Both the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers are installing new offenses and trying to get more out of their franchise quarterbacks. Can Jay Cutler and Cam Newton take it up a notch? Can either team find another weapon to compliment their primary wide receiver?
Those are some critical questions and here are three other things to watch when these two teams lock horns at 9pm EST.
1) The new Bears offense is supposed to be an up-tempo, high octane offense which should put defenses on their heels. We may not see the primary starters a bunch, but we should get an idea of how far along they are—or rather how far they have to go. It won’t be polished but it should be able to move the ball against a questionable Panthers secondary.
2) Jonathan Stewart is out and it’s unlikely the team runs DeAngelo Williams into the ground, so we should see a fair amount of Kenjon Barner. Barner has taken over the No. 2 role in camp with Stewart out and has performed well. A smaller back, Barner had tremendous production in Chip Kelly’s offense at Oregon, but also had issues with ball security and pass protection. If he can overcome that, he’ll be an interesting addition to this offense.
3) There are a few new faces on defense for the Panthers, including Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. Lotulelei dropped a little in the 2013 NFL draft (likely due to his heart condition) and the Panthers got a steal at No. 14 overall, while Short is a solid pick with athleticism and good size. The two roommates could be a devastating combination inside, if they can get up to speed rapidly. The Bears have lost Brian Urlacher and are hoping Lance Briggs can fill the leadership role Urlacher left behind, while middle linebackers D.J. Williams and Jon Bostic try to replace the production.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at Footballguys.com and an NFL writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.