1. Jeremy Langford is no Matt Forte
In the pre-season opening 0-22 loss to the Denver Broncos, the Bears took the field for the first time without Matt Forte. Forte has been the Bears offensive stalwart for 8 years and Jeremy Langford, in my opinion, looked pedestrian. It is hard to tell what the cause of this was but part of the problem is the Bears’ loss of prospective starter and 3rd round draft pick Hronas Grasu. Grasu is out for the season with a torn ACL (something PackerNation can relate to) and that loss has thrown the Bears offensive line into a tizzy. This plays well into the hands of a Packers defense that uses a lot of nickel and dime packages and has youth and question marks front and center of the defense.
If I had a wish, it would be that the Packers could swap out the week two match-up with the Vikings for the week 7 matchup with the Bears. Then, I would put in Blake Martinez as nickel ILB and give him a lot of good experience while not risking him against an Adrian Peterson or Matt Forte type running back.
Defense: Play nickel and dare them to run the ball
2. While the Bears have improved in the defensive front…their backfield is still a question mark. Make it a 50 burger exclamation point
In my view, the Packers are the only true “pick your poison” team in the NFC North now. Last season was an anomaly and as I have previously described it…was a “perfect storm” for the offense. Not only did Jordy Nelson go down, but Cobb and Adams played the majority of the season nursing injuries and Mike McCarthy had just given up play calling duties. Add to that the Eddie Lacy woes and the injuries along the offensive front and it is a wonder that the team could score at all.
This year, if we keep healthy, not only will we get Jordy back and a slim and trim and motivated Eddie Lacy, but McCarthy will be back calling the plays and we have added Jared Cook to the lineup. Cook seems to be a weapon just ready to explode when he gets the chance to catch passes from Aaron Rodgers and that could be yet another angle that Defensive Coordinators have to guard against. And, of course, we have Aaron Rodgers who is a threat in every way known to quarterback-dom.
The Vikings are attempting to become more multi-dimensional and have taken steps to make this a reality, but it remains to be seen if they can truly be a “pick your poison” offense like the Packers. They may develop into it this year and they definitely want to begin taking reps off Adrian Peterson, but for now, the Packers offense is the one I think has the most weapons.
The Bears’ Travathan and Freeman are instinctive in coverage, though it remains to be seen what they can do against Cook et al. And the Bears have spent time, effort, and money to bolster their pressure up front so the short passing game will be key. Cook could be killer in this game and give the Bears fits down the seam in week 7. Also, the Bears are trying out Deondre Hall as a press/man corner this pre-season. Hall had two passes defensed that were highly praised by the Bears’ announcers. The problem was that both passes were under-thrown and Hall was beaten on the first. I think the Packers and Aaron Rodgers go straight after Hall if he comes up to press. What remains to be seen is if the Packers receivers can break the press.
Offense: Pass to run the ball. Use the short game to throw over pressure and then let Eddie Lacy gash them when they are forced to adjust.
So there you have my initial thoughts on where the Bears are at and what they might be making a priority this year. Obviously, it is early, but these games start to give us an idea of how we might exploit the Bears’ weaknesses and guard against their strengths.
The Broncos obviously have a good team, and they sacked the Bears’ quarterbacks seven times. Cutler was sacked twice and without Matt Forte for a pacifier, Cutler may have to start sucking his thumb because it doesn’t look like there is a safety valve out there. The combo of White and Jeffery could be dynamic, but if they can’t run the ball the depth of the Packers’ defensive backfield will win the day and Cutler will not have the time to get them going. This team will struggle to keep up with the scoring of the high-flying Packers offense.