The moment of truth will come out for this defense this Saturday at Soldier Field. Not only are they coming into this preseason game with a game plan and will get to adjust, but they are facing an inferior QB in Derek Anderson as well. Larry Fitzgerald is out for the rest of the preseason with a MCL injury and Early Doucet (abdominal strain) most likely won't be out there Saturday night. I like Steve Breaston, but the guy can't do it himself and Stephen Williams, while impressive this training camp and preseason (can't believe this guy wasn't drafted), shouldn't be a handful. There should be no excuse for the defense not to have an impressive performance this Saturday. If Derek Anderson marches up and down the field against our defense, it's time to start being concerned.
For this 3rd pivotal preseason game, I'm focusing on the match-up between the Bears defensive line and secondary versus the Cardinals offensive line and wide receivers. Why am I focusing on both the defensive line and secondary this week you may ask? It's because the two go hand and hand. Quite simply, if Peppers, Harris, and the rest of the DL get pressure, it will allow Bowman and Tillman to jump underneath routes and make plays on the ball. The defense has been very satisfactory through two preseason games, and with the Bears coming into the game with a game plan and more play calls to choose from, there's reason for fans to expect a stellar performance.
Projected Bears Starting DL
LE Mark Anderson DT Tommie Harris DT Anthony Adams RE Julius Peppers
Projected Bears Starting Secondary
LCB Zachary Bowman RCB Charles Tillman NB Cory Graham FS Chris Harris SS Daniel Manning
Projected Cardinals Starting OL
LT Levi Brown LG Alan Faneca C Lyle Sendlein RG Reggie Wells RT Brandon Keith
Projected Cardinals Starting WR
WR Steve Breaston WR Stephen Williams WR Andre Roberts
RE Julius Peppers vs. LT Levi Brown
While Brown has mobility and good strength, Peppers' power and speed might be too much for Brown to handle. Brown struggled in the past two preseason games and it doesn't get much easier facing quite possibly the best pass rusher in the league this Saturday. Even in run support I give the edge to Peppers as he has shown through two games that he can be reliable against the run. Anderson will be lined up there, but I think Brown's strength would be a little too much for Anderson if he gets a hand on him.
DT Tommie Harris vs. LG Alan Faneca
I will be watching this match up very closely because it should be good one. Players who were once dominant at their positions duking it out, to prove their own doubters that they still can be forces at their respected positions. This match-up will most likely see Harris get the best of Faneca when rushing the passer unless Faneca gets help from the Center. Although Harris is good at run support, Faneca is still a beast at run blocking and, in this department, you might see Faneca get the edge against Harris. This should be a very entertaining match-up between the two.
DT Anthony Adams vs. RG Reggie Wells
An interesting battle that fans might overlook is Adams vs. Wells. Both are very solid, all around players with Adams' strength in run support and Wells' strength in run blocking. You can also expect this to be a seesaw battle between the two players as both match-up evenly with each other. One player you want to keep an eye on is NT Matt Toeaina in pass situations. Toeaina has shown the past two preseason games that he's definitely not a one-sided player, and that he can be relied on to rush the passer.
LE Mark Anderson vs. RT Brandon Keith
Mark Anderson will be lined up against an unproven tackle in Keith. This is a golden opportunity for Anderson to solidify that left end spot against a tackle with not that much experience and it's also match-up to see if Anderson has taken that next step. Look for Peppers and Idonjie to also be match-up'd against Keith, as Lovie will throw different types of pass rushers at Keith for most of the game. Whoever comes out more impressive against Keith, will most likely have the edge for the starting spot at LE.
LCB Zachary Bowman vs. WR Steve Breaston
While Breaston is not a #1 receiver, he is still a decent complement to Larry Fitzgerald on the outside. This is a good match-up to watch closely, so you can see where Bowman is at in his development. He's going to be asked every week to man up against the opposing team's best receiver, and if he can't handle the Cards 2nd best receiver how are we, as fans, supposed to be confident he can handle the Megatrons and Greg Jennings of the world. Harris will provide over the top help, so this will give Bowman chances to make plays on the ball.
RCB Charles Tillman vs. WR Stephen Williams
This will not be a walk in the park for Tillman. Yes, Williams is a 1st year player, but at the same time, there have been reports that he has been the surprise of Cardinals camp. At 6'5" he has the size to go up and get the ball, but he also has the speed to get downfield. While Williams has been impressive this summer, Tillman is an established vet and if he can shutdown Megatron himself, Calvin Johnson, I like his chances against Williams.
Nickelback Cory Graham vs. WR Andre Roberts
Graham will most likely be starting at Nickel, but a part of me thinks that D.J. Moore might be better suited to match up against Roberts. I expect Graham to be solid against Roberts, but I want to see some play making ability at the nickelback position and I think Moore brings that. Roberts is a small, fast, athletic receiver who'll kill in the immediate routes and also vertically. Graham will need to be physical with Roberts and frustrate the rookie in order to take him out of the game.