First preseason games are hybrids they mean very little to established veterans, very much to the un-established young players and to others immersed in a serious competition for a starting job.
Three specific CSNChicago.com targets will hold the biggest interest on Thursday night when the Bears host the Denver Broncos:
1. The rookies:
Shea McClellin is a story; can he rush the passer? Alshon Jeffery is another; can he work with the passer? And so on.
The key here is more than one player. It is how the 2012 Bears draft performs in total. The draft is the reason Phil Emery was hired to replace Jerry Angelo as general manager.
Rookie classes can form franchise cores with multiple high-grade starters. The Bears hope they had one of those drafts in 2011 with Gabe Carimi, Stephen Paea and Chris Conte as their first three picks.
What Emery and his staff brought to the organization starts to become evident Thursday night. It is a rare chance to actually see into the future.
2. Defensive tackle:
Stephen Paea is a pivotal figure for the 2012 defense, a nose tackle with the speed of a three-technique, which he may be soon. Henry Melton is in a contract year, a streaky player in 2011 who cannot afford to be this year.
Julius Peppers is a set-it-and-forget-it force on the edge. But this defense, any defense, lives on the ability to rule the middle.
With the uncertainty surrounding Brian Urlacher and the middle linebacker situation, few positions are more crucial to the Bears than the two closest to the ball on defense.
3. Left tackle:
Even with all their injuries up front, the Bears didnt have an offensive line problem in 2011; they had a left-tackle problem. The Bears ran for more than 2,000 yards and had three different 100-yard rushers in 2011, and Jay Cutler was being sacked at a rate below the NFL average before his thumb injury.
But left tackle was the victim of poor play by JMarcus Webb and poor offenseing by Mike Martz. The latter excuse is no longer in place. If the former problem is still there, the Bears need to start finding out about it. Now.
Weve got to come out fast and make sure all our Is are dotted and Ts are crossed, said Webb, who has had to deal with Peppers in practice and now gets a test at the other end of the size spectrum with an edge rusher like Denvers Elvis Dumervil.
Definitely looking forward to blocking somebody else. Julius is a big dude. I get to put my hands on somebody smaller so it should be fun.