Friday, August 12, 2011
Previewing preseason Week 1
By Kevin Seifert
Are you ready for some (sloppy, backup-filled preseason) football?
Opponent: Buffalo Bills
Location: Soldier Field
Date/time: Saturday at 8 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Coach Lovie Smith has given various indications about his intentions for starters' playing time, but the best bet is a couple of series at the most. Tailback Matt Forte has suggested he might sit out preseason games until he has a contract extension, but team president Ted Phillips said this week he expected Forte to play. It's doubtful Smith would put Forte through a rigorous night no matter what the circumstances are. Defensive tackle Anthony Adams (calf) is among the players who aren't expected to see action Saturday night.
Focal point: All eyes will be on the Bears' newly configured offensive line -- especially, in my opinion, center Roberto Garza and left tackle J'Marcus Webb. The Bears need to ensure a smooth transition from center Olin Kreutz, which would help stabilize the entire line. But they also need some reassurance that Webb is ready to protect quarterback Jay Cutler's blind side. Meanwhile, the Bears say that the grass playing surface at Soldier Field will be game-ready after exposed seams in the sod forced cancellation of a practice last week. We'll see.
Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals
Location: Ford Field
Date/time: Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Coach Jim Schwartz plans to get starters a taste of game action but wouldn't reveal his exact plans. Don't expect much more than a quarter of action, though. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) is among the veterans who won't play. That list also includes rookie receiver Titus Young (hamstring) and running back Maurice Morris (hand). Receiver Calvin Johnson (ankle) will be a game-time decision. Quarterback Matthew Stafford will see his first game action since undergoing surgery in January to repair his throwing shoulder. The Lions will also begin what could be a summer-long competition at both place-kicker and punter.
Focal point: You're probably not going to see the starters for very long, but it'll be interesting to watch two developments. First, who will be the initial running back off the bench to replace starter Jahvid Best? The Lions planned for that player to be rookie Mikel LeShoure, who ruptured his Achilles tendon Monday. This week, it could be veteran Aaron Brown. Ultimately, though, it might end up being newcomer Jerome Harrison. Second, keep an eye on how the Lions employ their new linebackers. It's expected that Stephen Tulloch will open in the middle, but Schwartz indicated he would like to get his linebackers action at multiple positions during the preseason
Green Bay Packers
Opponent: Cleveland Browns
Location: Cleveland Browns Stadium
Date/time: Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Coach Mike McCarthy plans to mix and match starters and backups in this game, so it's difficult to say exactly how long each starter will play. A number of starters and prominent players are uncertain to play because of injury situations, including cornerback Sam Shields, tight end Jermichael Finley, nose tackle B.J. Raji and running back Alex Green. It's also unlikely that cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams will play.
Focal point: Many fans will be interested to watch the debut of rookie receiver/kick returner Randall Cobb, who has opened eyes since the start of training camp. These are the types of games where playmakers can shine. It will also be interesting to see how rookie left guard Derek Sherrod fares in his first game action.
Opponent: Tennessee Titans
Location: LP Field
Date/time: Saturday at 8 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Starters could play a few series depending on how the game goes. Cornerback Cedric Griffin and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe are among those who will sit out. It's likely that quarterback Joe Webb will follow starter Donovan McNabb, with rookie Christian Ponder finishing the game.
Focal point: A few weeks ago, I would have suggested that all eyes will be on McNabb. Now, I think it's fair to say that everyone -- including McNabb -- will have their eyes on left tackle Charlie Johnson. He's had an understandably tough adjustment to his new team and offense, but the Vikings can't afford to put their quarterback's blind side at risk.