SportsNet - August 2012
With the useless preseason games finally in the books, it's time for the Chicago Bears to prepare for the regular-season opener against Indianapolis. Although Chicago saw some encouraging signs in the preseason—especially from rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery—there are also good reasons for concern at Halas Hall.
Here are the three biggest issues that Love Smith and his staff need to hope they've resolved as the NFL season gets underway:
1. Can the safeties be trusted?
For a team that must face Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford in divisional games twice a year each, defending the deep ball is a huge priority. The Bears didn't exactly come through in that department last season, ranking 28th in the NFL in passing yards allowed.
According to Metro, Chelsea have re-opened talks with German side Bayer Leverkusen in an attempt to bring in their young forward, Andre Schurrle.
The clock is ticking on transfer deadline day and their are various deals being negotiated world-wide on this exciting day of the season. Even though Roberto Di Matteo's Chelsea side are in Monaco busy preparing for Friday evening's Super Cup clash with Athletico Madrid, their officials are working hard to secure a deal for Schurrle.
Chelsea have been monitoring the 21-year-old German international for the majority of the summer and he has been the subject to an alleged offer being rejected already. But with Schurrle claiming he wants to leave Leverkusen, the European Champions have stepped up their attempt to bring him in before 11pm on Friday.
Liverpool are looking to sign Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge before the window closes, hence Chelsea's frantic approach for another striker having only got two recognised strikers in the squad. If the Sturridge deal goes ahead, then Chelsea supporters will be yet again welcoming another highly rated young international attacker to Stamford Bridge this season.
West Ham vs. Fulham
Fulham travel to Upton Park to face West Ham. They will be a weakened side following departure of Mousa Dembele and absence of Clint Dempsey. West Ham would like to recover from last week's disappointment against Swansea. This match could see likes of Ricardo Vaz Te, Nicky Maynard and Mobido Maiga return after impressing in mid-week Cup outing. Andy Carroll has also joined West Ham on loan. Recent history is against Fulham who have won once in their last 15 matches against West Ham. Can Fulham improve their dismal record?
Swansea vs. Sunderland
Swansea can go top if they defeat Sunderland in this fixture. Michu has been in prime form for Swansea with 3 goals. Ki Sung-Yueng has joined Swansea from Celtic. Swansea manager Michael Laudrup has a fully-fit squad to choose from and is likely to name an unchanged team. Sunderland play their second match of the season which could see debuts for Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson. Wes Brown and David Vaughan will miss the match due to injuries. An exciting match in prospect with Swansea starting as favorites.
West Brom vs. Everton
The Daily Telegraph links Arsenal with a shock deadline day move for Chelsea stalwart Michael Essien. Apparently, the Gunners are interested in securing a season-long loan deal for the Ghana star.
Last season the two London rivals came to a similar agreement over Israeli playmaker Yossi Benayoun. The move certainly benefited Arsenal, as Benayoun's experience, skill and knack for important goals, provided a crucial boost to a squad locked in transition.
Acquiring Essien may provide a more significant impact. It's no secret Arsenal could use additional talent in midfield and Essien fits that mould.
He may find it difficult to still play a key role for Chelsea this season. The Uefa Champions League holders are well-stocked in midfield, with the likes of Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel, Ramires, Oriol Romeu and new signing Oscar. So Essien could find himself regularly left out.
Let me paint you a picture. An NFL team with offensive line issues ignores the problem and instead spends their top two draft choices on a defensive player and an unproven wide receiver. That newly-drafted wide receiver is known more for what he accomplished at the combine than what he accomplished in college. At the helm, the team has a quarterback that the franchise has invested heavily in and who, thus far, has accomplished little more than notable media scuffles with teammates and bottoming out in quarterback efficiency lists. Worse yet, their only proven wide receiver is coming off the worst season of his career. Meanwhile, the General Manager insists on filling his roster issues with failed top draft choices from other teams, while he fondly stares at his large stable of cornerbacks (to be fair he does have the best cornerback in the league).
It is at this point in the article I have to ask you: am I talking about the 2009 Oakland Raiders or the 2012 New York Jets? At this point in time it is pretty hard to tell.