NFL Preseason, Bears At Chargers: Martz's Playbook, Cutler Take Center Stage

(Sports Network) - A critical preseason for the Chicago Bears will be launched in San Diego on Saturday night, when an organization seeking to get back to its glory days faces the Chargers in the preseason opener for both teams from Qualcomm Stadium.

The Bears, who finished 7-9 last season and have now endured three consecutive campaigns without a playoff berth, made substantial changes in the offseason in the interests of ending that streak.

The biggest may have been the hiring of coordinator Mike Martz, who needs to have his offense clicking in the preseason if the Bears are going to have a fighting chance once the games count. That means error-prone quarterback Jay Cutler and the team's suspect wide receiving corps and offensive line need to show a comfort level within the pass-happy scheme, beginning on Saturday night. Getting running backs Matt Forte and Chester Taylor (ex-Vikings) involved will be key as well.

The defense, now under the tutelage of ex-Buccaneers head coach Rod Marinelli, needs to make strides after struggling throughout 2009. Linebacker Brian Urlacher is expected back on the field after missing most of last season with a dislocated wrist, though he may make only a cameo on Saturday. The same goes for new Bear Julius Peppers (ex-Panthers), who will take his initial steps in a Chicago uniform after the defensive end signed a multi-million dollar free agent deal in the offseason.

In the secondary, the cornerback battle between Zackary Bowman and Corey Graham should take a step forward on Saturday as well.

The Chargers enter the preseason at something less than full strength, as No. 1 wideout Vincent Jackson, left tackle Marcus McNeill and outside linebacker Shawne Merriman are all holding out of the preseason amid contract disputes.

Among those who should be in uniform on Saturday is rookie running back Ryan Mathews (Fresno State), though it's unclear how many touches a team that rarely allowed LaDainian Tomlinson to appear in the preseason will give its likely new starter in a meaningless contest.

Among the other newcomers who fans in San Diego will get to see are wideout Josh Reed (ex-Bills), who figures to play a substantial role with Jackson out, fifth-round nose tackle candidate Cam Thomas (North Carolina) and ex-Bears cornerback Nathan Vasher, who appeared in 73 games as a Bear from 2004 through 2009 and made a Pro Bowl appearance in 2005.

The Chargers own a 3-2 advantage in their all-time preseason series with the Bears, but were 24-3 road losers in the last such meeting, prior to the 2006 campaign.

The teams last met in meaningful play during the 2007 regular season, a 14-3 San Diego home victory.

Trending Discussions

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SB Nation Chicago

You must be a member of SB Nation Chicago to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SB Nation Chicago. You should read them.

Join SB Nation Chicago

You must be a member of SB Nation Chicago to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SB Nation Chicago. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.