By Jeff Joniak-
Offense: Locking Down Protections
Nearly half the league is using some form of the 3-4 as their base scheme, and since 2010 the Washington Redskins have been running it under defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Jay Cutler and the rest of the offense will be keenly dialed into having answers to the pressures coming in what will be large and noisy fan base at FedEx Field.
Washington brings the heat, and with different players from every level of the defense. According to Stats Inc. LLC, opposing quarterbacks have been blitzed on 75 pass drops, resulting in eight sacks, two interceptions, and four touchdowns. Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan have combined for 23.5 knockdowns and hurries, while getting home for eight combined sacks. There has been steady improvement in the Redskins defense which held the Cowboys to 213 yards, 170 of it through the air, thanks to cornerbacks Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall, who held Dez Bryant to five-catches for 36-yards.
Protecting the quarterback and the ball are always the two non-negotiable prerequisites for a solid day for the Bears offense and it’s certainly the case against the Redskins.
Defense: RG3 & The Read Option
Tied for the fourth most scoring drives allowed this season, the Bears have been better on the scoreboard in second halves of games. They remain the only team in the NFL not to allow a fourth quarter touchdown, just five field goals for 15 points, which is second fewest in the league. However, in the first half the Bears have allowed 109 points, second highest to Jacksonville’s 113.
Marc Trestman is looking for more consistency when it comes to making stops to get off the field or prevent touchdowns. Stopping Robert Griffin III on the read option out of the pistol requires some investment this week. Griffin is 9 ½ months removed from knee surgery, is still elite at extending plays. He might be running a lot more against the Bears, but he’s pulling the trigger from the pocket more than a year ago.
Stopping Mike Shanahan’s zone-stretch run game will be important. Alfred Morris is a highly productive back and ripped off a 45-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter against the Cowboys. The Bears will also have to stop rookie tight end Jordan Reed and five year starter Fred Davis, who is a year removed from a ruptured Achilles.
Special Teams: Beware Of The Wounded Animal
Washington has major issues on special teams. Players on the coverage units are taking poor angles in pursuit. Dallas returner Dwayne Harris scored an 86-yard punt touchdown, and added a 90-yard kick return. They also committed four penalties. It’s an area the Bears hope to exploit as much as possible.
Devin Hester is itching to make a big play in the return game. The Bears have an NFL-high 23 kick returns producing a league-best 24.6 starting point. However, they also are tied for the second most drives starting inside their 20 after kickoffs with eight along with the Raiders and Redskins.
Bears punter Adam Podlesh has increased his hang time in the past two games, and only five of his 26 punts have been returned – the second fewest in the league. Washington’s Sav Rocca is struggling with the lowest gross average and net averages in the league and is one of seven to have a punt blocked this season. And his long snapper Nick Sundberg is out for the season.
Intangibles: How The Bears Handle Distractions
This game marks the only one the Bears are playing in a span of 24-days from October 10 against the Giants until November 4 against the Packers.
They are coming off a break and heading into a longer one. Thinking about that instead of the task at hand could prove to be trouble. The Bears play a road game for the third time and they will play in the largest outdoor stadium in the NFL.
The stage is not too big for this Bears team, but distractions hover over this game like no other so far this season. Handling everything that comes at them this week from an unusual offense, to a loud stadium, to another blitzing 3-4 defense, to a 1-4 team looking for a spark adds up to a lot of potential distractions.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play voice of the Chicago Bears on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. You can follow Jeff on Twitter@JeffJoniak.