Bears

Bears: Alshon Jeffery's return finally gives Matt Barkley an elite target

Bears: Alshon Jeffery's return finally gives Matt Barkley an elite target

So many weeks of the Bears’ 3-10 season have been marked by player exits from the stage, whether for injury or suspension. The games now may mean little overall because of the Bears being eliminated from playoff possibilities but the impending return of one of those players – wide receiver Alshon Jeffery – suddenly adds a level of significance to next Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers.

Jeffery was suspended four games on Nov. 14 for violating NFL policy on performance-enhancing drugs and is eligible to return this week after being barred from even being in the building while under suspension. He was at Halas Hall on Monday, with coach John Fox “re-introducing” the veteran wideout and team co-captain to the team.

The real introduction, however, will come when Jeffery begins working with quarterback Matt Barkley, whose run as Bears starting quarterback began during Jeffery’s absence. Jeffery resumes playing for his next contract -- “I think he has a pretty good understanding” of what the next three weeks mean, Fox said – and at the same time gives Barkley an opportunity to operate the offense with one of its biggest weapons after working primarily with receivers no higher than No. 4 on the depth chart. Eddie Royal played 12 snaps in the Tennessee game, Barkley’s first NFL start, but has been inactive the past two weeks.

Barkley has developed chemistry with backups Josh Bellamy, Cam Meredith, Deonte Thompson and Daniel Braverman, with the goal now to develop something with Jeffery “hopefully fast, like this week,” Fox said. “We’re playing a pretty good team here at our place. Obviously we have to work on it.

“The passing game is timing and precision. Alshon knows our offense. It’s not like he’s new to it. This will be his third quarterback throwing to him and even that’s not different. When Jay got hurt and we put Brian in there was an adjustment for everybody and it will be an adjustment for Alshon with Matt.”

Bears vs. Redskins: Case Keenum confident Washington will 'move the ball and score touchdowns'

Bears vs. Redskins: Case Keenum confident Washington will 'move the ball and score touchdowns'

The Chicago Bears are entering Week 3's Monday night game against the Washington Redskins with a defense that, to no one's surprise, is ranked among the NFL's elite once again.

New defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano hasn't missed a beat in 2019. The Bears are ranked fourth in total yards allowed per game and are sixth against the run. They've been getting to the quarterback, too, ranking sixth in total sacks through two games.

So, yeah, the Redskins offense has their work cut out for them. Washington's starting QB Case Keenum knows how good the Bears defense is, but remains confident.

"Well they do a lot of stuff well, they’re ranked pretty high in a lot of categories," Keenum said of Chicago's defense Wednesday. "Up-front, obviously, with the guy they got last year in that trade, it makes them, it brings them to a whole other level, up-front I think we got our work cut out for us.

"They’ve got a lot of depth, a lot of experience on the back end, some guys who’ve played together a long time. I know they got a new defensive coordinator, but they got a lot of experience playing together, so their communication skills, as far as making the right checks and stuff, they do a good job of disguising a lot of stuff, so recognizing coverages, recognizing fronts, and then knowing our plan to attack those is gonna be key."

The Redskins played better than expected over the last two weeks against opponents who also feature strong defenses. Despite sitting at 0-2, Washington played both the Eagles and Cowboys tough.

"I don’t know if there’s anything we take away from them being great defenses," Keenum said of the Redskins' early-season opponents. "We’re confident, whoever we play, we’re gonna line up and move the ball and go score touchdowns. Everybody in this league is really good, and we got our work cut out for us again, I wouldn’t have it any other way."

Keenum is off to a hot start in 2019 and will challenge the Bears' secondary, maybe even more than most fans are expecting right now. He's completed 69 percent of his passes for 601 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions so far this year, numbers that look more like what Chicago was hoping for from Mitch Trubisky than what was projected for a journeyman like Keenum.

As defending NFC North champs, the Bears are embracing all that comes with the national spotlight

As defending NFC North champs, the Bears are embracing all that comes with the national spotlight

When the Bears head to D.C. next Monday, it'll be their second nationally-televised game in three weeks. It's not dissimilar from 2018's start, when they started with back-to-back Sunday nights: first in Green Bay (remember?!) and then the home opener vs. Seattle. 

Last year, that Seahawks game would be the last nationally-viewed Bears game until they played in Detroit on Thanksgiving almost two months later. Flexed Sunday night games against the Rams and in Minnesota made it 4 on the season. 

Things are a bit different this season. As it stands today, the Bears are scheduled to be on national broadcasts five more times this year, and seven times on the season.  Two weeks after D.C. they'll be in London against the Raiders, and then have Sunday night games against the Rams, Cowboys, and Chiefs. Throw in another noon Thanksgiving kickoff in Detroit and that's a whole lot of exposure. 

"Bring the prime time, bring the prime time," linebacker Danny Trevathan said. "That’s what we strive for, that’s what we wanted. Coach talked about being 100… that’s prime time." 

There have been a lot of night games in the Matt Nagy era, a testament to how quickly he brought the franchise back into the national conversation. It's not without it's cons, but that many late kickoffs means you're doing something well. 

"There’s a little bit more attitude when you’re playing on Thursday night, Sunday night, Monday night," said Allen Robinson. "You know the whole world is watching – there’s only one game on at that time." 

"Everybody’s watching," Trevathan added. "And it’s a chance for us to go ahead and play our type of ball, come away with a dub, and put it on for the whole world to see."