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Rams-Bears Preview: What to know before the season opener

What to know about the Los Angles Rams opponent before Sunday

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Chicago Bears v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

TGIF* Turf Show Family!

*Thank Goodness It’s Football.

You better get used to me saying that from now on. This weekend, the Los Angeles Rams are set for quite the matchup as they host the Chicago Bears at 5:20 p.m. PDT on Sunday Night Football. The Bears are listed as 7.5-point underdogs, and Head Coach Sean McVay refuses to take them lightly.

“Well, I think every team is a great measuring stick,” McVay said this week via USA Today. “This is a playoff team. They’ve got great players in all three phases, really well coached. Really, every single week in this league is so difficult and this definitely represents a very difficult opener. One we’re excited about.”

McVay has started 1-0 in each of his four seasons and will try to keep his perfect record intact in front of a packed house for the first time at SoFi Stadium. LA has won their last two games against Chicago since a 15-6 drubbing in the Windy City back in 2018. Let’s go ahead and look ahead at what we might see from the Bears on Sunday.

How’s that quarterback situation looking?

Well, I guess we should start out by addressing the monstrous elephant, or grizzly in this case, casually sipping a piña colada while lounging around in the corner of the room. I know Head Coach Matt Nagy and the front office promised quarterback Andy Dalton the starting gig, but how much can you really buy that nonsense? This is the Chicago Bears we’re talking about, of course they’re gonna fudge up the quarterback position. During the offseason, they went from aggressively pursuing Russell Wilson, to settling on Dalton. At least Bears fans can always trade for Wilson in Madden, but heck, they still probably wouldn’t get him.

McVay is preparing for both Dalton and rookie signal caller Justin Fields just in case Nagy has plays dialed up in specialty designed packages for Sunday. Sorry to break it to you Sean, but I’m sure Nagy is more interested in restoring his vanity after stealing back his play-calling duties this offseason. Regardless, McVay knows it’s best to be prepared for anything being thrown his way during the game.

“It would be naïve for us not to prepare for them to be able to utilize him in some form or fashion,” McVay said via the Chicago Sun-Times. “But Andy is a winning quarterback in this league. . . . He does a great job, accurate, anticipation, recognizes the looks defensively, can straighten up protections. So Andy Dalton’s a really good quarterback, and it’ll be a great challenge. And then you see the ways that Justin made a lot of plays going back to his career at Ohio State [and] what he showed in the preseason. So I think you’ve got to be ready for either.”

While I agree that Dalton is a good quarterback and has had a fair amount of success in the league, it’s wise to see what you have in a young quarterback you’ve pinned your franchise hopes on. After all, Fields completed 61 percent of his passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions and had a rushing touchdown in three preseason games.

I realize it’s only preseason but the dynamic abilities Fields exhibited shouldn’t be overlooked. Nagy is hellbent to keep Fields on the bench all season even if he’s progressing faster than expected. Despite all the chatter, and fans putting him on a short leash, Dalton refuses to look over his shoulder.

“Like I’ve said before, Justin is going to have his time and Justin is going to have a great career but right now it’s my time and so my focus is on being the best player I can be for this team and do everything I can to help this team win.” (via NBC Sports Chicago)

I admire an old vet showing a young stud the ropes, but it’s worth wondering how much the uncertainty surrounding his job security will weigh on his mind. It wouldn’t make sense to bench Dalton after one game since Nagy is likely far too stubborn to break a promise so quickly. My bet is that Fields will start sooner rather than later and I think his time to shine will come around week four against the Lions. I should become a psychic if that ends up coming true.

NFL: AUG 03 Chicago Bears Training Camp Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who is Sean Desai, new defensive coordinator?

For the last couple of seasons, the Bears have had a top-10 defense. It’s been the sole reason they haven’t had a top-five draft pick the last two campaigns. Okay, that’s a little harsh but not as much as you’d think if you’ve ever had the misfortune of watching Mitch Trubisky play.

Anyways, Sean Desai was promoted to the role of defensive coordinator following the retirement of Chuck Pagano in January. Desai has been making quite a name for himself already, making The Athletics' annual 40 under 40 list, a collection of rising figures in the NFL. In the piece, Athletic writer Lindsay Jones acknowledges Desai is in an interesting place after his promotion to leading the defense.

“Desai, the first NFL coordinator of Indian and South Asian descent, moves into an interesting spot with the Bears: The defense is aging but still has top-tier talent, led by pass rusher Khalil Mack,” Jones wrote via The Athletic. “It will be interesting to see if Desai can emulate the success [Chargers coach Brandon] Staley, another Vic Fangio disciple, had in his first year as a coordinator [with the Rams in 2020] and to learn how much of Fangio’s influence is in Desai’s defensive game plans and play-calling.”

Bears players are already ecstatic about all the energy he’s bringing to their unit that they’ve been missing since their peak in 2018. One of the stars of training camp is someone called “takeaway bucket”. Hmm, I wonder where he went to college. Do we have a team photo of Mr. Bucket lying around?

Oh, so it’s an actual bucket, okay that makes more sense now. Whatever the bucket is doing, it’s working as it’s stressing the need for creating more takeaways that the team hasn’t forced enough of since former coordinator Vic Fangio left to coach the Broncos. Matt Nagy has spoken highly of Desai’s promotion, hoping his fire will lead to more accountability from the players.

“He holds guys accountable; that’s the No. 1 thing,” said head coach Matt Nagy via USA Today. “He’s not afraid to get on you now in a meeting if you’re not doing it. If it’s on tape and you’re not doing what he’s asking, he doesn’t care who you are, there’s no favoritism. He’s going to hold you accountable, and I love that about him. But at the same point in time, you can see the energy and the swag that he has on the sideline. The juice, the fire. The guys see that. They feel that.”

NFL: AUG 14 Preseason - Dolphins at Bears Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who are some players to watch out for?

Darnell Mooney, otherwise known as Jalen Ramsey’s father, is locked in as the Bears number two receiver opposite Allen Robinson. Mooney had quite an impressive rookie season, despite the poor quarterback play around him. He hopes that it won’t hinder him this season as the team shifts to Andy Dalton under center.

Mooney’s route-running abilities and speed set him apart on an offense that left much to be desired in 2020. Luckily for Ramsey, he likely won’t have to see much of him on Sunday as he’ll mainly be covering Robinson all night. Based on this, Mooney will see a high volume of targets his way to help take the pressure off Allen.

Speaking of Ramsey, one young cornerback on the Bears is being compared to him. Second-year defender Jaylon Johnson is primed for a sophomore jump after a rookie season in which he didn’t catch any interceptions. Safety Tashaun Gipson, who was teammates with Ramsey in Jacksonville believes in Johnson’s ability to become a top corner in the league.

“I’ll tell y’all again he’s going to be a top five cornerback,” Gipson said via USA Today. “I mean that and I’m telling y’all straight faced. Some of the things that I’ve seen him do is just impressive. I don’t think people really realize Jaylon is a bigger corner. He’s put together. He can run, he can move, he can do everything necessary for a cornerback. He can tackle. He’s not scared to put his nose in there.”

Notable injuries for Da Bears

Among the biggest names on the injury report is nose tackle Eddie Goldman who was apparently injured in Monday’s practice. Chicago lists Goldman with knee and ankle injuries which has kept him sidelined through practice on Wednesday. Last season, Goldman opted out of his campaign over COVID-19 concerns and had already missed part of training camp over the virus and a nagging back injury.

Also notable is Bears superstar Khalil Mack who was limited in practice due to a groin injury that wasn’t mentioned previously. Ironman Mack will most likely be just fine as he spent all of 2020 on the injury report but was able to play all 16 games.

Related: Game-by-game predictions for the 2021 Rams

My Prediction

It would be foolish to overlook the Bears in any way. This is still a decent football team albeit a mediocre one at that. I think Dalton will play it fairly conservatively all night long before the Rams defense eventually takes over. He won’t play as bad as the Chicago fanbase and national media expects him to perform. However, his efforts won’t be enough as the defense breaks while trying to hang on against an old foe in Stafford.

Score: Rams 27, Bears 14

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