Larry Mayer and Eli Kaberon of ChicagoBears.com discuss the Bears players they'll be watching on both sides of the ball in Sunday's home game against the Minnesota Vikings:
Offense: Lineman Matt Slauson
Whether he starts at left guard or center in place of the injured Hroniss Grasu, veteran Matt Slauson will be responsible for helping the Bears offensive line contain an active Vikings defense that frequently blitzes up the middle.
"They are a tough defense," said quarterback Jay Cutler. "They have some stuff that presents a lot of problems for us. The offensive line being the way that it is, we're going to have to make sure our communication is on point and hopefully the guys on the outside can make some plays for us."
Slauson has been limited in practice this week with knee and shoulder injuries, while Grasu has been held out since hurting his neck in Wednesday's workout. A natural guard, Slauson filled in at center Oct. 4 in a win over the Raiders after veteran Will Montgomery suffered a season-ending leg injury on the third play of the game.
Defense: Nose tackle Eddie Goldman
Rookie defensive lineman Eddie Goldman will face his most difficult challenge as a pro Sunday when he faces Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson. The perennial Pro Bowler is fourth in the NFL in rushing with 530 yards on 120 carries. Since being limited to 31 yards in a season-opening loss to the 49ers, he has averaged 99.8 yards per outing in helping the Vikings win four of five.
Goldman, a second-round draft pick from Florida State, was considered primarily a run stuffer when he was in college. But the 6-4, 336-pounder has shown pass rush ability as well with the Bears, recording 12 tackles and 1.5 sacks in his last three games against the Raiders, Chiefs and Lions.
"He's been performing better the past few weeks," said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. "He's been doing well here the last few weeks, so I've been pleased with his progress."
Offense: Receiver Eddie Royal
Chicago's offense really stretched the field in its Week 6 game versus Detroit, as quarterback Jay Cutler averaged more than 8.6 yards per pass attempt. With so much attention being placed on the big plays down the field, there should be room underneath for slot receiver Eddie Royal, who played in that contest after missing the previous week because of an ankle injury. Royal was targeted seven times against the Lions, finishing with five catches for 49 yards.
Against Minnesota, the task will be tough. The Vikings rank in the top 11 in the NFL in both passing yards per game (232.8) and passing yards per play (6.68). That stout defense makes Royal's job in the Bears offense that much more important. As Cutler's top underneath target, he will need to make plays with runs after the catch to bring Minnesota's safeties up. That should hopefully create bigger plays down the field for the Bears attack.
Defense: Defensive end Jarvis Jenkins
The Chicago defensive line has played well in recent weeks, but the group will be up for its biggest test of the season thus far: Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. With more than 10,000 career rushing yards, Peterson has a rare combo of tremendous vision, outstanding strength and sprinter speed. That makes him tough to take down in the open field, making stopping him at the line a priority.
Jarvis Jenkins will be a key part of the Bears' approach to stopping Peterson. Among Chicago's defensive linemen, Jenkins ranks second this season with six tackles against the run (he also has seven assisted tackles on run plays). He's also been very strong in pass situations, leading the line with 3.5 sacks. Minnesota's offensive line is not its team strength, meaning there's a chance Jenkins could be in the Vikings' backfield on a regular basis.