Saturday night in New York, the Bears will take on the defending Super Bowl champions and will play their most realistic game of the preseason. Game three of preseason is typically where both the offense and defense show more of what they are expected to do for the season with starters likely playing all of the first half.
With injury concerns after last week’s win against the Redskins there are still plenty of question marks for the Bears moving forward.
Here is my list of five players to watch this Saturday night:
After injuries to starting free safety Chris Conte and to third round pick Brandon Hardin, the Bears have found themselves lacking depth in the secondary. Neither Conte nor Hardin are expected to play Friday night in New York and their injuries will give second-year safety Anthony Walters a chance.
Walters came to the Bears last year as an undrafted free agent. Walters began the year on the practice squad and was part of the active roster for four weeks before an injury ended his season. With Conte and Hardin both expected to be out, he will get the opportunity to show what he can do besides just on special teams. Walters will likely see time with the second unit at strong safety and if he performs well, he could solidify his position on the 53-man roster.
One of the more pleasant surprises last season was the strong play of fullback Tyler Clutts. Clutts, who was with the Cleveland Browns last year during training camp, was signed just days before the start of the 2011 season and immediately became the Bears starter at fullback. Clutts had a solid year paving the way for many of Matt Forte’s runs as well as being a contributor on special teams.
A change in coordinators and offensive schemes may be the writing on the wall for Clutts. The Bears have been leaning more towards using Kyle Adams at H-back and relying less and less on the fullback. Clutts will have to make the most of his opportunities Friday night and prove the value of the fullback in this system.
Signed as a free agent this offseason, Blake Costanzo was brought in to be a major contributor on special teams but because of the injury to Brian Urlacher, Costanzo’s role has changed.
Saturday night against the Redskins, the Bears first team defense lined up the same as it has since the Urlacher injury: Geno Hayes on the strongside, Nick Roach in the middle, and Lance Briggs on the weakside. During the second quarter, the Bears moved Roach back to his natural postion of strongside linebacker and put Costanzo in at middle linebacker. Costanzo played well, finishing the game with six tackles.
Brian Urlacher’s injury is still unknown and despite being adamant that he will be there for the season opener, the Bears have to make sure they are prepared for life without Urlacher. Roach’s best position is strongside linebacker and although Costanzo has little experience in this scheme, the Bears will take a hard look at what he can at middle linebacker. If Costanzo comes out and plays as well as he did Saturday against the Redskins he has an opportunity to push Roach back to the outside and claim the middle in case Urlacher cannot return.
After letting go of Anthony Adams, not resigning Amobi Okoye, and not addressing it in the draft, the defensive tackle position was wide open heading into training camp. The Bears signed John McCargo in the offseason and many believed he had the best shot of making the defensive tackle rotation. Despite an injury to Stephen Paea, McCargo has found himself stuck behind starters Henry Melton and Matt Toeaina as well as Nate Collins and Brian Price.
McCargo has failed to create much of a buzz at the position and has continued to see himself drop on the depth chart. McCargo will need a strong showing Saturday night to not find himself being one of the first players to get cut before rosters need to be trimmed to 80 players by August 28th.
Saturday night against the Redskins the Bears were hampered by three injuries with punter Adam Podlesh’s injury being one of the least talked about. Podlesh injured his hip flexor Saturday night and as of now, it is unknown when he will return.
The Bears are unlikely to bring in any “big name” veterans while Podlesh is out, giving Ryan Quigley a chance to prove himself. Quigley will need to play well Friday night in order to prove his worth to the team in Podlesh’s absence. If Quigley struggles, there is an abundance of cheap punters on the market that the Bears would be more than willing to go after.
Matt Eurich is a contributor to Bearsbacker.com. Follow Bears Backer on Facebook andTwitter for up to the minute news about the Bears. Also, check out Matt’s work onBleacherreport.com and follow him on Twitter @MattEurich.