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Players to Watch

Players to watch: Bears at Packers


Larry Mayer and Simon Kaufman of discuss the Bears players they'll be watching on both sides of the ball in Sunday night's season opener in Green Bay:


Offense: Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky 
After starting the final 12 games of his rookie year in 2017, Trubisky opens the 2018 season as the Bears' undisputed No. 1 quarterback. Beginning Sunday night against the rival Packers in Green Bay, he'll operate a new offense that was bolstered by several key offseason additions. After hiring coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, the Bears signed receivers Allen Robinson II and Taylor Gabriel and tight end Trey Burton in free agency before selecting receiver Anthony Miller in the second round of the draft.

In his lone start against the Packers last season, Trubisky completed 21 of 35 passes for 297 yards with one touchdown and a 97.0 passer rating in a 23-16 loss at Soldier Field. Sunday night will mark the second-year pro's first career game at Lambeau Field.

"As a kid you dream of these opportunities, going to a special field like Soldier, Lambeau, and playing a rivalry like this," Trubisky said. "It's definitely special, but [there's] no more added pressure or expectations besides going up there and do our jobs. But it is going to be a special night, and it creates a great opportunity for this team."


Defense: Inside linebacker Roquan Smith
Since last Saturday's blockbuster trade with the Raiders, most of the attention on the defensive side of the ball has shifted to new Bears pass rusher extraordinaire Khalil Mack. But there's also a lot of anticipation for the debut of Smith, a first-round draft pick who missed all of training camp and the preseason due to a contract holdout followed by a tight hamstring.

It's unclear how much Smith will play in Sunday night's opener, but he has practiced all week without restrictions and has not appeared on the injury report. "He's looking good," Nagy said. "He's getting better. As we've been saying, he's stacking those good days, so that's a positive. It's how much we want to do with him and what works, and we're going to listen to his body and to him tell us where he's at."

The Bears have high hopes for Smith, a speedy and instinctive three-down defender who won the Butkus Award last season at Georgia as the nation's best collegiate linebacker. He impressed coaches and teammates during the offseason program with how quickly he gained a grasp of the playbook and his ability to transfer that knowledge from the classroom to the field.



Offense: Receiver Allen Robinson II
The new Bears receiver will make his first regular-season appearance on Sunday night since tearing his ACL in Week 1 last year while playing for the Jaguars. The Bears signed the former second-round draft pick in March. He'll be a key piece of a new-look offense, and Sunday night will be his first chance to show he's fully recovered.

Robinson quickly made his name known after entering the league in 2014. In 2015, he garnered Pro Bowl honors after tallying 80 receptions, 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns (tied for most in the league that season). Robinson has the ability to line up out wide or in the slot and could give the Packers defense different looks Sunday night. In his only other time facing the Packers, Robinson had a nice showing, catching six balls for an average of 12 yards per reception in 2016. Robinson was limited in the preseason, but Nagy said he's game-ready.

"I know that he's going to be able to out there and play fast," Nagy said. "He knows what he's doing. I have 100 percent trust in him as a player. I know Mitchell [Trubisky] does too."


Defense: Outside linebacker Khalil Mack
The Bears capped off a busy and productive offseason by bringing in one of the most dynamic defensive playmakers in the league by trading for outside linebacker Khalil Mack. Mack is a three-time Pro Bowler and was the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year while playing his first four NFL seasons with the Raiders. He's coming off a year in Oakland in which he collected 61 solo tackles and 10.5 sacks.

The most important thing to see from Mack on Sunday night will be his grasp of the Bears defensive schemes. Mack said he's been studying up on the playbook with outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley since arriving in Chicago. The No. 5 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft sat out during training camp while with Oakland, so it's hard to say exactly how much he'll see the field on Sunday. Unfortunately for the Packers offense, Mack has never missed a game before in his career and, even if limited, will likely get at least some reps at Lambeau Field. In his only other time facing the Packers in 2015, Mack sacked quarterback Aaron Rodgers once.

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