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Bengals vs Bears Preseason Week 3: Behind Enemy Lines

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In what is universally known as the "Dress Rehearsal" of the preseason, the Bengals welcome the Bears to Paul Brown Stadium this Saturday for preseason game number three and we are joined by Lester A. Wiltfong Jr. of Windy City Gridiron to talk Bears.

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Q: The Bears brought in John Fox in the offseason - a more conservative coach than Marc Trestman - how does the Bears offense and defense look different under Fox?

A: So far through two preseason games the Bears have shown a commitment to running the ball with 68 running plays called to 57 pass plays. Trestman was a West Coast offense guy, but his version was very pass happy. He only had the Bears run the ball 36.8% of the time in 2014, which was 31st in the NFL.

New offensive coordinator Adam Gase is a Mike Martz disciple, but he's honed his craft working with various schemes through the years, West Coast, Erhardt-Perkins and Air Coryell.  Gase's time with John Fox has ensured that he will commit to the run.

Defensively the Bears are moving to a 3-4 base defense under former 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, so it's a drastic change from last year. Fangio may not have the exact players in place to fully run his scheme, but so far we've seen multiple looks and an attacking style.

Bears' fans are generally happy with the changes.

Q: It sounds like the Bears 2015 first round pick, Kevin White, will start the season on the PUP list and could miss the entire season. Alshon Jeffery has been out with a strained calf and Brandon Marshall is in New York. How concerned are the Bears with their receiving corps at this point of the season?

A: If Jeffery comes back relatively quick, there won't be much of a concern, but he may not play this week either. Once healthy, Jeffery will be playing for a new contract, so his motivation will be at a high level. Newcomer Eddie Royal is a solid pro that can play outside and in the slot. Tight end Martellus Bennett led his position in receptions last year and he has the skills to line up anywhere for the Bears. Matt Forte is an accomplished pass catcher too, so the Bears won't be lacking for receiving options.

Third year wide out Marquess Wilson, who may sit this week with a strained hamstring, seems capable of being a third option at receiver, but the Bears will need one or two young wide outs to step up in case of an in season injury.

Q: Jay Cutler seems to be a lightning rod among fans and media. Where do Bears' fans stand with Cutler? And more importantly, where does Bears' management stand with Cutler?

A: Bears' fans are split on Cutler. There are some that love him and that will never change as long as he's wearing the "C" on his helmet. Other fans hate him and nothing will sway their feelings short of a perfect season long passer rating, an MVP and a Super Bowl title. While others just see him for what he is, an average QB that is capable of winning you a game with his big arm or losing a game with a bonehead mistake.

The new regime isn't really tied to him at all beyond this year and the two reasons he's still a Bear are money and fact that he's still the best option they had. If Cutler leads the league in turnovers in 2015, I think the Bears let him go and roll with a rookie in 2016.

Q: What is the deepest/strongest position on this 2015 Bears team?

A: The Bears haven't made the playoffs since 2010, so we're not talking about a very deep team here. From the 2008 draft, when the Bears took Matt Forte in the 2nd round, to the 2012 draft, a span of five years, the Bears only have three of a possible 37 draft picks still on the team.

When looking at depth, there are questions at every position group on the roster.

Q: What is the most intriguing roster battle in Bears camp this year?

A: Since the Bears are converting defensive ends to outside linebackers in their new 3-4 scheme, I'd have to say OLB. Just because I'm interested to see Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, David Bass and Willie Young make the position change.

Q: Who is a player most Bengals fans won't know, but should know, or should look for on Monday night?

A: Outside linebacker Sam Acho, who spent his first four years in the league with the Cardinals, has been having a very good off season for the Bears so far. He's looked good in camp and he has two sacks, a forced fumble and an interception through the first two preseason games this year.

On offense, rookie running back Jeremy Langford has looked good showing some elusiveness, burst and toughness in route to 6.2 yards per carry in 13 rushes.

Q: What are the strengths of the 2015 Bears? And, what areas of this Bears team concern you?

A: The Bears' offense was 2nd in league in scoring just two years ago and the only key piece missing from that unit is Brandon Marshall. The o-line started all 16 games together that year and if they can have some continuity again this season, that will go a long way into allowing Cutler, Jeffery, Bennett, Forte and Royal to fully function in Adam Gase's offense.

As far as concerns, it has to be the defense. Moving to a 30 front is tough enough, but doing it with so many players than have never been in a 3-4 defense is even tougher. I have faith that Vic Fangio will scheme the Bears into some favorable matchups, but ultimately it's on the players to make plays and the only real proven playmaker on the D (Pernell McPhee) was a part time player in Baltimore last year.

Q: The Bears were 5-11 in 2014 and finished last in the NFC North. What is your prediction for the Bears (record wise) and where do you see the Bears finishing in the NFC North in 2015?

A: I've been going with 6-10 when asked my prediction the last few weeks, and I have no reason to come off that number. I do think the Bears will be improved on both sides of the ball, but until this team can improve its overall depth, they are an injury or two away from some real struggles. I still see the Bears coming in last in the NFC North.

Q: Were this a regular season game, what would your prediction be?

A: Cincinnati 24, Chicago 13. But since we're talking about practice, I'm going Chicago 27, Cincinnati 14!