BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- As is standard preseason protocol, Chicago Bears starters are expected to be on the field for a limited amount of time Thursday when the club hosts the Denver Broncos in their preseason opener. But with a new offense on display for the first time in an actual game, Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice has a checklist of what he wants to see from the No. 1s during their handful of plays.
"I like to be clean," Tice said. "I like to minimize the offsides. We'll probably get some holding calls in there or something but that happens. No turnovers, minimize the offsides, no delay of games ... and see if we can run the ball efficiently and finish some drives. [I'm looking for] a little rhythm."
The first and last preseason affairs are generally meant to showcase players fighting for a starting job or fighting for a spot on the final 53-man roster. That means the stakes are naturally higher for the lower half of the Bears' depth chart.
"Second-teamers, we're looking for guys who want to show us they deserve a shot to push somebody out," Tice said. "They're going to get plenty of plays, so we'll see how they do, grade it like a regular season game and go from there."
From a roster standpoint, a few players who have stood out in practice and are worth monitoring on Thursday include: offensive tackle James Brown, offensive tackle Cory Brandon, tailback Armando Allen, tailback Lorenzo Booker, wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, tight end Kyle Adams, defensive end Cheta Ozougwu, defensive end Thaddeus Gibson, cornerback Isaiah Frey, cornerback Greg McCoy, wideout Brittan Golden and defensive tackles Nate Collins and Jordan Miller.
"The preseason is important," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "You can't do an awful lot in the offseason, [so] this is the time you start getting ready for the regular season. Whether it's a new offense or defense, you start from scratch each year. These days are all valuable."