By Jeff Joniak–
(CBS) The Bears open the season against the Texans in Houston at Sunday at noon. Here are my keys to the game.
Offense: Possess the ball
The Bears’ half-dozen new starters on offense will need to blend together quickly against what was the NFL’s third-ranked defense last season. Quarterback Jay Cutler operates behind a rugged interior, but the trio has yet to play a down together. Coordinating a power and sustainable running game and utilizing the mauling mentality of guards Josh Sitton and Kyle Long can allow the Bears to control the clock and the rhythm of the game. That possession time must lead to points. Finishing drives against the Texans will be huge. Blocking J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Jadaven Clowney is the first place to start with the Texans.
Defense: Let ’em have it
With a rebuilt front seven, the Bears present a significant challenge for a Texans team breaking in a new quarterback: Brock Osweiler. The Bears want to play an aggressive, pressure-packed nasty style. The Texans’ offensive line didn’t get a lot of snaps together in the preseason, so it could be the best week to get after them. Houston’s improved speed on offense will have to be muted with physical play from the secondary. Osweiler will be getting rid of the ball quickly and often to star receiver DeAndre Hopkins, with speedy rookies Will Fuller and Braxton Miller to complement him.
Special teams: Start fast
It took a while to get up to speed for the Bears’ special teams a year ago, but with an influence of rookie defensive backs and depth at linebacker, the coverage units should be improved. The Bears are breaking in a new kicker in Connor Barth, albeit an experienced one who’s known for his accuracy inside of 40 yards. The Bears’ reutrn game will have more speed attached to it, and ball security will be paramount in the season opener.
Intangibles: Element of surprise
The Bears are a tough team to scout. They have a bunch of new starters and a depth chart featuring some fairly unknown commodities who haven’t played together for any significant time. It’s a mystery the Bears should use to their advantage and announced to the league to be aware that the bite is back in the Bears.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.