Chicago Bears at Indianapolis Colts: 5 Things to Watch for

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Aug 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears linebacker Jared Allen (69) and defensive back Antrel Rolle (31) follow the play during the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins in a preseason NFL football game at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Will the starting defense improve against the Colts?

I didn’t freak out when the Bears’ starting defense, on their only time on the field, gave up a mammoth, clock-eating drive to the Miami Dolphins that resulted in a touchdown. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.

It looked a little too familiar. Losing containment on running plays. Receivers open over the middle. A middling pass rush. Failure to get off the field on third down. A pair of penalties, one of which came after Miami failed to convert a third and goal.

Aug 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Miami Dolphins tight end Jake Stoneburner (86) makes a catch while Chicago Bears inside linebacker Christian Jones (59) defends during the second quarter in a preseason NFL football game at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe it was nerves; maybe it’s the complicated nature of learning a new scheme; maybe it was simply good play from the Dolphins. But no matter what it was, the defense needs to take a step forward, if only for confidence’s sake.

In a game where it’s important for the starting defense to gel – this match-up being the second-most playing time they’ll have in the preseason, behind next week’s contest against the Bengals – they’re on the field against one of the best offenses in the game in the Colts. The Colts had weapons with TY Hilton and Coby Fleener, but now they’ve added Frank Gore to bolster the running game and Andre Johnson and Phillip Dorsett to make the passing game even more dangerous.

Against that lot the Bears will trot out their collection of misfit toys, as players continue to learn new positions. Shea McClellin and Christian Jones both looked solid against Miami, particularly Jones. This time, they’ll be playing against a more pass-happy team. They need to show they both can stay on the field against those types of teams, particularly in a division that features Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford. We’ve already discussed Amos, but hopefully Rolle won’t disappear like he did against Miami.

The cornerbacks, in my mind, may be the weakest link on the Bears defense. I like Kyle Fuller, but I’m not as sold on him as others; he’s going to be a solid corner. He’s not the second coming of Darrelle Revis. Fuller struggled last year against top wide receivers. He’s had an offseason to grow. Let’s see how he does against Hilton and Andre Johnson. The rest of the cornerbacks, particularly Tim Jennings, who is coming off a poor season, need to show they can do more than take up space as receivers run by them in the secondary.

It wasn’t all negative, though, and I don’t think this week will be, either. Jared Allen looked surprisingly good against Miami, as did Ego Ferguson and Jarvis Jenkins on the defensive line. Those were welcome surprises. Pernell McPhee, meanwhile, contributed nothing except a penalty and bad run defense. Those four, coupled with Jeremiah Ratliff and rookie nose tackle Eddie Goldman, need to step up the pass rush if the Bears defense will improve against the Colts.

Next: Who is Going to Step Up?