How the new Chicago Bears Match Up at Green Bay.
By Russell Fluech
I am just like most of you reading this right now, patiently waiting for “real” Chicago Bears football. Today we are going to look at some key matchups for week 1 against the infamous Green Bay Packers. The Bears play the Packers on September 9th in Green Bay. To say this game is “huge” would be an understatement for many reasons. It’s the beginning of the Matt Nagy Era, the start of the Khalil Mack destruction, Aaron Rodgers’ first game back from a broken collarbone, The Packer’s 100th Season, and also, it’s primetime Sunday Night Football on NBC.
Revamped WR Corps Vs Revamped Secondary
The Bears for the first time in recent memory went out and spent money on some playmakers in Free Agency. They signed Allen Robinson away from Jacksonville and Taylor Gabriel from Atlanta. Robinson is coming off a nasty ACL tear, but is two seasons removed from being one of the NFL’s best receivers. Taylor Gabriel has had his issues with the injury bug during camp. He played a bit against the Chiefs and the hamstring issue he was dealing with looked nonexistent. Ryan Pace was not satisfied there. The Bears traded up in the second round to get Anthony Miller, one of the most electrifying players in college football last year. Anytime Miller touches the ball, he could be taking it to the house. Kevin White, yes, he made the roster, is finally looking like speedster that the Bears envisioned when they selected him 7th overall in 2015. This can be one of the more well rounded WR corps in the NFL. How will Matt Nagy’s play designs get all of these guys the ball and keep the defense guessing?
The Packers ranked 31st last year in pass defense last year. The Packers did what the Packers do, addressed their issues through the draft. Taking Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson in rounds one and two. Both 1st round talents that would start on at least 10 teams in the league. They brought back both Tramon WIlliams and Davon House, familiar faces. Both are good veteran placeholders and mentors for Alexander and Jackson. Also, they have Kevin King coming back from injury. King showed good coverage skills before his injury last year. At free safety, they have the always reliable Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at safety. The Alabama product has shown great coverage and run support in his tenure with the Packers and has quietly became one of the top tier safeties in the league. The biggest question is at strong safety, Kentrell Brice. Brice has shown his coverage ability at times, but came look puzzled at times. Can former Browns Head Coach, now Packers defensive Coordinator, Mike Pettine limit the new look Bears offense?
TE Vs LB/S
The Packers invested in a couple new targets for Rodgers at the tight end position. Jimmy Graham being the biggest and shiniest. Graham, if you remember was a monster when he played in New Orleans. He just never could recreate the playmaking ability when he played in Seattle, although he did still make plays just not as often. They were also able to sign Marcedes Lewis when he was surprisingly released by Jacksonville. Lewis doesn’t have the resume that Graham does, but he is a good blocker and has reliable hands. Of course you can’t forget Lance Kendricks. I believe Kendricks combines the good in both Graham and Lewis. He is an above average blocker and has good playmaking ability. If the Packers go with three TE’s how will the Bears cover all of them?
The Bears have, what I believe to be, one of the better linebacking corps in the NFL. The Bears drafted Roquan Smith 8th overall in this years draft. He was one of the top ranked LB’s in college football last year. Danny Trevathan had 2 sacks last year and an interception. He is a rangy LB that isn’t afraid to get physical. Adrian Amos, Pro Football Focus’ top ranked safety last year, will figure to drop down into the box and help cover. Amos has earned the lovable nickname “Smash” among the fans, the Cole Beasley hit comes to mind. Vic Fangio will also have Eddie Jackson over the top to help his teammates. Will the Packers be able to get the matchup they want and get Graham into the endzone?
Bears Outside LB’s Vs Aaron Rodgers
Lamarr Houston, Pernell McPhee and Willie Young are all gone. The Bears on Saturday traded for Khalil Mack, then made him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history. Coach Nagy expressed that the coaching staff is still unsure how much Mack will play on Sunday. We know one thing, when he does get on the field, he will bring destruction. Leonard Floyd looked like he was back in form after offseason surgery before fracturing his hand. Nagy is optimistic on Floyd being ready for week 1. Aaron Lynch hasn’t participated much, if at all, during camp. Isaiah Irving has looked very good during preseason and looked equally impressive last season, before being injured. Kylie Fitts has looked like a 6th round pick. He has potential and you can see it. But he also makes those small mistakes that can cost the game. He is a physical specimen and a season or two in this Fangio defense and he could be an above average OLB. How many sacks will this pass rush be able to generate against the most talented QB of our generation?
Aaron Rodgers has been a nightmare for defense coordinators since becoming the Packers starting QB in 2008. He is the NFL’s all-time leader in career QB passer rating with a rating of 103.8. The former MVP also boasts the best career TD to INT ratio in league history. One thing that you can’t put into a statistic is his ability to extend the play. I would argue that he is the best in the league. As a Bears fan, I watch him twice a year escape a “sure” sack and turn it into a positive gain. Rodgers over the years has become a master at the “free play”; catching the defense in the neutral zone with that great hard count or a 12 men penalty. Rodgers does this better than anyone and his receivers know what to do when they see that yellow flag, go to the end zone. Combine Rodgers’ playmaking ability with a healthy offensive line and receivers and the upgraded tight end position, you could have a recipe for success. Can Rodgers get comfortable with the athletic Bears OLB coming after him?