The Chicago Bears have spent a lot of money on their pass-rush. Not only in the form of draft (and later, financial) capital in trading for Khalil Mack in 2018 but also in the massive deal handed to Robert Quinn last offseason. The latter certainly didn’t live up to his billing in his first year. It’s also fair to wonder if the juice is worth the squeeze on the former.
In Week 2, they will have a chance to get themselves going after being shutout in the opener in L.A.
Mack, Quinn Have to Get Bears Pass Rush Back on Track
While Quinn produced just two sacks in 2020, Mack still managed nine; a half-sack increase over the year before. But with only one game with multiple sacks — Week 5 versus Tampa Bay — it felt like a lot less. Mack entered the season as Pro Football Focus’ top-rated EDGE.
And many people have often attributed his lack of sacks as a function of not having a bookend on the other side.
But before Quinn, Leonard Floyd lined up opposite Mack. Despite having just 8.5 sacks in 2019, Mack had 12.5 sacks the year before opposite Floyd who, by the way, went to the Rams last season and had 10.5 sacks. Sacks aren’t everything. And Mack was a force against the run last season.
He isn’t paid as well as he is to stop the run though.
Despite getting the win, the Cincinnati Bengals allowed the Minnesota Vikings to get to Joe Burrow for five sacks in Week 1. This offensive line, despite the investments in recent years, offers a much better chance for the Bears pass rush to get going.
Looking ahead at their schedule, it might be one of the few “soft” matchups on their otherwise daunting slate.
Getting the pass rush jumpstarted would go a long way to making things easier for an embattled secondary. Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson won’t likely forget that, unlike college, they have to touch a downed offensive player to end the play. But the blown coverages that allowed Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson to run free in the first place need to be addressed.
There aren’t many options as evidenced by the trio of defensive backs the Bears worked out on Wednesday. That is a problem with the Bengals talented trio of receivers on deck.
Led by fifth-overall pick Ja’Marr Chase’s five grabs and 101 yards, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd round out a very talented young receiving corps in the NFL. Higgins caught four passes for 58 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 while Boyd added three catches for 32 yards.
As if that weren’t terrifying enough, Bengals running back Joe Mixon is also a capable pass-catcher, hauling in four passes himself for 23 yards. He might find the sledding tougher this week versus Akiem Hicks and (hopefully) a returning Eddie Goldman after rushing for 123 yards against the Vikings so Cincy could try to get him going through the air.
Chicago did hold Darrell Henderson to 87 total yards on 16 carries and one catch. But if they let Burrow go off like they did Stafford, how or even if Mixon gets his numbers won’t matter.
Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai says he would’ve graded eight plays with missed tackles vs. the Rams; 12 missed tackles overall. The play with multiple misses was the third-and-13 to Kupp. He saw only 2-3 actual coverage mistakes (losing a 1-on-1 battle doesn’t count).
— Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) September 15, 2021
Strength on Strength
Speaking of running backs, David Montgomery was easily the Bears best player last Sunday night. And while we fully expect them to challenge with the passing game more, particularly down the field, they need to stay committed to the run.
That isn’t just because, again, Montgomery looked like the best player in Week 1. The makeshift offensive line also needs all the help it can get.
Cincinnati has also invested in their defensive line, adding Trey Hendrickson this off-season after adding D.J. Reeder last offseason. They held Dalvin Cook — last season’s second-leading rusher — to 61 yards on the ground. Though, he did add 43 yards on six grabs. That bodes well for Montgomery who had just one catch for 10 yards against the Rams.
If the Bears can’t keep him on track, the passing game will have to actually put points up. That will require threatening down the field after the Bears failed to do so in Week 1. Getting left tackle, Jason Peters, back practicing, even in a limited capacity, raises hopes slightly.
They also need to keep the Bengals potentially explosive offense off of the field as much as possible.
Bears Pass Rush Needs to Bring It
It feels like we’ve been having this conversation for two years now. The only reason we stopped was that Justin Fields fell into the Bears laps. With them keeping him mostly under wraps, it does put the focus back on the rest of the roster. Naturally, that leads us to the position group with the most allocated funds. A group that needs to bring it on Sunday in the home opener.
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