Buffalo Bills football returns tomorrow, when they begin their 2014 regular season schedule with a road season opener against the Chicago Bears. To continue our series of previews of the game, I sat down with Dane Noble of Windy City Gridiron to get a bit more intel on the Bills' opponent this weekend.
I know the Bears made huge improvements along the offensive line last season. How has that carried over into 2014, particularly with Jordan Mills missing a huge chunk of the preseason coming back from an injury?
Noble: For the first time in a long time, the Bears offensive line is at least average, and will be starting the same group of guys in the same positions they played in last season. Pass blocking has looked great this preseason, but the running game still has some kinks to work out. Mills' foot is a serious concern, but we won't really know how well it will hold up until he gets a couple of games under his belt.
Who do you expect to see more playing time as the third receiver until Marquess Wilson returns: Josh Morgan or Santonio Holmes?
Noble: Holmes should get most of the work, but Morgan looked good enough in the preseason to probably get some snaps. Holmes is overall a better wide receiver, and would complement Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery better with his speed, but Morgan won't be forgotten. He just won't have as many opportunities.
What will the Bears' cornerback rotation look like with Kyle Fuller now in the mix, and Charles Tillman getting up there in years? Does Fuller play in the slot when he comes in, or does Tim Jennings slide inside?
Noble: While they have taken a look at different options, Jennings is primarily going to kick inside. Fuller can handle coverage just fine, but Jennings brings the heavy punch into the mix.
What are Bears fans' expectations for the new trio of defensive ends (Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, and Willie Young) that were brought in this offseason?
Noble: So far, there's been a lot of doom and gloom surrounding the entire defense, probably as much this preseason as there was all of last year. The new defensive ends are a significant upgrade over last season, and with Allen and Houston getting the starting nods, I'm not all that worried. Will either of them be Pro Bowlers? Maybe not, but they won't need to be. As long as they can consistently make plays and get pressure on the quarterback, they will be just fine.
How concerned are you about the team's starting safety tandem of Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray?
Noble: To piggy-back on the last question, the Bears' defensive backs will succeed only if the front four do their jobs. Our offense will keep us in games, and all the defense needs to do is be average. If the front four can keep the quarterback on his toes, then our secondary will be able to hold their own. I'm not convinced that, if left out to dry, they will be able to sustain coverage for very long.