After getting thoroughly embarrassed by the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos in their preseason opener, the Bears look to improve in all facets of the game Thursday night against the New England Patriots.
The Bears and Patriots had a chippy week of joint practices together and now will get to take out their aggression on one another for real — or, as real as a preseason game allows.
Here are four things to watch in Thursday’s Bears-Patriots game.
Can the Bears play with some intensity?
Intensity and preseason seem like contradictory words, but when on the football field, there’s no other way to play. You have to bring it every single game day or else you get blanked, 22-0, like the Bears did last week at the hands of the Broncos. The Bears need to come out with some sense of pride and ownership and string together a handful of productive drives. The starting units should get a little more playing time than they did in Game 1, but John Fox wants to see improvement before they trade their helmets for ball caps. There were several fights and minor skirmishes in practice this week between the two teams, so at the very least, they’ll be determined to “get the last shot” in Thursday night’s culmination.
Can the offensive line show signs of improvement?
If last week’s game against the Broncos was any indication of what’s to come this season, Jay Cutler is in for a world of hurt this year and just might not make it out alive. Cutler — and backup Brian Hoyer — were under constant duress and didn’t have much time to operate in the pocket. Additionally, the Bears run game couldn’t find many holes and finished the game with 48 rushing yards to go with 130 total yards. Sometimes it takes a while for new offensive line combinations to jell — and the Bears moved a lot of pieces around in the offseason — and they technically have three more weeks to iron that out by the time the regular season starts. But the starters are not going to play every minute of those games, so there really isn’t much time to improve.
How good can Kevin White be?
White was among my four things to watch last week against the Broncos and he remains there this week against the Patriots. The reason why is simple: he just might be the best weapon the Bears have this season. But we don’t know that yet for sure because we haven’t seen enough of him. Thus far through training camp and the preseason, White has flashed glimpses of the potential with which the Bears were enamored when they selected him seventh overall in the 2015 draft. But when he hits the game field for real in September, can he translate that success to an actual NFL game? If nothing else, White is one of those special athletes who make you inch forward in your La-Z-Boy when he gets his hands on the ball.
How are the Bears going to iron out the wrinkles in their secondary?
You have to feel good about the direction in which the Bears are headed with their front seven. They played with an edge this week while practicing against the Patriots and their whole mentality this season is to play with ruthless aggression. Sadly, it’s not just a preference but a necessity given the sketchy situation the Bears have developing in the secondary. The Bears have a potential mess on their hands as third-year cornerback Kyle Fuller missed this week of practice with a potentially serious knee injury. Said GM Ryan Pace: “He’s kind of had this nagging injury that we thought maybe he could play with, but as time went on, you could tell it was affecting his movement skills.” If Fuller misses significant time, that could seriously damage the Bears’ production in that level of the defense. The Bears also have a lot to figure out at the safety position where Adrian Amos has been a capable player but questions remain who will line up next to him.