Here is some much-needed good news: The Rams aren’t on the Bears’ schedule again any more this season. That means no more Aaron Donald or Jalen Ramsey haunting our dreams for the foreseeable future. But I suppose that means the bad news is that the Bears can’t point at a star-studded defense and scheme as reasons as to why their offensive attack didn’t produce more explosive plays.
The Bengals are a team on the rise, but still have work to do to get their defense up to speed. And while I worry about the Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins trio torching Chicago’s secondary, Cincy will have issues of its own if the Bears can put together a solid game plan. And it all begins with a willingness and ability to make throws that travel 15+ yards in the air.
Want reason to hope? Here are several…
Chicago’s collection of cornerbacks let L.A.’s receivers run wild last week. But maybe the shoe can be on the other foot this week. I mean … have you *SEEN* Cincinnati’s cornerbacks?
Eli Apple’s 44.1 coverage grade last week ranked 89th out of 99 qualifying cornerbacks, per PFF. And since debuting in 2016, Apple has put up the following grades: 58.9, 64.5, 64.9, 63.8, and 55.3. Long story short, Apple has yet to live up to expectations that come with being a first-round cornerback. Mike Hilton’s PFF grades have gone down each year since rocking an 83.1 as a rookie in 2017. Since then, Hilton’s grades have been 69.9, 67.1, and 63.7 over the last three years. A 61.6 grade after Week 1 isn’t a great start. Chidobe Awuzie might be Cincy’s best and most accomplished cornerback, but there is no reason to believe he can’t be beaten.
Check out this chart:
I like the snazzy @PFF WR/CB matchup chart. This is nice. And useful, too.
Good work, folks. pic.twitter.com/obSpXTt4XJ
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) September 16, 2021
Yeah, this feels like a good week to draw up some routes past the sticks.
Hope in the Form of *checks notes* Kirk Cousins Passing Chart
Never have I ever looked to Kirk Cousins as a beacon of light that will guide me toward optimism. But 2021 is a wild year, so we might as well travel that path together:
Vikings QB Kirk Cousins and his passing chart today vs Bengals
— Matt Anderson (@MattAnderson_8) September 13, 2021
Like Andy Dalton’s Week 1 throw chart, there are a bunch of throws made within 10 yards. But unlike Dalton’s chart, there are some throws that go beyond 15 yards. Cousins completed 4 of 7 attempts on throws traveling 15+ yards in the air, which would be a sight for sore eyes if Dalton attempts (let alone completes!) that many throws.
Now, it won’t be easy just because it’s the Bengals. Cincy sacked cousins 3 times and came through with 8 QB Hits. The Jungle Cats dialed up some heat, which should put the Bears’ protection plan on notice. HOWEVER, it should open up opportunities deep. And it could start with attacking vacated areas defenders are coming from (or not occupying).
Bengals Defensive Tendencies
I found these observations from Allen Robinson II (via Dan Wiederer) to be interesting:
As Robinson looks at the Bengals, he sees a D that uses a lot of single-high safety looks with a heavy diet of press man coverage from the corners. In theory, Bears ability to unlock the vertical passing game should be there Sunday.
— Dan Wiederer (@danwiederer) September 15, 2021
While I’m over discussing a Week 1 game-plan in which the Bears were avoiding deep shots as if it were the plague in an attempt to counter the Rams trying to goad Dalton into throwing ill-advised deep passes, Robinson’s perspective in comparing Cincy and L.A. provides a glimmer of hope that last week’s plan of attack could be a one-off. Robinson mentioning how the Bengals use single-high safety and press man techniques from corners suggests opportunities to go deep should be on the horizon.
In other words, if Bears receivers can break through presses at the line of scrimmage, they could run into empty spaces behind the secondary where only one safety lives. At that point, said safety will have to choose which receiver to run with. This could leave the Bengals in a heap of trouble. But only if Chicago’s pass-catchers (and QB) are up to the task.