Opponent: Chicago Bears
Head Coach: John Fox
Offensive Coordinator: Dowell Loggains
Quarterback: Bryan Hoyer
Primary Running Threats:
Kendall Langford - #33
Jordan Howard - #24
Primary Receiving Threats:
Alshon Jeffery - #17 (Questionable - Knee)
Kevin White - #13
Eddie Royal - #19
Zach Miller - #86
The Bears entered 2016 with much-maligned quarterback Jay Cutler coming off of one of his most successful seasons, with 2015 first-round pick Kevin White returning from a foot injury that cost him his rookie season, and with Alshon Jeffery healthy again after missing seven games in 2015. The departure of offensive coordinator Adam Gase to become the head coach of the Miami Dolphins cast a shadow on the Bears' offense, but Cutler's belief in new coordinator Dowell Loggains gave cause for faith.
In the first two games of the season, the Bears have averaged a mere 14 points per game with 225 yards through the air and 68.5 yards rushing. They have yet to exceed 300 total yards in either contest, and will enter this game short-handed.
Starting quarterback Jay Cutler is dealing with a thumb injury that impacts his ability to grip the ball and he is expected to miss this week's game, leaving veteran journeyman and backup Bryan Hoyer tabbed as the Bears' starter. Additionally, the statuses of primary receiver Alshon Jeffery, and starting right tackle Bobbie Massie remain up in the air after appearing on the injury report.
The moral of the story, an already limited offense, appears to be even more handicapped.
When you watch the Bears on tape, they don't generate many big plays, and the ones that they do create come mostly on throws down field to Jeffery on double moves.
But in their Week 1 match up with the Houston Texans the Bears dialed up a 19-yard touchdown to slot receiver Eddie Royal.
On this play the Bears are aligned in a 2x2 formation with Jeffery and Royal split out to the left side of the formation. With Kevin White and tight end Zach Miller to the right. On this play Loggains is attempting to use the vertical threat of White and Jeffery to draw the safeties in Houston's Cover 4 look to the outside, leaving the middle of the field open for Royal.
At the top of his route Royal took a slight false step to the outside before breaking to the post. For Cutler to take the shot down field Loggains goes max protection, keeping Miller and running back Kendall Langford in to block. The down side of this, is that keeping Miller in the protection leaves the backside safety free to read back across the field and work to disrupt the play.
In this case Culter is able to fit the ball in before the safety gets over, but with a lesser arm like Hoyer under center, the same scheme and decision could result in a turnover.
As I studied the Bears game tape, I realized that in the NFL's environment of almost forced parity, I rarely go into a game feeling like the Cowboys hold a distinct and definitive advantage in both personnel and scheme, and should win handily. Week 3 is one of those rare occasions, which of course means the game will be extremely close.