Bears Look To Expand Offense’s Role In 2nd Half Of Season

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears built some momentum while going 3-5 in the season’s first half thanks to defensive depth.

In the second half of the schedule, coach John Fox thinks building on what they’ve established will require the offense to step forward and show some depth.

“We’re probably a little bit more whole than we were for sure last season,” Fox said Monday at Halas Hall. “I think we still had interesting changes in lineups, in particular in the offensive line. Hopefully we can stay a little bit more consistent as far as lineups.

“We have to be right on top of it. When we are, we win. And we’ve lost some close games, we’ve won some close games. I’d rather see that be more consistent in the second half.”

The Bears returned Monday from their bye week, and when they resume preparation Wednesday for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field against the Green Bay Packers, two offensive line injuries and a receiver group in a constant state of flux will be issues.

One position where the Bears will be severely challenged is tight end. Zach Miller’s season-ending dislocated knee means they’ve lost one of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s few dependable targets.

“You can’t put a number or an amount on it — he’s irreplaceable,” Trubisky said. “We love Zach and he knows that.”

Miller was to be released from a New Orleans hospital Monday after being injured Oct. 29. He underwent surgery to repair a torn artery, saving his left leg. Miller still faces surgery to repair the knee itself.

“I talked to him a little bit and his mom over the course of the bye week, just to make sure (of) the whole family situation,” Fox said. “I think they feel very good about where he is.”

Miller posted a note on Twitter thanking team doctors and trainers and surgeons at the University Medical Center of New Orleans.

“Without their teamwork, expertise and urgent care I do not know if the outcome would have been as successful,” Miller said.

Tight ends Dion Sims, second-round pick Adam Shaheen, and Daniel Brown now become more important in the offense.

Trubisky will also need to target wide receivers more and has more choices.

With recently acquired Dontrelle Inman now available, and veteran Markus Wheaton expected to return in coming weeks from a groin injury to join Kendall Wright and Tre McBride, Trubisky could try getting the ball downfield more often.

Inman spent the bye week learning the offense.

“In San Diego I could miss training camp and still come in and know the offense because I’ve been there so long,” Inman said. “So it’s a different learning curve.

“It’s back to when I first came into the league and had to study, study, study. But I knew that coming in, so I expected nothing else.”

McBride had a career-high and Bears season-high 92 receiving yards against New Orleans, but expects building a rapport with Trubisky at this point in the season will be challenging. Training camp is when such ties are established.

“On the field, in pads, that’s when that time is built, and we only get so many days to do that, so there’s no other shortcut,” McBride said.

The Bears start the season’s second half ranked last in passing at 157.5 yards per game.

Running back Tarik Cohen has produced big plays, but the brunt of the offense has fallen on running back Jordan Howard, who is fifth in the NFL with 662 yards rushing.

“We had key injuries that took away from the offense, took away from the passing game,” Cohen said. “With people coming in and veterans coming back it’s going to open up the offense, take stress off of Jordan and just really get the ball and distribute it in a lot of different areas.”

The other issue facing the Bears is on the offensive line. Both guard Kyle Long (finger) and center Cody Whitehair (elbow) suffered injuries against New Orleans, and their status will be more clear Wednesday when practice resumes.

A week off has Fox thinking the offense can take on a different look.

“We’ve leaned a little bit on our run as a football team, much like last year,” Fox said. “We’ll continue on that path, we can get better in those areas, we’ve had some negative runs that we want to get cleaned up.

“The biggest thing we’ve kind of stressed is things to do better in the passing game.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.

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