Bears looking at crucial tests in multiple areas vs. Bengals


Bears looking at crucial tests in multiple areas vs. Bengals

CINCINNATI – The first round of mandated roster cuts for 2015 come no later than early next week. Those will be scrutinized intently by Bears personnel staff in search of fills for obvious needs in a roster with concerning gaps that have come since the draft and other additions gave the Bears what they hoped would be their pool of options.

But since then the defense has lost two of its three starting linemen – Ray McDonald released, Jeremiah Ratliff suspended for the first three games. None of the projected top four receivers are expected to dress for Saturdays game against the Cincinnati Bengals, and rookie Kevin White won’t be dressing for games anytime soon following shin surgery. Alshon Jeffery and Marquess Wilson, to be determined.

The offensive line is having difficulty fielding two starter-grade tackles, with inconsistent Jordan Mills losing his job to 2014 backup Charles Leno Jr. Cornerback has been a turnstyle opposite Kyle Fuller because no one has taken a clinching step forward. The right-cornerback carousel has been players who weren’t good enough to be starters this time a year ago, and Fuller has had a substandard two preseason games.

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All of which has left coach John Fox still deep in an evaluation mode, with this third preseason game a crucial indicator of whether or not Fox has solutions at hand.

“I think it's real important to understand your football team,” Fox said. “Everybody in the league has to cut down to 75 after this week and then following the final preseason game cut down to 53. So those are the guys that you're going into the season with and I think it's important to choose wisely and you're evaluating everything.”

Last season’s game 3 was a frightening foreshadowing as the Bears fell behind the Seattle Seahawks 31-0 at halftime and 34-0 through the starters’ three quarters. It was a nightmare that would be repeated in roughly one-third of the Bears’ 2014 games – at New England, at Green Bay, at home against Dallas.

Preseason games may not count but some can reveal much – good and bad – about the true state of a team.

“I don't even know who we [Denver Broncos] played the third preseason game a year ago,” Fox said. “It doesn't leave a lasting impression when the games don't actually count. But they do count in the evaluation process in instilling kind of what you want into your team and how they react because they are games.”

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The Cincinnati game will be a glimpse at what the Bears have in the way of depth at wide receiver. At what the Bears have for the present and future at nose tackle in Eddie Goldman. And at the status of integration going on within a defense that may start only one player – cornerback Tim Jennings – from the unit that started that 2014 game three in Seattle.

“These past two games we had pretty good games,” said defensive end Jarvis Jenkins. “Preseason doesn't count but we have to go in there with the mindset that we have to start fast.

“Coach Fox always preaches about starting fast and stopping the run and this is going to be a good test for us because the Bengals run the ball. That's a power team, and if we can come out with the group we've got and show we can play with these guys against the run, we can show we can play against anybody, so it's going to be a good test for us.”

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7


Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

The Bears were not at their best against the New England Patriots on Sunday. They made plenty of mistakes on all three phases and gave Tom Brady too many opportunities to control the game.

It wasn’t all bad from Chicago, though. Trey Burton emerged as a new favorite weapon of Mitchell Trubisky, and the tight end was the Bears’ highest-graded player in the game by Pro Football Focus.

Burton had a career high 11 targets, nine catches and 126 yards with a touchdown, giving Trubisky a 144.7 passer rating when targeting his top tight end.

Seven of Burton’s targets and six of his catches traveled 10 or more yards in the air, according to PFF.

Defensively, safety Adrian Amos led the pack with a 74.6 overall grade. He did not miss a tackle after missing a career-high five last week, and he allowed only one catch for eight yards against the Patriots.

On the bottom of the scale, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd received the second-lowest grade of his career (38.9 overall) for his performance. He did not record any pressure on the quarterback in 13 pass rushing snaps, and he allowed two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in coverage against running back James White.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a career-low grade as well at 44.9 overall. He was clearly limited by his groin injury, targeted five times with one catch for four yards and a dropped pass.

Overall, the Bears were able to stick with one of the top teams in the AFC while also leaving a lot of room for improvement. It’s a step in the right direction from where Chicago was in recent seasons.

NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Jags, Eagles, Bears all see stock fall

USA Today

NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Jags, Eagles, Bears all see stock fall

Take a look over the NFC landscape and try to find me a team that can compete with the Rams. 

Packers? Held back by Rodgers' knee and Rodgers' coach. Saints? Might not even win their own division. Washington? Does Alex Smith really scare anyone in the playoffs? 

The Rams have one of the easier paths to the Championship Round/Super Bowl that we've seen in some time. Will it likely stay that way? Probably not. But there's a difference between parity and mediocrity and right now the NFC is toeing the line HARD. 

Outside the NFC's "elite", how did your team do this week? 

You can take a look here and see where they landed.