Bears vs. Chargers: What to Watch for Tonight

Based on how poorly they played in San Francisco last week, the Bears are looking to bounce back and prove that they will be players in the NFC this season. With the Chargers coming to town, head coach Lovie Smith will actually have a game plan in place this evening because San Diego isn't on the regular season schedule like the 49ers are. Here are 10 things to watch for tonight at Soldier Field.

1. Will Rex Grossman rebound after last week's struggles?
It's no secret that Grossman was nothing short of awful at Monster Park last Friday, and he even received an extra series or two that night because the coaching staff wanted him to take something positive out of his performance. The former Gator is still the unquestioned #1 quarterback on the depth chart, but if the offense continues to trip over itself with him at the helm and Brian Griese keeps putting points on the board, Smith already showed last season that he's not afraid to make a last-second switch at the quarterback position for the good of his ballclub.

2. Can Griese turn up the heat and potentially win the job?
With Grossman putting up a 3-for-11 performance, Griese stole the show against the 49ers by going 6-for-7 with two touchdown passes. The former Wolverine has said all the right things during training camp and understands that Grossman is the guy the Bears organization is counting on to win the job, but Griese feels he still has plenty in the tank as a starting quarterback in this league and is not going to be content just holding a clipboard on the sideline.

3. How will the secondary respond without Mike Brown?
Brown has an awful lot of Bears fans nervous about his Achilles' strain considering it was similar injuries that forced the All-Pro safety to miss some action each of the last two seasons. Although rookie Danieal Manning has been sensational at both safety positions since the day he arrived at Halas Hall, the defense was really missing something when Brown was scratched from the Pittsburgh game last year and again when he was forced to exit the playoff loss to Carolina.

4. Will Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye put pressure on the QB?
Second-year man Alex Smith looked completely overmatched the majority of his rookie year, but he seemed very comfortable rolling out of the pocket on bootlegs last week and had all kinds of time to throw the football. Brown and Ogunleye are two of the more well-rounded defensive ends in the NFL, but both of them could afford to step up their sack total this season.

5. When will the offensive line starting opening up some holes?
Olin Kreutz & Company were supposed to be the least of the Bears' concerns, but the running game was stuck in quicksand against a forgettable 49ers defense no matter who was carrying the ball. Although neither Thomas Jones nor Cedric Benson will suit up against the Chargers, it would be nice to see Adrian Peterson and P.J. Pope busting through the line of scrimmage a few times tonight against a very good San Diego front seven.

6. What happened to Mark Bradley and Bernard Berrian?
The Bears are expecting either Bradley or Berrian to step up and be a reliable starting wide receiver alongside Muhsin Muhammad, but despite turning some heads repeatedly in training camp, neither one of them did much last Friday. Bradley fumbled after his one catch and Berrian still looked somewhat hampered by that strained groin, but both of them need to prove that they can be reliable targets in the passing game.

7. Can Rashied Davis make a splash in back-to-back games?
Along with Griese, Davis was the talk of the team after his eye-opening four-catch, 91-yard performance that included a beauty of a 41-yard touchdown reception. The former Arena Leaguer and converted cornerback seems to be gaining confidence every day in practice, and if he can fill a role as the #3 receiver working out of the slot, he could be the kind of big-play weapon the Bears have lacked for quite some time.

8. Will Devin Hester be able to flip the field once or twice on returns?
Hester is still splitting time at kick returner in practice with the likes of Davis and Berrian, but the former Hurricane appears to be the man on the punt return team. He had a shaky catch in his first attempt last Friday night, and even though he never should have caught that one punt back on his own 5-yard line, he showed some serious shimmy returning it out of his own end zone and past the 20.

9. Is OC Ron Turner going to be allowed to open up the playbook?
The offense did absolutely no game-planning against the 49ers and played things pretty close to the vest considering they will face them again in the regular season. But aside from a potential matchup in Super Bowl XLI, the Bears won't see the Chargers again after tonight, so Turner should be able to try some different things and give Grossman more of a chance to do some damage.

10. What will the atmosphere be like tonight at Soldier Field?
Although the Bears hosted an open practice at Soldier Field two Wednesdays ago to the delight of 22,000 onlookers, this will be their first game action at home since last season's frustrating playoff loss to the Panthers. Bears fans have always been some of the rowdiest and most loyal in the NFL, so it will be interesting to see how the packed house greets the 2005 NFC North champs under the lights along Lake Michigan.

JC


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