First Thoughts: Cardinals’ Strengths Could Exploit Bears’ Weaknesses

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After a tough Week 1 loss to the Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Bears will once again look to get their first win of the season on Sunday as they welcome the Arizona Cardinals to Soldier Field.

If the Week 1 loss was caused by a precise performance by Aaron Rodgers, Week 2 will be defined by how the secondary deals with the wide variety of weapons that Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer has at his disposal. Larry Fitzgerald is the biggest name among that group, and he certainly played like it on Sunday when he hauled in six catches for 87 yards in the team’s 31-19 win over the New Orleans Saints.

Fitzgerald isn’t alone either. Tight end Darren Fells got in on the action Sunday as well, with four receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown in the game. Eight different players caught passes in the game, including rookie running back David Johnson, who snared a 55-yard screen pass for a touchdown to seal the victory for Arizona.

The Cardinals’ offense will likely take on an even heavier pass-first style on Sunday with running back Andre Ellington missing the contest with a knee injury. Ellington is a tremendous dual threat out of the backfield, capable of running the ball effectively and being a dangerous receiving threat on underneath routes, but the Bears won’t have to deal with him as he begins his recovery from a PCL injury.

Despite that news, Bears fans shouldn’t get too amped up. The team still has enough rushing weapons to cause concern, with the aforementioned Johnson potentially getting a good number of carries. Veteran back Chris Johnson, whom the team signed as an insurance policy this offseason, will also likely get a long look as he tries to prove he still belongs in the NFL.

On the defensive side of things, the Cardinals boast one of the more difficult defenses in the NFL. Their secondary features some excellent young players, with Patrick Peterson manning one of the cornerback spots and Tyrann Mathieu back and playing well at the free safety position. Rashad Johnson also had a solid game for the Cardinals on Sunday against the Saints, providing the lone interception of the day as he picked off an errant throw from Drew Brees.

Up front, the Cardinals will provide plenty of challenges for a re-tooled Bears offensive line. Calais Campbell is one of the most exciting pass rushers in the NFL, and he will likely be battling with Kyle Long a lot on the right side of the Bears’ line. Further complicating Long’s life will be outside linebacker Alex Okafor, who sacked Brees twice in Week 1.

Overall, the Bears’ test this week will be a similar one to the one they dealt with against Green Bay in Week 1. The Cardinals’ running game won’t be as big a factor, but the sheer variety of weapons that Palmer and company use will make the passing game a bit more complicated to deal with. The Bears’ secondary was pretty lackluster against the Packers, and they could be in for another tough challenge in Week 2.

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