Four quarters: Bears questions entering game vs. Saints on Sunday
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
Since 1986, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has coached for seven NFL teams and one college team.
New Orleans is the closest place he has had to a home. His nine years there mark the longest stint of his career. He made his name there, too, as the linebackers coach for “The Dome Patrol” — Rickey Jackson, Vaughan Johnson, Sam Mills and Pat Swilling.
“I got spoiled,” Fangio said. “You’re coaching what some people think was the best linebacker group in the history of the game. So I knew from very early on what good players looked like.
“The bar is set high for me at that position, and when we don’t reach it, I let everybody know.”
While we wonder if there ever was a more dominant unit — “There was not a group better,” Fangio said — here are four quarters worth of Bears questions:
First quarter: How hard is Mitch Trubisky’s transition?
Saints quarterback Drew Brees set the Big Ten record with 1,678 passes while starting 37 games at Purdue. He came off the bench for one game as a rookie with the Chargers.
It was a different era. While Trubisky started only 12 games in college, Brees, who faces the Bears on Sunday, argued Trubisky probably played more football growing up than older players.
“Guys come into this league so much more well-prepared than ever before,” Brees told reporters this week. “Credit that to the amount of football that they play, from the seven-on-seven passing academies and camps up on through high school.”
Brees said coaches moving between NFL and college blur the lines between the two.
“You see it every year — there’s two, three, four guys that step in every year, and they’re operating very efficiently,” he said. “Just like Mitch Trubisky is.”
Second quarter: How thrilled must Akiem Hicks be?
For the second time in three weeks, the Bears’ stud defensive lineman will get to face a backup right guard. Saints starter Larry Warford was ruled out with an abdominal strain. Senio Kelemete, who Pro Football Focus said didn’t allow a pressure in 42 snaps in relief of Warford last Sunday, will start.
Hicks had a sack, a pressure and two run stuffs against Ravens rookie Jermaine Eluemunor in Week 6.
Warford was the only Saints player on the injury report. Bears receiver Markus Wheaton (groin), defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris (hamstring), linebacker John Timu (ankle/knee) and cornerback Sherrick McManis (hamstring) are doubtful after not practicing all week. Center Hroniss Grasu (hand) and running back Benny Cunningham (hamstring) are questionable.
Receiver Dontrelle Inman, who practiced for the first time Friday, will fly to New Orleans with the team. Coach John Fox said he’ll be a game-time decision.
Halftime hot tip
The Saints have won nine of their last 11 October games and have covered the spread in 10 of them. They’re nine-point favorites against the Bears.
Third quarter: Does Tarik Cohen prepare the Bears’ defense?
Rookie Alvin Kamara is the latest speedy, do-everything back to wear the Saints’ fleur-de-lis, joining Reggie Bush and Darren -Sproles.
In Cohen, the Bears finally have one of their own. He has 226 rushing yards and 228 receiving yards. Kamara has 215 and 209, respectively, in one fewer game.
“Out of that backfield, [Kamara] is elite with his hands as a receiver,” Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “There are so many routes. A lot of teams are going to that.”
In practice, Cohen has helped the Bears prepare for do-everything backs. Christian McCaffrey had seven runs for 10 yards and seven catches for 36 last Sunday.
Fourth quarter: Three straight?
The Bears beat the Bengals, Vikings and Steelers in Kyle Long’s first three NFL games.
“I remember taking that for granted at the time,” Long said. “Now we have an opportunity to do it again.”
The Bears are looking for their first three-game winning streak since the first three games of 2013.
“You have to make the most of your opportunities,” Long said. “Because it hasn’t come along in the last five years.”
Long called the game “huge.” A victory would get them to .500 entering their bye.
“Just get us back to 0-0,” Trevathan said. “And then it’s all full speed from there.”
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.