The Chicago Bears will open up the 2013-14 NFL season by hosting the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at Soldier Field. It’s the first game for new head coach Marc Trestman and many are ready to see this new look Bears team in action.
With a little bit of a roster overhaul this off-season, including the loss of linebacker Brian Urlacher, the Bears are ready for a new era to begin.
Here are six key players for Sunday’s showdown at Soldier Field.
Honorable Mention: Jay Cutler (QB), Andy Dalton (QB), Chris Conte (S), Giovanni Bernard (RB).
6. Kyle Long, OL
The Bears 2013 first-round draft pick impressed during the preseason and looks to carry that over to the regular season. Long has earned the starting job on an offensive line who finally looks to turn the corner in a good way. The Bears have struggled on the offensive line for a few seasons now and in order to have a successful season must play better.
Long will go against a solid Bengals defensive line which features play makers like Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. The Bengals defense overall is pretty solid as well.
Protecting Cutler and establishing the line of scrimmage will be key early on for the Bears and that could start with Long.
It will be interesting to see how Long reacts to the best defensive line he’s seen so far in his small sample size in the NFL, including the preseason.
5. AJ Green, WR
Green is already one of the premier receivers in the NFL and he’s set to take on one of the premier corner backs in the NFL. It should be a treat to watch Green and Charles Tillman match up Sunday and it also could be a difference maker in the game.
With Green poising a threat in the receiving game, the Bears will turn to Tillman to shut him down. Green has already stated he isn’t worrying about yards after catch but instead more focused on protecting the ball from Tillman who had 10 forced fumbles last season. A staggering number.
Green is the favorite target of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton so he will get his looks early and often. It will be interesting to see if Green can be a difference maker early on.
4. Jon Bostic/D.J. Williams, MLB
Another Bears rookie who could be a difference maker in Sunday’s game. Linebacker Jon Bostic is expected to see action Sunday but could split time with veteran linebacker D.J. Williams who the Bears signed as a free agent in the off-season.
Whoever it is manning the middle of the defense will have to have a good game. Especially in trying to fill the gap from a future hall of fame player in Brian Urlacher. The Bengals will look to utilize the middle of the field with a steady dose of the run and pass. That’s where Bostic and Williams come into play.
Bostic has been nothing but impressive thus far in his short career as a Bear. Now let’s see how it translates for him in the regular season.
3. Jermon Bushrod, LT
The Bears signed Bushrod as a free agent this past off-season and he has been considered an immediate upgrade already. That isn’t saying much however due to the fact the Bears have had a bad offensive line the past few seasons.
Bushrod does give the Bears some stability on the offensive line and will protect Cutler’s blind side.
That will be key if the Bears want a victory on Sunday. Going back to protecting Cutler starts with the veteran Bushrod. His task will be to slow down a pretty impressive Bengals pass rush and give Cutler the time to make good throws.
We will get our first look at the immediate upgrade the Bears brought in on Sunday.
2. Geno Atkins, DT
The fourth-year defensive tackle is fresh off a new 5-year $55M extension this week and is ready to lead a very talented Bengals defense to a deep playoff run. Atkins can cause fits for opposing offenses, especially ones without stability in the offensive line.
Atkins can be a nightmare for the Bears this game and a huge factor in determining who establishes the line of scrimmage early and often. Atkins will be alongside the talented Carlos Dunlap and will likely draw a few double teams from time to time during the game.
1. Matt Forte, RB
Forte might just be one of the Bears biggest x-factors all season long. The running back serves, as a dual-threat in the receiving game will get his fair share of looks from Cutler.
With all of the weapons the Bears have on the offensive side of the ball, Forte could be the most dangerous.
He will look to improve on his rushing totals from last season, 248 carries for 1,094 yards. The new Bears offense should work to Forte’s advantage, as they will try to open up the passing game and get Forte going early.
Zone blocking in the running game should open up some holes for Forte which will lead to the play-action opening up nice for the Bears.
Forte could be in for a big game Sunday.