Chicago Bears: Jerrell Jackson

Five things to watch: Bears-Panthers

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
9:00
AM ET
Jay Cutler AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJay Cutler is expected to play a series or two against the Panthers on Friday.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Here are five things to keep an eye on Friday night when the Chicago Bears face the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.

1. OL blocking: It's likely the Bears go into this game with a starting five up front that you won't see once the club opens the regular season Sept. 8 against Cincinnati, mainly because of the calf strain suffered by starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who isn't expected to play. The plan is to play the starters just a few snaps. So in that limited amount of time it's important to see how well the group protects and opens the lanes in the ground game given all the changes made schematically. Count on a starting five of Roberto Garza, James Brown, Eben Britton, J'Marcus Webb and Matt Slauson. Rookie Kyle Long should see plenty of snaps, too, and is also a player to keep close tabs on. The only way skill-position players such as quarterback Jay Cutler, receiver Brandon Marshall and running back Matt Forte excel is for the offensive line to sufficiently do its job. If in limited duty, the starting offensive line performs similarly to the way the group played in 2012, it will be clear the group still needs extensive work.

2. Cutler's command of the offense: Cutler is in the midst of learning his fourth offense in five seasons with the Bears, and it would be unrealistic to expect him to operate flawlessly against the Panthers. But he does need to show some degree of command of the new system. So far during training camp practices, for whatever reason, the timing between Cutler and the receiving corps appears to be off. Some of that is a function of Chicago's defensive line bearing down hard on Cutler every play during training camp, and tipping many of his passes at the line of scrimmage. But in this game, the offensive line will have every tactic at its disposal to combat Carolina's pass rush. That should open up some passing lanes for Cutler to be able to find some type of rhythm. It's also worth it to watch how quickly the Bears get in and out of the huddle. The club unnecessarily burned timeouts too often last season, and Marc Trestman's system contains much more verbiage than some of the schemes Cutler has operated in the past.

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McClellin interception highlights practice

August, 6, 2013
8/06/13
5:39
PM ET
[+] EnlargeShea McClellin
Bradley Leeb/US PresswireShea McClellin said he feels faster, and it showed on a nice play Tuesday.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – In a practice filled with defensive highlights, defensive end Shea McClellin authored the play of the day on Tuesday when he sniffed out a screen pass and intercepted a hard-thrown ball from quarterback Jay Cutler in the flat.

McClellin initially rushed up field on the play from his end spot before anticipating the throw by Cutler and coming down with a difficult catch. If the sequence had occurred in a real game, McClellin would have scored an easy defensive touchdown.

"I was just doing my job and reading my keys," McClellin said. "The ball was right there so I picked it off. I was just doing my job. I feel faster out there than I did in the spring after I lost eight pounds. I still feel like I get a little heavier, but I'll work on that after camp.

McClellin has been in a groove the last week, routinely winning one-on-one battles with offensive lineman in individual and team drills. The likely plan for the former first-round pick is to move him around the defensive front, lining him up in a two-point or three-point stance depending on the defensive call or the matchup, while sometimes requiring that he cover a tight end or guard the flat on passing downs.

The Bears asked McClellin to do some of that last year as a rookie, but expect to see more of it in 2013. That's because McClellin should receive a significant boost in play-time in the Bears' three-man starting defensive end rotation that also includes Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton.

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