Five Players To Watch: Week Three (De la Puente, Frey, Houston, McClellin, Sutton)

Five Players To Watch: Week Three (De la Puente, Frey, Houston, McClellin, Sutton)
Heading into New York for a Monday night clash with the Jets, these are the five players to watch.

The Bears did exactly the opposite of what we thought they would to start off the 2014 season by losing to Buffalo at home and knocking off San Francisco on the road.

Now the Bears (1-1) head to New York to battle the Jets (1-1) for Monday Night Football. The Jets knocked off Oakland to open things up at home before blowing a big first-half lead to Green Bay on the road last week.

Both teams feature talented running backs and solid offensive lines. The Jets are the top rushing offense and rushing defense in the NFL this season, while the Bears currently are tied for ninth in points scored with 24 per game.

Jay Cutler has been forced to be pass happy as of late against some physical defenses, which has led to the Bears ranking fourth in pass attempts per game with 41.5.

"I hope we don't see a front seven better than them," Cutler said of the Jets defense on Friday.

Cutler also made a comment about his teammate and best friend Brandon Marshall's 40-minute press conference from Thursday by saying "I couldn't be prouder of him."

The ground game is something the Bears need to get on track on Monday night and without left guard Matt Slauson and center Roberto Garza it won't be easy.

The Bears will have to do many things right against a Jets team that is vulnerable on both sides of the ball.

Their quarterback Geno Smith is still prone to making mistakes, while their secondary, specifically at cornerback is shaky at best. Blitzes will be dialed up plenty by Rex Ryan as they look to pressure Cutler early and often.

Injury Report

Bears ---Defensive end Jared Allen practiced in full, while wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and safety Chris Conte were limited on Friday.

---Linebacker Shea McClellin (hand), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion), wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quad), lineman Slauson and Garza (ankle) and defensive end Trevor Scott (foot) all sat out of practice.

Jets ---Running back Chris Johnson (ankle), right guard Willie Colon (calf) and linebacker Nick Bellore (hip) were limited in practice on Friday.

---Wide receiver Eric Decker (hamstring) didn't practice, while cornerback Dee Milliner sat out as well (quad, ankle). However, according to Newsday's Kimberely Martin, Ryan said he'd prefer Decker to practice at some point, but it's not necessary for him to be able to suit up on Monday night.

Quote of the Day

"We should be celebrating Devin Hester's success and applauding him for that," Bears head coach Marc Trestman said to the media on Friday. He also said he sent Hester a congratulatory text last night.

Here are five players to watch when the Bears go head-to-head with Jets in the Meadowlands.

Center Brian de la Puente

Prior to signing a one-year deal with the Bears this off-season, de la Puente started 44 consecutive games with the Saints (2011-13). Despite suffering an MCL injury in the preseason, the 29-year-old Cal product fought his way back in time for the start of the regular season. He quickly found himself in the action with Garza suffering an ankle injury in Week One. De la Puente played 45 snaps in that game before starting his first game as a Bear last week against the 49ers, playing on all 59 offensive snaps. The Bears' offensive line, including de la Puente didn't give running back Matt Forte much of a push as he averaged a measly 1.75 yards per carry on 12 runs. They need to open up the running lanes against a tough Jets front, so it can make things easier for Cutler and the passing game.

Cornerback Isaiah Frey

Frey returns to the active roster quicker than anticipated. After missing three preseason games with a hamstring injury, the Bears waived him, but he returned to the practice squad soon thereafter. On Tuesday, Frey was promoted to the active roster with the news of Charles Tillman (triceps) being placed on season-ending injured reserve. The 24-year-old Frey started six games at nickel corner in 2013, making 62 tackles, two pass deflections and five quarterback pressures. He played most of the season with a broken bone in his hand, which limited his opportunities. He should be in line to start at nickel with McManis banged up and the Bears running out of options.

Defensive end Lamarr Houston

Houston had five tackles and one sack through two games last season with Oakland, but this season the 27-year-old has one solo tackle with his new team. The Texas product has played on 98 of 124 defensive snaps. He didn't quite hit his stride until Week Three last season, when he recorded five tackles and a sack against Denver. Houston needs to make plays whether or not it shows up on the box score. For years Bears' defensive tackle Tommie Harris struggled to get on the stat sheet as well as Julius Peppers as of late, but they both did things noticeable in games. Houston has to help slow down the two-headed monster backfield of New York in Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory.

Linebacker Shea McClellin

Despite suffering a hand injury in Wednesday's practice, McClellin is fully expected to start on Monday night. McClellin looked much more comfortable in his second start at strongside linebacker, recording three tackles and a sack. He made some great plays against the read-option and Colin Kaepernick. That's something that bodes well for his future as many teams in the league run that package often. He played on only 24 snaps against Buffalo before playing 38, more than D.J. Williams and Jon Bostic last week. The three will continue to rotate in and out to keep fatigue down. McClellin could be progressing before our eyes.

Defensive tackle Will Sutton

The rookie made his first career tackle on Sunday night against the 49ers. He played on 31 snaps, ten more than fellow linemate Ego Ferguson with Jeremiah Ratliff out with a concussion. Sutton played on only 11 snaps in Week One, but regardless of Ratliff's status, he's certainly earned more snaps. He has great pass-rushing skills, making 20.5 sacks in his time at Arizona State as well as 45.5 tackles for a loss. If Ratliff plays on Monday night, which it seems he will the Bears are certainly better off, but expect Sutton to get a healthy dose of snaps and that could be huge for his confidence moving forward.

Coming Up: Game Preview - Saturday, Final Thoughts - Tuesday

Thoughts on the five players to watch and the game in general? Make sure to comment below.

 

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