Thursday night will kick it all off for the Chicago Bears when they host the Green Bay Packers to start the NFL’s 100th season. There are big things expected from both Chicago and Green Bay this season.
A majority of Bears starters will see their first action of the season as they didn’t play in the preseason. Some players will have higher importance than others to start the season.
Here are three Bears to watch for against the Packers on Thursday night.
Tight End Adam Shaheen
With the news on Monday that tight end Trey Burton is battling a groin strain, former second-round pick Adam Shaheen’s role becomes bigger. Last season, Shaheen started in the playoff game against the Eagles but struggled to make a significant impact. The Bears were unable to run the same plays that they ran with Burton when Shaheen was in.
One example was the failed two-point conversion against the Eagles in which the Bears ran a shovel pass with Taylor Gabriel instead of the tight end which they had run several times during the regular season.
Shaheen did flash in last year’s preseason before suffering an ankle injury that forced him to miss almost half the season. Having another season in head coach Matt Nagy’s offense, it is important that they can run the same plays with Shaheen that they would with Burton. The tight end position is vital in Nagy’s offense because a lot of the routes for the position are high percentage throws that create short-yardage situations.
Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd
Getting pressure on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is necessary if the Bears have any chance of winning on Thursday night. All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack will be the target of the Packers pass-protection as he recorded three and a half sacks with a forced fumble in the two games last season. It will be up to fellow starter Leonard Floyd to take advantage of the attention being paid to Mack.
Floyd has had success against the Packers as he has sacked Rodgers five and a half sacks in six games. He has two multi-sack games against Rodgers including a forced fumbled and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Floyd played in all 16 games last season but failed to consistently make an impact as he had just four sacks. In 2019, he will need to be more consistent in pass-rush especially in new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano’s blitzing defense.
Wide Receiver Allen Robinson
Robinson was the biggest free-agent signing for the team during the 2017 offseason. Robinson gave the team a big-play factor that they lacked since the departure of former Pro-Bowl receiver Alshon Jeffery. Although returning from a serious knee injury, he averaged four catches per game playing in 12 games. His biggest game of the season was the most important game as he caught 10 passes for 143 yards and touchdown against the Eagles.
If Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears offense plans to take the next step this season, they will need Robinson to be more productive starting against the Packers. In both games against Green Bay last year, Robinson had at least one catch of 30 yards or more. Although able to make the big play, he was consistent as he only caught seven passes in the two games.
If he can start off the way he finished last season, Robinson could help take the Bears offense to new heights in 2019.