Chicago Bears: Five Things to Watch in Preseason Opener

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

How will the Bears look in the new offensive and defensive schemes?

New offensive schemes are no stranger in Chicago. The Bears have learned new offensive schemes a handful of times over the past six years. Quarterback Jay Cutler alone learned Ron Turner’s scheme in 2009, Mike Martz’s scheme in 2010, Mike Tice’s in 2012 and Trestman’s in 2013.

Now comes the scheme taught by Gase, a prized offensive coordinator from Denver, where his success at guiding the Peyton Manning-led offense almost landed him a head coaching gig in the NFL. While he missed out on the top seat, Gase followed Fox to Chicago, where a good year or two – particularly if he can coax consistent play from Cutler – should land him a top seat.

The presumption is the Bears will run the ball more, and relying on Matt Forte and fellow backs Ka’Deem Carey, Jeremy Langford and Jacquizz Rodgers is something I think the Bears should do. The Bears have great outside weapons in Alshon Jeffrey, Eddie Royal, Martellus Bennett and rookie Kevin White, who is battling a shin injury and may not play in the preseason.

But all of those weapons can’t erase the fact that Cutler’s inconsistent accuracy and penchant for turnovers would be tempered by relying on the ground game. Thursday will be our first chance to see if the Bears actually follow through on the public and media’s expectation of greater reliance on the run game.

July 24, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio during training camp at the SAP Performance Facility. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, Thursday night’s game marks the introduction of the 3-4 defensive era in Chicago and the death of Lovieball in the Windy City. Gone are the halcyon 4-3 days, when the Bears would rush four down linemen and rely on the ends and 3-technique to provide the pressure while the linebackers and secondary patrolled the field in a relaxed Cover 2. That scheme, admittedly with sub-par personnel in 2013 and 2014, proved outdated. It was time for the Bears to modernize, and they did it by hiring Fangio.

This will be our first look outside of practice how the Bears and their personnel – many of whom are 4-3 players – fit into Fangio’s aggressive 3-4 scheme, which features more blitzes and man-to-man coverages.

Coupled with the new scheme is the havoc that could be wreaked – on the Bears, I mean – by players learning new positions. Jared Allen and Willie Young are moving from 4-3 end to 3-4 outside linebacker. Lamarr Houston is moving back to outside linebacker. Jonathan Bostic, Shea McClellin and Christian Jones are all learning the inside linebacker position, while Ego Ferguson and Willie Sutton are moving from 4-3 defensive tackles to positions – probably end – on the 3-4 line.

That’s a lot of moving parts, and I expect the Bears to struggle on defense, particularly in the preseason, as players learn new positions while seeking to understand Fangio’s scheme in action.

Given the extensive changes on defense of learning new positions and new schemes, I fully expect the starters to see more playing time on defense throughout the preseason. At most positions, the Bears don’t have proven starters on defense; Thursday night marks our first chance to see who fits best in the new defense and who should be starting.

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