We’re now just under 12 hours until the Chicago Bears kick off the season at home against the San Francisco 49ers. The Bears lineup is much different than it was Week 3 of the preseason, let alone the last game of the 2021 season. With that, here’s a few key players to watch in Sunday’s season opener.
This week’s honorary captain may have to fulfill an even larger role than initially expected. While yes, the Bears do have a run first offense, the expected forecast for Sunday afternoon is rain, rain, and more rain. Wet conditions may force the Bears to pound the rock, meaning Montgomery will take on a bulk of the offense. There are questions as to Montgomery’s ability to fit in the new offensive scheme, so all eyes will be on Monty to be a difference maker.
The Bears second-round rookie corner out of Washington was named as starting corner #2 on the official depth chart. Whether he plays nickel or outside remains to be seen, however it will be expected a bulk of Gordon’s reps will be against 49ers receiver Brandon Aiyuk. Aiyuk is an impressive big-bodied receiver who has big play potential at any point in time. While quarterback Trey Lance’s ability to play is unpredictable, it’s sure he will target whatever receiver the young Gordon plays on. Gordon has an impressive preseason with multiple pass break ups, as well as showing his ability to be near the ball at all times. It will be interesting to see how Gordon performs in his first career start against such a volatile offense.
One of the most unexpected story lines from this offseason was the emergence of fifth-round pick Braxton Jones out of Southern Utah. From the get go, Jones ran as the starting left tackle of the offense, and he never let go of that job. He had an extremely impressive preseason, not allowing a single sack and very minimal pressure at all. However, this week he will face off against one of the best defensive players in football, Nick Bosa. Bosa is one of the more polished and pure pass rushers, and it’s a big assignment for anybody to block him, let alone a fifth-round rookie. While struggling a little is a given, just a solid performance by Jones is an extremely good sign. Quieting Bosa even for a little is huge for the morale of the offense, so let’s see what the kid can do.
After missing out on the Larry Ogunjobi signing due to a failed physical, the Bears picked up Justin Jones from the Los Angeles Chargers. Jones projects as a 3-Tech, an integral part of Matt Eberflus’s 4-3 defense. Jones showed flashes last year as a Charger stopping the run, and in the preseason showed much of the same when he did play. Jones will have a handful against the 49ers strong offensive line, but him making his presence known will be big for the Bears chances.
The Bears will kick off the season at home on Sunday, with all eyes on the team; more than half of the country’s Fox broadcast will be of the Bears game. The stakes are high for this team, and a chance to uproot the narrative of their inability is right there. Will they take it? We’ll find out soon enough.