An (Almost) Half-Way Review of the Season
The Bears bye week came in week seven, not quite half way but I’m going to take this week to reflect on the six games we’ve watched the Bears play. In broad, I think us fans have seen both ends of the spectrum from this Bears team. We’ve seen the offense get shut out and most recently we watched them put up 34 points.
Same with the defense, we’ve watched them give up only 10 points to Kansas City (not counting the Cutler fumble) to giving up 37 points to Detroit a week later.
Here’s some highlights from the first six games, and some aspects that the Bears need to work on.
The Running Game
Matt Forte has been the most reliable offensive player to this point. Forte has been a work horse and he kept his nose to the grind stone and done what he can to help the Bears win games. That mentality is speaking volumes to the offense as we’ve seen two comeback victories this year. I don’t anticipate that changing going forward.
Let’s not forget about Jeremy Langford. The rookie has gotten some decent playing time to keep Forte fresh. I think once Forte’s time in Chicago is done, Jeremy Langford will step right in and pick up where Forte left off. Langford’s only direction is up if he keeps working hard!
The Field Goal Unit
That “Goulden” boot continues to work it’s magic in 2015. Robbie has done his part to keep the Bears in games, and he even beat the Oakland Raiders on a last second field goal. There’s no faulting Robbie for a sub .500 record to this point, that’s a fact. Keep doing you, Robbie!
I’ve kept my eye on the rookie safety and he’s been a solid player on the Bears defense to this point. He has a great knowledge of the game of football and it shows on the field. He does what he’s told to do, taken (and still taking) advice from the veteran Antrel Rolle, and as a result he’s turning into a reliable safety. Through six weeks he has 23 total tackles, but no INT’s or forced fumbles… yet. In order for Adrian to make that next step he needs to have to start looking to create turnovers, something this Bears defense as a whole needs to address.
Back to the Drawing Board
This isn’t about pointing fingers. Football is a team effort, the Bears have won and lost as a team.
The Receiving Corp.
Not in the most recent game, but in multiple games to this point the Bears have had to rely on fourth, fifth, and sixth string receivers to handle the route running duties. Alshon and Eddie have been in and out of the line-up through the first six weeks. This Bears receiving corp. needs to just get healthy and help relieve Forte as defenses are starting to key on him.
Having multiple dimensions to the offense will help tremendously going forward.
The Red Zone Offense
For some reason the offense hits the brakes once they are in the red zone.
Whether it’s a lack of targets to pass to, running out of the shotgun, or whatever reason the Bears just cannot punch the ball in the end zone. I brought up running out of the shotgun because that is a different style of running than from under center. It’s not as quick, there’s no forward momentum for the running back, and frankly I’m not a fan.
In my opinion, those run plays should hardly be in the play book for red zone situations. If the Bears want to win more games, I think fixing the red zone scoring issue will help in a big way.
The Defensive Front Seven
When the Bears cleaned house on the coaching staff over the offseason, the Bears also cleaned house on defensive strategies. For the first time in Chicago Bears history, the defense lined up in a 3-4 formation against the Packers to open the season. There was a lot of optimism with this new defense. So far we’ve seen some positives out of the squad, but they are still in process of working out the kinks.
Taking a look at the linebackers, Sam Acho, Lamarr Houston, and Pernell McPhee are the only guys on the roster with any extended time playing in a 3-4 defense. Yes, Shea McClellin played in a 3-4 defense in college, but he was an outside rusher…and that was 5 years ago. Pernell was not an every down player in Baltimore, so he is still making adjustments to his game.
What the front seven is missing is one more pass rusher, and a veteran middle linebacker.
I’m not a McClellin fan, but I cannot argue that he has football smarts. His athletic ability is what holds back Shea. This is why the Bears need a veteran linebacker, a guy that can make the play when it calls for it.
The Bears have 11 sacks on the year. In the two wins that the Bears have they have gotten consistent pressure on the quarterback. However, in their losses it seems that the pass rush has been almost non-existent.
I would like to see the front seven be a force to be wreckened with. I think this defense is only a piece or two away from getting back toward “Monsters of the Midway” status.
What the Rest of the Season Has in Store
I said at the beginning of the season that the Bears would go 8-8… Which is not out of the question under these circumstances:
- The receivers stay healthy
- The defense continues to grow
- Better play calls and in-game management
- A cleaner football game (less penalties, play fundamentally)
Seriously, the Bears are really only a playmaker or two away from being competitive week in and week out.
Under the new regime, the team is rebounding and headed in the right direction. The mindset around the organization seems to be positive and no one seems to be hanging their head. To make up for the missing pieces, it is crucial that the Bears play fundamentally sound and avoid shooting themselves in the foot. If the Bears cannot comply with those four tasks, then they will finish under .500.
I definitely do not want to see this team tank. I don’t think that getting a lower draft position will help any. That makes it hard to bring in free agents or resign guys, as nobody wants to play for a losing team.
The Bears play the Vikings and Chargers next, and it’s really important that they come out playing hard and smart against both these teams.
The balance of the season is going to be in the next couple of games. If the Bears do not play well coming off the bye week then I think we’ve seen the peak of the talent on the team.
That would make the team more than a couple playmakers away from being a solid team… but we are about to find out what they’re made of.