The start of the regular season is just a day away! Is it just me or has this felt like the looooongest offseason in Chicago Bears history??? The Bears and Bengals will square off at Soldier Field to kick of the 2013 campaign and the Marc Trestman era.
We’ve already looked at the Keys to a Chicago Bears victory and we’ve had our Q&A with our friends at Stripe Hype. From a pure football point of view, there are still plenty of things to watch for any football fan.
As a matter of fact, here are the Top 5 Things I’m looking forward to watching in the Bears vs Bengals game:
5. Special Teams
There has been a lot of offseason chatter about Mel Tucker taking over Lovie Smith’s defense and the need to keep them performing at a high level. Rightfully so. But besides Smith’s departure, there was another big loss to the Bears coaching staff. Dave Toub has taken his act to Kansas City to work with his old buddy Andy Reid. The pressure is squarely on special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis to try to keep up the high level of special teams performance.
The obvious choice might be Devin Hester vs the Bengals coverage units, but that won’t necessarily tell us how good the Bears special teams will be. With the amount of turnover on the roster and DeCamillis’ new schemes, I want to see the coverage units bottle up Pac Man Jones. In fact, I’m hoping to see Blake Costanzo make it rain all over PacMan.
4. Charles Tillman vs AJ Green
Tillman usually draws the opponent’s biggest, baddest wide receiver. He shut down Megatron quite nicely last season, so it will be interesting to see how Peanut fares against the Bengals’ top pass catching threat.
Tillman is coming off two straight Pro Bowls and a career year for the Bears. Tillman had 3 INT’s and 3 TD’s last season while forcing a league-leading 10 fumbles.
Green is coming off his own trip to Hawaii after a monster 2012 season where he had 97 catches, 1350 yards and 11 TD’s. If this isn’t a prime time matchup of two of the best at their positions, I don’t know what is.
3. Marc Trestman vs Marvin Lewis
It’s the rookie vs the second-most tenured head coaches in the league. It’s the offensive ‘genius’ vs the defensive guru. It’s Marc Trestman in his first game as an NFL head coach while Marvin Lewis will be coaching his 161st as head man. Lewis comes in with a record of 79-80-1 and it took a couple of good seasons to get back to nearly .500.
Trestman returns to the NFL after a couple of Gray Cups in the CFL and a brief stint in college football. He’s always been known as an offensive mastermind, but it took an exile from the NFL to help him gain the leadership chops to get an NFL head coaching job.
Trestman has a little bit of the element of surprise going for him. Lewis and the Bengals don’t have much recent tape to watch, so they don’t really know how to prepare for Trestman’s attack. Meanwhile, the Bears know exactly what to expect from the Bengals. Lewis’ defense will be stout, especially up front. Will the rookie be able to knock off the seasoned veteran?
2. Kyle Long vs Geno Atkins
Screw it. Kyle Long vs Geno Atkins in an Oklahoma Drill to settle this thing. In case you’re not a Hard Knocks fan, the Oklahoma drill is where you get an offensive lineman go mano a mano against a D-lineman. The D-lineman must shed the block of the offensive lineman and make the tackle on the running back. It’s football in it’s most basic form:
Rookie Kyle Long has impressed so far in training camp and the preseason, but he’s not going up against the Raiders and Chargers on Sunday. Geno Atkins is among the top DT’s in the league, just having signed a monster contract extension. This will be a quick way to see how far Long and the Bears’ offensive line renovation really has come.
1. Jay Cutler vs Jay Cutler
This is where the rubber meets the road. It’s not Cutler vs Leon Hall or Terence Newman. It’s Cutler vs Cutler. He’s learning a new offense for the 4th time in his 5th season with the Bears. It’s a contract year for Cutler, so he’s got to keep his eye on the prize.
The Bears will go as far as Cutler will take them. Phil Emery fired defensive-minded Lovie Smith and renowned quarterback guru Marc Trestman to lead this team. He’s gone out and brought in big-ticket free agents Jermon Bushrod and Martellus Bennett to fortify the offensive line and tight end positions. High draft picks like Alshon Jeffery and Kyle Long figure to strengthen the offense around Cutler. Simply put – there are no more excuses for Cutler. It’s time to stand and deliver.
What about you? Which matchups interest you most? Log into Disqus with your Twitter, Facebook or Google account and post your comments.