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For young Bears players, Seattle another big test
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/15/2008 5:27 PM

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It's not too soon for Bears players to start worrying about final cuts, which are exactly two weeks away.

After Saturday's second preseason game at 8 p.m. against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field (WFLD-TV; WBBM Radio 780-AM), decisions about the depth chart will be nearer.

Several young players have an opportunity to build on successful debuts in last week's preseason opener, and to take advantage of some extended playing time.

"There isn't one (specific) thing we want to see," coach Lovie Smith said. "We just want to see improvement. Hopefully this week we'll see some things we didn't see the first game."

Here are some players likely to get a closer look against the Seahawks.

Kevin Payne: Starting strong safety Brandon McGowan missed several days of practice with a sprained ankle and will not play Saturday, which gives Payne some valuable time with the first team.

"It feels good to be around those players," said Payne, a fifth-round draft pick in 2007. "It makes my job a lot easier, but it's real intense. You have to be paying attention and know what's going on around you. It's a good opportunity for me, but I hate to see Brandon go down."

Payne showed promise last season as a rookie and started Game Four when the Bears opened with an extra safety, but he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in that game.

"He missed 12 games," defensive coordinator Bob Babich said, "but it's not just the games, it's all the practice reps that you could have gotten. So it set him back, but he came in focused and he's trying to improve his play."

Caleb Hanie: The undrafted rookie from Colorado State hopes to build upon an impressive debut, when he surprised even himself with a passer rating of 96.1.

"You're never sure the way you're going to play during the game," Hanie said after leading the Bears to 10 points last week, as many as Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton combined. "It turned out OK for me, but I still have a lot of room to improve."

Hanie needs to prove to the Bears he's a legitimate option as the No. 3 quarterback so they don't pick a veteran off the NFL scrap heap once final cuts are made.

"I'm just trying to get my foot in the door and trying to turn some heads," he said. "I think I've progressed well up to this point. They're looking for me to keep progressing."

Marcus Harrison: Defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek, who won the starting job last year before tearing up his knee, is back at practice after missing two weeks with a strained calf. But the Bears are likely to wait another week before subjecting him to game action. In Dvoracek's absence, Anthony Adams has been working with the starters since camp opened, but he didn't practice Thursday because of an elbow injury. He expects to play Saturday, but his activity might be limited.

That means Harrison, the third-round draft pick from Arkansas, could get a long look at defensive tackle.

"Marcus is getting better every day," defensive coordinator Bob Babich said. "He's a typical rookie. There are a lot of things he hasn't seen, like the speed of the game, the strength of the players. But with each practice he gets better."

Kellen Davis: With Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen ahead of him on the tight end depth chart, Davis might not have many opportunities to contribute on offense, although he had a 25-yard reception in the preseason opener and has displayed excellent receiving skills in camp.

Davis has piqued the interest of special-teams coordinator Dave Toub, who was impressed with his kick coverage.

"I was really looking forward to him covering on the first kickoff," Toub said. "We have him in (defensive tackle Israel Idonije's) spot, and he went down and made the tackle on the first kickoff. He blew up the wedge, knocked two guys down and made the tackle. That was encouraging. Being a 6-7, 260-pound guy that can run a 4.65, that's impressive."