Of course, you'll be watching Friday night.
It's the Bears. It's Marc Trestman's debut (not that he will be showing much in these four preseason games). And it's a welcome alternative to our Chicago baseball summer of discontent. But before you realize it's a preseason game, get bored and put the remote to use at halftime, there's reason to stick with what's going on in Charlotte. Or at least record it, go back and view it later.
McCown and Blanchard. It doesn't sound like Jay Cutler will get more than a few snaps, and maybe a few is generous. Jason Campbell's gone, so we begin to see if Phil Emery's confidence in Josh McCown being worthy of the No. 2 job is valid, even though it is against other second- and third-stringers. Then there's Matt Blanchard's degree of soaking up the system, with an NFL year under his belt, versus the threes and fours on the Panthers' depth chart. Rest assured, if one or both look good Friday night, the early calls for Cutler not being worth "Joe Flacco money" as a free agent will begin.
Whose line is it anyway? If Jermon Bushrod plays (and he probably shouldn't), he'll probably only go as many plays as Cutler. Jonathan Scott's absence as the bookend backup opens things up for a longer look at Eben Britton and draftee Jordan Mills. Will J'Marcus Webb look better at right tackle than he has in camp so far? And will Kyle Long and James Brown split time the entire night at right guard to get an early read for potential longer-term decisions? And will Long get noticeably better as the night gets longer?
Narrowing down the wide margins. With Earl Bennett recovering from a concussion, the effects of his second in nine months in this sport suddenly makes the fourth and fifth wideout positions even more important. Bennett's supposed to be the third, and the gap between him (when healthy) and the rest of the receivers has seemed, well, wide. But Joe Anderson's been coming on after his December cup of special teams coffee. So, then what? Seventh-rounder Marquess Wilson? Devin Aromashodu (part deux)?
Tell us who's behind Martellus. No one on the roster comes close to this Martellus Bennett's physical skill set. What happens if (forbid the thought) he goes down at some point — short- or long-term? I liked last week's pickup of Leonard Pope, then was surprised to see what a "basketball-like" lower body he has while watching Wednesday's practice in Bourbonnais. Still, he's gotten it done with that over seven previous NFL seasons. It's Kyle Adams' crossroads time with the Bears this year. Steve Maneri slides in for Matt Spaeth. There's no Gabe Miller until Week 5. And Fendi Onobun's time is now if he's ever to make it in the NFL after his college hoops career, but training camp hasn't been quite as eye-opening as minicamp.
Tackle spackle. On the defensive side, Henry Melton and Stephen Paea were already going to "make an appearance," then Melton made an early exit from Wednesday's workout. Former first-rounder Jamaal Anderson's been pretty much hurt after fellow former first-rounder Sedrick Ellis bailed on reporting day. That leaves us with the Nate Collins-Cheta Ozougwu combo platter we had a year ago (when Israel Idonije was around). Corvey Irvin? This is his fourth NFL team in as many years. It's at least a more compelling angle on the edge, with Shea McClellin's progress being out there for all to see, though one would imagine Corey Wootton will be alongside Julius Peppers, watching versus Peppers' ex-team. Can ex-Bill Kyle Moore provide pressure in his situations? And we'll see what late-round pick Cornelius Washington might offer.
The new ’backers. We'll see a lot of Jon Bostic with D.J. Williams still recovering from his calf pull. That's a good thing. Welcome to the fire. And we'll begin to see if Khaseem Greene's speed can offset his lack of size at his level like it did at Rutgers. James Anderson should be pretty pumped to play the team that let him go, and we'll see what he does with the time he'll be given. After that, it's the J.T. Thomas-Patrick Trahan Show. Who'll be the best depth guy (if either), not to mention more special teams-worthy?
Nickel-nicked. Wednesday's news of Kelvyn Hayden's season-ending hamstring tear opens the way for more secure roster berths for Isaiah Frey, Zack Bowman, and Sherrick McManus. Hayden's experience was comforting behind Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings. But they're now awfully thin and green behind the two Pro Bowl free-agents-to-be. Frey's made camp observers take notice. He'll have to continue doing that in game situations. And it would help if Bowman takes another step from his rebound season a year ago, albeit primarily on special teams. The new regime would love him to play himself into the conversation for more defensive time.
Numbers in safety. Major Wright, Chris Conte and Craig Steltz figure to be in. How many do the Bears wind up keeping in their deepest position this preseason? Can Brandon Hardin push aside two years of inactivity and prove he's worth the third-round slot in which Emery graded him? If he starts showing it, how much does that put Chicagoan Tom Zbikowski at risk, despite his special teams value? Same for another local, Tom Nelson. Anthony Walters has been raised within the system, and Cyhl Quarles has experience in the league, as well. The last line of defense might prove to be the most interesting roster battleground.