I’m pretty geeked up about this Bears-Vikings game. And no, that isn’t just the wine slushies from the wedding last night talking.
- The Bears are going to be without some key contributors on Sunday, which means everyone else is going to have to step up and do a little extra if they are going to beat the Vikings and move up the NFC North standings. Thankfully, the Bears have the type of depth that should allow for some break-through opportunities. Let’s roll through them as we gear up toward game time in today’s set of Bullets.
- With Taylor Gabriel out because of a concussion, there will be opportunities for other Bears receivers to step up and potentially take advantage of an increased number of looks. First up, Javon Wims:
- The last time we saw Wims get an extended look was (conveniently enough) against the Vikings in Week 17 of the 2018 season. Wims caught some clutch passes that ultimately helped the Bears emerge triumphant in a game that meant everything to Minnesota. How Chicago deploys Wims will be interesting to follow. Wims has a big, wide body that makes him a potential target for go-up-and-get-it passes on the boundary, but his route-running ability will ultimately play the biggest role in how much he gets the ball on Sunday. If Wims can create separation, quarterback Mitch Trubisky could see the Georgia product as someone who can make plays for him down field. And because of Wims’ 6-3 frame, Trubisky shouldn’t be afraid to throw contested passes in his direction.
- Fellow second-year receiver Anthony Miller is well-positioned to see an increased role in the offense, too. Miller, who led the team in touchdown receptions as a rookie, has played on just 40.2 percent of the team’s offensive snaps through three games this season. That is far too low of a number for a 2018 second-round pick with All-American credentials, sharp route-running skills, reliable hands, and an intriguing prospect pedigree. Miller suffered an ankle injury late in training camp and was among the regulars who was held out of preseason action, so maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he is off to somewhat of a slow start. At least things are trending in the right direction for Miller, who has played on at least 50 percent of the offensive snaps in each of the last two weeks. Miller was in on 53.6 percent of the total offensive snaps last season, so we’re starting to see him inch toward a more regular role.
- With Akiem Hicks not expected to play, the Bears’ defensive play caller will need to do a little extra in an effort to slow down the league’s top rushing offense. I’ll be curious to see how Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano handles the challenge at hand. We saw Pagano blitz Washington quarterback Case Keenum on 36 percent of his drop-backs and generate a pressure rate of more than 50 percent, according to Pro Football Focus’ data. Getting Kirk Cousins off his game should be a priority, but I’m not sure how often Minnesota will allow him to drop back in the first place. The bread-and-butter of that offense is running the ball and keeping the passing game out of harm’s way, which sounds like an all-too-familiar formula for Bears fans.
- If Cousins gets in a situation where he has to throw, I’ll be looking for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to take advantage. Clinton-Dix had two interceptions in his return to Washington last week and has proven to be one of the best value signings of the offseason. And it turns out he’s a pretty cool dude:
— NFL (@NFL) September 24, 2019
- If you are in search of a different type of X-factor in Sunday’s game, look no further than the Bears’ coaching staff. In a game that figures to be tightly contested, having an edge in the coaches box could be the difference between improving to 3-1 and falling to 2-2. Head Coach Matt Nagy found his groove again as a play caller and it paid off for all parties. The Athletic’s Mike Sando talked to some NFL coaches who tipped their caps to Nagy for his handling of the play-calling, allowing the game plan to accentuate Trubisky’s strengths and limit his weaknesses. Trubisky looked comfortable and played his best game of the year as we saw crossers making plays across the middle, some vertical routes, and proper execution of a four-minute offense with David Montgomery to put the game on ice. I was hesitant to go out on a limb and say something like Trubisky is back! because quarterbacks should hit players who get schemed open with ease — even ones with well-documented issues like the ones Trubisky has shown early this season. If anything, it is Nagy who is back to being who he is as a play caller.
- I’d love to see David Montgomery used in this fashion:
Jordan Howard's TD came off one of the #Eagles staple pass plays, the Mesh concept. Same play that got Nelson Agholor into the end zone last week vs Detroit.
Great read by Carson understanding who had Howard in coverage, making sure he got outleveraged & getting ball out quick pic.twitter.com/7rCfVQsWuJ
— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 27, 2019
- Nagy’s offensive game-planning will look better with a good showing from the offensive line, which has received some surprisingly strong grades from PFF through three weeks. Michael Renner ranks the units in the trenches, with the Bears’ offensive line ranking as the eighth best in football. Here is what Renner had to say: “Both James Daniels and Cody Whitehair have taken to their positions swimmingly along the Bears offensive line. Daniels, in particular, has thrived in pass protection where he’s allowed only two hurries all season.” Wait … what? I know, I know. The data and the eye test aren’t matching up here and the disconnect is real. There have been times when the line has looked rough in pass protection, while the running game hasn’t taken off as expected because holes have not been created as often as one would like. But still … PFF’s data thinks highly of what the Bears have done to this point. Maybe better times are truly on the horizon.`
- Some roster maintenance:
#Bears roster moves:
We have waived TE Bradley Sowell and have signed DL Jonathan Harris from the practice squad to the active roster.
— Chicago Bears (@BearsPR) September 28, 2019