NFL Preseason Preview - Washington (1-0) at Chicago (0-1)
By Scott Garbarini, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The Chicago Bears didn't take their first game of the 2012 preseason too seriously, but the team figures to turn up the intensity when Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins invade Soldier Field for a second-week bout.
The Bears kicked off this year's exhibition schedule with many of their core players on the sidelines, a list that included starting quarterback Jay Cutler, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, defensive end Julius Peppers and running back Matt Forte. As a result, Chicago wasn't very competitive in its high-profile tussle with the Denver Broncos, taking a 31-3 loss on the chin in a contest highlighted by Peyton Manning's return to action in a new uniform.
Though Manning only played one series in his ballyhooed Denver debut, the Broncos still had their way with a predominantly backup cast of Bears that was plagued by miscues and sloppy play. Chicago turned the ball over three times in the lopsided setback, while the three quarterbacks filling in for Cutler were sacked a total of six times on the evening.
Cutler was given the night off after just returning to the team from the birth of his son, while Forte and Peppers were held out due to the wet conditions at Soldier Field. All three will be suiting up for Saturday's contest, with Cutler competing for the first time since sustaining a season-ending broken thumb last November and Forte making his way back from a sprained knee that cost him the final four games of 2011.
Urlacher won't be participating this week and the remainder of the preseason, however, after the esteemed veteran underwent arthroscopic surgery on his troublesome left knee on Tuesday.
Chicago's defense may be without two other starters in its matchup with Griffin, the reigning Heisman Trophy recipient and No. 2 overall pick in April's draft. Tackle Stephen Paea is doubtful after turning his ankle against the Broncos, while safety Major Wright sustained a minor hamstring strain after intercepting Manning near the goal line and is questionable to play.
Former Redskin Jason Campbell replaced Cutler in the starting lineup and completed four of his five pass attempts, but managed just 13 yards. As a team Chicago gained a subpar 132 total yards and went 0-for-11 on third downs.
The Bears will be aiming for better results against a Washington stop unit that was overshadowed by Griffin's highly anticipated introduction in last week's game at Buffalo, but performed very well in the Redskins' 7-6 victory. The defense came up with four sacks and held the Bills to 219 total yards and a 25 percent (4-of-16) success rate on third-down tries.
Griffin was impressive in his own right, with the electrifying rookie hitting on 4-of-6 throws for 70 yards and connecting with free-agent addition Pierre Garcon on a 20-yard touchdown strike. The 22-year-old was replaced by onetime Bears starter Rex Grossman after just three possessions, in part due to the Redskins dealing with a number of injuries along the offensive line.
"It felt extremely good to come out [and play]," Griffin said afterward. "[Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan] did a good job calling plays, got me in rhythm and helped get the offense in rhythm on that third [touchdown] drive."
Griffin figures to be in line for an extended audition this week as he continues his preparation for the regular season, but will once again be operating behind a banged-up group of protectors. Right tackle Jammal Brown (hip) and left guard Kory Lichtensteiger (knee surgery) are still rehabbing from their injuries, while left tackle Trent Williams is a question mark after bruising his foot against the Bills.
On a positive note, right guard Chris Chester is slated to return for the Redskins after sitting out the Buffalo game with a sprained ankle.
Washington will also be without running backs Tim Hightower (knee) and Roy Helu (Achilles), which will give second-year pro Evan Royster an additional chance to stake a claim to be the Redskins' lead ball-carrier. Royster, who spent much of his rookie season on the practice squad, started last week's outing and gained 21 yards on seven attempts.
These storied franchises have faced one another 25 times previously during the preseason, but Saturday's tilt will be the first such encounter between the teams since 1976. Chicago won that game on the road by a 9-7 score to take an 18-6 advantage in the set.
Washington has bested the Bears four consecutive times in regular-season play, most recently a 17-14 decision at Soldier Field in 2010.
08/16 11:10:49 ET