Preseason Week 3 Preview: Arizona at Chicago

2009 Regular Season Records:

(7-9, 3rd in NFC North)                                                      (10-6, NFC West Champs)

Game time:

Sat., Aug. 28th, 8:30 p.m. ET, Soldier Field

Background:

There’s no rest for the weary, especially when the weary show a shallow offensive pulse.  The Cardinals hope to get things pumping against Chicago and it’s always a rowdy affair when the Cardinals and Bears meet.  The rivalry dates way back into NFL history when the Bears booted the Chicago Cardinals across the Mississippi to St. Louis.  The two teams lock up this week in Act 3 of the 2010 pre-season.

The third week of the preseason is generally considered to be the most “regular season-like” contest before the games count.  Since the team has shown lack-luster efforts the first two weeks, you could say this is as important a pre-season game can get.  Having said that, teams still don’t put much stock in the results, but do tend to leave their starters in a bit longer as they try to work the kinks out before the regular season.  In the Cardinals’ case, they are most likely still trying to hammer out who their starter at quarterback is, though it’s still definitely Matt Leinart if he wants the job.  If Leinart exudes confidence and moves the team down the field a few times for any amount of points, I expect Derek Anderson to fade into the background.

After the Cardinals were wiped by the Packers in the third preseason game last year, people pushed the panic button prematurely.  With a broiling quarterback controversy rustling feathers in the Cardinals’ nest,  it appears that some may place a great deal of emphasis on this game, perhaps unnecessarily so.  If things don’t go well, expect the same hands at the panic button again this year, but you won’t find mine.

What to Watch For:

Not that those who are panic ready wouldn’t have anything to talk about.  Matt Leinart is really struggling to find his footing so far this pre-season.  The offense has looked downright terrible in two games so far, so expect quite a bit of playing time for the first team in this contest.  To make matters worse, the Cardinals had to stick around in Tennessee after a regrettable Monday Night Football performance before heading up to Chicago.  Obviously, watch for Leinart or Anderson to hopefully take a big step forward in Week 3.  I still expect Leinart to keep the top spot, but if he falters again and Anderson has a big day, it’s going to be hard for Whisenhunt to defend starting Leinart.

The Cardinals’ running game also looked pretty bad against Tennessee, unfortunately.  The Titans, however, did blitz a lot and the Cardinals pretty much ran directly into the teeth of some of that pressure.  In addition, Whisenhunt seemed much more concerned with testing his quarterbacks with passing downs rather than beating up his running backs last week.  In any event, the Cards really don’t need to pound Beanie Wells round now, especially since he’s still a little sore from his rib injury.  Let’s look for a little consistency on the offensive line, specifically from tackles Brandon Keith and Levi Brown.  The interior of the line, which is comprised of Alan Faneca, Lyle Sendlein, and Reggie Wells from left to right, should be fine this year.

The 4th wide-receiver position still seems to be up for grabs, though Stephen Williams continues to pull away from the pack in my estimation.  Andre Roberts almost dropped a Matt Leinart pass over the middle against Tennessee and Ed Gant dropped a sure TD reception from Max Hall as well.  The receiving Jones, Onrea and Mike, both seem to be blips in the rear view mirror at this point for the 4th spot.  In my mind it’s Williams’ job to lose at this point.

On the defensive side of the ball, I’m really anxious to see Greg Toler get more playing time.  The Cardinals have been grooming him to take the spot opposite DRC, but Trumaine McBride has been getting the majority of the snaps.  McBride had a poor showing against the Titans as Vince Young targeted Trumaine throughout the first quarter.  Hopefully, we’ll finally get a good look at Toler in Week 3.

Last Meeting:

Nov. 8, 2009, Week 9 @ Chicago, Cardinals won 41-21.

Bears’ Key Returning Personnel

  • Jay Cutler, QB
  • Matt Forte, RB
  • Devin Hestor, WR
  • Johnny Knox, WR
  • Brian Urlacher, LB
  • Lance Briggs, LB

Bears’ Key Losses

  • Orlando Pace, LT (free agency)
  • Gaines Adams, DE (death)
  • Adewale Ogunleye, DE (free agency)
  • Nathan Vasher, CB (San Diego Chargers)
  • Alex Brown, DE (New Orleans Saints)

Bears’ Key Additions

  • Julius Peppers, DE (Carolina Panthers)
  • Chester Taylor, RB (Minnesota Vikings)
  • Brandon Manumaleuna, TE (San Diego Chargers)
  • Chris Harris, SS (Carolina Panthers)
  • Major Wright, S (3rd round draft pick, first selection)

Bears’ 2009 Rankings

  • Passing Yards:                             17th   (217.1 yards per game)
  • Rushing Yards:                           29th      (93.3 yards per game)
  • Passing Yards allowed:           13th     (211.4 yards per game)
  • Rushing Yards allowed:         23rd     (126.4 yards per game)

Bears’ 2010 Season Outlook:

Unquestionably, things are looking up for the Bears due to the simple fact that they should be getting Brian Urlacher back if he recovers from his calf injury, which will obviously make them a completely different defense.  Urlacher missed almost the entire season last year; they can’t afford that again.

On top of that, the team is welcoming Julius Peppers and Chester Taylor to provide an immediate spark to the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.  Jay Cutler could put up some huge numbers on offense this year, along with Matt Forte running the ball and sleeper break-out candidate Johnny Knox catching passes.  Don’t forget about the ever dangerous Devin Hester as well.  The Bears definitely have some weapons.

The Bears, however, have a stacked division with both the Packers and Vikings as NFC heavy hitters.  Now that Brett Favre has returned, the Bears’ season picture doesn’t look quite as rosy as it did before.  In addition, many caution not to overlook the Lions, who are definitely heading in the right direction with a maturing Matthew Stafford calling the signals.

Cardinals’ Week 3 Goals:

  1. Keep everyone healthy.
  2. Move the ball somewhere for points with Matt Leinart under center.
  3. Establish some consistency with the tackles on offense.
  4. Make a decision on the 4th wide receiver spot.
  5. Establish the punt returner.
  6. Plant Greg Toler at CB and see what he’s got out there.

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