The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers will finish a wild first Sunday of NFL football later tonight.
One of the biggest storylines heading into week one for the Bears was the availability of rookie Roquan Smith and Kahlil Mack. Smith, the Bears first-round draft pick this past April, held out most of training camp due to contract issues.
Mack also was holding out for a new contract that the Oakland Raiders refused to give him. The Bears traded for Mack last Saturday morning, so he missed the entire preseason.
Clearly, there was some doubt about both players suiting up on Sunday night. However, we got an answer well before game time on whether or not Mack and Smith would play against the Packers.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, both players will play on Sunday night, but be limited.
Chicago's Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith will make their Bears debuts tonight at Green Bay vs. the Packers. They won't play the full game — the Bears still want to be careful with them — but they will play enough to try to impact it.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 9, 2018
What does this mean for the Bears?
Obviously, this is good news for the Bears – it’s better to have Mack and Smith on a limited basis than not at all. Still, it’s unknown how exactly the Bears plan to utilize Mack and Smith. I’m sure head coach Matt Nagy and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio have a plan, but how much can we expect the two play realistically?
Depends on the situation
If I’m the Bears, Mack and Smith are playing on every single third down play and long yardage situations. Yes, a lot of that does depend on game flow and is much easier said than done, but that should be the goal.
This applies more to Mack than anyone. Getting pressure on Rodgers is crucial, especially on third downs. This is a player, who has had double-digit sacks almost every year he has been in the NFL. It’s best to have him on the field when it matters most.
As for Smith, the Bears should focus on having him on the field in obvious passing situations. Smith was outstanding in coverage throughout his time at the University of Georgia. Nick Kwiatkoski can also do a little bit of everything, so the Bears will have some options in determining Smith’s role.
Again, having both Mack and Smith on the filed will be a huge boost for the Bears defense on Sunday. While it’s not ideal facing a division rival, it’s better than the alternative of them not playing at all.
Fangio will find a way to get them on the field when the Bears need them the most. The question is will it be enough? For now, Bears fans can only hope.
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