When the Chicago Bears struggled last season, a large chunk of the blame was placed on the injury bug, as players like Lance Briggs, Jay Cutler, and Charles Tillman missed large amounts of time.
This season, the Bears have tried to beef up their depth with some smart signings and draft picks, but ultimately the veterans on the team will have to stay healthy in order for the squad to be successful. That all starts on Sunday when the team takes on the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field, and they will have a tall task on their hands as an energetic defense and a budding offense take the field against them.
One of the biggest health question marks for the Bears is going to come on their offensive line, and they’ll be tested early. Led by defensive end Mario Williams, the Bills’ pass rush is a really strong group, and players like Jordan Mills, who missed the entire preseason, and Kyle Long, who was sidelined with a viral infection early in training camp, are both going to need to be in midseason form to take care of business against that group.
Health will be an even bigger concern on the defensive side of things for the Bears, with Jared Allen making his regular season debut for the team. He missed several preseason games after his wife gave birth and because of a bruised shoulder, but the team isn’t planning on taking things slowly with him:
Willie Young is going to be a nice addition to the line to spell Allen and Lamarr Houston, but even with the speedster waiting in the wings, Allen is going to be the stir that straws the drink. He will be the guy drawing double teams and easing pressure on the other linemen, and he will also be the focal point for a pass rush that was anemic last year. He consistently racks up double digit sacks, and if he can do that again, then the Bears’ defense should look a lot better than it did in 2013.
Sunday will only be the first game of the season for the Bears, but it will provide them with a big opportunity to prove that they are healthy and ready for the grind of an NFL campaign. Will Mills be a step slow as he continues to recover from foot problems? Will Allen look rusty after taking most of the preseason off? These questions and more will be answered in game one, and those answers will dictate whether the season starts with a bang or a whimper for the Bears.