Chicago Bears vs Miami Dolphins Preseason Game Preview


The Chicago Bears launch their preseason campaign against the Miami Dolphins Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET. This game is our first opportunity to see a fascinating mixture of new players and new schemes in action.

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The Bears, of course, are coming off a disastrous 5-11 campaign in 2014, a season where they had playoff expectations behind what was supposed to be a top-notch offense and a rebuilt defense. Instead, they tanked amid poor play and internal friction. General manager Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman (and most of his coaching staff) were shipped out of Chicago, along with all available copies of Trestman’s book “Perseverance: Life Lessons on Leadership and Teamwork.”

In came new general manager Ryan Pace, who helped cobble together one of the best coaching staffs in the league. With head coach John Fox running the show, and offensive coordinator Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio – both of whom had wild success in Denver and San Francisco, respectively – installing their schemes in Chicago.

They have their work cut out for them in Chicago, where the Bears were 23rd in points scored, 21st in yards and 31st in points allowed and 30th in yards allowed in 2014.

Jul 30, 2015; Bourbonnais, IL, USA; Chicago Bears defensive back Antrel Rolle (31) during practice at Olivet Nazarene University. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

To fix that, the Bears brought in free agents such as wide receiver Eddie Royal, linebackers Pernell McPhee and Mason Foster, safety Antrel Rolle and drafted wide receiver Kevin White, nose tackle Eddie Goldman, center Hroniss Grasu and running back Jeremy Langford.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, are coming off an 8-8 season in which they finished third in the AFC East, 11th in points scored and 20th in points allowed. That campaign includes an easy 27-13 victory over the Bears in Chicago, a game where the Bears gave up 24 first downs, almost 400 yards of total offense and failed to force a turnover, while the offense was shutout in the first half and netted just 224 yards and three turnovers during the game.

Sep 29, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago Bears offensive guard Kyle Long (75) and long snapper Patrick Mannelly (65) tackle Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (90) during the third quarter at Ford Field. The Lions won 40-32. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Miami added a few prominent faces in the offseason, most notably when they signed prized bull and noted Bear hunter Ndamukong Suh to play defensive tackle. They traded receiver Mike Wallace‘s talents away from South Beach, and added receiver Kenny Stills – though it looks like Stills won’t play, according to the Miami Herald — and tight end Jordan Cameron to fill the gap.

They still have solid quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Lamar Miller, who inexcusably made it onto Sports Illustrated’s list of 10 best running backs over Matt Forte, after Miller had all of one big season in the NFL.

All in all, I like this matchup for the Bears in terms of getting started with new schemes and new personnel. The Dolphins should be a tough, but not impossible, defense for the Bears’ offense to take its first step in Gase’s scheme, while the Miami offense has weapons in Miller, Stills and Cameron, but nothing frightening for the new look 3-4 Bears defense.

Playing a solid team like Miami should be a good way for the Bears to test the new schemes and evaluate backups and the starting competitions on defense without the squad getting embarrassed.

Fox has gone on record saying he expects the starters to play 12-15 snaps, which could amount to about one quarter in Thursday’s game, according to ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson. In terms of injuries for the Bears, White seems doubtful for the game, as he just started running Monday while battling a shin injury, and coaches have said he may not play at all in the preseason.

Dickerson also reported that Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Tracy Porter all may not see action Thursday, as the first two are coming back from major 2014 injuries while Porter injured his hamstring in practice this week.

As always, the primary goal for any team in preseason is to avoid serious injuries. The Bears, though, given their uncertainty at positions and learning new schemes, have more work to do than usual in the preseason.

Oct 19, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) is tackled by Miami Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes (21) during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Much of the drama on the Bears surrounds Jay Cutler, who is being publicly adored for not throwing an interception in practices so far, and how he’ll handle a new scheme and having a coaching staff that is unlikely to put up with his surly shenanigans and turnovers. As always, it will be interesting to see how Cutler performs, but we probably will not see much of him in this game.

However, the Bears have more to worry about than just Cutler. The game marks the first step in determining who should start in positional battles at inside linebacker, defensive end and free safety for the Bears. A strong showing from someone such as Brock Vereen or Christian Jones or Ego Ferguson could put them firmly in the lead to start the first real game Week 1 against Green Bay.

Next: No Kevin White? No Problem as Marquess Wilson Steps Up

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