to have a breakout game.

5) How will Caleb Hanie respond?

It’s hard not to see the intent of the messages delivered from the Bears coaches to backup quarterback Caleb Hanie. But, by midweek, they were trying to assure and encourage him. Not surprisingly, Hanie had his strongest practices of training camp on Wednesday and Thursday, although Friday wasn’t quite as sharp. Now, he needs to step up in a game. The Bears don’t want to go get a veteran quarterback, and they want to keep developing and showcasing Hanie. The reality is, Hanie probably won’t be a Bear in 2012, given their investment in Cutler, so the Bears would love to somehow get a draft pick for him. To do that, though, Hanie needs to limit the turnovers and show command of the offense.

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