It’s been a long offseason, but it all comes to an end on Sunday as the Chicago Bears kick off their regular season against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Bears, who won just three games last season, underwent some massive changes in the offseason, including getting rid of stars Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery, and they are hoping that their change in direction will result in a change of fortune on the field.
So who will be key for the Bears as they look to get the new season off to a good start? To answer that, here are our Five Players to Watch in Sunday’s game against the defending NFC champions.
With Prince Amukamara likely sitting out of Sunday’s game, Fuller is going to get a chance to start at cornerback, and it will almost feel like his career has come full circle.
After all, Fuller has gone from being a highly touted first round pick to a fringe roster player and now likely back to being a starter, and he’s going to draw a really tough assignment Sunday. The Falcons are loaded with talent on offense, and it’s going to be up to Fuller to help clamp down on their skilled receivers.
It’s fairly obvious that Glennon is going to be under a microscope from Day 1, and that became even more apparent this week as Mitchell Trubisky was named as the team’s back-up quarterback to start the season.
The pressure of having your heir apparent on the sidelines can’t be easy, and watching Glennon navigate this situation is going to be must-watch television every Sunday. He started to figure some things out late in the preseason, so it will be interesting to see if he can get the Bears’ offense going in his first regular season start.
Getting healthy players back is always key, and getting Trevathan back in the middle of the field is going to be a huge boost for the Bears on Sunday.
Jerrell Freeman has done a really nice job in the middle as the Bears have made the transition to the 3-4 defense under Vic Fangio, but Trevathan really has the skills necessary to stir the drink. He is quick and can diagnose plays better than just about anyone, and he can deliver some big hits as well.
If he can do both of those things against the Falcons, he could really give the Bears a chance to make some noise against a tough opponent.
With Jeffery gone and Cameron Meredith on injured reserve, now is the time that White is going to have to step up to prove that he was worth a first round draft pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
The Bears are woefully lacking in star power on their offense, and White may have the skillset to change that. If he can establish a good relationship with Glennon and help move the ball down the field, this Bears’ offense could be a lot more potent than most experts are anticipating they will be. If he is limited and effectively covered, then it could be a long afternoon at the office for the Bears.
There are some big questions facing the Bears’ offensive line this season, and none are more pressing than whether or not Whitehair can continue his career progression in his second NFL season.
Whitehair is going to bounce between center, his normal position, and left guard, where he’s likely to play if Kyle Long isn’t able to suit up on Sunday. That is tough for even veteran players, but for a second-year player, it’s going to be a really tall order.
Sunday’s game is going to be the first chance to see Whitehair in his second year, and it will be absolutely fascinating to see how he handles the transition of being more of a jack-of-all-trades than a master of one.