The Cincinnati Bengals come to town with people believing they may have what it takes to get to the Super Bowl in early 2014. And some of the holes the Chicago Bears attempted to plug up this season will be immediately tested when James Harrison and the boys take to the turf at Soldier Field on Sunday. Here are the key match-ups to watch:
Kyle Long and Jordan Mills vs. Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins
Good luck, rookies. Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap lead what just might be the best defensive line in the game, and we will find out just how ready Long and Mills are for the real deal when they’re not playing the Oakland Raiders’ scrubs.
After watching Long play this preseason, he looks like he could be the best rookie offensive lineman from the 2013 draft at first glance. Along with Jordan Mills, the young guys have looked great so far, having not suffered any really bad miscues. But you could be the best rookie lineman in the history of the game and you will still fight through the mental mistakes. It is just bound to happen, and Cincinnati will look for it.
They won’t always be one on one with these guys. There will be combo blocks and different things, but the Bengals are going to do whatever they can to maximize pressure on the quarterback. If Long stops his guy, he will lineup somewhere else to get pressure. So this won’t always be Atkins vs Long. Long’s most important thing is to just stay calm and not let his emotions get the best of him. He is definitely someone who plays off emotion.
Jermaine Gresham vs. Cover-2
Jermaine Gresham can be a legit problem for defenses. Especially one that isn’t exactly sure what the middle of the defense will look like come game time. D.J. Williams will be the starter Week-1 according to the depth chart, but one would have to imagine he will split time with Jon Bostic.
As great as Bostic has looked, he has looked just as lost in pass coverage at times. Gresham could become a problem for a rookie and a guy coming off an injury who didn't play a down in preseason. It will be interesting to see what Mel Tucker does with the linebacker position if trouble arises with the Bengals’ tight end.
A.J. Green vs. Bears’ Secondary
Cincinnati’s offense is legitimate. Dalton and Green are a great combination and can be absolutely deadly. Tillman seems to be able to handle anyone not named Steve Smith. Will another year age him at all yet? The man that stops Megatron dead in his tracks has to age at some point, right?
Well, we will see this week against a great wide out. But that isn't my biggest concern. Much like Marshall vs. their defense, Green is going to be productive no matter who he faces — on some level at least, if he is fully healthy. But it appears as if Green is healthy and ready for the season to begin.
In prior years, Conte seemed to never show up on the TV broadcast until the play was over because he was playing so deep. So far in this preseason, he has actually shown up a few times. Wright and Conte got the job done last year overall, and — I know at least for myself — I am waiting for them to take the next step. There is trust with Conte out there, but his pursuit angles seemed to still be off last year. I didn't notice any glaring issues with him in preseason, so that must be a good thing.
Martellus Bennett's debut vs. Bengals’ linebacking corps
Before I get going with this key, the comedic relief (or agony?) of Kellen Davis falling down and dropping passes will surely be missed, right? I mean, sure it sucked, but there was always something that was kind of funny about it. Especially when everything was just going completely downhill and Davis would fall down on the field. Ah, memories ...
Bennett is a major mismatch. Bengals’ linebacker Emanuel Lamur was their best guy in coverage, and Bennett can take advantage of that with his size and ability. But we still don't really know what we have with him yet — besides being a GREAT twitter follow.
Week one is a good chance to show us that he can be the legit tight end everyone hoped for. He's going up against a rookie, and he should be able to take advantage of the inexperience.
Trestman and Tucker calling plays
It has been quite some time since the Bears have had a real offensive mind (well, Martz was real, but he lost it bad) calling the plays. I thought the gameplan they implemented against the Raiders was great, and Trestman’s play calling had rhythm. The tempo was good, everything looked professional, and that was most likely a quarter of what they actually have.
For an offensive scheme geek like myself, play calling is what I'm very much looking forward to. As Bears fans, we finally might be past the days of Cutler yelling at the sidelines waiting for the play to come in.
Defensively, it’s basically the same playbook and scheme. There were a few new wrinkles, bringing both linebackers on a blitz, and sending Tillman on the corner blitz as well. Tucker seems more aggressive than Smith so far and will probably play more man than strictly zone.
Cutler and Dalton are kind of in the same situation. They both need to take that next step toward being elite. Now they each have a ton of weapons. This should be a close game with two really similar teams. Will this leave Trestman saying, "We're not in Canada anymore," or will the Bears rise to the occasion?
Filed under: Game Preview