Chicago Bears: 2013 NFL Midseason Report NFC
Interestingly, it took years for the Chicago Bears to finally put together what appears to be a prolific offense, only to have the team’s perennially strong defense start to show signs of decline, in part because of injuries and a lack of depth.
So, while the offense finally checks in with high grades because of better protection, a bevy of weapons and a reinvented quarterback in Jay Cutler, Chicago’s loss of two starters for the season on the defensive line and one at linebacker, as well as nagging injuries that have forced other starters to miss time, have sucked the life out of what has traditionally been one of the league’s better defenses. What is concerning is the Bears haven’t shown any indication that things will improve on defense.
In fact, it appears the Bears will have to wait until free agency and the draft to address a suddenly porous defense.
GRADING THE CHICAGO BEARS
|Quarterbacks||Prior to tearing a groin muscle, Jay Cutler passed for 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and a 91.7 passer rating through the first seven games, which ranks as a career high for the quarterback. Backup Josh McCown replaced Cutler in the second quarter of a loss to the Redskins and the offense didn't skip a beat. Once Cutler returns, look for him to continue to play the most efficient football of his tenure as a Chicago Bear.|
|Running Backs||Matt Forte ranks in the top 10 of every major statistical category for a running back, and through the first seven games generated 795 yards from scrimmage, good for fifth-most in the NFL. Backup Michael Bush needs to pick it up, though. His 1.8 yards per carry puts the "minus" in this overall letter grade.|
|Wide Receivers||Brandon Marshall is on pace to finish with 105 catches for 1,234 yards, but even more surprising is the fact No. 2 target Alshon Jeffery in on pace to catch 75 balls for 1,282 yards. Balance among the receivers seemed unachievable in the past, but now the club is getting to the point where opponents are playing a pick-your-poison game. Earl Bennett has been a strong complementary piece.|
|Tight Ends||Martellus Bennett has been up and down as a blocker, but as a receiver the Bears got just what they sought in the offseason: a dynamic threat down the middle capable of exploiting mismatches. With no catches and mediocre blocking skills, No. 2 tight end Dante Rosario has been underwhelming for the most part.|
|Offensive Line||Cutler suffered 10 sacks through the first seven games, including the one against the Redskins that resulted in the torn groin muscle. But for the most part, the Bears have adequately protected the quarterbacks and opened up lanes in the running game. Rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills have been impressive, but the Mills' play has slipped some as of late.|
|Defensive Line||After seven games, the Bears were the only team in the NFL with a single-digit sack total (9), with more than half of those sacks (5) coming from linebackers. Obviously, injuries have taken a toll, as they've lost two starters to season-ending injuries and used six different combinations of starters through the first seven games.|
|Linebackers||This group deserves some credit for boosting the team's sack totals, but attrition has hit here, too, with the Bears losing D.J. Williams for the season and stalwart Lance Briggs for four to six weeks because of a fracture in his shoulder. The Bears are starting two rookies in Khaseem Greene and Jonathan Bostic, and collectively, the group hasn't played badly, but it's been slightly above average.|
|Secondary||The grade here would be worse if not for veteran cornerbacks Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and Zack Bowman accounting for eight of the team's 18 takeaways (including seven interceptions) through the first seven contests. Inconsistent play up front no doubt has contributed to the group's slide, along with up-and-down play from safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte.|
|Special Teams||Because of all the injuries, several young players are being asked to come in and take prominent roles on special teams, and haven't handled the responsibility well. The coverage teams rank in the bottom half of the league in yardage allowed on punts, kickoffs and gross punt average, but Devin Hester has helped the punt return unit average 13.3 yards per return, which is good for fifth in the NFL.|
|Coaching||Marc Trestman, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh deserve credit for putting together perhaps one of the best offenses this franchise has seen thanks to a quarterback-friendly system that Cutler believes in. On the other side of the ball, Mel Tucker has tried several wrinkles to compensate for the team's injuries and lackluster replacement players with a little success, but not enough to inspire faith in the defense late in the season.|
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