Three things to watch during Bears-Panthers Preseason matchup

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by - Staff Writer -
Joe Camporeale - USA Today Sports
Joe Camporeale - USA Today Sports

Have you gotten the itch yet Bears fans? Can you feel yourself getting amped up for a Bears season for the first time in what feels like forever? I certainly can and after an NFC North title last year and a roster that is nearly the same as last year how can you not be excited about this 2019 squad.

With the regular season still a month away there is a lot that needs to be sorted out from now until then. With this week as technically the opening week of the preseason, the Bears will kick off their first game on Thursday, August 8th at 8 pm as the Carolina Panthers come roaring to town.

With that being said, I do not expect the starters to play much if at all in-game number one as this game is mainly for rookies and bench players looking to impress the coaching staff to make the opening week roster. That doesn’t mean that the Bears do not have things to work on before the season gets underway. Here are three observations I am looking to watch ahead of their preseason opener.

A new defensive scheme:

Last year the Bears made it clear that defense wins championships as they dominated on that side of the ball to earn the NFC North crown. With former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio now the Denver Broncos head coach, the Bears appointed a new man in charge in former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano as he looks to keep the Monsters of the Midway rolling.

Although the talent on defense remains mostly the same, it will be the Bears new scheme as the storyline to watch all preseason. Pagano by no means is a terrible defensive coach, but he does things a lot different than Fangio. My biggest concern with this year’s defense is will a new approach force them to be less aggressive. If that is the case, can the offense beat teams more consistently on their own? Both questions will sort themselves out over time, but I am curious to see what the defense does throughout the preseason.

The running game:

For the past three seasons, Jordan Howard has been the feature back for Chicago with Tarik Cohen as the backup. With Howard dealt to Philly Cohen has been named the most likely started for 2019 but is he the starter? Remember, the Bears did draft David Montgomery with their first pick in the third round, and he has been regarded as one of the top backs in his class.

I don’t expect to see Cohen play a whole lot on Thursday and the same can be said about Montgomery. Those two pending injuries will be on the roster opening week and will battle it out all camp long for the starting spot week one. The battle I am most interested in seeing with the running game is who lands that final spot behind them as the team insurance policy?

Any team going with Cohen and Montgomery in week one would be in good hands but if one of those two goes down with an injury who can carry the load in their absence. I am not sure the Bears have a guy like that on their roster right now, and that is what the preseason is for. It is up to the Bears to put together the best possible roster to content with what looks to be a loaded NFC and finding the best No.3 back is as essential as a great 1-2 punch.

Kicking game:

This could have even been put as the number one storyline as the Bears were bitten by this issue all season. With Cody Parkey now out of the equation after his infamous double doink miss against the Eagles last year, Chicago has brought in Elliot Frye and Eddy Pinero with hopes of finding the next Robbie Gould.

So far in camp, both kickers have split the reps right down the middle and have performed well as of now. I do expect one of them to emerge as the winner of this job by week three of the preseason but for now, look for a nice competition until that point. Whether that means both players alternate kicking attempts during the games or rotate quarters or halves remains to be seen but expect to see plenty of them both as all eyes will be on this battle.

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