By Jeff Joniak–
(CBS) The Bears open the 2016 season by facing the Houston Texans on the road Sunday. Here are my observations leading up to the game.
When the Bears drafted defensive lineman Eddie Goldman in the second round (No. 39 overall) of the 2015 draft, he was compared to former Titans, Dolphins and Browns defensive tackle Randy Starks by NFL.com analysts. Both are 6-foot-4 and north off 300 pounds. Starks was a durable and consistent starter who plugged the middle of the line of scrimmage and averaged 3 1/2 sacks a season, with a high of seven for Miami in 2008. Starks played 12 NFL seasons. The question from scouts about Goldman coming out of Florida State was if he could push the pocket and sack the quarterback. Scouts had no doubt about his ability to clog the run.
With 34-inch arms and big, powerful hands, I look for Goldman to tear it up in 2016. He’s dropped some weight and feels quick and strong. Most of the attention centers on the Bears’ new front seven additions, but Goldman could make the biggest impact out of any member of that defensive front this season. A second-year pro, Goldman opened his career with 4.5 sacks in 15 games, with 12 starts, last season. You can hear more about Goldman in Sunday’s Bears Radio Countdown To Kickoff pregame show on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM around 10:20 a.m.
A year ago, the Bears were the only team in the league to start two rookie safeties at the same time. Late in the season, undrafted rookie Harold Jones-Quartey and fifth-round pick Adrian Amos shared four starts. Both players are 23. They’re the youngest safety duo in the NFL.
Jones-Quartey may be the loudest. He chirps and irritates by design. Admittedly, he wants to be an annoyance to opposing offenses. Despite his inexperience, he brings a swagger to the secondary. He’s physical and plays to the echo of the whistle. His biggest test will be his overall instincts in pass coverage, the ability to get off the hash with proper and consistent fundamentals and having an understanding of angles. Amos is being counted on to make more plays on the ball and finish with interceptions and sure tackles. He too can rock a receiver and is growing into the position. On Sunday, this duo will be one of the matchups to watch against Houston’s deep speed.
It started with a winning performance against the Bears last season as the Broncos’ starting quarterback. Brock Osweiler’s first NFL start went smoothly at Soldier Field. He started six additional games for the injured Peyton Manning, helping position the Broncos for a Super Bowl run. Now $72 million later, he’s Houston’s starter Sunday against Chicago. The weapon of his to watch is former Notre Dame speedster Will Fuller. Osweiler targeted Fuller plenty in the preseason on some deep routes. All he needs to do is hit one to strike fear in the Bears’ back four.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.