LAKE FOREST – Last year, he had a bit of an advantage when it came to the opener against the Packers: The unknown.
While Green Bay could look at what Matt Nagy did as offensive coordinator in 2017 and the players with the Bears from the season before, there was still some uncertainty with how a new coach would change the team.
It’s truly an unknown, and the Bears were different thanks to the new coach and personnel. They jumped out to a 20-0 lead before the Packers stormed back to win by one, but the Bears would surprise by winning 11 of their next 15 games.
Now the role is reversed for Nagy and the Bears, for it’s the Packers that have a new leader in 2019. Matt LaFleur takes over for Mike McCarthy, doing so with Aaron Rodgers behind center with his own wrinkles to the Green Bay offense.
Nagy knows that can help the Packers as they approach their opener with the Bears at Soldier Field on Thursday night.
“That’s the benefit that they’ve got going on and that Matt has going on with what he’s going to do,” said Nagy of LaFleur. “Everyone knows his background and where he’s coming from, what he’s done, and it’s been some great offenses. I have a ton of respect for him as a playcaller, as a coach, and as a person.
“We always talk about ‘expect the unexpected’ – that’s all teams – and who knows what that’s gonna be.”
CODY GETS SOME CONTRACT STABILITY
Stability is always the hope of an athlete in a physically demanding sport. When that can happen before the start of a season that guarantees that, it makes for good feelings all around.
That’s how it was for Cody Whitehair this week, who signed a five-year, $52.5 million contract extension before the start of Packers week. That includes $27.5 million guaranteed, giving the guard quite a boost as his fourth season with the Bears.
“It’s definitely important,” said Whitehair. “It’s important that it got done now so we can just focus on this week and beat Green Bay.”
The versatile offensive lineman has earned it since the team took him in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He has started in every game since his rookie season both at the center and guard position, earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2018.
“They’re very loyal,” said Whitehair of the Bears. “It speaks a lot to the organization and paying players that are drafted here and extending them for what they’ve done.”
DAVID KEEPS IT LOW-KEY
Seeing a starter on the field was a rarity over the last month for the Bears, as Matt Nagy once again decided to rest the regulars during the four preseason games.
A few got limited looks, including one of the biggest additions to the team for the 2019 season.
In a few series in the preseason opener against the Falcons, David Montgomery got fans excited when he broke off a 23-yard gain on a reception, then scored a touchdown later in the drive.
That was it for the preseason, as the third-round pick took a seat for the final three games so he could be rested for the regular season.
So how does Montgomery feel about his debut? Just as he’s been in previous interviews, Montgomery was rather low-key.
“It’s just like last week to me. Just going out to practice everyday and try to get better,” said the running back when asked how he feels this week ahead of his NFL debut. “Just trying to make sure I know what I need to know before Thursday.
STAT OF THE WEEK – 5
The number of consecutive season openers the Bears have lost.
Their last win came against the Bengals in 2013 – a 24-21 triumph at Soldier Field.
In 2014, the lost to the Bills at home 23-20 in overtime, to the Packers 23-21 in 2015, the Texans on the road 23-14 in 2016, the Falcons 23-17 in 2017, and last year’s 24-23 defeat in Green Bay.