Jeff Joniak and Tom Thayer break down the Bears’ upcoming season opener against the Houston Texans. Timing is key for both teams, argues Thayer. Timing is crucial for the Texans, who are still breaking in a new quarterback. And for the Bears, timing needs to be sped up on the defensive front. The Texans face high expectations after making the playoffs last year, but season openers are always hard to predict.
The Bears will be a tough, hard-nosed team in 2016. That’s my first impression after watching off-season and pre-season practices and games. How many wins that equates to, or where that puts the franchise in the NFC playoff picture remains to be seen. I can’t remember so much discussion and chatter from coaches, players, and front office personnel about toughness. General Manager Ryan Pace is looking for tough players. Head coach John Fox demands tough players. Therefore, the Bears will be a tough team. It also can’t be contrived toughness. Those lacking toughness, won’t play for the Bears.
Second year players drafted or acquired in Fox’s debut 2015 season learned what it takes to be a Bear under the veteran head coach. Therefore, this group of talented players becomes the budding core of the future for this team. They are Fox guys. Scan the rosters of Fox draft picks and acquisitions in his early years and you will see a trend of eventual impact and not necessarily super stars. Fox embraces the lunch-bucket guys who are available and dependable. I have high expectations for the group which includes nose tackle Eddie Goldman, safety Adrian Amos, running back Jeremy Langford, receiver Kevin White, safety Harold Jones-Quartey, and defensive back Bryce Callahan.
There are 40 players on the Bears 53-man roster acquired in the last two years. It now makes the Bears one of the youngest teams in the league. John Fox repeatedly insists it’s a young man’s league which is true for just about every position but quarterback. I am often asked, “Where are the playmakers on this roster?” It is a fair question. My answer is they are in categories. Quarterback Jay Cutler has to be the biggest playmaker. Receiver Alshon Jeffrey is when healthy. Tight end Zach Miller has the ability to be one consistently. A healthy Eddie Royal fits that category. Defensively, Danny Trevathan and Akiem Hicks can be playmakers. Ditto Willie Young. CB Tracy Porter loves the fourth quarter for big interceptions. They obviously need more to emerge and there some to watch in that next group: Rookie outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, running back Jeremy Langford, receiver Kevin White, nose tackle Eddie Goldman, and rookie defensive end Jonathan Bullard.
Fourth & Short
Houston’s defense will be challenging to move the ball against. I guess a lot depends on how much and how well J.J. Watt is capable of playing just weeks removed from surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back. When he’s doubled and tripled, he springs others to make plays up front. They have many good players to account for and a secondary that is rock solid at both corner and safety.