A lot has changed since the NFL released the 2019 schedule. Teams have added through the draft and free agency, and learned more about their rosters with rookie minicamps. Now with all that behind us, let’s take another look at which opposing rookies could make an impact in 2019. We’ll go over the first five opponents on Wednesday, the next four on Thursday and the last four on Friday.
Week 1 vs. Packers
The Packers selected EDGE Rashan Gary with the No. 12 overall pick. Gary performed well at the Combine compared to other defensive linemen and outside linebackers, showing off his athleticism. But that athleticism didn’t lead to a ton of productivity in his final season at Michigan, as he only recorded 3.5 sacks and 38 tackles. Paired with the fact that Green Bay signed two veteran pass rushers this offseason, Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith, it will be interesting to see how many snaps Gary gets in Week 1.
Week 2 at Broncos
Joe Flacco LOVES throwing to the tight end. In 2017 (his last full season starting) he targeted tight ends on 24 percent of his passes. To compare, the Bears targeted their tight ends on 18 percent of all their passes. So, Denver GM John Elway went out and got Flacco a new, big target in the first round by selecting Noah Fant out of Iowa. Fant caught 39 passes for 519 yards and 7 touchdowns last season, and could factor into the Broncos passing game early in the season.
Week 3 at Washington
I’m sure no one had this game circled when schedules were officially released mid-April, but now that Dwayne Haskins is in D.C. this game is suddenly more interesting. Will Haskins have replaced Case Keenum as the starter by Week 3? Can Haskins re-create some chemistry with fellow OSU rookie and third-round pick Terry McLaurin? Last season for the Buckeyes that duo connected for 650 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Week 4 vs. Vikings
This will be the first look for the Bears at Minnesota’s revamped offensive line. Last season, the Bears sacked Kirk Cousins five times across their two meetings. The Vikings were only able to muster 85 total rushing yards in those two games, as well. To help with these issues the Vikings went out and drafted center Garrett Bradbury with their first round pick, traded up in the fourth round to select guard Dru Samia, and used a sixth-round pick to take tackle Olisaemeka Udoh. Vikings beat writers figure Bradbury will compete for the starting center job, which would slide Pat Elflein to guard, opposite new free-agent signing Josh Kline. Samia and Udoh would likely compete for backup roles.
Week 5 at Raiders (in London)
All eyes will be on Josh Jacobs, the running back from Alabama who the Raiders drafted with one of the first-round picks the Bears sent to Oakland in exchange for Khalil Mack. Jacobs was the consensus best back in the draft this season and should feature heavily in the Raiders run game this season, as Adam Schefter has reported that Marshawn Lynch plans to retire.
Check back Thursday as we’ll go over Weeks 6 through 9 for the Bears.