The fourth preseason game, in terms of entertainment value, is one of the reasons the league is trying to push an 18-game schedule and a reduced preseason. I think it's pretty much confirmed that players like Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Joe Thomas, Alex Mack, and a whole slew of other starters will not even play.
Heck, even the Bears are taking the same approach, and they haven't even been able to get into a groove yet offensively. The team's top two quarterbacks, Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie, won't even play. To begin the game, you're bound to see a battle between Colt McCoy and Todd Collins.
Nonetheless, here are some notes and things to look for in today's game against the Bears...
- We should see the debut of running back Montario Hardesty, but I don't expect him to make up for his missed time with a full game of work. My guess is that he will be involved in the first couple of series in the first quarter, and maybe for a drive in the second quarter. Eric Mangini seems pretty confident in his ability without actually testing him against live competition, so I think he'll be more interested in evaluating the battle between James Davis and Chris Jennings.
- Last year, cornerback Coye Francies started against the Bears in the final preseason game and posted seven tackles. This might be his debut today, but unlike Hardesty, I anticipate seeing a lot of Francies. Besides Hardesty, Francies is the player I'm most interested in during tonight's game. I want to see if he can still bring the tight coverage and physical presence he brought last preseason.
- I want Marcus Benard and Brian Schaefering to start, and I think both of them will generate a consistent pass rush against the Bears' backups.
- It'll be interesting to see whether David Bowens plays against Chicago. If he plays, does that mean he's basically "gone," or does it mean the staff just wants to prepare him for the regular season? If he doesn't play, does that mean they'd rather see the rookies and will release him, or does it mean a "veteran" gets the rest and has a roster spot locked up?
- Similarly, I'm curious how much we'll see of Bobby Engram. I'd like for him to start, because I think Colt McCoy is comfortable throwing to him. On the same token, it might be more beneficial in the long run to get a better look at Carlton Mitchell, who hasn't played very well in the preseason games.
- Two starters who probably will play at least a couple of series are right guard Shawn Lauvao and right tackle Tony Pashos. They should see action because they missed some time during training camp. Also, with Lauvao, there's no guarantee that he is the official starter. For all we know, the team could re-insert Floyd Womack into the starting lineup come Week 1.
- What else is there really to watch for? We're going to see our second-string offensive line get eaten up, a defensive front that can't generate very much pressure, a special teams unit that doesn't have Joshua Cribbs, and probably some bland playcalling on offense and defense. That's the reason why today's list of "what to look for" is short compared to the past several weeks.
- On second thought, here is what I'll end with: which player is going to really have a good game and make you think "hmmmm, this guy could actually contribute." If you think it can't happen, remember that Chris Jennings won over fans for what he did against the Bears in the final preseason game last year. I believe he had 6 catches for 50+ yards, and he averaged about 3.7 yards per carry on 9-10 carries.
Tonight's game thread will go live at 5:00 PM EST, and the official kick off time is at 8:00 PM EST. Then, a week from Sunday, on September 12, it's football time!