Carolina will play the Bears tonight, ending an unbearable streak of
seven months since the last time they saw the field.
Carolina's starters will play "10-15 snaps", though there's always the
chance that the offense will play one series if it scores. So the
important things to see? Who fills in.
I would anticipate that some key backups will get shorter time, too. I
don't know if Kawann Short will play much longer than Star Lotuleilei
(I'd be tired of typing Lotuleilei by now, if I weren't still so excited
to have him, from a fan standpoint), so expect a heavier dose of Colin
Cole and the guys fighting for the phantom 5th DT spot.
It'll be a big deal for Frank Alexander to show some growth; Mario
Addison and Craig Roh will battle for the 4th job.
Garry Williams should get through the half, even if the rest of the
starting OL doesn't. Jeff Byers isn't likely to play, so it's hard to
say what they'll do at center. I'm interested to see what Nate Chandler
looks like back on the OL< and whether the promising-looking backup's
career was put on hold for a year because of Carolina's sudden strength
at DT. I'm interested to see whether Williams plays any backup OT, and
whether the depth chart on Bruce Campbell is right on
Mike Tolbert won't likely play, so it may be a mix of Mike Zordich and
Richie Brockel all night at FB, and Kenjon Barner will probably play
some with the 1s and 2s, getting a bunch of carries before giving up to
the other backups.
I would expect that Chase Blackburn plays in relief of Jon Beason, and
continues into the 2nd team (possibly switching to the middle). I don't
know if Thomas Davis will play tonight, either.
The DBs will be a mixed bag - I don't know what their plans are at
nickel, but it'll be a lot of DJ Moore tonight fighting for a job. I
don't know if Captain Munnerlyn will come back in for nickel, or if
they'll get a longer look at Moore there. Josh Thomas is likely out so
Josh Norman will be doing a lot of work out there, too. There may be a
rotation at safety after Mike Mitchell goes out.
Don't expect a lot of intersting stuff scheme-wise for Mike Shula, and
I don't expect to see a lot of second string success working with the
3rd-5th best RBs, no FB, and a makeshift line. You might see more 2 TE
tonight, and I'd be willing to see that more in the long run of the
season, too. Truth is, if the team didn't have Tolbert, under Shula
I'd hope to see a lot more spread and 2 TE, and not much else.
That said, I have no idea how the WRs will line up. Ted Ginn against
backups should be fruitful; I don't think Domenik Hixon is playing.
Armanti Edwards gets to show whether this is actually the year. Joe
Adams, Kealoha Pilares, David Gettis all likely get their best chance to
claim a roster spot, given that starters will play more in games 2 and
3. As of right now, I don't know that any of that trio make the roster,
making each of the 2010-2012 drafts look a little worse.
Brandon Williams and the potentially injured Zach Pianalto
Admittedly, after seeing the pistol in Denver with a much less mobile
QB, it's hard not to want to see that here. Truthfully, I'd be
surprised if most teams didn't try it, so I definitely want it here. I
don't know if it's something I'd pop out in preseason, but it's
something to look for.
Cam Newton spent a ton of time in shotgun, which isn't exactly the
style that Mike Shula showed in the past, but Shula's shown some
adaptability over time and I'm not ready to call Shula anything here
based on the past. Derek Anderson is another guy who spends a lot of
time in the 'gun, for what that's worth; but Newton was better outside
shotgun. The truth is, with up to 3 guys who could break a long run on
the field at a time, Newton's play fakes make people bite. Pistol
action would only help the Panthers' offense.
For the Bears, it's the intriguing start of the Marc Trestman era in
Chicago. Lovie Smith was booted after being 10-6, though that was more
to do with the rickety Ron Turner/Mike Martz/Mike Tice offenses.
Trestman, who not unlike 2013 Panthers GM Candidate Jim Popp, spent a
lot of successful time with the CFL's Alouettes, was a scapegoat in what
I'd consider the start of the end for the 49ers' dynasty. Trestman was
George Seifert's OC, and when he was ousted, they tried to shoehorn
Steve Mariucci in under him, prompting Seifert to resign (and come to a
tumultuous Panthers situation). Never thought it was fair of the 9ers
to do that to Trestman or Seifert, and in the end it didn't work out
well for anyone (Mariucci did well, however, and honestly a lot of the
problem came at the hands of the terrible ownership group).
It's also the start of a coaching career for former Bear and Panther
Chris Harris, which is good to see. Harris was smart, and a hard
worker, and he delivered some of the hardest hits I've ever seen. Him
knocking Chargers guard Cris Dishman (going off memory, sorry if that's
wrong) into LaDainian Tomlinson in 2008 was evidence that team could be
special - and that Harris' time on the field would probably be numbered.