In the season opener, the Cincinnati Bengals used a lot of two-tight-end sets against the Chicago Bears defense. This kept the Bears in their base set for all but 18 snaps, during which Isaiah Frey was inserted as the nickelback. It was a smaller workload than Frey and the coaching staff anticipated coming into the contest.
"We weren't really expecting them to come out and play two-tight-end sets for most of the game," Frey told Bear Report. "You never know. Some teams come out and play 30 plays in [three-receiver sets], other teams just 18, like Cincinnati. You've just got to be prepared."
It was Frey's first game in the NFL, so the coaching staff likely had no issues limiting his reps. Chicago's linebacker played well against the Bengals, even in three-receiver formations, so there was no need to over-play Frey, who had four total tackles in the game.
"I felt like I did decent," said Frey. "There are a lot of things I can work on though and get better at, like my pass drops and reading the quarterback, but overall I think it was a decent start."
Frey picked up his three solo tackles as a blitzer, with each resulting in a run stuff. Coordinator Mel Tucker was liberal with his use of Frey in the box, who showed good awareness coming off the edge.
"Each blitz, coach gives us an aiming point. I'm just looking at my aiming point. I've got to read it and hit it as fast as I can," Frey said. "You can't go too fast sometimes because they might play action but that's my play to make. You've always got to come in there under control to see if they are handing it off or if it's play action."
"It's definitely in the back of your head. You're always thinking, ‘AP is back there,'" Frey said. "That's their go-to guy on offense so in the back of your mind you always know you've got to be a little bit faster on the run because at any given time he can break one. You think about that a little bit more."
The Vikings use second-year receiver Jarius Wright in the slot. He's a quick wideout who caught 22 passes for 310 yards and 2 TDs as a rookie last season. Frey said the Bears will likely use a lot of zone coverage to counter Minnesota's three-receiver sets.
"The thing about this league, everybody runs the routes against Cover 2. So we're not going to see anything different," he said. "We've got film from last year, so I've been preparing off of that. We'll be ready for anything they bring us."
Tucker used a fairly vanilla game plan against the Bengals. Frey said the Bears might mix it up more this week in order to confuse Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, who committed four turnovers in the opener.
"He's smart, very intelligent," said Frey. "We've got to give him disguises because he's able to ready defenses well. We've got to get in our disguises and not give him keys to rely on."
The Vikings only used three or more receivers 27 times last week, so Frey may not see a big uptick in snaps on Sunday. If he makes the most of those opportunities, he'll give the staff more confidence to increase his reps going forward, especially against pass-happy teams like the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. As such, his development in these first few weeks will be crucial as the season progresses.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.