Five things to watch for Sunday when the Cardinals play the Bears at State Farm Stadium:
First things first – like downs
The Cardinals know their offense has been struggling. It starts with the basics, like first downs. They have only 19 total in two games, and have converted just 4-of-20 third-down opportunities. Touchdown drives are impossible if a team can't collect a few first downs. The trickle-down effect is also obvious – the more first downs, the longer the offense is on the field, and then the less the defense is on the field. Time of possession, not surprisingly, has been lopsided as well. It's about those 10 yards at a time. (Although a big chunk play wouldn't hurt either.)
David Johnson, anywhere but back there
Coach Steve Wilks made plain this week that the Cardinals need to and will be more creative trying to get their star running back the ball, and more importantly, get him the ball in space. Maybe that means more runs off tackle or outside, or chances for Johnson to be able to cut back up inside. It should mean more chances to catch the ball not as a running back out of the backfield but split out – in the slot, or even wide, trying to get the Bears into a bad matchup. Johnson is a piece that can create matchup nightmares in the passing game, and while he continues to work on his consistency as a route runner, the Cards need to capitalize on his abilities in that regard.
Trubisky isn't there quite yet
The Cardinals saw a young quarterback in Los Angeles in Jared Goff who looks like he is starting to evolve into the franchise guy the Rams hoped he would be. The Bears' Mitchell Trubisky still seems to be a step behind that spot as he starts his second season. Coach Matt Nagy's offense can be equally expansive but with Trubisky still learning, there are opportunities for the Cards' defense to cause some havoc. One thing to note: Trubisky is athletic and big; it's not quite Cam Newton but he can be a threat to run and the Cards will have to make sure he doesn't have a back-breaking scramble on third-and-long.
Stunting Mack's attack
The Bears' defense was already pretty solid. Then Chicago traded for defensive end Khalil Mack and it became … well, exactly what you would think it would become by adding one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. Mack is a guy who lines up on the left, meaning the main responsibility for him will be either Andre Smith – who could return from his elbow issue this week – or backup John Wetzel. Either way, you figure the Cards will want to provide a little help. That could be where tight end Jermaine Gresham comes in, assuming he is able to finally play.
Frontrunning would really be OK
The Cardinals have made it through the first quarter of both their games in a scoreless tie, before falling dramatically behind by halftime. Scoring early – scoring first – would benefit this team on so many levels, whether it is the knowledge they are going to score, the confidence it can build, or the impact it can have on a fan base that is understandably leery at this point.