By Chris Emma–
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) — Week 1 of the NFL season presents plenty of the unknown.
A veteran coach, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio understands the challenge of any opener. Schemes are different, film is limited and the details are lacking. But the Bears’ defense has something unique in facing the Texans on Sunday.
Film from Houston’s 2015 season features a quarterback who now resides in Chicago, the Bears’ backup, Brian Hoyer. Hey, maybe he can help Fangio?
Houston has a new quarterback in Brock Osweiler, a new running back in Lamar Miller and a dynamic playmaker to key on every play in receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Rookie receiver Will Fuller could emerge as a threat, too. The Bears are preparing for a potentially dynamic Texans offense without the information with which Fangio thrives.
“We have a great DC,” new Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman said. “He’s going to put us in the right position most of the time.”
Freeman is one of the newest pieces to the Bears defense, along with Danny Trevathan, Akiem Hicks, Leonard Floyd and more. This is a much better unit, especially with the significant upgrades at inside linebacker bringing the Bears’ tandem from one of the league’s worst — Christian Jones and Shea McClellin — toward the top tier.
For all the new faces on this Bears defense, better talent won’t matter much is the collective unit is left unprepared.
The Bears saw Osweiler last season when he led the eventual Super Bowl champion Broncos to a 17-15 win at Solider Field in November. He finished the afternoon 20-of-27 for 250 yards and two touchdowns.
Osweiler signed a four-year deal in Houston worth $72 million, with $37 million in guarantees. He’s now leading a Texans offense with plenty of playmakers and a touted offensive mind in Bill O’Brien calling the shots.
“He’s a talented quarterback,” said Fangio, “and they obviously did, too, with the amount of money they gave him.”
The Texans offense will be multi-dimensional with the addition of Miller, a steady back in Miami. He ran for 4.5 yards per carry last season and scored eight touchdowns. He expects to rotate with backup Alfred Blue.
What makes the Texans dangerous is the air attack of Hopkins. The Bears don’t have a shutdown corner to counter the talented target. That’s where Fangio needs to make the difference.
Fangio must find ways to contain Hopkins, even without film that shows how Osweiler can use the receiver. Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller and Tracy Porter must hold down the fort in their matchups, and safeties Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey need to stay disciplined in the defensive backfield.
Entering Week 1, every team is preparing for a bit of the unknown. This is especially true for the Bears, who are working without a sound knowledge of how the Texans’ new personnel will fit into O’Brien’s schemes.
When Trevathan came to town, he spoke of a desire to bring the Bears defense back to prominence. He’s eager for the beginning against the Texans’ daunting test.
“I know it’s a big game for us,” he said. “We need this to roll into the season and get going. I know what’s at stake. I know we have to come and put together a great four quarters.”