NFL Nation: Three things: Bears-Giants 2011

Three things: Bears-Giants

August, 22, 2011
Three things to watch for in the Chicago Bears' preseason game at the New York Giants on Monday night. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on ESPN.

1. Offensive line progress. No shocker here. The Bears gave up nine sacks in their preseason opener, including four by the first team, and have yet to soothe fears about the state of their biggest question mark. The hold of two starters on their respective positions is tenuous at best, and the future of left tackle J'Marcus Webb and right guard Lance Louis could ride on demonstrable improvement against the Giants. (Yes, the Giants are the team that sacked quarterback Jay Cutler nine times in one half last season.) Otherwise, the Bears might be tempted to fall back on Plan B, which would include sliding center Roberto Garza to right guard, inserting Chris Spencer as the center and/or replacing Webb with veteran Frank Omiyale. It might be now or never for this group.

2. Defensive replacements. Linebacker Lance Briggs won't play because of a bruised knee and likely will be replaced by Brian Iwuh. More interesting to me, however, will be the play of two young defensive starters the Bears have put in important positions this summer. Defensive tackle Henry Melton and free safety Major Wright both had nice debuts last week, but preseason or not, it will be important to see them take the next step of starting a night game on the road. Both are in playmaking roles in the Bears' scheme.

3. Using the big receiver: The Bears inserted Roy Williams into their starting lineup earlier this month, displacing former starter Johnny Knox. But by all accounts, Williams and Cutler are still developing an on-field relationship. Williams didn't catch a pass last week, and it's fair to expect at least a hint of the production the Bears are expecting out of him. Knox had a strong week of practice last week and has not willingly accepted his demotion, so stay tuned.

Three things: Giants-Bears

August, 22, 2011
Three things to watch for in the Giants' preseason game against visiting Chicago on Monday night. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on ESPN.

1. Better cohesion along the offensive line. New center David Baas and newly promoted left tackle William Beatty struggled in the first preseason game, as did David Diehl in his new position at left guard. A lot of that can be attributed to change -- offensive lines are always better when they're made up of players who've played together on the same line for a while -- and improvement is to be expected as time goes on. We don't know if they'll get it together in time for the regular season, but they would like to see improvement game-to-game in the preseason so they know the issues are about familiarity rather than quality. Of particular interest Monday night will be the macthup between Beatty and Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, one of the premier pass-rushers in the league. This season Beatty will be facing off against the likes of DeMarcus Ware, Brian Orakpo and Trent Cole in the division, so if Peppers plays and stays in for a couple of series, this should be a good test to see how he handles that level of competition.

2. Identifying and evaluating secondary receiving targets. Quarterback Eli Manning was shaky in the first game, which could have had something to do with the line (and/or Baas specifically). Manning didn't help the Giants get a line on who's likely to take over Steve Smith's role as the slot receiver. I expect to see Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz in that role, and possibly Domenik Hixon, though the team has been trying to limit him as he continues to recover from his knee injury. The Giants would also like to see tight end Travis Beckum play better than he's practiced, since he's their best receiving option at the position with Kevin Boss having gone off to Oakland.

3. Mathias Kiwanuka continuing to settle in at linebacker. There were a couple of plays last week on which Kiwanuka seemed to play as though he'd forgotten he was now a linebacker and no longer a defensive end on first and second downs. He'll have to stay home more, be more patient and pay more attention to coverage assignments. There's little doubt he can do it, but when he doesn't, it stands out, because Jonathan Goff isn't the most seasoned middle linebacker in the world and benefits from having guys on either side of him who know their assignments. I'll also be watching to see if Jason Pierre-Paul can repeat his first-game performance at defensive end, since he looks like the starter for a while now that Osi Umenyiora's had knee surgery.




Sunday, 2/2