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Players to Watch

Players to watch versus Raiders


Larry Mayer and Eli Kaberon of discuss the Bears players they'll be watching on both sides of the ball in Sunday's home game against the Oakland Raiders:



Offense: Running back Kyle Long
The Bears' new coaching regime believes in committing to the running game and that effort begins with Matt Forte. The two-time Pro Bowler is second in the NFL in rushing with 276 yards through three games, trailing only the Vikings' Adrian Peterson (291).

Forte needs 20 yards Sunday to become the 49th player in NFL history to rush for 8,000 yards. More importantly, the seven-year pro no doubt will be relied upon to help the Bears control the ball and the clock as they seek their first victory of the season.

Forte will face a Raiders defense that ranks last in the NFL in total yards but an impressive 13th against the run. Defending the run has long been a top priority for Raiders first-year coach Jack Del Rio, who heads to Chicago this weekend determined to contain Forte.

Defense: Outside linebacker Sam Acho


With this week's trade of Jared Allen to the Panthers, Sam Acho steps into a starting role at outside linebacker opposite Pernell McPhee. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Wednesday that Acho will play with the No. 1 base defense and split reps on passing downs with Lamarr Houston and Willie Young.

The experience that Acho gained playing in a 3-4 defense the past four seasons with the Cardinals has enabled him to pick up the Bears' scheme quickly. Unlike some defensive ends-turned-outside linebackers, Acho possesses the strength to play the run as well as the speed and athleticism to drop into pass coverage.

Acho recently revealed during a radio interview that he missed the final two preseason games and the regular-season opener against the Packers due to mononucleosis. Now that he's healthy, the Bears are counting on him to become a regular contributor on defense.



Offense: Tight end Martellus Bennett
Opposing tight ends have given the Raiders defense fits all season. In Week 1, Cincinnati's Tyler Eifert had nine catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns. The next week, Baltimore's Crockett Gilmore had five receptions, 88 yards and two more scores. Last Sunday, Oakland held Cleveland's Gary Barnridge to only one TD, but he still had six catches for 105 yards.

This should put a smile on the face of Martellus Bennett. The tight end leads the Bears in receptions and yards this season, and he should see plenty of targets on Sunday, no matter who is playing quarterback for Chicago. The Bears have used a lot of two- and three-tight end sets early in the year, so expect that position to be used a lot versus Oakland, with Bennett seeing the majority of the work.


Defense: Cornerback Kyle Fuller
Second-year cornerback Kyle Fuller has been under the microscope lately, but he has a chance to show his talent on Sunday when he faces off with another skilled young player. Oakland's Amari Cooper was the fourth pick in this year's draft, and has had a strong start to his career, with 20 receptions in the first three weeks. That includes a 68-yard touchdown, as Cooper has both size and speed.

Fuller has faced off with Cooper before. In 2013, when the defensive back was at Virginia Tech and the receiver at Alabama, they faced off in the season-opening game. Fuller had an interception and held Cooper to only four receptions for 38 yards. If the cornerback can do that again on Sunday, the microscope will show the skilled player Fuller is.

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