The Chicago Bears will kick off the preseason on Thursday night when they welcome the Miami Dolphins to Soldier Field.
The game won’t be a big deal in terms of playing time for the starters, with the top 22 guys on the roster likely only playing for a quarter or so, but there are still plenty of players that are worth keeping an eye on as the Bears greet an actual opponent for the first time under head coach John Fox.
To that end, here are five players that we are going to be looking at as the Bears hit the field.
Coming off of a lackluster season as a defensive end in the Bears’ 4-3 front, Allen is looking to work from a clean slate as he takes the field as the starting outside linebacker in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense on Thursday night.
Allen has looked largely solid in camp so far, but with guys like Lamarr Houston breathing down his neck for playing time and his struggles last season, he’s going to have to really prove himself as the preseason gets underway.
Jay Cutler has gotten a lot of attention during training camp for everything from his relationship with Adam Gase to his streak of unintercepted passes, but the real question facing the Bears is whether or not Clausen is going to be able to succeed as this team’s back-up quarterback.
Shane Carden certainly is not going to be in the running for the role, and David Fales has missed a big chunk of time while dealing with an illness. Clausen has every opportunity to grab the back-up job and run with it, and Thursday provides him with his first chance to do so.
The biggest question mark facing the Bears this season has been focused on their inside linebacker positions. Adding Mason Foster to the mix gives them a bit more competition at the spot, but they aren’t exactly rich in talented players as the team transitions to a 3-4 defense.
McClellin has had a good training camp so far for the Bears, but the real test will come when he’s facing an opposing offense that is hellbent on exposing his weaknesses. How he responds will tell fans plenty about whether or not his camp success has been a sign of things to come, or just another mirage in a disappointing career thus far.
The Bears have basically created a free-for-all derby at the back-up running back position, and Rodgers is going to get the first crack at giving Matt Forte breathers during games. The Bears expect to run the ball a lot more this season, and having a physical running back like Rodgers could help make that an even more effective strategy. .
With Kevin White out of the mix for the Bears during training camp, other wide receivers have had an opportunity to showcase their stuff in Bourbonnais, and Wilson has taken full advantage as he looks to be fully recovered from a collarbone injury that cost him significant time last year.
The competition between Wilson and Eddie Royal for playing time and targets will be an interesting one, and we’ll get things started in a big way on Thursday night.