1) Keep Jay Cutler Clean
The first key to any offense is making sure the one at the center of that offense can do his job without restriction, or barring that, with the least impactful adjustments as possible. For the Bears under a new offensive-minded head coach, that's especially true. And if you throw in a quarterback that's been sacked over 140 times over the last four years? Yep.
The Bears' new offensive line, of which seven of the nine linemen on the 53 are new Bears as of this year, has looked pretty good in the early goings of the preseason. The problem is those were against two of the weakest defensive fronts in the NFL and the Browns in the finale. Geno Atkins is on none of those units.
2) Insert Atkins Diet Joke Here
Geno Atkins is so good, he gets his own bullet point. Atkins is how you want to measure other NFL defensive tackles. He's the guy you'd hope Henry Melton could be.
Okay, enough gushing.
The point is, Atkins is really really good, and needs to be accounted for. He'll get after Cutler, and he can also penetrating running lanes really well.
3) Make Your Time (All Your Base Are Belong To Us)
The Bengals have a solid defense built on the foundation of a kick-ass defensive line. (Sound familiar?) But, if you buy enough time, the secondary can be beaten. Whether it's through creating speed/size mismatches (like, oh, the inside cross or inside slant, breaking routes on guys with size), or trying to set up a deep route, it takes some time. Ideally, the quicker the ball's out of Cutler's hands, the better. But if the Bears can forestall the pass rush just long enough, there's some play potential here.
4) A.J. Green
Green is not Calvin Johnson. Charles Tillman's done really well against Johnson, but Green's a little crisper of a route runner without that same game-breaking size. Tillman will need a little help over the top to track Green.
5) MLB Can't Allow Home Runs!
Bud Selig does not approve.
D.J. Williams hasn't played a down of preseason football. Jonathan Bostic looked really good against the run but the middle of the defense got hit hard in the passing game. And the Bengals have two tight ends that can really catch. I know not everything can be solved by "Safety over the top" but the Bears need to make sure they don't get beat consistently in the middle of the field.
6) Ends to a Mean, or Means to an End
Andrew Whitworth is out. That's huge for the Bears, because the best way to ensure a passing game stalls is to get after the quarterback. As important as it is for the Bengals to hit Cutler, it's as important for the Bears to hit Andy Dalton. And especially with Melton returning and going three deep in guys that can get after the quarterback from the end spot, and the Bengals having tackle injuries as well as missing Mike Pollack at guard, the pass rush needs to capitalize,