It’s the only Thursday game of week two this NFL preseason. Who are some spotlight players for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears?
Chad Henne was annointed the starter for the Jaguars to start the preseason, but everyone knows that 3rd overall pick Blake Bortles was going to draw lots of attention. So when he clearly outplayed the field in the opener, it put him on the inside track towards stealing the top spot. A good showing in Chicago could be just the boost he needs to pass Henne on the depth chart.
Head coach Gus Bradley believes free agent signing Toby Gerhart is capable of becoming a full-time workhorse running back. After spending his career as backup to Adrian Peterson, Gerhart is anxious to get on the field and prove. It seems almost fitting his first test will be against the Bears, a team he went to war against for years up in Minnesota.
Nobody talked about him much during the draft and nobody is talking about him now but the Jacksonville Jaguars may have gotten something in linebacker Telvin Smith. Despite questions about his limited size, the rookie out of Florida State showed his speed and athleticism in the openers against Tampa Bay. It was he who put pressure on former Bear Josh McCown that forced an interception return for a touchdown that was the difference in the game. He already has the nickel linebacker job nailed down. Another big day in Chicago might net him even more.
The Bears know what they have at running back in Matt Forte. What they must figure out now is who will back him up. There is some excitement around rookie Ka’Deem Carey. He got extensive work in the opener and while his numbers weren’t eye-popping he showed many of the traits that made him a complete player at Arizona. Improving on that against a pretty good Jaguars defense would help distance him from the pack.
Players don’t go to five Pro Bowls by accident. Adrian Wilson knows how to play in the NFL and he flashed some of his old pop against the Eagles. Still, he has a ways to go. Ryan Mundy, his primary competition for the strong safety job, had an interception last week. Wilson needs some impact plays of his own. His blitzing ability may come in handy, but at age 34 his doubters haven’t quieted just yet.
All in all, the first week of preseason wasn’t that bad for Jordan Palmer. He had over a 90 quarterback rating and threw a touchdown pass. However, he wasn’t nearly as efficient as Jimmy Clausen, the man trying to beat him out for the Bears’ backup quarterback job. Palmer looked flustered at times by pressure and threw a bad interception. Regaining his confidence is paramount, otherwise Clausen may have the job won before the preseason is half over.