The Bears will hit the road for the first time this season when they visit the Buccaneers Sunday in Tampa. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:
(1) How will quarterback Mike Glennon fare against his former team?
Glennon spent his first four NFL seasons with the Buccaneers before signing with the Bears in March and acknowledged that Sunday’s game is special to him. Most importantly, however, he’s focused on leading the Bears to their first victory.
“I would just love to win,” Glennon said. “To get back to 1-1 is the ultimate goal. It doesn’t really come down to showing [the Buccaneers] anything. I just want to have a winning performance and help out team get back to 1-1.”
In last Sunday’s season-opening loss to the Falcons, Glennon completed 26 of 40 passes for 213 yards with one touchdown and an 86.8 passer rating. After a slow start, he connected on 18 of 27 passes for 163 yards and one TD in the fourth quarter.
With Kevin White fracturing his scapula against the Falcons and joining Cameron Meredith on injured reserve, the Bears will be without their two starting receivers.
“I spent a lot of time throwing with those guys,” Glennon said. “Every time we were throwing routes on air I was throwing to Kevin and Cam and unfortunately those guys aren’t here. But guys like Josh Bellamy and Deonte Thompson and Kendall [Wright] and now Tre McBride, guys are just going to have to step up and we’ll have to develop that chemistry as fast as we can because there’s really no other choice.”
(2) Will Tarik Cohen make as big of an impact as he did in the season opener?
Cohen made a huge splash against the Falcons, compiling 158 all-purpose yards, the most by a Bears rookie in a season opener in franchise history. He showed the same skills that earned him the nickname “The Human Joystick” at North Carolina A&T, reversing field on a 46-yard run, catching a 19-yard touchdown pass and averaging 15 yards on three punt returns.
You can be certain that the Buccaneers coaching staff took notice and has devised a plan to try to slow down the dynamic 5-6, 181-pounder. “He’s not a mystery now,” said coach John Fox. “I think that’s evident.”
“The secret’s out,” added offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “Everybody knows who Tarik is now. Give him a lot of credit. He played quarterback, slot receiver, outside receiver, running back [in the opener]. He’s a smart kid. I told you guys the greatest asset the kid has outside of his physical skills is he might be our hardest practice player. Works his tail off. Loves football. It’s important to him. He’s a playmaker. The Bucs have seen the tape and they’re obviously going to be aware of where he’s at and I’m sure they’re going to work really hard to take him away.”
The attention that Cohen attracts Sunday could benefit his teammates, especially tight ends Dion Sims and Zach Miller, who didn’t make much of an impact in the opener.
(3) Will the Bears defense start generating some takeaways?
The defense excelled in the season opener, holding the Falcons to 13 points through three quarters before two breakdowns led to 10 fourth-quarter points. But the unit did not produce a takeaway, something that was a major problem last year when the Bears generated a franchise-low 11 takeaways.
“We’ve emphasized it a lot,” Fox said. “I don’t know that we’ve fulfilled that after one game. I don’t think anybody has. So I think time will tell.”
“I feel god about what we’re trying to do to get them,” added defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “I don’t feel good about the results. For sure there is a fine line.”
The Bears made a concerted effort in the offseason to acquire players who possess a knack for taking the ball away. They signed safety Quintin Demps, who had six interceptions last year with the Texans; and cornerback Marcus Cooper Sr., who had four picks last season with the Cardinals. They also spent a fourth-round draft pick on safety Eddie Jackson, who was a ball hawk in the Alabama secondary.
“I’ve seen a lot from [Jackson] that I’ve liked throughout the preseason,” Fox said. “I thought he performed well [in the season opener]. I don’t know how much he got tested last week. He functioned really well and he’s a good communicator. I think he does well in all facets.”
(4) Will the Bears be able to contain Tampa’s receivers and tight ends?
Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston has a slew of options in the passing game, most notably receivers Mike Evans and free-agent acquisition DeSean Jackson and tight ends Cameron Brate and rookie first-round pick O.J. Howard.
The tight ends are particularly dangerous.
“They are good players,” Fangio said. “[Brate] has been a really good red-zone player for them. The quarterback is very comfortable throwing to him. He’s got great route instincts and route-running ability and he’s a very good catcher of the ball. Howard is a very good athlete with good size, a good blocker that can get down the field. They’ve got two really good weapons at tight end.”