Chicago Bears: 5 Young Players to Watch in Preseason Matchup With Oakland Raiders

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Chicago Bears: 5 Young Players to Watch in Preseason Matchup With Oakland Raiders

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

As the Chicago Bears prepare for their third preseason game of the year against the Oakland Raiders on Friday night, spectators get ready to watch plenty of intriguing position battles and young players in action.

Throughout the offseason, general manager Phil Emery has done a fantastic job of creating competition at some of the biggest question marks entering the 2013 campaign. Of course, after letting go of future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher, the middle linebacker spot was in dire need of filling.

Another area the Bears have lacked in recently has been the protection of their quarterback, Jay Cutler. The offensive line has been borderline nightmare-ish for Cutler in every season he's been in Chicago, and Emery finally addressed that problem through both the draft and free agency.

Wide receiver is also a bit unclear right now, beyond starters Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Earl Bennett's health is in question after more concussion issues, and there are several guys battling it out for a spot on the depth chart in that area.

Losing Kelvin Hayden for the season opened up competition a bit more for the nickel corner, and a couple of guys have been in a fierce fight to take over his duties. It's been fun to watch, especially throughout the first two preseason games, looking to see who steps it up.

With all of that said, the Bears organization and their fans will certainly be taking a close look at several guys in a game where the starters get the most run out of any preseason games played yet. Here are five young players that have been making some noise and are worth watching intently in Friday's collision with the Raiders.

Ryan Heckman is a Senior Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryanmheckman, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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5. Wide Receiver Joe Anderson

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

With Bennet's health in question once again, 24-year old wide receiver Joe Anderson is in a position to step up and fill that void at the moment or maybe for the long haul. After a rookie season where he only appeared in three games, Anderson has come on strong in camp so far and is listed as the Bears' third wide receiver right now. He should get plenty of time against Oakland and he knows that failure simply isn't an option.

Cutler has been impressed with him, according to the Chicago Sun Times. ‘‘I think everyone’s pleased with him,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘He’s taken advantage of every opportunity. He’s in the right spots. He’s blocking well. He’s doing really well on special teams. So that’s what you like to see: When a guy gets a chance like that, step in with the first unit and take advantage of it.’’

Look for Anderson to make the most of this big-time opportunity he's been getting as the team's third wideout on Friday night.

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4. Safety Chris Conte

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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Entering his third season with the Bears, safety Chris Conte continues to improve. Throughout training camp, he has been one of the strongest players overall. Conte is in line for his best year yet if all indications are correct. In 2012, he more than doubled his season total in tackles and also grabbed a pair of interceptions.

Throughout camp, he has been in the right place at the right times and going for takeaways like it's going out of style. He's improved tremendously since his rookie season two years ago, especially in his tackling ability. He's also been much better in zone coverage, not allowing many big plays behind him. Against the Raiders I will be watching for him to continue to make big plays and lead that third wall of defense for Chicago.

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3. Cornerback Isaiah Frey

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Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

After spending his rookie year on the practice squad, cornerback Isaiah Frey has taken a gigantic leap in 2013. Throughout training camp, Frey has consistently made interceptions and broken up passes -- on a daily basis. He has been by far the biggest surprise of training camp so far, and is hungry for playing time.

Frey has spent time at the number one nickel spot and as a regular corner with the second team. Since Hayden went down, Frey has been just as good if not better at the nickel position. He just brings it -- every day, every down. He's always looking to make plays for the ball which is something Bears' coaches obviously love to see.

He knows what it takes to be a defensive player for the Bears. They go for the ball, they play fast and most importantly they play as a team. Frey understands those aspects as good as anybody, and has been incredibly impressive over the past month. Watch for maybe yet another big play against Oakland on Friday.

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2. Right Guard Kyle Long

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Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

After many thought the Bears had reached on offensive lineman Kyle Long with their first-round pick in this year's draft, not many are questioning the pick at the moment. Long has spent the last couple of weeks with the first team, lining up at right guard, and has not disappointed.

Son of Hall of Famer Howie Long, he possesses that same toughness his father had during his glory days. The Bears know that Long will be a guy whom gives defensive linemen fits. He is a guy that most opponents will learn to hate lining up against because he plays 100 miles per hour, every single snap.

Long's physicality in the second preseason game against the San Diego Chargers was evident from the very first snap. He helped create much bigger holes for running back Matt Forte than fans have seen in recent years on the right side. Both he and starting right tackle Jordan Mills are two rookies to keep an eye on over the course of Friday's matchup in Oakland.

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1. Middle Linebacker Jon Bostic

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Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Of course this kid has to be atop the list. Middle linebacker Jon Bostic led the number one defense in the nation last year as captain of the Florida Gators, and now gets the chance to take over a spot led by a future Hall of Fame linebacker in Urlacher.

After an injury to former starter D.J. Williams, Bostic has taken his spot and has not looked back. In fact, most are guessing that Bostic will not wind up back on the second team again, leaving Williams as his backup. The way Bostic has played so far in camp and during the preseason, Bears fans have to be ecstatic with how his future looks.

In both games so far, Bostic has made big plays. In his first action against the Carolina Panthers, he picked off a Cam Newton pass and took it all the way to the house for a score. Last week against the Chargers, he knocked wide receiver Mike Willie off his feet with an enormous -- and legal -- hit that ultimately got him fined a whopping $21,000 this week.

Bostic has 'it.' Whatever 'it' is, he's got it. He resembles everything the Bears look for in a middle linebacker. From the speed, strength and big-play ability Bostic has it all. As a rookie, I expect big things out of him. Friday night will be yet another piece in the puzzle for his preparation to be the middle linebacker of the future in Chicago.


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