For the second straight year, the Chicago Bears enter the regular season full of offensive hope and promise. But after finishing in the top half of the NFL on that side of the ball just once in the last 11 years, they’ve got a ways to go before proving their skeptics wrong. Just don’t count two-time Pro-Bowler, and week one opponent Geno Atkins of the Cincinnati Bengals among them.
Atkins believes the Bears offense is in fact ready to break out, and that it will be up to his Bengals to keep that from happening on Sunday. But without much film on new Bears head coach Marc Trestman’s offense, Cincinnati defenders are left to focus on their own techniques to do so.
“We’ve just been watching the preseason and just basically going out there and playing with our fundamentals and see what happens,” said Atkins in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
Atkins is considered one of the NFL’s most dominating young defensive linemen, and he’s got the paycheck to prove it. The Bengals reportedly signed him to a five-year, $55-million extension this week. It’s the second major contract for a Bengals’ defensive lineman this summer, after defensive end Carlos Dunlap also signed.
That cohesion is what Atkins believes gives the Bengals an advantage.
“We’ve been playing together, especially on the [defensive line] and the linebacking corps, we’ve been playing together for a good three years now,” said Atkins. It’s rare to see a d-line especially stay in tact like that…so it’s very close knit… so it’s great.”
The Bears will start two rookie offensive linemen Sunday, something that traditionally would spell disaster against players like Atkins. But he’s been impressed with both players, especially Long.
“He’s big and he’s physical,” Akins said. “He’s very aggressive and he’s a strong player. By watching him you can tell he likes to get after d-lineman, basically likes to get off and be aggressive and show his strength.”
If the offensive line can hold up, the Bears should be able to play to their strengths. That means getting the ball into the hands of their most skilled athletes.
Chicago will need those playmakers to come through if they want to avoid a repeat of their last matchup with the Bengals. That game came early in the 2009 season, and was one of the most disastrous in recent Chicago Bears’ history. The Bengals romped to a 45-10 victory at home, beginning a 4-7 spiral to end the Bears’ season.
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