In this midweek series, we'll bid adieu to the week that was and introduce you to the team that will
be this week's Bear-fodder play the Bears in the coming weekend. Now some teams, we're familiar with (Seattle), some we know and love in that little brother sense (Detroit), some we know and... well, at least know (Philadelphia), and some we hate with the fire and passion and exploding fury of a thousand suns (Green Bay). But there are a lot of teams we play maybe once every four years, and we may not necessarily know exactly what makes them tick. So in this series, we'll pull back the curtain and try to tell you what they run, who are the cogs of their offense and defense, and more importantly, what the Bears can do to beat them.
So since we can't say goodbye to anybody this week (Can we really say goodbye to the offseason?), follow me past the jump and let's warm up the series by looking at the Bears' first preseason opponent, the Buffalo Bills...
What'd They Do Last Year: Finished with a 4-12 record, good for the #3 overall pick. Finished 28th in points scored and points allowed.
When Last We Met: The Bears had to invade foreign soil to deal with this motley bunch, defeating the Bills 22-19 in Canada. Jay Cutler threw for two touchdowns, one to Bennett and one to Olsen. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for almost 300 yards and Stevie Johnson had a coming-out party. Neither side got much dirt on the other QB, although Chris Harris and Tim Jennings each had a pick.
Head coach Chan Gailey runs the offense and loves the deep ball. I mean loves the deep ball. Loves to pass in general, actually - 519 pass attempts and 34 sacks compared to 401 rushing attempts. This is reflected in the roster itself - CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson are both very good receiving threats out of the backfield, and power running back Marshawn Lynch was shipped off to Seattle midstream.
This unit doesn't have very many new faces to it - the draft added fourth rounder OT Chris Hairston and fifth rounder RB Johnny White, and free agency added QB Tyler Thigpen, QB/WR Brad Smith and WR Buster Davis. This means generally the same crew of the 25th-ranked offense (in yards) the Bears faced in Canada are still here - WR Lee Evans and WR Stevie Johnson with QB journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm.
On the plus side, the same line that allowed 34 sacks is still around, although the Bears only collected one against them last year. The Bills were 13th in the NFL in yards per rushing attempt with 4.3 yards per carry, but were 32nd in the NFL in rushing touchdowns (6).
The Bills employ George Edwards as the defensive coordinator, who runs primarily a 3-4 with some four-down-linemen looks. Added to that this season is former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt. As a result, it should be a defense that adds a bit more pressure through blitz schemes. Well, whatever they did last year wasn't working...
The defensive unit is where most of the additions have come in. The draft added DT Marcell Dareus in the first round, CB Aaron Williams in the second, LB Kelvin Sheppard in the third, safety Da'Norris Searcy in the fourth, LB Chris White in the sixth, and the seventh saw DT Michael Jasper and CB Justin Rogers. They also added LB Nick Barnett in free agency and claimed DT Lionel Dotson off waivers. Marcus Stroud is gone, as is Pierre Woods.
So there's a lot of new faces to go with the new defensive emphasis.
If the Bears do this...
Really, it's the preseason, so it doesn't matter one tick. Cutler completed 17 of 30 for 188 yards and two scores against the Bills last season, and obviously won't be out there as long. Instead, let's see how the receivers, especially The Immortal Sanzenbacher, handle live game reps. It'd also be great if the Bears could get some penetration on that Bills O-line.
If the Bills do this...
Again, doesn't matter, but the Bills will come out blitzing to get pressure on Cutler. If the Bears' interior line can handle Dareus, it'll be interesting to see how they handle this fledgling defense. Granted, the Bears see aggressive defenses in their own division (exhibit A, Green Bay). On offense, Fitzpatrick threw the ball 51 times for 31 completions, 299 yards and a touchdown; Stevie Johnson had 11 of those for 145. We know Tillman's the first starter at cornerback, but let's see if the battle for #2 gains any separation.
Well, it's preseason, finally. Let's see what live game reps bring and if we have anything to worry about. I'm looking at you, offensive line...