Preseason Opener: 3 Things to watch during Bears-Dolphins
|Friday, August 13, 2021, 10:31 AM- -|
Finally, after much anticipation, the Bears 2021 NFL season kicks off this weekend with their first of three preseason games. First on the docket will be the Miami Dolphins heading to Chicago for what should be a defensive battle.
Miami is coming off an impressive 2020 campaign where they went 10-6 and missed the playoffs on the season's final game due to tie-breaker scenarios. Head Coach Brian Flores has done a great job with that team in just two seasons and now has added the likes of Jalen Waddle and Will Fuller to compliment Davonte Parker in the receiver room. That alone should help Tua Tagouviola in his second season after showing lots of growing pains during his rookie season.
For the Bears, they are coming off an 8-8 season but managed to make the playoffs for the second time in three years under Matt Nagy. Given the offseason the Bears had this season, there is tons of hype surrounding this organization, and they have a ton of pressure to win now. That means that both Nagy and GM Ryan Pace may be coaching for their jobs this season, although Pace may have earned more time with the moves he made.
With the preseason being one week shorter than it typically is, things will be different when it comes to how coaches utilize their players to get them ready. Typically, starters only see one or two series the first two weeks and then play into the second half-week three. That could still happen this season, but some teams may elect to use them more in week two than week three.
Here are a few things I will be looking at as the preseason gets underway.
How does Nagy handle quarterback reps?
When the Bears signed Andy Dalton this offseason, he was immediately brought in to replace both Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky as the starter. Then came the draft night, where the Bears not only traded up, but managed to steal Justin Fields from the rest of the back, giving them three starting tier QBs on their roster.
From all accounts, Dalton is going to be the starter come week one unless something drastically changes this preseason. Judging by Fields latest practice and looking the best he has thus far, expect him to give it his all and do what he can to win the starting job. At worst, he lands the backup gig to open the season with hopes of him taking over the reins by midseason.
If Foles is on the roster, the Bears must pay him. The problem becomes he is getting paid way too much money to be a third-string QB. He has heard his name in trade talks yet again, but the only way the Bears can move him is to get him on the field and audition him.
Fans hope that doesn't happen during the regular season, so look for Foles to get plenty of snaps during the first two preseason games. Essentially, Dalton may get one series tonight while Fields plays the rest of the first half and Foles taking over in the second. Nagy has some tough decisions to make, and this will be one of them.
The newly revamped offensive line
While most of the offseason talk surrounded the QB situation, you have to take notice of the Bears offensive line and how different they look. This has been one of the most significant issues offensively for Chicago as the inconsistency of their offensive line has hampered this team.
After drafting Tevon Jenkins in the first round and moving Cody Whitehair from center to left guard, the Bears have a newly revamped offensive line that not only looks better on paper, but is more versatile than ever before. They also have a ton of depth across the board as another rookie in Larry Borom could see plenty of action on the right side this season.
In order to win games, you need to dominate in the trenches. While the Bears have no trouble doing that on the defensive side of things, they haven't been able to bring that same physicality to the offensive side of the ball. With a new scheme, new coach, and a new looking line, the Bears are hoping the changes they made can benefit them going forward as they aim to set the tone this season.
Another blow to the #Bears O-line: Alex Bars, who can play every position on the line, left practice with a knee injury today.— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) August 12, 2021
The last thing I will be looking for doesn't necessarily have to do with the gameplay itself, but more so the environment. Saturday will mark the first time fans will be allowed at Soldier Field to attend a game in full capacity in over a year. Even though this is a preseason game, and typically, those games are not sold out, expect a great crowd on hand.
Everyone knows how important home-field advantage plays in the NFL, and for the Bears, the weather is often their home-field advantage. With one of the smallest stadiums in terms of capacity, the Bears need the crowd to be as rowdy as possible early for the team to feed off that energy.
Look for them to bring plenty of excitement to the field this season as they have gone more than a calendar year without being able to attend a game in person. Preseason or not, fans will be back and ready to bring the noise in what they hope will be a great season.
SATURDAY QUADRUPLEHEADER??— NFL (@NFL) August 12, 2021
Dolphins vs. Bears 1PM ET
Broncos vs. Vikings 4PM ET
Browns vs. Jaguars 7PM ET
Chargers vs. Rams 10PM ET
??: Catch every #NFLPreseason game on NFL Network.