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Scout’s Eye: Bears’ Skill Players Benefit New O-Line
The Chicago Bears are currently in the same boat with the Cowboys when it comes to fighting for their playoff lives.
The Bears like the Cowboys, have let some games get away from them by not doing a good enough job of finishing them. They have also had that game where they were badly on the wrong end of the scoreline against the Rams.
The more you study their games, the more you realize they have had their share of struggles on the defensive side of the ball -- which for this organization has not always been the case. With that being said, it still is a talented football team that presents a great deal of challenges.
Josh McCown has filled in at quarterback for Jay Cutler, who has been dealing with a high ankle sprain. Where this Bears offense appears different is the way the ball has gone down the field.
McCown is not going to hang in the pocket and allow routes to develop like Cutler would. The throws are quicker and shorter but not nearly as accurate. McCown will move in the pocket if things start to break down and will even run at times to avoid the rush. The biggest difference is that Cutler can make all the throws, whereas McCown can make the ones that he has to make.
This Cowboys defense has had to deal with some outstanding receivers this season, but this might be the best one-two combination they have faced. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are a nightmare to deal with because of their size and play making ability.
With big, tall receivers, you usually do see those types of players run really good routes because it is hard for them to get in and out of their breaks. These two have that rare ability to put pressure on you right off the jump.
Where Marshall and Jeffery are extremely dangerous, is the way that they both attack the ball in the air and how they adjust on the move. I’ve seen plenty of snaps this season where the ball is thrown less than perfect and they are able to turn their body in the air and make the adjusting catch.
Even when defensive backs have had them covered, they are able to find ways to come down with the ball. When the Bears put three receivers on the field, Earl Bennett is the guy that gets the nod.
The Bears only have two tight ends on the roster, both of them former Cowboys -- Martellus Bennett and Dante Rosario. Bennett gets the majority of the work while Rosario plays on special teams.
In my view of Bennett, he is still as talented as the day he left here to join the Giants. He has never been a great route runner, but what makes him difficult to deal with is his size. When he can lean on the defender, he can create separation just with his movement.
Bennett is a guy McCown likes to use down in the red zone when it comes to posting up on a defender and making the simple pitch and catch. He has his moments, though, as a run blocker.
When he wants to do it, he can cause you some issues and get movement. When he wants to be lazy and not committed, he might as well not be on the field. He can be incredibly frustrating to watch because of this trait. I have always understood why this team drafted him, but also the same reason why they moved on.
When you talk about complete running backs in this league -- the ones that can run, block and catch -- Matt Forte has always been a guy at the top of my list.
Forte is a dream for an offensive coordinator, because of all the things he can do when you get him the ball. LeSean McCoy might have a better burst and elusiveness but Forte is a better pass blocker. My point is that they are both the same type of player when it comes to how you need to deal with them.
He is going to get the ball several different ways in this scheme. Where I feel like he is the most dangerous is when they throw it to him. Forte has an outstanding feel of how to work himself free in the passing game. He is a very crafty route runner up the field, out of the backfield and on the edge in the screen game.
I talked to Sean Lee about Forte, and he was talking about how you need to read your keys when you face him because you cannot allow him to get open in space -- that where he hurts the defense the most. Michael Bush is his backup, and even though he doesn’t have great speed and quickness, he makes up with it with a physical running style.
For years, the Bears have tried to do things to improve their offensive line -- whether it was with draft picks or free agent signings. The one consistent piece of that line has been Roberto Garza, who, during his Bears career, has played guard and now is lined up at center.
He’s not the most athletic player -- more of a mauler-brawler type that is going to try and wear you down by just banging on you all day. On the left side, they went the free agent route with Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson.
Bushrod started his career with the Saints and Slauson with the Jets. There was a time early in his career where I thought that Bushrod was a liability in the way that he played. DeMarcus Ware had one of the best games of his career against Bushrod in 2009 and will get another crack at him on Monday night.
Slauson is a stiff-moving, overextending guard that struggles with any type of quickness. Where he is at his best is if he can get his hands on you from the jump. The longer he has to sustain his block, the more likely he will lose sustain or give up a pressure.
Where I feel like the Bears got it right was on that right side with rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills. There are those that projected Long might struggle inside at guard because of his lack of power on tape while at Oregon. Where he has been good all season is his ability to play with that nastiness that you need inside.
He has also played with some surprising power to go along with his athletic ability. Mills is not always pretty with the technique and there are more than a few times where you see him trying to grab his man instead of using his punch. Where Mills has been steady has been how he plays on his feet.
He has some plays where he gets over the tops of his feet but then he is able to recover and complete his block. It’s a line that has benefited from Josh McCown getting rid of the ball quickly and the running style of Matt Forte, but overall this is a solid group.