The preseason doesn’t get much credibility in terms of charting the course for a team, but what are some story lines that should still draw attention for the Chicago Bears?
The evolution of Marquess Wilson
Excitement is building around the Bears wide receiving corps for 2014, and it’s no longer just because they have two Pro Bowlers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. A good part of the buzz is surrounding second-year man Marquess Wilson. Scouts were high on his talent coming out of Washington State but off-the-field problems dropped him to the seventh round. At 6’4″ he has the trademark size Chicago is looking for and after spending the off-season with Marshall and Jeffery in Florida, he’s reportedly put on over 20 lbs of bulk to his slender 186 lbs frame. Based on how the work played out for Jeffery from his rookie to his second year, the results for Wilson should show up early.
Mel Tucker and his new defense against Philadelphia Eagles
Chicago Bears fans have a vivid memory of the last time they saw Chip Kelly and his Philadelphia Eagles. In fact they still have nightmares about it. That cold Sunday night was the true low point of the 2013 Bears defense in which it surrendered six touchdowns and over 250 rushing yards. Philly cruised to a 54-11 rout and Chicago ended up missing the playoffs a week later against Green Bay. While it may be preseason, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is certainly still smarting from that humiliation and will want to test his newly reloaded defense against Kelly’s high octane attack when the Eagles visit Soldier Field.
How the offense handles the Seattle Seahawks home field and defense
Most football fans know the NFL preseason has one game out of the four that can be taken seriously, and that’s the third one. In those games the starters typically play into the third quarter, offering a clearer picture of what the team has. For Chicago, they get as big a test as any when they visit the defending champion Seattle Seahawks in their notorious home stadium, domain of the 12th man. If the Bears offense were looking for a great measuring stick to their progress in year two of the system under Marc Trestman, they’ll get one in that loud venue against the “Legion of Boom.”
Whether Jordan Palmer can handle the Phil Emery gauntlet
Jay Cutler is the starter. The debate on that has long since closed. However, there is a very interesting competition starting to boil at backup. Initially it was thought Jordan Palmer, who came in during the preseason last year and ended up as the 3rd string quarterback, would assume the mantle left by Josh McCown. That assumption has since lost a bit of weight. Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery is notorious for creating competition and he worked diligently to do just that. Not only will Palmer have to deal with rookie 6th round pick David Fales who played very well at San Jose State, but he’ll also see a challenge from recent free agent pickup and former second round pick Jimmy Clausen. If one of them makes a move in the preseason, no one should be surprised if Palmer loses his grip on the backup job.