Bears

Green Bay offense showing more than Rodgers passing

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Green Bay offense showing more than Rodgers passing

As if the Bears didnt already have enough to worry about with just Aaron Rodgers

Turning an opponent one-dimensional is the stated goal of the Bears defense no matter who that opponent is, including Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. That target appears to have just become exponentially harder at just the wrong time.

Because something happened last Sunday night in Green Bay as the Packers were spotting the Detroit a 14-0 lead and then methodically taking the Lions apart.

It should concern the Bears very much. The Bears havent been able to beat the Packers much since Rodgers succeeded Brett Favre and that was when Rodgers didnt have a solid run game alongside.

But now

The Packers scored both of their offensive touchdowns rushing. One was a 27-yard scramble by Rodgers; not a true rushing touchdown and they all count.

But the other was a 59-yard domination that consisted of seven straight running plays. Three different running backs ripped of runs of 10 yards or longer and it was the first time since 2002 that the Packers had scored on a drive of seven or more plays where every play was a run.

Quantity and quality

Even with one the NFLs truly elite passers and trailing, the Packers basically rammed the football down the throats of Ndamukong Suh and the Lions.

Not with huge numbers. The Packers had the ball less than 23 minutes in the game and ran just 52 plays. But they rushed for 140 yards, averaged 5.6 yards per carry and made it 100 or more yards in four of their last five games.

The Aaron Rodgers Packers are averaging 139 rushing yards per game over the last five. Since week nine they are averaging 31 rushes per game and have won four of their last five. (The Bears have lost four of their last five averaging 28 runs and 113 yards per.)

Theyve made more of a commitment to the run over the last couple of games and theyve found some success, said linebacker Lance Briggs. But its been beneficial to them, for one, not as many defensive linemen are getting up to Aaron Rodgers if theyre running the ball more.

Interestingly, Rodgers has a 104 passer rating for the season but in only one of those last five games did he reach a passer rating about 98.

What that says is the Packers are becoming good enough to win even when Rodgers is not a far-and-away dominating passer.

The running backs are the proverbial Who are those guys? (For the record, they are Alex Green, James Starks and DuJuan Harris. Only Harris averages more than 3.6 yards per carry.)

And theyre running behind an offensive line with as many health issues as the Bears.

The Sack Struggle

It has been seven games since the Bears have had more than two sacks in a game after posting three or more in five of their first six games.

Rodgers is one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the NFL over recent seasons and it does not automatically follow that sacking Rodgers is beating the Packers.

But the more of the field that Rodgers has available to him, the more lethal he becomes. The Bears were undone against the Seattle Seahawks in part by the read-option scheme but ultimately by failing to contain rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.

The Bears rank 11th in sacks per pass play but may be without defensive tackle Henry Melton after his chest injury at Minnesota. Melton has six sacks and the key to inside pressure. If the pivotal three-technique player in the Bears scheme is down, the Bears would be without core inside players at tackle and linebacker (Brian Urlacher).

That increases the burden on multiple players, including fill-in linebackers Nick Roach in the middle and Geno Hayes outside.

Both those guys are real good in space, good, athletic guys, said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. So were very confident in our people and what theyre doing. Were excited about the challenge.

Pro Football Focus: Bears rank near bottom-third of NFL in pass protection

Pro Football Focus: Bears rank near bottom-third of NFL in pass protection

If the Chicago Bears want to make a real run at the playoffs in 2018, the offensive line will have to do its part by keeping QB Mitch Trubisky upright. The offense is expected to be more pass-heavy under coach Matt Nagy and will depend on Trubisky having time in the pocket to go through his progressions and find the open target.

New offensive line coach Harry Hiestand should help that cause. He's universally praised as one of the best offensive line coaches in the sport and will be charged with getting a better effort from a unit that ranked near the bottom-third in pass protection last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

19. CHICAGO BEARS

2017 pass-blocking efficiency: 77.9

Best individual PBE: Josh Sitton, 97.4

Because of several crippling injuries, nine different players saw at least 100 pass-block snaps for the Bears in 2017. They gave up 152 pressures on 536 passing plays. The top performance came from left tackle Charles Leno Jr., who enjoyed the best season of his career and allowed just 24 pressures all season. Heading into the 2018 campaign, rookie guard James Daniels is penciled in to fill the shoes of the recently departed pass-blocking star Josh Sitton. Daniels performed well in pass protection during his final college season, allowing just 10 pressures on 371 pass-blocking snaps at Iowa.

The Bears will be without last season's top pass-protector, Josh Sitton, who was let go by GM Ryan Pace this offseason and signed with the Dolphins. 

Pass protection was once all about the play of the offensive tackles, but with the NFL's interior defensive linemen evolving into disruptive forces up the middle, guard play will be nearly as important. A healthy Kyle Long is critical. Chicago can't afford growing pains from James Daniels, either. Cody Whitehair returns to full-time center duties, a role he excelled at during his rookie season. 

Charles Leno should provide reliable play at left tackle. Bobby Massie remains a wildcard, but with little depth behind him, the Bears can do nothing more than hope his bad reps are limited in 2018.

With Hiestand in the fold and a healthy Long ready to compete at a high level again, the Bears' offensive line should be much improved this season.

NHL Draft Profile: D Evan Bouchard

NHL Draft Profile: D Evan Bouchard

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Evan Bouchard

Position: Defenseman
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 193 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"A highly intelligent defenseman with exceptional vision and offensive instincts. He reads the play very well and his passing ability allows him to be a constant threat in his team's transition game. He's one of the top offensive-defenseman in the Canadian Hockey League and magician-like when quarterbacking the power play."

NHL player comparable: John Carlson/Alex Pietrangelo

Fit for Blackhawks:

At 6-foot-2, 193 pounds, Bouchard is one of the most NHL-ready defensemen in this year's draft and that could be appetizing for a team like the Blackhawks, who are looking for immediate help on the blue line. But Bouchard is a right-handed shot, and drafting him would add a third high-end right-handed shot defenseman to the organization, along with prospects Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell.

You can never have enough of them, but there's only room for three before somebody would have to play on their off hand and that would mean the third would be playing on the bottom pairing. All three of these players have Top 4 potential.

Still, that may not even come into play here. The Blackhawks will seek to take the best available player, like they always have. And if they feel it's Bouchard, they'll do it.