By Bryan Dietzler
The Bears came into the 2016 season, in their second year under head coach John Fox with high hopes. There is a lot of promise on the team as they have a lot of new faces and have done a lot of work to get better. Their season started off early in decent fashion as, in the first half of their game against Houston they did well but it all fell apart in the second half of that game and they couldn’t finish. Hopefully this isn’t indicative of the way the Bears will play all season. And it was only one game. There are 15 left to go.
You can say that the season begins yet again when the Bears take on the Eagles. It’s time to start anew. But first, let’s take a quick look back at the Bear’s first game against the Houston Texans.
The Bears offense is a little bit disheveled right now and may still need a little time to get put together. The passing game was hot and cold last Sunday as quarterback Jay Cutler had his moments but his wide receivers did let him down at times. Alshon Jeffery had a stellar first half but was invisible in the second half. Kevin White looked a little lost and needs some help (and more coaching). Eddie Royal looked good and hopefully he will remain healthy. The tight end position looked a little bit good (but wasn’t used that often) with Zach Miller there but he is not be what Martellus Bennett was. This group, overall, still needs some work.
While former Bear’s running back Matt Forte is tearing it up in New York, Chicago is relying on second year running back Jeremy Langford to get the job done. He had a mediocre game last Sunday but should get better as the season goes on. The Bears depth at the position is not as tight as some might think so if they can work some of the other guys in to give Langford a rest from time to time then their running game should improve.
The offensive line still needs some work but it will most likely take a few games (something like three or four) in order for them to gel. Rookie Cody Whitehair did a pretty nice job out there last week as did Kyle Long (playing with a torn labrum). Josh Sitton was solid as was expected. The unit should be pretty good, barring injury, as the season rolls along and this will help the Bears offense improve.
The Bears defense was a little bit rusty last Sunday but, like the offense, could get better as the season rolls forward. The true star of the unit was linebacker Jerrell Freeman. He was all over the field making tackles and plays. He was the defense last week and has proven that he may have been the Bear’s better free agent pickup from this past offseason. The defensive line may need some time to work things out but Eddie Goldman and Johnathan Bullard are looking pretty good and will have a solid future with the Bears.
As previously mentioned, Freeman was the star of game for the defense but he can’t be making all the plays. The others need to step up and help such as guys like Danny Trevethan and the seldom used Leonard Floyd. Remember that Floyd was a first round pick this past May and needs to develop into a solid starter. The Bears cannot afford to have spent a first round pick on him only to find out he is a situational player. There will be more discussion about Floyd in future articles.
The secondary was tasked with covering one of the better wide receivers in the league (DeAndre Hopkins) and they did a decent job on him but they allowed another Texan’s receiver, Will Fuller to run rampant and beat them. Chicago’s secondary needs to do a better job against opposing receivers. They had their ups and downs last season but last year they were better. But then again, it’s just been one game.
Contributing to the problems they had in the secondary last week was the fact that they were without Kyle Fuller but their depth in the secondary, which is actually decent, needed to come up and take care of things. It didn’t. Their best corner, Tracy Porter, looked a little rough out there.
Special teams, with Royal returning punts, actually looked decent last Sunday. Deonte Thompson had a few growing pains but soon he will be an adequate and perhaps an even more than adequate, kick returner. Kicking and punting was solid.
Week One Author Quick Hits
Floyd is a solid run defender but not a great pass rusher, which is what the Bears brought him in for.
I understand White being out last year and being a little rusty but he struggled with wide receiver basics last week. Scary!
The Bears should not have let Forte go. They will regret that this season.
The offense struggled perhaps because of the play calling by their new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggins. Hopefully there will be improvement very soon.
Coming off of the loss to the Houston Texans last Sunday the Bears will look to get into the win column this Monday night as they host the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field. The Eagles beat the Cleveland Browns 29-10 last week and looked pretty good in doing it. They have rookie Carson Wentz at the helm and he isn’t looking like a rookie that much to start his career. Can the Bears stop him from getting his second win and help themselves earn their first?
The Bears need to get off to a fast start to get an early lead. They can do this by moving the ball down the field quickly though the air and they have the weapons to do that. As long as Cutler can curb the mistakes and stay upright, he should be able to find his receivers and make plays. Jeffery is solid, there is no questioning his ability but White is a bit of an X-factor and might just need to keep learning. Miller is a nice tight end but he’s not an all-star. He can be effective however. Hopefully he can turn into a go to tight end.
The running game is going to be key because the Bears cannot be one dimensional against the Eagles. This should be the game that Langford “breaks out” and does something special. There is depth so the Bears can do some things running the ball. Taking pressure off of Cutler is a must and the running game is the doorway to do that.
Chicago’s defense was re-tooled during the offseason and brought in some nice talent. This is the game where that talent has to finally put it all together. Remember that the Eagle’s starting quarterback, Wentz, is a rookie and he got the best of the Browns last week (although the Browns had a hand in doing that to themselves). Chicago cannot make him look like a superstar.
The way to foil Wentz is to get pressure on him and the Bears have the players to do that. There wasn’t too much pass pressure in week one so hopefully the Bears will be able to put it together this week and get to the quarterback consistently.
The Eagles rushing attack is a “middle of the road” attack that does have potential but could be easily shut down. The Bears need to shut it down and put their best pressure on Wentz. If they can do that and make him look like a rookie, they will win this game. Making teams one dimensional is the path to winning.
The Bears linebacking corps has the potential to be one of the best in the NFL. This group should be flying around the field making plays swarming to the football all the time. Freeman was doing that in week one but Trevethan and the rest of the gang need to join him and contribute. If they can have a breakout game, they can be dominant, shut down the Eagles and help the team win on defense.
It would appear that the secondary will get Fuller back for this game so having him and Porter on the corners will be beneficial. The safeties are solid and this group is good although it may not have shown last week. The Eagles receivers are not big name guys and remember that there is a rookie quarterback starting so the passing game will be unpredictable. Put a little pressure on Wentz and he will struggle. If they can cover the Eagles top receiver (last week) Jordan Matthews well enough, they should do fine.
Special teams for the Bears have been up and down over the past season and a game since Jeff Rodgers took over. They didn’t look bad last Sunday though and will get better. If Royal can stay healthy the Bears then have a solid punt returner. Thompson is good but not “Devin Hester” good. But then is anyone as good as Hester? Kicking and punting units are solid and should do well against the Eagles.
The Eagles are in a state of transition right now. They have a new coach and a new quarterback but the base of this team is solid. They have some good players but should have some growing pains just like the Bears did last season. Some people are singing their praises because they won last week but they beat the Browns. The Browns could be the worst team in the NFL this season so that was not a valid test for the Eagles.
The advantage in coaching experience goes to Fox and the Bears although, as mentioned, it is Loggins first year as a play caller so there could be some issues. The Bears need to be aggressive on offense and solid on defense to win this game. As stated earlier, pressure on Wentz will make him crumble and getting the running game going with Langford and company will make the Bears golden.
Who wins? Expect Chicago to get their first win of the season with an “in control” offense and solid defense. Keeping the mistakes at a minimum is a must and if they can do that they will beat the Eagles.
Prediction: Chicago 23 Philadelphia 14