Thursday night at Soldier Field, the Bears will play host to the San Diego Chargers. The second and third string players will get extensive playing time once again. The first two preseason games give coaches plenty of tape to evaluate the players on the edge of the roster.
Jay Cutler goes head-to-head with one of his biggest enemies in Chargers QB Philip Rivers. Rivers and Cutler constantly bickered during Cutler’s three seasons with the Broncos.
The first quarter should be interesting with Cutler and Rivers running the show for their teams.
Here are five players to pay attention to in preseason game No. 2 against San Diego:
RT Jordan Mills
This year’s fifth-round pick has quietly had a very solid training camp. He played very well against Carolina in his NFL debut. He has taken reps with the first-team this entire week over four-year veteran J’Marcus Webb. With Webb in the doghouse this is a big opportunity for the Lousiana Tech product. If Mills can play well he could be a part of the starting five along the offensive line this season. However, don’t rule out the possibility of Webb regaining the starting right tackle even if Mills excels this week.
RB Michael Ford
Injuries help players get noticed and rookie Michael Ford could be in luck. He has a big chance to earn a roster spot with Armando Allen out with a hamstring injury. The speedster from LSU had a solid debut in Carolina where he racked up 15 yards on six carries and one touchdown. He also added 35 yards on three catches. With Armando Allen and Harvey Unga both out with hamstring injuries, Ford will go head-to-head with four-year veteran Curtis Brinkley who signed with the Bears on Monday. Now is the time for Ford to earn the third running back spot.
DT Nate Collins
The four-year veteran led the Bears in tackles a week ago in Carolina with four and added the only sack of the game. He appeared in nine games a year ago earning a role in the defensive tackle rotation. This season he is expected to have a bigger role as the third defensive tackle behind Henry Melton and Stephen Paea. With Henry Melton out with a concussion, Collins with get the start this week. Look for him to have another solid week as he makes himself noticed in the windy city.
DE Corey Wootton
He sat out of the preseason opener in Carolina with a calf injury that he suffered in practice a week ago. He should get a chance to start opposite Julius Peppers on Thursday night. He should also see some time at defensive tackle, where he has received plenty of snaps at during training camp. He sounds like the next Israel Idonije for this Bears’ defense. But he has to prove that he can stay healthy like he did in 2012. You have to love what Wootton brings to this team. If he can have another big year, the Bears’ defense should be ranked top-10 once again.
S Brandon Hardin
The second-year safety out of Oregon State has the body frame to be a solid player in the NFL at 6’3″, 217 lbs. However he is buried on the depth chart behind starters Major Wright, Chris Conte and backups Anthony Walters and Craig Steltz. Hardin had one tackle and one pass deflection against Carolina. He has to prove he can be a playmaker these next three weeks or he could be elsewhere rather soon. I still love what he brings to the secondary, but he needs to show a little more to stick in Chicago.
Honorable Mentions: DE Kyle Moore, LG Matt Slauson, S Anthony Walters, CB Demontre Hurst, QB Josh McCown.