Football is back. After Thursday night’s impressive opener between Carolina and Denver, 13 games are on tap for the first Sunday of the season as well as two more on Monday night.
Included in Sunday’s schedule is the Bears road opener in Houston.
A league-high nine players were listed on the Bears’ injury report on Friday including wide receiver Kevin White (hamstring), guard Kyle Long (shoulder) and cornerback Kyle Fuller (knee).
Also on the list were cornerback Bryce Callahan (groin), defensive lineman Cornelius Washington (knee/ankle), wide receivers Josh Bellamy (shoulder) and Deonte Thompson (knee/ankle), safety Deon Bush (hamstring) and fullback Paul Lasike (wrist).
For the enemy, tackle Duane Brown (knee) is the lone player appearing on the injury report. He won’t play. Defensive end J.J. Watt, wide receiver Will Fuller, tackle Derek Newton and linebacker Akeem Dent all participated fully on Friday, so they aren’t on the report at all.
With the probable tag gone these are the three game report statuses this season and beyond: Out (will not play), doubtful (unlikely to play) and questionable (uncertain if player will play).
The Bears have plenty of new faces regardless of if they have injury issues or not. I expect Long, Fuller and White to start while it remains to be seen if Callahan is going to be at 100 percent. White suffered a hamstring tweak on Thursday and has some time to heal up and atleast play through the issue. Bellamy, Thompson, Bush and Lasike are likely to play.
Here are my five players to watch in Sunday’s season opener against the Texans. The top three guys are listed on the injury report.
WR Kevin White
It was supposed to be a fun first week for Kevin White. After a long year on injured reserve due to a shin injury, White is dealing with a hamstring issue days before the opener.
He showed well in the preseason finale against Cleveland after struggling in the three games before that. The Bears need White out there whether he’s fully healthy or not. Alshon Jeffery has a tough matchup ahead against either Kareem Jackson or Jonathan Joseph, two shutdown cornerbacks. I expect White to play on Sunday and it is important for him to gain some confidence in real games.
CB Kyle Fuller
Fuller said on Monday that his goal is to play. He’s been limited all week which is no surprise to anyone after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 18. It’s been a rough time for Fuller lately, but if this knee issue can be solved that could help him tremendously.
Year 3 is a big one for the 2014 first-rounder. The Bears don’t have much in terms of future pieces at cornerback outside of fourth-round rookie Deiondre’ Hall. But Hall is still raw and the Bears have to get Fuller going from the start. All eyes will be on him and fellow starter Tracy Porter, who is returning from a concussion two weeks ago.
G Kyle Long
A shoulder injury is plaguing Kyle Long right now, but just like Fuller he expects to play. Long is a warrior and it would take a lot for him to not to play. With Josh Sitton brought into the fold on Sunday at left guard and second round rookie Cody Whitehair likely starting at center, this should be a very athletic interior line.
Long is searching for his fourth Pro Bowl in four years. Back at his most successful position, right guard, whether he’s hampered or not Long is going to perform at a high level. He has a big task ahead of him against a tough Houston defensive front.
TE Zach Miller
Martellus Bennett is in New England and now 31-year-old Zach Miller is the guy in the tight end room. He missed all of the preseason with a concussion, so we haven’t seen what this offense can truly be with him out there.
However, we saw glimpses a year ago when he made 14 starts, catching 34 passes for 439 yards and five scores. Jay Cutler and Miller have a solid chemistry and Miller should be able to start off the season on the right foot. Health is always a concern with him. Last season, was his first appearance in a regular season game since 2011 and he’s yet to play all 16 games once since entering the league in 2009.
DL Akiem Hicks
The Bears are pumped to have Akiem Hicks along their defensive line. The fifth-year pro wrecked havoc in a 27-6 win in Houston in Week 13 last season as a member of the Patriots. Hicks had five tackles and a season-high two sacks.
A 2012 third round selection, Hicks has 140 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 22 tackles for a loss, 23 quarterback hits, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble in 61 career games between New England and New Orleans. The Bears are counting on the 6’5″, 336-pounder to be a stellar counterpart to nose tackle Eddie Goldman. Hicks and his group will have a tough assignment against elusive running back Lamar Miller.
Who will you be watching?
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