Chicago Bears: Five Things to Watch in Preseason Opener

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May 27, 2015; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6)during organized team activities at the Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Finally Chicago Bears fans, competitive football is just around the corner. The Miami Dolphins will come to Chicago on Thursday for both team’s first preseason game of 2015.

It’s been a long off season of changes for the Bears, as former general manager Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman were jettisoned following a disastrous 5-11 campaign in a season where the Bears were trendy playoff picks. The team’s offensive performance, a strong positive in 2013, dropped off, while for the second straight year the defense was one of the worst in franchise history.

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Topping it off, internal strife between players and coaches made the team an even bigger laughingstock than their play on the field did.

Ryan Pace and John Fox were brought in to revive the NFL’s moribund charter franchise. With them came a pair of aces in top-notch offensive coordinator Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, as the group sought to overhaul parts of the roster and institute new schemes on both sides of the ball.

Coupled with the coaching and scheme changes were a handful of additions and subtractions. Gone is wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who after three seasons had become one of, if not the, best wide receivers in Bears history, but had also become a headache in the 2014 campaign with his emotional outbursts. Gone too are cornerback Charles Tillman, a beloved veteran, and safety Chris Conte, who spent three seasons scuffling in coverage and run support.

May 27, 2015; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears head coach John Fox (R) talks with offensive coordinator Adam Gase (L) during organized team activities at the Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Into the void came Pernell McPhee, a highly sought-after free agent from Baltimore who will likely start at outside linebacker but can also rush the passer from the defensive line. Antrel Rolle was brought in to solidify the strong safety slot. Mason Foster, Sam Acho and Jarvis Jenkins were brought in to add depth at inside linebacker, outside linebacker and defensive end, respectively.

The team also drafted Kevin White and Jeremy Langford to bolster the wide receiver and running back slots, and Hroniss Grasu as the franchise’s center of the future. Eddie Goldman was brought in to play nose tackle from Florida State, while Adrian Amos marks the team’s latest efforts at finding the solution at safety, where the revolving door of starters has given fans whiplash and opposing quarterbacks glee.

All those changes mark a new start for the Bears, who nevertheless are still facing a series of questions entering the 2015 season, and Thursday night’s game will mark the first step in answering some of those issues. While here at Bear Goggles On we’ll do a full preview of the upcoming game against Miami on Wednesday, let’s take a look at five things to watch for in the game.

Next: Changes, changes, changes