I’ve already written about the importance — or lack of importance — of tonight’s game in the grand scheme of things, but there are a few things that are worth watching:
- If, when and how long does Santonio Holmes play? Are they going to throw him in with the starters as the third receiver right away? Does he still have to beat Josh Morgan out? Then, of course, how does he look? Will we see some of the explosiveness he showed early last season or in his days with the Steelers? Holmes has a chance to be a big part of what the Bears do this season. The Bears need to find out if he’s up to the challenge as soon as possible.
- Welcome back Chris Conte. OK, so there won’t be a parade and likely nobody wearing his jersey, but the fact of the matter is he may be the best the Bears have. This isn’t as much a compliment to Conte as it is an indictment of the other guys. Conte was terrible in 2013, but he was OK in 2012. Maybe OK isn’t what you’re looking for, but it was good enough to help the Bears have one of the best defenses in the entire league that season. And his performance in 2012 — maybe even 2011 too — is better than any of the other Bears have had, outside of 75-year-old Adrian Wilson.
- Can any of these rookies play? Yes, it’s too early to make determinations about what kind of careers anyone in the 2014 rookie class will have, but the Bears’ rookies have been particularly underwhelming. Outside of first-round pick Kyle Fuller (who won’t play tonight, but everyone seems to agree is a keeper), the three best rookies have been CFL product Michael Ola, seventh-round tackle Charles Leno Jr. and, of course, Mega Punt himself, Pat O’Donnell. Obviously, it’s too early to close the book on any of the other guys, but it would be nice to see something to get excited about.
- Will the Bears be fine with Ola at right tackle to begin the season? We haven’t seen last year’s starter Jordan Mills yet this preseason (although he has returned to practice) and his backup Eben Britton has also been injured. There’s a decent chance that Ola will be the right tackle when the Bears start the season. Even if he isn’t, it’s likely that he’ll play at some point as Mills’ foot is officially a big question mark. Cutler was very complimentary of Ola when he met with the media this week, but looking good against the Jaguars and looking good against either the Seahawks or the Week 1 opponent Bills is a different story. Buffalo gets after the quarterback, the Bears have to keep their protected, especially with his injury history.
- Who’s gonna back up Cutler? It seemed Jimmy Clausen had the edge, but Trestman said earlier this week that it will be Jordan Palmer who relieves Cutler tonight. Clausen has more talent, but Palmer is essentially a coach on the field. Is it possible that they both make the team and David Fales ends up on the practice squad?
- Can someone take control of the return game? Micheal Spurlock (not to be confused with Morgan Spurlock) is getting the first crack. I’m most interested to see Chris Williams, a legendary return man in the CFL. They can’t be worse than Eric Weems was, which raises the question: Why the hell did Weems get so many chances last week? Regardless, it’ll be someone else’s job.