Saturday night’s Bears-Redskins preseason showdown could be a preview of future NFC playoff clashes. With the massively hyped arrival of Robert Griffin III to Washington and Chicago’s savvy moves to trade for Brandon Marshall and draft his wideout partner-in-crime, Alshon Jeffrey, these two once-and-future powerhouse franchises have invested heavily in their new identities. The Redskins are unequivocally “RG-III”’s team now, and the Bears have finally embraced their ancient and constant need for a legitimate receiving corps.
Growing up in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, I have an exorbitant amount of experience with the overwhelming delusion of Redskins fans. Before RG-III played a single down of professional football, grown men were scrambling to buy his jersey, and Mike Shanahan Kool Aid-drinking zealots didn’t hesitate to declare their newly-minted savior as a future Hall of Fame quarterback, no doubt partially influenced by fresh visions of Cam Newton’s electrifying rookie season dancing in their heads.
Now that The Chosen One, RG-III, has played half a quarter of a mostly meaningless preseason game, we can begin to place man to myth. And this man is good, perhaps very good. Save for a slight overthrow on a sideline route that caused Pierre Garcon’s toe to drag out of bounds on his first toss, Griffin was firmly in control of the Redskins offense. On his final drive, RG-III marched the Redskins right through Buffalo’s defensive starters, crowning his achievement with a perfectly-executed bubble screen to Garcon for a 20 yard touchdown in Washington’s eventual 7-6 win.
So what will the Bears do to contain Washington’s Savior? Play Julius Peppers for one. Peppers sat out last week, but should see his first game action hunting down RG-III. Brian Urlacher remains sidelined with a nagging knee injury, and is targeting the season opener against the Colts on September 9th as his return date. In Urlacher’s absence, the spotlight will be on rookie defensive end Shea McClellin, who recorded a sack of despised ex-Bear Caleb Hanie in his first NFL action last week. I’m anxious to see how the Bears groom McClellin as the preseason unfolds, and how the talented rookie responds. Pummeling the hapless Hanie is one thing, catching RG-III is quite another.
Offensively, the Bears will welcome Matt Forte back to the lineup after holding him out against Denver due to sloppy field conditions. Expect a heavy dose of Forte early as the Bears look to solidify their offensive line combinations. Left tackle Jamarcus Webb is embroiled in an open competition for the starting role with former first round pick Chris Williams, and Saturday’s contest should provide an ample opportunity for Webb or Williams to take control of the job.
The Cutler-Marshall combo arrives in Chicago a week late, as both Cutler and Marshall joined Forte on the sidelines in the preseason opener. Bears fans should expect a brief glimpse of a revamped passing attack that should also feature Alshon Jeffrey. After nabbing 4 receptions for 35 yards against Denver and reportedly excelling in practice, Jeffrey deserves ample first half playing time, both with Cutler and his backup, Jason Campbell.
What to watch for in between beer swigs Saturday night:
- Will we see many blitz packages to test RG III?
- Turn McClellin loose and see what we’ve got
- A smooth reunion for Cutler and Marshall?
- The Alshon Jeffrey Show, will it continue?
- Can anyone emerge at left tackle, or will Cutler be scrambling for his life, with or without the additional albatross of the Martz-ian 7 step drop?
- Filling out the wide receiver depth chart
- Can Bears fans top the cold reception they gave Hanie last week when Sexy Rexy returns to Soldier Field?
- Was last week an anomaly? If not, drink up!
Prediction: Bears - 20, Redskins – 16. Not quite the 73-0 drubbing we still long for every Bears-Redskins tilt, but a respectable preseason showing from both squads, decided more by the third and fourth stringers.