If you're familiar with Windy City Gridiron over the last three seasons, I've done a recurring series called "Pleased to Meet You," where we turn the page from one week to the next and dig into the Bears' next opponent. Some teams we know well, some teams we play once every four years or so, and some teams we hate with all the fury and passion of a thousand suns. And let's not even get into our matchups with Green Bay, Detroit and Minnesota, yet.
Normally, we look at the opponent's recent history, their last matchup with the Bears, the offense and defense, and then we go a bit into the possible matchups of the game. So let's get into that.
This Season: ...
Rankings (as of 2013):
When Last We Met: Anybody else want to wipe this one from memory? LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown combined for 248 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. Nick Foles threw for a pair of touchdowns. Brandon Boykin ran a pick back for a touchdown. At least the Bears scored 11 points and combined for two sacks. ... Okay, that's not much consolation.
Offense: DeSean Jackson, the team's top receiver in 2013, was dropped and signed a 3-year, $24 million contract with the Redskins with $16 million guaranteed. Backup running back Bryce Brown was traded for a future pick and to trade up in the 7th round in this year's draft. However, Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin still headline the Eagles' receiving corps, with Brad Smith filling in the third spot and second-round pick Jordan Matthews backing them up. Add in LeSean McCoy still running the ball and the addition of Darren Sproles, as well as Brent Celek and last year's draft pick Zack Ertz, and the Eagles still have an array of weapons for Nick Foles (and Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley) to go to. The offensive line is still a good one, with Jason Peters, Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce blocking up front, and tackle Allen Barbre was also signed to a four-year extension.
Defense: The Eagles' 3-4 alignment doesn't look good statistically, but when you're among the tops in the league in points scored and your opponents are passing early, that racks up a fair amount of passing yardage against. Each of the Eagles' four starting linebackers had at least four sacks, and DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Trent Cole and Connor Barwin are all still around in 2014. First rounder Marcus Smith will get his chances. The Eagles added Malcolm Jenkins in free agency, and the remainder of the back four still remains intact with Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher and Nate Allen.
But let's be honest. This is preseason. And in preseason, we're more concerned about our own team's player development, roster battles, and that new team cult hero that's fighting to be the 53rd man on the roster than we are about the game outcome and the other team. Instead of doing the futile action and thought process of how the Bears can beat the Eagles and avenge last year's defeat (I'm sorry, that's twice now I've brought it back up), let's look at some things we'll be watching for.
1) Shiny new toys!
Admit it, you've wanted to see Kyle Fuller, Ego Ferguson, Will Sutton and Ka'Deem Carey in uniform and playing against people not wearing navy and orange, not to mention Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen and Willie Young. Fuller's shown well in practice to this point, but it'll be good to see how he handles some of the Eagles' offensive looks.
2) Safety Dance
So I heard people were dissatisfied with Chris Conte and Major Wright last season and the Bears brought in a whole bunch of new safeties to compete with Conte. I think the safety competition as preseason goes will be fascinating, especially the growth of Brock Vereen.
3) Wilson's Clavicle
Marquess Wilson's broken collarbone opens up some opportunities for Chris Williams, Josh Morgan, and Eric Weems to show their stuff. The passing game will still go through Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett, but the competition for the third receiver will still be heated with Wilson out.
This isn't so much a competition that I'll be watching, but I'd like to see growth from last year's young linebackers. Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene were thrust into prominent roles last year, and Shea McClellin is transitioning to linebacker from his defensive end spot. Growth from those three will be huge, and going against the Eagles' offense should be a good opening test.
What are you looking for out of Friday's game/glorified practice session?