By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) There’s no getting around the fact that the Bears’ defensive line has underwhelmed this season.
That said, there was one very positive development in the Bears’ 27-21 win over the Giants Thursday.
Corey Wootton at the three-technique.
With all the injuries the Bears have suffered at defensive tackle, Wootton has moved over to the three-technique position in a contract year without any complaints and appears to be growing in the role. He was the lone bright spot on the defensive line in Thursday’s win and might be good enough to allow the Bears to stay put and not give up a draft pick to find inside help. With Stephen Paea expected to return Sunday, he and Wootton give the Bears some hope on the defensive interior.
Five Highest Grades
DL Corey Wootton – Wootton consistently got a push inside and even broke free a couple times while being held. His pressure, combined with a good blitz from Lance Briggs, led to a sack.
QB Jay Cutler – After a poor game in Detroit, Cutler has bounced back with two really good games. He was interception free for the second time in a row and his mechanics are allowing him to fire accurate passes. His only blemishes were two misses on deep passes to Alshon Jeffery, but he was being pressured heavily on both plays.
FB Tony Fiammetta – The fullback had an outstanding game in both the passing and running game. You can tell the offensive line trusts him. On one play, Roberto Garza signaled to Kyle Long to let one pass rusher go through, and Fiammetta pancaked him.
LT Jermon Bushrod – It was a good bounce-back game for Bushrod, who didn’t have his best effort a week ago against the Saints. For the most part, he kept Cutler’s blindside clean, although he did allow pressure on one of the deep misses to Jeffery and also whiffed on a couple blocks where he pulled to the outside.
WR Brandon Marshall – His night started with a big drop, but from there it was one of his best efforts of the season. The Giants chose to single-cover him every once in a while and Cutler took advantage of it almost every single time.
Five Lowest Grades
CB Zack Bowman – It was a rough night for Bowman, who filled in for the injured Charles Tillman. He appeared to lose his guy in coverage a couple times, including once where he actually was holding Hakeem Nicks’ jersey. A couple of missed tackles after the catch also hurt.
C Roberto Garza – The center has had a resurgent year, but Thursday night was a step back — literally. He was consistently pushed back in the running game, which led to the inconsistent night moving the football on the ground. His holding penalty on a long Forte run to the 9 yard-line was a killer.
DE Julius Peppers – It’s officially time to worry about the veteran defensive end. After a vintage Peppers performance in Detroit two weeks ago, he’s been shut out on the stat sheet two games in a row. It’s not just the lack of stats that’s alarming though. If you watch closely, he’s getting pushed back a lot and was even plowed sideways on two runs against the Giants. The double-teams seem to be diminishing more and more by the week, too.
OL Eben Britton – Serving as an extra lineman, Britton was only on the field for 24 offensive plays, but he whiffed on a couple blocks and allowed a straight hit to the quarterback on one of them.
DE Shea McClellin – Every week I see the same potential the Bears see in him, but “close” isn’t good enough in the NFL. He had a couple pressures against the Giants, but was once again stuck in mud too much against run. Through six weeks, he has yet to have a horrible game, but overall, he has graded out the lowest of any player on the team.
– Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker deserves some credit for installing the wrinkles he showed on the defensive line on a short week. Chances are they were installed sometime in the offseason or in training camp, but even if that’s the case, they were installed with different players at defensive tackle.
– Rookie wide receiver Marquess Wilson saw one snap on offense, his first of the season.
– There were two especially rough moments for the defensive line. One came in the first quarter when De’Rel Scott went the wrong way to take the handoff from Eli Manning, but still managed to gain a yard on the play. The other came when Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin ran into each other on a stunt.
– Like head coach Marc Trestman, I too came away more impressed with the Bears’ running game than I originally was while watching the game live.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.