All eyes will be on Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who enters what is expected to be a make-or-break season after beating out veteran Nick Foles for the starting job. After last season’s regression, Trubisky is hoping the difference will show from the start.
“I think it’s all about how we come out of the huddle and how we come out aggressive and focused, attention to detail,” Trubisky said. “I think you’ll be able to see a little pep in our step, [a] sense of urgency, getting up to the line — an aggressive offense that just looks like it’s clicking on all cylinders. Guys who who know exactly what they’re doing and they’re playing really hard.”
This seems like a good spot for Trubisky — he has a 131.5 passer rating (nine touchdowns, one interception) in three games against the Lions defense under Matt Patricia. The Lions were last in the NFL in passing defense last season. And they took an odd tack toward improving — trading former three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay to the Eagles, while signing former Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant and drafting Ohio State All-America cornerback Jeff Okudah with the third overall pick.
With the return of former Pro Bowl quarterback Matthew Stafford from a broken back, the Lions are target as a team that could take a huge leap this year after finishing 3-12-1 in Patricia’s second season. Stafford had a career-best passer rating of 106.0 (19 touchdowns, five interceptions) in eight games when he suddenly missed the game against the Bears at Soldier Field last Nov. 10.
The Lions were 3-4-1 even with Stafford, but they were 0-8 without him. Still, the last time Stafford faced the Bears defense, he was just OK with passer ratings of 74.9 and 67.4 (two touchdowns, four interceptions) in 2018.
Running back David Montgomery had a promising but unfulfilling rookie season (889 yards, 3.7 avg., six touchdowns) and was deemed the least of the Bears’ problems with their running game. With coaching staff changes designed to emphasize improving the run game, the Bears are hoping Montgomery still can be the ideal fit for their offense they were looking for.
Montgomery practiced this week after recovering from a groin injury and is expected to play. But his workload might not be as heavy as it normally might be.
There are more unknowns than normal heading into Week 1 after the COVID-19 pandemic altered every team’s offseason. The Bears are particularly proud of how they’ve handled it and it will be interesting to see if their preparedness makes a difference. With abbreviated training camps and no preseason games, the adjustment to regular-season game speed is greater than ever this season, so injuries, missed tackles and turnovers could be even bigger factors than normal.