Week 3 brings the first NFC North match-up of the season as the Chicago Bears visit AT&T Stadium. Let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of their offensive personnel.
The projected starter at this position was of course the strong-armed yet highly erratic Jay Cutler. However, Cutler suffered a thumb injury against the Eagles and he will miss Sunday night’s game. His backup is journeyman Brian Hoyer, last seen throwing four interceptions against the Chiefs in the playoffs for the Texans last January. Hoyer is limited physically with an average arm and little scrambling ability, but he is a veteran who had a solid statistical season in 2015 with 19 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. Hoyer is clearly not a major threat to beat you on his own but if allowed to sit in the pocket and get in a rhythm he can make throws within the design of the offense. With that said, if forced to play from behind or if the Cowboys can get any kind of consistent pressure on him there is a good chance that he will crumble and turn the ball over at least once or twice.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
The Bears biggest offensive threat is receiver Alshon Jeffery, a big-bodied, physical target who is very good at out-muscling defensive backs for the ball. He is also excellent at high-pointing catches in contested, jump-ball situations. He is coming off an injury prone 2015 but in the prior two seasons he combined for over 2,500 yards and 17 touchdowns. Opposite of Jeffery is Kevin White, the seventh-overall pick of the 2015 draft, although he did not play as a rookie due to a stress fracture in his leg. The second year player has impressive size at 6-3, 216, and speed, running a 4.35 at the Combine, but with a year off and only two games of regular season experience it is hard to draw any definitive conclusions. What is undeniable though is that White is a physically impressive receiver with a very high-ceiling who must not be forgotten as the defense will most assuredly devote most of their focus to stopping Jeffery. The Bears slot receiver is veteran Eddie Royal, formerly a very dangerous third receiver with the Broncos and Chargers. At 30 years of age Royal is coming off a disappointing, injury prone first year in Chicago, although he has made a few plays over the first two games of this season.
At tight end the Bears will start 31-year-old Zach Miller who had career highs last season in touchdowns (5) and receiving yards (439) after not playing since 2011. Miller is a replacement-level player who will not consistently burn you unless left completely unaccounted for.
Starting for the Bears is 2015 fourth-round pick out of Michigan State, Jeremy Langford. After a respectable rookie year Langford has begun the year as the Bears starter and generally stays on the field for all three downs. While Langford is a solid back who runs tough between the tackles and does a reasonable job in pass-protection and receiving out of the backfield, he isn’t a dynamic player and the main reason that he gets as many snaps as he does is because of the lack of talent behind him. Backing up Langford is third-year player Ka’Deem Carey, who may also miss Sunday night’s game, and fifth-round rookie Jordan Howard. This is a clear weak spot for the Bears as they lack game-breakers and depth.
The Bears offensive line is a very curious case as they have quite possibly the worst starting offensive tackles in the league while simultaneously having arguably the best guards in the league. At left tackle the Bears will start Charles Leno, a 2014 seventh-round pick who has barely a season’s worth of starting experience since entering the league. Opposite Leno is former Arizona Cardinal Bobby Massie who the Bears signed this past offseason. The good news for Chicago is that Massie has significantly more starting experience than Leno, while the bad news is that he has never been particularly impressive as the Cardinals showed no real interest in re-signing him. Massie is a pure right tackle; his strength is in the running game, although to be fair he isn’t an elite run blocker, while he has lead feet in pass protection.
As bad as the Bears tackles are, their guards are just as good. Former first-round pick Kyle Long has played both right guard and right tackle over his first three seasons, making the Pro Bowl each season. After playing right tackle in 2015 the Bears moved him back to right guard, a position he is better suited for, following the signing of Massie. At left guard the Bears recently signed Josh Sitton, a 3-time Pro Bowler who was second-team All-Pro just last season, although that didn’t stop the Packers from inexplicably releasing him. This guard combination is arguably tops in the league and can only be challenged by the Raiders Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele, or of course the Cowboys very own Zack Martin and La’el Collins. At center the Bears start rookie second-round pick Cody Whitehair of Kansas St., a heralded prospect who only started playing center this season.
Where The Cowboys Can Take Advantage:
- If the Cowboys are able to get a sizeable lead and/or get consistent pressure on Hoyer it is likely that he will make mistakes and be unable to recover
- No proven game-breakers outside of Alshon Jeffery
- One of the worst offensive tackle combinations in the league
- Lack of depth and experience at running back and receiver
What the Cowboys Must Fear:
- Allowing Hoyer to get comfortable and in a rhythm, if he does he could threaten the defense vertically with big, fast receivers in Jeffrey and White
- If the Cowboys offense isn’t able to build a lead and/or maintain drives the Bears could slowly wear the defense down with a physical inside running game behind Long and Sitton