- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
The Chicago Bears are returning from a much-needed bye week, which allowed injured players to rest up and others to collect themselves before the final stretch of games. And they have quite the challenge waiting for them on Sunday when they host the Baltimore Ravens.
There are plenty of reasons why the Bears currently sit at 3-6 after having lost four straight games — coaching, execution, you name it. Despite a disappointing outing in the first nine games, there’s still another eight games for them to make some progress ahead of what’s gearing up to be an important offseason.
Here are six adjustments the Bears must make in the final eight games of the season:
Be more aggressive in passing game
Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
The Bears offense has found success in the run game this season, where they have the fifth-best rushing attack in the NFL. And while David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert should continue to be featured on offense, Chicago needs to open things up more in the passing game, where they’re currently the worst in the league. At this point, the Bears aren’t playoff contenders and it’s about building for the future, which means rookie quarterback Justin Fields’ development should be top priority. We saw what happened when the Bears got more aggressive in play calling in the second half against the Steelers, where Fields was confident slinging it all over the field. While that shouldn’t mean abandoning the run, they need to give Fields more opportunities to build confidence and chemistry with his weapons.
Involve Allen Robinson
AP Photo/Fred Vuich
After back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, no one expected wide receiver Allen Robinson would become virtually invisible in the Bears offense — especially with upgrades at quarterback. Robinson has 30 catches for 339 yards and one touchdown through nine games, where he’s currently on track for half the production he had last season — and with an extra game to boot. That’s not all on Robinson though, as Chicago’s passing game has been the worst in the NFL this season with less than 200 passing yards per game. There were chemistry issues between Robinson and Fields given Andy Dalton got all of the starting reps this offseason, but we started to see that connection heat up against the Steelers, where Robinson had his best game of the year with four catches for 68 yards. In the final stretch of games, the Bears need to get their top wideout more involved on offense.
Bench Sam Mustipher
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Last season, it appeared the Bears had found their center in former undrafted free agent Sam Mustipher. But through the first half of this season, without a doubt, Mustipher has been the weakest link on Chicago’s offensive line. Luckily for the Bears, they already have a solid center in Cody Whitehair currently at left guard, and there are some shuffling scenarios the Bears could make on the offensive line. Moving Whitehair to center makes the most sense, and Chicago could also shift James Daniels from right guard to left guard and plug in Alex Bars at right guard. And with second-round rookie offensive tackle Teven Jenkins gearing up for a return from injured reserve, they could find a way to plug him in at left tackle and move Jason Peters to right guard, a position he played for the Eagles last season.
Generate more takeaways
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Two of the biggest points of emphasis for the Bears defense this season was generating more sacks and takeaways. Considering Chicago has the fourth-most sacks in the NFL through the first nine games, it’s safe to say their pass rush has improved. But the takeaways? Not so much. So much for the Takeaway Bucket’s impact. The Bears have just nine takeaways this season, which is the eighth-fewest in the NFL this season. To make matters worse, they haven’t had a takeaway since Week 7 against the Bucs. That’s not to say there haven’t been opportunities for takeaways, because there have been. Heading into the final stretch of games, Desai’s defense needs to find a way to get back on the right side of the turnover differential.
AP Photo/David Banks
Tackling has been an issue for this Bears defense for a couple of years, and it’s been one of the biggest concerns this season. There have been countless big plays made by the opposition because Chicago has struggled to get a guy down at the initial point of contact. While there’s been an emphasis on generating more takeaways, the importance of tackling has seemed to fall by the wayside. A lot of the time, you see Bears players going for the strip rather than wrapping a guy up and learning to live another play. If Chicago doesn’t find a way to get better tackling out of its players, there are some games in the final half of the season that could get ugly.
Do a better job stuffing the run
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Since Matt Nagy’s arrival, the Bears defense has been one of the better run defenses in the NFL. But that hasn’t been the case this season, as Chicago ranks among the bottom half for rushing yards allowed per game. After allowing 103.8 rushing yards in the first five weeks, the Bears have allowed 146.5 rushing yards per game, including 140-plus rushing yards in three of their last four games. And considering tackling has been a problem again this year, that’s not encouraging. Chicago’s defense has given up some big plays — be it on the ground or through the air. And while the secondary is easily the defense’s weakness, the Bears have the guys in place to do a better job of stuffing the run in these final eight games.