Key Things to Keep an Eye on in Chicago Bears vs New England Patriots
Chicago Bears vs New England Patriots
The Bears kicked off their 2016 season with an embarrassing loss to the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Denver Broncos.
Yeah, it was just a preseason game, but it still wasn’t a promising game for Bears’ fans. Mark Sanchez looked like he was a starting quarterback in the NFL and the Broncos’ defenders lived in the Bears’ backfield all day long.
Let’s take a look at 4 things to pay extra attention to in Thursday’s contest against the Patriots.
Will the Offensive Line Get it Together?
Coming into this season, the offensive line had some question marks. The projected starters of Charles Leno Jr., Cody Whitehair, Ted Larsen, Kyle Long and Bobbie Massie do not boast a ton of big names. After losing Hronus Grasu to a torn ACL in camp, the offensive line is even thinner.
The Bears gave up an eye popping 7 sacks including 2 to starting quarterback Jay Cutler and 3 to back up Brian Hoyer against the Broncos. That simply is not going to get the job done. A quarterback plagued by turnovers throughout his career — like Cutler — needs time to make quick decisions. The departure of Adam Gase will take some time to adjust to and the Bears have 3 more weeks to fix it.
Apart from the sacks, the running game was nonexistent as well. Starting running back Jeremy Langford was ate up in the backfield on more than one occasion. The Bears look to have a strong backfield with 4 guys all capable of carrying the rock. However, without the offensive line, it doesn’t matter who lines up back there.
It was the first live game of the year and obviously things are not going to go perfect, but they surely could have went better than they did. We’ll see if the Bears can manage to get the running game going early against a Patriots’ front 7 which is a lot less enforcing than the Broncos.
The Competition at Wide Receiver
The Bears have a good handful of receivers at their disposal. Alshon Jeffery is a game changer if he can stay healthy and Kevin White is finally back on the football field. Eddie Royal is an established veteran who can also make some plays if he can stay healthy. Marquess Wilson has a ton of upside, but has battled injuries for most of his young career and is still recovering from a broken foot in June.
All these guys are obviously favorites to make the roster, so the real battle comes after that.
Deonte Thompson, Marc Mariani, Joshua Bellamy and rookie Daniel Braverman are all battling for playing time. As mentioned above, after Jeffery and White the 3rd receiver spot can be wide open with the injuries to both Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson. The question is who steps up and grabs it?
Thompson led the Bears in receiving against the Broncos with 2 catches for 33 yards and Joshua Bellamy was a close second with 3 grabs and 26 yards. Braverman impressed throughout training camp, so watch out for him to make some plays as well.
Can the Bears Get Some Pressure on the Quarterback?
The Bears only had 2 sacks against the Broncos. With a secondary as young as the Bears is, they need to depend more on the pass rush to help the defensive backs. Too often, Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian were very comfortable in the pocket picking apart the secondary.
The talk all off-season was an improved front 7 for the Bears. Eddie Goldman is returning after a very impressive rookie campaign last year in which he notched 4.5 sacks at the nose tackle position. He looks to build on that this year. With him in the middle causing havoc, it should open things up for Pernell McPhee and company.
Mcphee didn’t play in the opener so that could be a factor in why there was such little pressure. Willie Young and rookie Leonard Floyd will also benefit from playing alongside Goldman and McPhee. Floyd’s name was not mentioned too much last week, so keep an eye on him this week to be more involved in the game.
Special Teams Looks to Rebound
It is a little difficult to really judge how the special teams played in the opener because a field goal wasn’t even attempted, as well as having no kickoffs due to the fact that Bears were unable to locate the endzone. However, there were plenty of punts and not too many pretty ones either. In fact, one was blocked and recovered for a touchdown by the Broncos. Preseason or not, punts are rarely blocked and is a clear cut sign of a poor special teams unit.
Robbie Gould is a veteran in the league and shouldn’t have too many issues. It would also be reassuring to see him kick a few through the uprights before the season begins. Last season the Bears also saw a few guys return kickoffs for touchdowns on them. When your offense is full of question marks, the last thing you need is free 6 points given up on special teams.
Loads of games can come down to special teams and the Bears lost 5 games last season by 5 points or less. A missed field goal or bad punt can be the difference maker in those games. The preseason is the time to tighten up things and after the performance against Denver, there is clearly room for improvement.
Chicago Bears vs New England Patriots