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Five Bears players to watch in Friday's preseason opener

Published: Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014 11:21 p.m. CDT
(File photo by H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com)
Bears safeties Ryan Mundy (left) and Adrian Wilson talk to one another during drills July 25 at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.

BOURBONNAIS – The Bears will finally play a football game tonight at Soldier Field when they open the 2014 preseason against the Eagles. It’s a highly anticipated debut for some of the veteran newcomers and rookies, and it holds plenty of intrigue for returning players looking to secure roster spots.

Here are five players that we’re particularly interested in seeing how they perform in a game setting, when they can finally hit.

1. Safety Adrian Wilson – The five-time Pro Bowler has done enough in camp to get a few days of practice with the first team, but for a player like Wilson, who has made a living flying across the field to lay the lumber on a ball carrier, evaluating if he is close to the player he was a few years ago is difficult in training camp. Wilson’s best chance to show if he is healthy and can be an impactful player, and potentially come out of nowhere to win the starting safety job, will be in the preseason games.

2. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen – Last preseason, Clausen went 14-for-25 for 119 yards and zero touchdowns. Clausen maintains this is the healthiest he has been since college, and this is his first chance to show he has turned things around from his disastrous time in Carolina to win the No. 2 quarterback job. Sure, Clausen won’t be going against the Eagles’ top defensive players, but he won’t have the Bears’ best players around him, either. How he runs the offense and handles the pressure is something the Bears’ brass will definitely want to see.

3. Linebacker Shea McClellin – This is our first chance to watch the new Shea in a game at his new position in his new body. The former first-rounder begins his quest to shed the “bust” label tonight by showing if he can make run stops, cover tight ends and rush the passer from his “Sam” linebacker position. In camp, McClellin hasn’t jumped out at all to the point where observers could say that the position switch will be a success, but he also hasn’t had an opportunity to go full speed, fill a gap and hit someone.

4. WR/KR Chris Williams – Talk about an unknown commodity. We’ve seen Williams make nice catches in practice and show off his speed, but can he take a hit over the middle? Can he get separation from cornerbacks and be a productive receiver, maybe enough to be a No. 3? More importantly in the long-term, can he prove he can be Devin Hester’s replacement, something that has been expected, but a job he clearly has not won.

5. Defensive tackles Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson – Tonight is a great first test of what the NFL game is all about for the Bears’ future at defensive tackle. Sutton has shown flashes from the three-technique, and Ferguson had plenty of strength, as seen in one-on-one drills, but defensive tackle is a position that can be tough to evaluate on the practice field, and the preseason opener will provide a nice glimpse of what Phil Emery drafted to clog the interior.

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