The Chicago Bears Week Two Preview: The Bears’ Offense

By Bryan Dietzler

The Chicago Bears, coming off a heartbreaking 23-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Week One, will travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers this Sunday. The Bucs haven’t played a regular season game yet this season because of Hurricane Irma. They had their bye week last week.

Chicago’s offense had its problems against the Falcons, but they played well enough to almost win. The running game was solid but the passing game had issues. Their passing attack suffered some setbacks on the injury front on Sunday as well as they lost wide receiver Kevin White for the year.

Now they need other players to step up and contribute.

Let’s look at the Bears offense and how it compares to Tampa’s defense. Can Chicago beat the Bucs defense or will Tampa’s talented D stuff the Bears? Let’s find out in this detailed preview.

Glennon didn’t look like a world beater on Sunday and he started out slow. But, after a first half which saw him throw for just 25 yards, Glennon lit it up, somewhat, in the second half and nearly got his team a victory. Can he continue to build upon his performance last week where he had a quarterback rating of 86.8 with 213 yards and a touchdown?

What is he up against this Sunday?

 

The Buccaneers will be able to put some pass pressure on Glennon and, as we saw against Atlanta, he can stand against the rush but struggles to move around the pocket. To not get sacked constantly, he will need better protection from his offensive line.

Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is the Bucs number one pass rusher and had seven sacks a year ago. He will be joined by former Washington Redskins defensive end Chris Baker who is a relentless pass rusher without the production (3.5 sacks last season).

Glennon seemed to adjust to pressure as the game went on Sunday but still struggles to get away from the rush. Hopefully, he will get some help from his offensive line in this game. The line must do better in this game.

We know that Chicago’s wide receiving corps took a hit after the loss of White, so Glennon’ s options are few and far between. But, in last week’s game, we saw Kendall Wright emerge a bit at the end of the game so he might step up. Plus, maybe Markus Wheaton will be back.

Josh Bellamy can contribute when he catches the ball. Chicago has brought up Tanner Gentry from the practice squad too.

The lack of talent at the wide receiver will continue to handcuff the Bears this season. Unless they make some trades, this is going to be a tough position to watch in 2017.

Tampa Bay’s cornerbacks are solid. Brent Grimes is one of the better corners in the league and has been in the league forever, so he knows a little bit of everything. Vernon Hargreaves, a rookie last year, still has some growing to do but is solid. They both will play Chicago’s receivers tough and make life difficult for the Bears passing game.

The Bears leading receiver last week was Tarik Cohen with eight receptions for 47 yards. Zach Miller led the tight ends with four catches for 39 yards while Kendall Wright led the wide receiving group with three catches for 34 yards.

You can bet that Glennon will use whomever he trusts in this game to get the ball too often. Last week it was Cohen and it might be him again this week.

I have no stats to throw at you about how good the Bucs pass defense is because they haven’t played a game yet.

As fans, we can go into this game hoping that Chicago can do something against Tampa’s defense through the air. Maybe they will build upon what they did last week in the fourth quarter and keep on moving forward.

Hopefully, we will see even more progress this Sunday.

This preview can’t be complete without talking about the tight end group. We already know that Miller was the Bears leading tight end last Sunday but his counterpart, Dion Sims, had a good game also. Expect the tight ends to get a lot of looks this Sunday and help bail Glennon out of some tough situations.

The Bears’ tight end group is a good one and is one of the best tight end groups the Bears have had in a while.

The running backs were impressive last week if you take away Jordan Howard’s dropped pass at the goal line. Cohen had a breakout game and hopefully, he can continue to do what he did consistently. But Tampa’s defense will be keying in on him and so you shouldn’t expect the same big day out of him this week that he had last Sunday.

He will get a lot of looks and they will try to get the ball often. Hopefully, they succeed. A mix of Howard and Cohen will be good for the Bears and will help keep the pressure off Glennon while adding another dimension to the offense.

Chicago’s offensive line was a little shaky to start the season but maybe they get things straight and play better in Week Two. Bobbie Massie struggled while Cody Whitehair couldn’t keep the laundry off the ground.

Kyle Long’s return is still in question but they need to get him back as quickly as possible. They not only need his Pro Bowl caliber talent but his leadership as well.

Swinging to the Buc’s defense, we have talked about McCoy, Baker and their cornerbacks but there are other difference makers.

At linebacker, middle linebacker Kwon Alexander led the team in tackles last year and might be their best defender. Chicago will need to account for him on every play. They should also be conscious of where Kendall Beckwith and LeVonte David are at all times.

Going back to the defensive line, the Bucs have another player that might be difficult for the offensive line to block. Robert Ayers is an above average defensive end who likes to line up on the right side of the defense. This means that offensive tackle Charles Leno, Jr., will have his hands full.

The safety position will be manned by Keith Tandy at free safety and the newly acquired T.J. Ward at the strong safety spot. Both are capable tacklers and can cover well.

There is one more safety on the Buccaneers’ defense who is worth mentioning. Every Bears fan will remember Chris Conte. Remember his final game with his former team? Remember what he did to the Bears last year? That’s something we all would like to forget.

Well, he will be in Tampa waiting for the Bears this year again. Wouldn’t it be nice if Chicago could get the best of him Sunday?

Chicago’s offense may struggle again especially in the passing game now that they are short one receiver in Kevin White. The Bears have made up for White’s loss by bringing up some talent but the new guy, Gentry is untested. Can the pass catching star and fan favorite from training camp make a difference?

What about Howard’s injury (shoulder) will that limit him or keep him out of the lineup Sunday?

The Bears cannot afford to have that many more injuries. They don’t want this season to turn into a carbon copy of last year.

Next Up: We will look at the injury report for both teams and how it might affect Sunday’s game.

 

The Chicago Bears versus the Atlanta Falcons In-Depth Game Review

 

By Bryan Dietzler

Last season’s Super Bowl representative for the NFC, the Atlanta Falcons, marched into Soldier Field Sunday to take on our beloved Chicago Bears in what was thought to be a lopsided match. However, the game would be so much closer than anyone thought it as the Bears made it a dogfight but lost in the final seconds 23-17. This contest had a little bit of everything and showed us that the Bears have talent but have some work to do to put it all together.

How did it unfold? Let’s find out.

Atlanta opened the game with the ball after the Bears’ deferred and went on a methodical march down the field. They were poised to go up by a touchdown but thanks to the newly extended Akiem Hicks, the Bears defense forced the Falcons to try a 48-yard Matt Bryant field goal. The field goal was good putting the Falcons up 3-0.

After a three and out by the Falcons, the Bears took the ball down the field but stalled out on the drive after quarterback Mike Glennon was sacked by Vic Beasley. Thanks to a 54-yard field goal by Connor Barth, the Bears tied Atlanta 3-3.

The Falcons would take the lead after a drive filled with big pass and running plays by quarterback Matt Ryan. The drive was capped off with a five-yard run by running back Devontae Freeman. The score put Atlanta up 10-3. On the play, Freeman got to the edge and outraced Kyle Fuller to the corner of the end zone for the touchdown.

Chicago would not be down long as they moved the ball down the field quickly thanks to some great play by running back Tarik Cohen. With a 46-yard run by the rookie, the Bears got close enough for running back Jordan Howard to punch the ball in from four yards out. That tied the game at 10-10. That would be the score going into halftime.

Atlanta went up by three on a 28-yard Bryant field goal a few minutes into the third quarter making the score 13-10. Chicago’s blitz helped contribute to an incompletion by Ryan that stopped Atlanta from scoring a touchdown on that drive. It was a great job by the Bears’ defense.

The Falcons would jump to a 20-10 lead after a big play by tight end Austin Hooper. Hooper took a Ryan pass 88 yards for the score in dramatic fashion including pushing safety Quintin Demps into the dirt on his way to the end zone. It appeared that the rout was on and that the Bears would be reliving 2016 all over again.

But the Bears would not go down without a fight. On their next possession following the Atlanta touchdown, they drove all the way down the field capping off the drive with a 19-yard scoring strike from Glennon to Cohen. The touchdown put the Bears within three and gave them hope.

The Bears defense bent but didn’t break on the next drive as Atlanta got close to the end zone again but couldn’t get six. The Falcons settled for a 37-yard field goal to make it 23-17.

Chicago got the ball back and went on one of the best but the most frustrating drives of the John Fox era. It almost started off with disaster as Deonte Thompson fumbled the kickoff. But it was recovered by Chicago, and they marched on. With several big plays that included the Bears finally getting their passing game going, they got all the way down to the five-yard line and had four chances to make it into the end zone.

Thanks to two dropped passes, one by Howard and one by Joshua Bellamy (he might have been a victim of pass interference) and then a drop by tight end, Zach Miller, the Bears had one more down to punch the ball in the end zone. Glennon was sacked on the final play and the Bears bid to win the game ended just five yards short.

The final score was 23-17 Atlanta.

Mike Glennon was both good and bad. His play during almost three and a half quarters was difficult to watch. A great example of his futility was illustrated when you look at how many passing yards he had at halftime. Chicago went into the locker room with just 25 passing yards at the half and was lucky they were tied with Atlanta. Glennon ended the game with 213 yards completing 23 out or 40 attempts and one touchdown. It was not a strong performance by Glennon but he didn’t lose this game on his own.

 

The wide receivers had a little something to do with this loss. There were some poorly run routes and a few drops. The most memorable, by the wide receivers was the one that Bellamy dropped at the end of the game in the end zone. He has had this problem before (remember the game against the Titans last November?) and continues to struggle. Kendall Wright came on strong at the end of the game while Kevin White looked very unsettled. More on him later.

The most catches by a wide receiver in this game was lowly three. That was a tie between Wright and Bellamy. The wide receiver with the most yards was Wright with 34.

Chicago’s running backs had a great day until the end when Howard dropped what would have been a game winning pass just outside of the end zone. He ended up with 52 yards on 13 carries and a score. Howard also caught three passes for 14 yards. The star of the game, however, rookie running back Tarik Cohen. Cohen helped keep drives alive and kept the Bears in the game playing much bigger and better than anyone else on the team. He ended the day with 66 yards on five carries to go along with eight catches for 47 yards. Cohen was Chicago’s leading rusher and receiver.

The tight end play in this game was good when they got the ball. Miller was solid and Dion Sims was great catching two passes for 31 yards. Miller ended the day with the most catches by a Bears tight end with four for 39 yards.

The offensive line started the day without Kyle Long and that was almost to be expected. They struggled to keep the pass rushers off Glennon and allowed four sacks. Bobby Massie struggled and Cody Whitehair had two costly penalties.

Chicago’s defense was good for almost the entire game but suffered a few critical breakdowns in pass coverage. The 88-yard touchdown catch and run by Hooper was a good example of breakdowns there. Hooper also had a forty-yard catch which saw Fuller get knocked away while Hooper barreled forward. Akiem Hicks had a big day just about twenty-four hours after he signed a big contract but had a costly penalty which hurt Chicago. The linebackers made a lot of good plays in this game and were the best unit on the field Sunday.

The leader in tackles on the defensive line was Hicks with three to go along with his two sacks. Eddie Goldman and Mitch Unrein also got some good pressure at times.

The outside linebackers got some good pass pressure and helped keep Atlanta’s rushing attack in check. Atlanta only had 64 yards rushing. The leading tackler for the outside linebackers was Sam Acho with two.

The inside linebackers had a nice day keeping things tight in the middle. You might have seen Nick Kwiatkoski spelling Danny Trevathan from time to time. Trevethan may not be in game shape just yet, following his recovery from the season ending knee injury he suffered. This explains the appearances by Kwiatkoski. Freeman had a solid game although he whiffed on a couple of plays. Overall the performance of this group was solid. Freeman did lead them with seven solo tackle and three assists.

Going into this game, this writer had been very pleased with having the combination of Demps and rookie safety Eddie Jackson in the backfield. However, despite the fact Demps led the position with three tackles, he missed a key tackle (the 88-yard touchdown run by Hooper). Jackson looked decent although he had a couple of plays where he was out of position. It’s a little bit worrisome seeing how Demps played today but hopefully, he gets better.

Marcus Cooper had some coverage flops but he was the best of the cornerbacks on the field. Bryce Callahan looked good at nickel. The leader in tackles among the cornerbacks was Kyle Fuller. Fuller looked good at times but he struggled too. He is a hitter who isn’t afraid to tackle and has always been that way.

Fuller might have looked a little rusty but with some improvement could be an asset in the secondary.

The secondary did keep Julio Jones in check for the most part but he wasn’t targeted that much. He had just four catches for 66 yards. However, they allowed other receivers, including Hooper (2/128/1) and Sanu (6/47) to keep drives alive. Not a terrible performance but there is room for improvement.

The Bears’ special teams were good this Sunday if you didn’t count the opening kickoff which could have been a disaster had it not been called back because of a penalty. The Bears had several return specialists returning kickoffs and punts in this game including Cohen, Thompson, Benny Cunningham. Kicking was solid but their punting wasn’t too bad.

Connor Barth nailed two field goals, including a 54-yarder which was just about right down the middle. Hopefully, he can keep making those long ones and keep the Bears going in close games.

Punting was ok as Pat O’Donnell had an average of 44.0 yards per punt on five punts.

On return teams, Thompson had two kickoff returns for an average of 23 yards while Cunningham had one 23 yards return. Cohen averaged 15 yards on three punt returns. He may end up being the punt return specialist from now on thanks to his ability to make plays. He’s electric.

The inactive players for Chicago were: cornerback Prince Amukamara, defensive lineman John Jenkins, wide receiver Tre McBride, running back Taquan Mizzell, quarterback Mark Sanchez, wide receiver Markus Wheaton and offensive guard Kyle Long. Amukamara’s absence was a big one for the Bears as was Long’s. Hopefully, they will both be back for the Bears’ game against the Buccaneers next Sunday. They are going to need Wheaton back quickly too.

Injuries were tough on the Bears in this game. The most significant injury they suffered was to Kevin White. He suffered a fractured scapula and is gone for the year. After spending almost all his time on injured reserve since getting drafted by Chicago back in 2015, it looks like he may have seen his last game in a Bears’ uniform.

Linebacker Jerrell Freeman suffered a concussion and Cunningham was out early with an ankle injury.

The Bears coaching staff might have been keeping the reigns on Glennon until the game started coming to an end and they realized they could win. You could tell because they didn’t allow him to throw the ball far down the field until the game was really on the line. Or maybe he just couldn’t throw the ball that far. I would have loved to have seen their game plan on offense going into this game.

The defense was called well but the execution was touchy at times. They look like they are poised to have a strong season.

Chicago fell just a few yards short of coming up with a huge upset Sunday. Had they been able to win this game, they would have proven a lot of critics and doubters wrong. But one thing they did prove is that they have a lot of work to do. But what Chicago did was very encouraging.

The running game is strong but the passing game struggled and needs some work. Now, with White out, they have even more problems than they went into the game with. Hopefully, Chicago will be able to do something to fix their issues there because, had they been able to throw the ball effectively, they would have won this game.

Chicago’s passing game is just about the last piece of the puzzle for the Bears to become better contenders.

Next Sunday the Bears will take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa (so far). The Bucs had a bye week this Sunday. A full three-part preview of this game will come later in the week.

Bears Play Hard; Can’t Finish As They Fall to Falcons 23-17

The Bears played competitive and looked like a team that could do some things for about 45 minutes on Sunday, but lost track of one big tight end in the final quarter, and it cost them in an eventual 23-17 loss to the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons.

Matt Ryan threw an 88-yard touchdown to Austin Hooper and led two fourth-quarter scoring drives, as the Falcons escaped with a six-point win in a game the Bears could have won.

“I think right now we’re a pretty good football team,” Bears coach John Fox said.

For the most part he’s right, but the defense leaving Hooper open in the middle of the field at midfield for an eventual touchdown was more like the Bears of the last two years than a new look team that is hoping to turn the corner in 2017.

The Bears did put up a great fight, and were five yards away from a possible upset before Falcons defensive end Brooks Reed sacked Bears QB Mike Glennon to end the final threat for Chicago.

“Nothing will replace a win, but I think we’re going to be competitive with everyone in the NFL,” Glennon said.

Overall Glennon was okay in his Bears debut, going 26 of 40 for 213 yards and a TD. He did get the Bears in a position to win the game before the final quarter letdown in which Atlanta outscored the Bears 10-6.

While the loss huts, there could be more bad news as wide out Kevin White was yet again injured for the Bears, and an ESPN report stated that the Bears feared White had broken his collarbone and could be lost for the season, yet again.

In his third NFL season after being drafted No. 7 in 2015, White has played in only five games and finished just three. He had two catches for 6 yards before departing Sunday.

Here’s hoping he’s okay, and that the Bears are able to get back on track in week two, getting ready to turn the corner once and for all for 60 minutes, not just 45.

Falcons at Bears NFL Week One Inactives

The Falcons have declared OT Austin Pasztor, CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, RB Brian Hill, LB Jordan Tripp, WR Nick Williams, OG Sean Harlow, S Sharrod Neasman inactive for Week 1.

Chicago Bears vs. The Atlanta Falcons Game Preview: Special Teams, Coaching and Injuries

By Bryan Dietzler

The first game of the Chicago Bears 2017 NFL season is upon us and we are about to see the team the Bears hope will earn a better record than last year take the field. They will play a tough team this Sunday as the Atlanta Falcons come to Soldier Field. The Falcons are going to want to get started on the right foot after getting beat in record fashion in the Super Bowl. They will be out to make everyone forget that game.

We have looked at Chicago’s offense and defense but what about their special teams? Can the Bears find some magic there? If the game had to be won on a field goal, could the Bears get those points? What about coaches? Which coach is better? Dan Quinn or John Fox?

Let’s look at the special teams, the coaches, injuries and get a prediction in this,  the final part of our preview of the Chicago versus Atlanta game.

Special Teams

The Bears special teams did well during the preseason as they had a lot of different return specialists trying out for spots. They got some nice play out of everyone they tried but it looks like they are going to go back to at least one of the guys who returned kicks last season. If you look at Chicago’s latest depth chart, you will see that Deonte Thompson is returning kickoffs again. Bryce Callahan is the punt returner. While Thompson has done this for the Bears before this is Callahan’s first real go at it.

Last year, Thompson’s average returning kickoffs was 23 yards. His longest was 64 yards while he had 22 returns that were 20 yards or more. Thompson also had two returns of 40 yards or more. He’s not a dynamic return specialist who is going to make a lot happen but he is reliable and right now that’s what the Bears need.

Callahan is new to the punt return game and will be relied upon to light things up there. However, with his health history and rookie Eddie Jackson looking good returning punts in the preseason, this may not be Callahan’s job for long. You might even see the Bears throw running back Tarik Cohen cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc into the mix.

At any rate, Chicago’s punt return game is going to be a lot better than it has been in the last three years thanks to all the talent they have.

Last season, Atlanta’s return teams were mediocre at best. Former Chicago Bear Eric Weems handled the kickoff return duties and he was let go this past offseason. Atlanta brought in former Detroit Lions’ special teamer Andre Roberts to return kickoffs and punts and he has instantly made their return game better. He had a 22.6-yard average returning kickoffs and a 12.3-yard average returning punts. He scored two touchdowns returning punts last season. Consider him dangerous.

In this first game. I think that it’s difficult to tell who has the advantage in the return game. Let’s call this a “push.”

When it comes to the kicking game, the Falcons appear to have the edge. Matt Bryant made 91.9 percent of his field goals and all but one of his extra points. He’s spot on almost all the time. In contrast, Bears’ kicker Connor Barth made just 78.3 percent of his field goals with one missed extra point in 2016. For now, he’s the Bears kicker but he may or may not be their kicker all year. Still, he is their kicker for this game. The advantage goes to Atlanta.

Chicago Bears punter Pat O’Donnell had an average of 44.0 yards with a net of 38.4 last season. His 44.0 average was second to last in the league. O’Donnell had a strong preseason and looks poised to have what might be his best season since coming into the league in 2014. The Bears need him to be better and he needs to have a great start to the season. Hopefully, O’Donnell will start off the year on a high note against the Falcons.

Atlanta punter Matthew Bosher had an average of 46.8 in 2016 and was seventh in the league in punting average. He’s going to be a critical part of field position in this game and could be Chicago’s biggest enemy.

Special teams may be a huge factor in this game. This early in the season, it’s hard to see who would have the advantage. In the return game, it could be even but with kicking and punting, the advantage goes to Atlanta.

Coaching

Chicago Bears head coach John Fox has been a head coach in the league for 16 years and has a lot of experience. Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn is starting his third year as a head coach but has already taken his team to the Super Bowl. He has a promising future and is one of the league’s best coaches.

When it comes to experience, Fox has it easily over Quinn but Fox has struggled with decision making and time management. As Bears fans, we have seen his time management skills contribute to the struggles. Hopefully, Fox will make better decisions and not put a potential victory at risk this Sunday. Quinn, despite the fact he has less experience than Fox, may be a better coach, at least in the long run.

Who has the advantage at the head coaching position? Quinn’s talent cancels out Fox’s experience. Consider the two even though.

Injury Report

The final injury report came out on Friday and it looks has the following players listed:

Sherrick McMannis-CB-Hamstring- Probable

Kyle Long-OG-Ankle-Questionable/Out?

Jonathan Bullard-DT-Glute-Probable

Sam Acho-LB-Ankle-Probable

Markus Wheaton-WR-Finger-Questionable

Prince Amukamara-CB-Ankle-Doubtful

Pernell McPhee-OLB-Knee-Questionable

Eddie Jackson-S-Groin-Probable

The biggest impact injuries of this group are with Long and Amukamara. The Bears can be without Long for a game or two but they are weaker without him. Chicago has good depth but if they suffer another injury along the offensive line they will be in trouble. Hopefully Kyle Fuller, who is replacing Amukamara, is up to the challenge after being out for an entire season in 2016.

The Falcons report the following players as injured:

Austin Pasztor-OT-Chest-Questionable

Damonte Karee-CB-Ankle

Theron Ward-RB-Hamstring

Brian Hill-RB-Ankle-Out

Out of all the injuries, the Falcons reported all of them are to backups. None of their starters are reported injured.

When it’s all said and done, the advantage goes to Atlanta in this game. The Bears will have to play near perfect football to win but they can win it. If their defense can keep Atlanta in check and their offense doesn’t give the game away by mistakes then they have a chance. But it’s a slim one.

It’s going to be a tough start to the season for Chicago and unfortunately, they will begin the 2017 campaign with a loss but it won’t be a blowout.

Score Prediction: Atlanta 27 Chicago 21

Chicago Bears vs. Atlanta Falcons Game Preview: The Bears’ Defense

 

By Bryan Dietzler

In part one of my preview of this Sunday’s Chicago Bears versus the Atlanta Falcons game, we looked at the Bears offense and how it matched up against Atlanta’s defense. Now, we will look at how the Bears defense stacks up against one of the most potent offenses in the NFL. Will the Bears be able to come up with big plays against a big play offense? Can they outlast a unit that was one of the NFL’s best last season?

Defense is where the Bears will shine against Atlanta. The front seven is healthy and should be ready to get after quarterback Matt Ryan, last year’s NFL MVP. With potential superstars such as Akiem Hicks, Leonard Floyd, and Eddie Goldman poised to rush the passer, the Bears should be able to throw a wrench in Atlanta’s passing game. As everyone knows, it starts up front and this is where the Bears have an advantage.

The Falcons offensive line is good on the right side with Alex Mack and Ryan Schraeder but Wes Schweitzer is a question mark. If the left side of the Bears’ line, which includes Hicks and Willie Young/Pernell McPhee, can get through and get to Ryan Chicago’s secondary will get some relief. If Chicago’s front seven can disrupt the passing game, the Bears will have a much better chance of winning.

The Falcons have arguably the best wide receiver in football with Julio Jones. Jones is a big target with sure hands and good speed. He’s going to be a matchup nightmare for Chicago’s secondary. The Bears may have to double cover Jones to shut him down. However, if they do that leaves guys like Mohammad Sanu and Taylor Gabriel out there to catch the ball.

Stopping Atlanta’s passing attack will be difficult but not impossible.

The latest depth chart shows that Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper, Sr., are supposed to be the starting cornerbacks Sunday. However, Amukamara missed practice and may not play on Sunday.

If he does play, both starters have experience and are capable in coverage. The question is, can they withstand the weight of what will be thrown at them? Expect whoever lines up against Jones to get some help from the nickel cornerback Bryce Callahan leaving the other to take on Sanu. They will have to be near perfect in coverage on this day.

The cornerbacks will need safety help and it will be interesting to watch what happens at that position. We know what new starting strong Quintin Demps can do but what about starting free safety, Eddie Jackson? He’s a rookie with no NFL experience but a lot of talent. This is going to be a huge first test for him and while he might stumble he will get better. He is going to have a great NFL career.

In most pass happy offenses, there is a tight end that can catch and block. The Falcons have second-year man Austin Hooper to fill that role. Hooper had mediocre numbers last season (19 catches for 271 and three scores) but is a threat to bail Ryan out should he need it. The Bears will stick an outside linebacker like Floyd on him or have Jackson keep Hooper contained. They can’t let him beat them.

Atlanta is not a one-dimensional pass-only team. They have a strong rushing attack which is led by running back Devonta Freeman. Freeman is one of the best running backs in the NFL and with a new contract, he’s going to try to prove that is worth the money they paid him. The Bears will have to work hard to stop him but they can do it.

Chicago’s linebacking corps is good and when everyone is healthy they are one of the best in the NFL. Every Bears’ starting linebacker should be available for this game including Danny Trevathan. Look for this group to have an active game as they should be able to contain the Falcon’s rushing attack and force Ryan to beat them through the air.

Chicago’s defense is going to have to step up big to help the Bears win this game. If they can keep Jones and Freeman under control and get some consistent pressure on Ryan they will make their chances of winning this game much better. This defense can deliver and they represent the Bears best hope of beating Atlanta this Sunday. Let’s hope they are up to the challenge.

Next Up: In the third installment of our preview of the Bears vs. Falcons game, we will look at special teams, coaching philosophies and make a final score prediction.

Please check me out on Twitter @bdietzler or look for me on Facebook.

Chicago Bears vs. Atlanta Falcons Game Preview: The Bears’ Offense

By Bryan Dietzler

The Chicago Bears, fresh off one of the worst seasons in their long history, will play host to the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday at Soldier Field. The last time we saw the Falcons, they were on the losing end of the biggest collapse in Super Bowl history. This season, Atlanta will be on a mission to prove that they are better than they were in that game as they try to redeem themselves by getting back to the Super Bowl.

The Bears hope that they will be much more competitive this season and continue to help build towards the future. Granted, this is a tough opponent to start the season with, and the odds aren’t in Chicago’s favor, but anything is possible. You can’t count the Bears out but this one is going to be difficult.

Chicago went 3-13 last season while the Falcons ended up with an 11-5 record and a “forgettable” trip to the Super Bowl.

Chicago’s offense is led by quarterback Mike Glennon. Glennon takes over after several years of futility and inconsistency at the quarterback position. But perhaps he brings more question marks than answers. In addition to questions about his ability, Glennon has no one to throw the ball too. He will rely on a group of receivers who are inconsistent and are career underachievers. We don’t know what to expect from them in this game.

Bears receivers will face an Atlanta secondary that is average but not spectacular. They have one above average guy in safety Ricardo Allen. Cornerback Desmond Trufant isn’t that bad either. The Bears need to be wary of them. Unfortunately for the Bears, right now they have no clear number one wide receiver, so the Falcons will have an easy time defending against Chicago’s passing game.

Hopefully, somebody will step up for the Bears in this game. Could it be Kevin White? Maybe Kendall Wright will come up big for Chicago? If no one does step up, the Bears’ passing game will fall flat.

Chicago lived and died with their running game last year and it appears as if they will have to do that again in 2017. Jordan Howard is back, well-rested and ready to go. The Bears have Tarik Cohen to help add another dimension to the offense. Expect him to see some action in this game.

The Falcons allowed 104.5 yards per game on the ground last year but look to be much better against the run in 2017. If the Bears can get some yards on the ground and keep the ball out of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones’ hands, they will be able to keep it close. Keeping it close is what the Bears must do to win.

The tight end position is a promising one for the Bears. Zach Miller and Dion Sims give Glennon some options to throw the ball to and could be two of Glennon’s top targets. Atlanta’s linebackers and safeties are capable in coverage but can be beaten. Can Miller and company help keep the ball moving down the field through the air? Perhaps they can at least give Glennon an outlet to throw the ball to in a hurry (by being the hot receiver).

By the time the game begins, we should know if Kyle Long will be starting at guard or not. My thought is that he might sit this game out and come back in week two. This means that Cody Whitehair will fill at Long’s spot while Hroniss Grasu takes over at center. Be just a little wary of Grasu. He doesn’t have a lot of experience (remember he missed all of 2016). When he did play, Grasu had some issues with larger defenders. Falcons defensive tackle Dontari Poe may give him some problems.

Once again, the biggest issue for Chicago will be their passing game. If they can’t get that going, Atlanta will take Chicago’s rushing attack away and make them one dimensional. Right now, it would appear as if Chicago’s passing attack isn’t going to help them win too many games. At least early on. However, if they can keep Howard and the running game going, they can at least make it competitive.

The Bears offense is going to have its hands full in this game. But this game will be an important one. We will get a good feel for how things are going to go in future games after watching them play against Atlanta. You can expect them to struggle in the passing game but they can do well running the ball.

Next up, we will look at how the Bears’ defense matches up with Atlanta’s offense.

The Chicago Bears Post-Cuts Roster Review

By Bryan Dietzler

Update: The Bears just cut Jeremy Langford and Ben Braunecker (after this story was posted). Long snapper Jeff Overbaugh was also waived.

The Chicago Bears firmed up their 53-man roster yesterday and are set for the 2017 NFL season. There were some head scratching decisions made, but this happens every season when final cuts come. But this is the team the Bears felt would help get them to where they need to go. Now, all we can do is sit back and hope that they made all the right decisions.

Is this the roster that will help them win more games this year than they did last year? Did they make the right choices? Let’s take a quick look at who remains with a quick review of the Chicago Bears new 53-man roster.

Offense

Quarterback: Mike Glennon; Mark Sanchez; Mitchell Trubisky-No surprises here. Keeping Sanchez makes sense and Chicago let Connor Shaw go. He was hurt and for the Bears, keeping Sanchez made sense.

Running Back: Jordan Howard; Tarik Cohen; Jeremy Langford; Benny Cunningham-The Bears released Joshua Rounds and put Ka’Deem Carey on injured reserve. Keeping four running backs makes sense. The Bears should use Cunningham on special teams as a return specialist returning kickoffs. Chicago made some solid choices here.

Fullback: Michael Burton-It looks like the Bears are going to use a fullback this season. That is a great idea because it not only helps in the running game but helps add another pass protector in the backfield for Mike Glennon. Burton was the right choice.

Wide Receiver: Markus Wheaton; Kevin White; Kendall Wright; Joshua Bellamy; Deonte Thompson; -This position remains one of the weakest on the team. Maybe, or shall I say hopefully the Bears will do something about it after seeing who gets cut by other clubs this weekend. Thompson and Bellamy are head scratchers but the Bears must like their special teams ability. Tanner Gentry, a fan favorite, was a disappointing cut but he will be back.

Tight end: Dion Sims; Zach Miller: Adam Shaheen; Daniel Brown; Ben Braunecker-Keeping five tight ends on the roster has left some people asking what Chicago is thinking. But there is a method to their madness. There are three reasons why Chicago kept all five tight ends. The first is they had to add extra blockers to the roster. Keeping the five tells us that Chicago is going to need a lot of help in pass protection and some of these guys are better at blocking than the others. They can mix and match their better blockers with their better receivers and create more problems for opponents. This leads into the second reason why the Bears kept so many tight ends.

Chicago is going to run a lot of two tight end sets and, with the help they need at receiver considered, they will be throwing to their tight ends more. The Bears have some receiving talent among the five so keeping the extra receivers helps. Finally, keeping the five means that they don’t want to let any of them get away (common sense, right?). Tied in with that is the fact that Miller will probably not make it through the entire season so they are keeping his replacement on the roster. The only tight end from the preseason they didn’t keep was Mycole Pruitt.

Offensive Tackles: Bobby Massie; Tom Compton; Charles Leno, Jr.; Bradley Sowell-I am kind of concerned about the numbers here but what they did here makes sense. Hopefully, the Bears don’t suffer any injuries at the offensive tackle position this season.

Guards: Josh Sitton; Kyle Long-Luckily, Cody Whitehair and Hroniss Grasu can back up at guard but the Bears are still very thin at this position. They may need some help here at some point during the season. Letting William Poehls go was a head scratcher.

Center: Cody Whitehair; Hroniss Grasu-It’s going to be interesting to see what happens if Whitehair needs to play guard at some point. If Grasu must step in and start, will he be better than he was his rookie season? Remember, he missed last season so he is still not that experienced. This may end being a weak link on the line.

Defense

Defensive Linemen: Akiem Hicks: Jonathan Bullard; Roy Robertson-Harris; Mitch Unrein-There was a lot of underachieving talent at this position released Saturday. The Bears made the right choices here but I am still wondering about Unrein. He’s consistent but not spectacular. However, he might have been the better choice. Robertson-Harris will shine when given a chance.

Outside Linebackers: Leonard Floyd; Willie Young; Sam Acho; Pernell McPhee-Perhaps the biggest surprise here is that McPhee will ready for the season. That’s amazing! But how long will he last? The Bears stashed Lamarr Houston on injured reserve. Houston has a knee injury, and it’s not serious but he is done. It appears as if Chicago is going to give him some money and let him walk. What a sad ending to a troubling time for both the Bears and Houston.

Inside Linebacker: Jerrell Freeman; Christian Jones; Danny Trevathan; Nick Kwiatkoski-There aren’t any real surprises here. It’s still not known if Trevathan will be able to start the season but Kwiatkoski is more than capable of starting if it’s needed. There should be no worries if that happens.

Strong Safety: Quintin Demps: Deon Bush-Letting Harold Jones-Quartey go is a both a bit of a shock and a blessing. His starting experience, coupled with being a hard hitter will be missed but he was a liability in coverage. Bush still has a lot to learn. Let’s cross our fingers and hope that Demps doesn’t get injured this season. If he does, it will be another season of struggles at the strong safety spot.

Free Safety: Adrian Amos; Eddie Jackson; Deiondre’ Hall-The big question here is who will start? Will it be Amos or Jackson? The money should be put on Jackson be the starter. He’s a playmaker, a hitter and can create turnovers. The depth here is nice with Amos but Hall is a question mark. Can he contribute if it’s needed?

Cornerback: Kyle Fuller; Prince Amukamara; Sherrick McMannis; Marcus Cooper Sr.; Cre’Von LeBlanc; Bryce Callahan-The Bears kept all the best at this position and what happens here will be interesting to watch. LeBlanc and Callahan will keep competing for the nickel corner spot and LeBlanc will seal it after Callahan gets injured (a common theme). Hopefully, guys like Amukamara and Cooper will be able to stay upright all season. Finally, let’s see if Fuller can resurrect his NFL career. Will he break out or will he end up being a bust?

Special Teams

Specialists: Connor Barth; Pat O’Donnell; Jeff Overbaugh-Not much to talk about other than the fact they released kicker Roberto Aguayo.

The Bears did send some players to injured reserve. There was Houston who won’t be there or with the Bears that long. They added 2016 fifth round draft pick Jordan Morgan to the list with a shoulder problem and put Chris Prosinksi (hamstring), Ka’Deem Carey (wrist) and Cameron Meredith (knee) on IR as well.

As of this writing, the Bears hadn’t filled out their practice squad just yet but they did bring back the popular training camp favorite Gentry. They have signed running back Taquan Mizzell and wide receiver Tre McBride. Long snapper Andrew DePaola was added as well.

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