Bears Could Boast Elements Of Surprise For Packers

September 05, 2018 - 4:41 pm
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- The months of hype have led to the buildup for this game, with the new-look Bears meeting their longstanding rivals in the Packers for a primetime regular-season opener Sunday.

Coach Matt Nagy's offense has been heralded ever since his arrival to the Bears, touted as innovative before it could even be unleashed. So much of the reputation Nagy carried to Chicago is wrapped within this new-age system designed to spread the ball all around.

But how will it all look when thrown at the Packers?

"I’m not going to get into too much stuff with that right now," Nagy said.

The typically talkative Nagy didn't want to offer much of a hint of his hand, understandably so. The Bears have a new system that has been largely concealed during the preseason, while new Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine hasn't dialed up his best calls either during the exhibition rounds.

Nagy and Pettine will be calling the first regular-season game on their respective sides hoping to catch each other off guard with whatever elements of surprise they could hold for this long.

Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky suggested the Bears have been scouting the past work of Pettine, a defensive coordinator from 2009-'12 with the Jets and then in 2013 with the Bills before serving two years as coach of the Browns. Typically, Pettine's defenses have been known as aggressive in scheme, especially up front with their blitzes and stunts. But he also hasn't coached since 2015, having taken a two-year sabbatical. There's some mystery to the look of this Packers defense.

As for the Bears' offense? Trubisky was a little more open than his head coach.

"(The Packers' defense has) stuff that we haven’t seen, but we also have stuff they haven’t seen obviously," Trubisky said. "So, that’s the mystery heading into Week 1. And you just hope that those plays that you’ve been saving end up to be big plays and just help this offense roll down the field.

"We know for us it’s positive drive starts, converting third down, keeping the chains moving, keeping our defense off the field and ultimately scoring points. So if we do that and continue to execute the bread and butter -- and not always rely on the complicated plays that we’ve been saving -- that’s when this offense can get to a special level, hopefully."

Every coach carries some tricks up their sleeve, and Nagy is no exception. His offense is expected to reflect of the Chiefs under Andy Reid, but the X-factor for the Bears is with offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, who came from Oregon and the college game with some spread elements to help best suit Trubisky.

Nagy inherited a Bears offense that mostly struggled last season, with Trubisky completing 59.4 percent of his passes for 2,193 yards and seven touchdowns in a dozen games. Running back Jordan Howard, a steady force in the backfield, finished three games last season with single-digit yards because opposing defenses stacked the box against a poor passing game.

Additions like Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton and Anthony Miller should change the fortunes of the Bears' offense. Players like Howard and Tarik Cohen can hope to make a jump with Nagy in charge. After all, this entire offense is designed for Trubisky to spread the ball around to his new playmakers.

Meanwhile, Pettine takes over a Packers defense that allowed 24 points per game last season. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson adds an important presence up front, and the Packers invested in the secondary by taking defensive backs with their first two draft picks. But the secondary returns three of four starters from last season and needs the help of Pettine to survive this season. 

Nagy is ready for the kitchen sink from Pettine.

"He’s always had an aggressive mentality," Nagy said. "He’s very creative. He does a lot of great things. He can disguise what he does, he does it really well. And so I really respect that. I think when you’re able to get your guys to play fast like he does by doing such creative things, it can make it hard on the offense."

This entire offseason for the Bears focused on installing the plans of Nagy with the regular-season opener in mind for completion. From first learning the concepts in April to the present, the Bears have taken pride in what they believe to be great progress. But even Nagy has admitted this offense won't be a finished product just yet.

Injury report: Linebackers Roquan Smith (hamstring) and Leonard Floyd (hand) practiced in full on Wednesday, as did new addition Khalil Mack. Tight end Daniel Brown (shoulder) was limited and safety DeAndre Houston-Carson (forearm/back) didn't practice.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.