Packers' Next Opponent: Quick takes on the Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears are coming off a last-place, 5-11 season in 2017. They proceeded to bring in a new head coach in Matt Nagy and a few new wide receivers, then acquired All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack to bolster their attempt to win more than six games in a season for the first time since 2013. The offense was one of the worst in football a year ago, and Nagy was hired to fix that in a hurry.
The Bears may have made the boldest move of the offseason by trading for Mack on Saturday, but he had not practiced or played a snap for the Oakland Raiders. And Bears first-round pick, linebacker Roquan Smith, also did not play a snap in preseason. How much those two play – and how impactful they are – will be a top storyline in Chicago.
TV: 7:20 p.m.: NBC broadcast with Al Michaels (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst) and Michelle Tafoya (sideline reporter) and Terry McAulay (rules analyst).
Radio: WTMJ-AM (620) and the Packers Radio Network.
Line: Packers by 7 1/2.
Here's what else you need to know about the Chicago Bears:
Basics on the Bears
The Bears went 5-11 and finished last in the NFC North for the fourth consecutive year.
On offense, new coach and play-caller Nagy is expected to bring a base “West Coast” scheme to Chicago (think of a timing-based passing attack) but he has modernized it, a la Kansas City and Philadelphia in 2017. The run-pass option (RPO) will be featured prominently with running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. On defense, the team runs a 3-4 under veteran defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, and he likes to bring the heat on opposing QBs.
Number of preseason snaps the Bears' starting linebacker corps has played together.
Wins by the Bears over the Packers with Aaron Rodgers under center.
Pass attempts by QB Mitch Trubisky in two preseason appearances. The Bears’ starting quarterback played 40 snaps total.
Players to watch
Mitch Trubisky, QB
The would-be franchise quarterback is expected to take a major leap and assume that mantle, even though he is running a new offense. In 12 starts a year ago, Trubisky wasn’t accurate (59.4 completion percentage) and didn’t push the ball down the field (6.6 yards per attempt). He has mobility, however, having averaged 6 yards per rush while scoring two touchdowns on the ground.
Tarik Cohen, RB/KR
The second-year playmaker will be must-see on kick returns Sunday night. The Packers feature a rookie a punter in JK Scott and Cohen averaged 9.4 yards per punt return a year ago, good for ninth in the league, including one return for a touchdown. He also averaged 22.4 yards per kick return. On offense, Cohen could be featured in much the same way Tyreek Hill was in Kansas City as Nagy (and former Chiefs offensive coordinator) brings that style of play-calling to Chicago.
Allen Robinson, WR
Before Mack, Robinson was the Bears’ highest-profile offseason acquisition. The former Jacksonville wide receiver signed a 3-year, $42 million deal to become Trubisky’s top pass catching weapon. But Robinson hasn’t played since Sept. 10, 2017, when he blew out a knee. He was a Pro Bowler in 2015 after catching 80 passes for 1,400 yards and a league-high 14 touchdowns.
Reasons to worry
Mack, Smith and Leonard Floyd can pin their ears back and get after Rodgers. Fangio put together the No. 10 total defense in the league last year, and the No. 9 scoring unit, on a team that lost 11 games. Now they added arguably the best linebacker in the draft in Smith and traded for All-Pro Mack. Defensive end Akiem Hicks led the team with 8.5 sacks, but he schemes pressure from everywhere – 16 different Bears brought the quarterback down at least once last year. Now, Mack (holdout) and Smith (hamstring) didn’t play a preseason down in the preseason and Mack also missed all of camp. Floyd has a broken hand. So there are issues there for Fangio to manage. But things get easier for Fangio and those limited players if all they have to do is see quarterback, get quarterback – and that could be a problem for Green Bay.
Reasons to relax
The Bears didn’t show much offensively through the preseason, choosing to keep things vanilla, so there are just educated guesses as to what Nagy will do. And while Nagy was brought in specifically to push second-year quarterback Trubisky into an elite level and pull the passing game into the modern era, how (or if) that will happen is a mystery. Trubisky hardly played in the preseason, nor did his No. 1 receiver (Robinson). Other passing weapons are also playing their first full game together (wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and tight end Trey Burton). Those are all known quantities in the league and running back Jordan Howard is a Pro Bowler – but if the game has to be placed on Trubisky’s shoulders in Week 1, the Bears might be in trouble.
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