Preseason: Who to Watch in Thursday Night’s Jaguars/Bears Match-up

Unfortunately, tonight we have just one preseason match-up to watch in the opening night of Week 2 of the 2014 preseason. But, on the other hand, there’s plenty of things to watch for in tonight’s Jacksonville Jaguars-Chicago Bears primetime match-up, which is set to be broadcasted on ESPN at 8 P.M. (eastern time).

We’ve made it easy for you to know exactly what––and more specifically, who––to watch out for as you tune in to tonight’s broadcast. Here it is, in list form, with no particular order:

*Jags’ Rookie QB Blake Bortles

Major television networks such as NFL Network, FOX Sports and, of course, ESPN, seemed so focused on Cleveland’s rookie Johnny Manziel’s debut last week that the No. 3 overall pick and first QB selected back in May got overlooked. Former Central Florida signal caller Blake Bortles is set to become Jacksonville’s next franchise quarterback this year, and though veteran Chad Henne is likely to start as the Day 1 starter in JAX, Bortles won’t be relaxing in camp and preseason. He’s here to prove he’s Jacksonville’s future.

Bortles numbers in last week’s debut vs. TB: 7-for-11, 117 yards.

*Jaguars’ Running back Toby Gerhart

All-Pro RB Maurice Jones-Drew spent the last seven years as Jacksonville’s workhorse coming out of the backfield, racking up just over 8,000 rushing yards and 79 total touchdowns for the Jags. But with the 29-year old back now donning the silver and black in Oakland, former Adrian Peterson backup Toby Gerhart will be the new centerpiece in Jacksonville’s running game.

Gerhart was a standout during his Stanford college days, but after being selected by the Minnesota Vikings in 2010 and sitting behind Peterson for his first four seasons, he’s only carried the ball 276 times over his career, putting up 1,305 yards (4.7 YPC) and five touchdowns for the Vikes. But now the big 234-pound back will get to carry the rock 20-25 times a game and become a star for the first time in his pro career. He’ll be making his debut tonight for the Jags despite battling a hip flexor injury during camp, but watch closely because his time on the field against Chicago is likely to be limited (as will Bortles’).

*Chicago’s Backup Rookie Running Back Ka’Deem Carey

Matt Forte isn’t likely to see much of the field during the preseason for obvious reasons, which should give fourth-round selection Ka’Deem Carey plenty of time to prove his worth as Forte’s backup coming out of the backfield. The former University of Arizona All-American running back received the most carries out of Chicago’s backfield against the Eagles last week (10 carries), but struggled to get anything going with just 23 yards (2.3 yards per carry). His longest run of the night was seven yards. But he’ll be given more carries again tonight and hopes to impress Bears fans at Soldier Field. Keep your eye on No. 25 tonight.

*Chicago Bears Entire Secondary

Rather than keying on just one guy on Chicago’s defense, try paying attention to the entire secondary. You’ll thank me later. At cornerback, there’s first-round pick Kyle Fuller (you know, the guy who CHI TE Martellus Bennett body-slammed last week?), long-time Chicago corner Charles Tillman and two-time Pro Bowler Tim Jennings, who is moving to nickel back in passing situations. And then there’s plenty of competition at the safety positions: Chris Conte, Ryan Mundy, Brock Vereen, M.D. Jennings, veteran Adrian Wilson and Craig Steltz. What them all tonight.

Photo: Melina Vastola/USA TODAY Sports

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