After a long offseason, the Chicago Bears are finally set to kick off the 2021 campaign, which they will do Sunday night against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium.
The Bears, who were knocked out of the postseason by the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Wild Card Round, are hoping to make it three out of four this season, and that road starts in the City of Angels live on NBC 5.
Before the game starts, here are our five key players to watch in the contest.
There’s really no other way to put this. The Bears’ quarterback situation has been THE topic of conversation throughout training camp and the preseason, and through it all head coach Matt Nagy has made it abundantly clear that Andy Dalton would be the team’s starter in Week 1 against Los Angeles.
Now that the season is finally here, it’s time for Dalton to show whether Nagy’s faith in him was correctly placed. Dalton may be missing a starter if wide receiver Darnell Mooney isn’t ready to go, but whatever the case is, Dalton’s game-management will be severely tested against a tough Rams defense, and he’ll have to show some serious skill to win over skeptical Bears fans.
After establishing himself as a dominant presence in the Bears’ secondary, Jackson had a rough 2020 season, routinely getting burned on passing plays and missing tackles in all areas of the field.
With the Bears’ secondary now drastically changed thanks to offseason acquisitions and departures, Jackson is going to be in for a stern test in facing a Rams offense that is full of weapons, including Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and new quarterback Matthew Stafford.
He’ll need to step up in a big way if the Bears want to win on Sunday.
Speaking of the team’s secondary, Johnson is now the number one cornerback on the roster after the departure of Kyle Fuller, and he’s going to draw some tough assignments this season.
Johnson had some growing pains in a solid rookie season, but confidence is high among the Bears that he’ll be able to take a big step forward in his sophomore campaign.
We’ve already mentioned that Mooney might be out with a back issue for Week 1, but even if he plays, the Bears are looking for some big production out of other sources, and Kmet should find himself squarely in that camp.
The second-year tight end has shown some flashes during the preseason and training camp, but with a relatively thin receiver corps, he’ll have to be on top of his game in order to give Dalton another place to dump off the ball if the Rams’ pass rush is able to get pressure on him.
The Bears’ offensive line was one of their big weak spots last season, and they’re going to need some players to really step up their game in the coming year, including veteran Jason Peters and left guard Cody Whitehair, among others.
A big wild card in that mix is Mustipher, and he’ll be in for a tough challenge in Week 1, as he’ll likely be stuck dealing with Aaron Donald and company throughout the game Sunday night. He’ll obviously get some help from James Daniels and Whitehair, but he’ll have to be in top form against one of the scarier defensive lines in the league.