By Chris Emma–
(CBS) The Monday night stage is set.
Under the bright lights of Soldier Field, the Bears (0-1) will look to get in the win column as they host the Eagles (1-0) for a primetime showdown.
Last season, the Bears failed to defend their home turf, going 1-7 at Soldier Field and 5-3 outside of Chicago. That’s a trend John Fox is hoping to change during his second season as the Bears’ coach.
“Pretty much everything — 1-7 at home is nothing to write home about, for sure,” Fox said.
In come the Eagles, who have turned to the No. 2 pick of the draft, quarterback Carson Wentz, as their leader. The North Dakota State product impressed during his debut, albeit against the Browns.
Wentz will play his first NFL road game in the hostile environment of Soldier Field, underneath the Monday night lights. Of course, it will only be a tough place to play if the Bears show up, too.
Let’s look at the matchup:
1.) Under pressure
Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks spoke of confidence when asked about the Bears’ front seven. It was a unit that seemed to struggle during the season-opening loss to the Texans, a performance that earned the review of “average” from defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
But Hicks knows that it was just the first game and that the Bears need more work together in practice. It’s a new unit that has high potential.
“It’s only going to get better,” Hicks said. “I’m extremely optimistic.”
Pressure will be the Bears’ most important key on defense. Wentz is a rookie with plenty of talent, but disruption in the backfield will make his night rough.
The Bears certainly have the personnel to come with the steady blitz, and Fangio knows how to draw up pressure to ruin a rookie quarterback.
2.) Building blocks?
Credit general manager Ryan Pace for being aggressive and getting new guard Josh Sitton to Chicago, but it was realistic to expect the offensive line would immediately struggle after being reshuffled again.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has taken snaps from four different first-team centers during the preseason. Cody Whitehair is the guy now, with Sitton sliding in at left guard. In part because of the unit’s lack of time together, the entire Bears offense struggled last week. Facing an elite pass rush like that of the Texans certainly didn’t help.
The Bears need better results from their blockers Monday night when they face the Eagles. It surely shouldn’t be anywhere near as bad as last week, which saw J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and countless Texans blitzing through to sack Cutler.
At the least, the Bears need competence up front for offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains to get his playbook functioning. In Week 1, Cutler had little time to throw, Jeremy Langford didn’t have running gaps and the offense was shut out in the second half.
The Bears hope that another week of practice will make the offensive line better and bring the offense greater success.
3.) What will White do?
Making his NFL debut in Week 1 after missing his entire rookie season with a shin injury, receiver Kevin White had just three catches, two of which came in the garbage time final drive. After he stopped an out route short to start the second half — leading to a Cutler interception — he wasn’t targeted again until the final drive.
The Bears hope that White can be a key piece to their offense. Alshon Jeffery certainly looked impressive in his 2016 debut. The offense needs that complement in White, who could be a dynamic talent in the offense.
Houston boasted a tough defense with difficult matchups. The Eagles’ defense isn’t quite the test that the Texans were.
White needs to be an important player in this matchup.