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In part 1 of this 2 part mega series I discussed how Bears fans ded along with how I think the Bears defense will match up with the Packers offense. In part 2, The Deuce, I will explain how I think the Bears offense will match up with the Packers defense.
Chicago’s Oline vs Packers Dline and OLBs
Chicago’s offensive line isn’t what I would call elite, but they weren’t as bad as everyone thinks they were last season. They finished the 2014 year ranked 15th by PFF. They ranked 17th in pass blocking and 12th in run blocking, but struggled with penalties, especially of the pre-snap variety. Kyle Long was the best player of the bunch but Chicago has decided to move him from his spot at RG to RT. It will be interesting to see him in his new position for a full game against Julius Peppers. Starting at the other tackle position is Bushrod, who continued to struggle this preseason in pass protection. At this point you have to believe that Bushrod is only still the starter because of his outrageous contract. His -2.4 pass protection grade that he earned this preseason has to be disconcerting with Clay Matthews coming to town. At the guards, the Bears will start Slausen and Ducassee. Slausen is very solid, especially in run blocking while Ducassee was solid in his pass protection, while struggling with his run blocking. At center, Montgomery is cut from a similar cloth to Ducassee as he has been pretty solid in pass protection, while struggling with his run blocking.
On the other side of the ball, the Packers are dealing with a number of suspensions along their defensive line. Datone Jones and Letroy Guion will miss this game and the Packers very well may miss the pass rushing production from Datone and the run stuffing/big plays that Guion always seemed to bring to the table last season. The Packers will start Mike Daniels and Mike Pennel. Daniels is a stud and the argument could be made that he is the best player on the Packers defense. He finished last season with 6 sacks, 11 QB hits, and 24 more hurries and a cumulative grade of 27.3 from PFF. Mike Pennel had a solid season last year as well but only played 175 snaps so is largely an unknown. He graded positively in both run defense and pass rushing, but only mildly so with a cumulative grade of 1.5. At center, the Packers start what may be the Packers largest question mark on defense. BJ Raji had great camps the last 2 years but a biceps injury sidelined the once great defender for the entire year last season. Prior to last year, Raji struggled mightily in run defense. He had a terrible 2013 season with a run grade of -14.3 on 618 snaps. Just a year earlier he earned a positive run stopping grade and a very respectable +6.2 grade overall. Moral of the story, we have no idea what Raji is going to be. At OLB the Packers bring a set of studs in Matthews and Peppers. Peppers had a very solid season last year. More than anything, Peppers makes impactful plays. Matthews is moving around so he will likely line up at OLB in passing situations, but we can expect to see Nick Perry play that spot quite a bit as well. Perry quietly had a very good 2014 season earning a +4.5 run defense grade and +1.3 pass rushing grade with 3 sacks and 13 other QB disruptions on just 367 snaps.
Edge: Bears in run blocking, Packers in pass rushing.
This will actually be a very very interesting position group to pay attention to through this game. Slausen vs Daniels and Peppers vs Long at his new position both should be entertaining to watch and could be pushes. Matthews/Perry should dominate Bushrod on Cutler’s blindside which could cause serious problems if left 1 on 1. Raji and the Bears new RG are both unknowns so that is another interesting matchup to watch.
Bears Weapons vs Packers ILBs, CBs, and Safeties
The Bears offensive weapons took a hit when their 13th overall pick had to undergo surgery that will cause him to miss the majority of the season. They would be left with a solid receiving corps of Jeffery, Royal, Wilson and Bennett, but Wilson and Jeffery have been dealing with injuries of their own. Jeffery missed 28 straight days of practice prior to him returning to practice in a limited fashion on Wednesday and Thursday. He is officially listed as ‘Questionable’ which doesn’t offer a ton of clarity, but it’s worth noting that a site that tracks such things stated that only 36% of players that were listed as ‘Questionable’ played last season when Fox listed them as such. Without Jeffery, the Bears are left With Royal, Wilson, Bennett and Forte. Royal has been a solid number 2 guy through his career and had 62 catches for 778 yards last season with the Chargers. Bennett is a very solid TE who is a big target and can cause matchup problems for defenses. Forte is one of the best RBs at catching the ball out of the backfield in the league and should be seen as a true receiving threat. The biggest problem that I see the Bears having is similar to the issue that they faced last season; there is no deep threat to take the top off of the defense.
The Packers performed an experiment with Matthews at ILB. That experiment went well and improved not only the defenses ability to stop the run, but also increased Matthews pass rushing production. He will line up next to Sam Barrington, who hasn’t had a great pre-season. Barrington is good in coverage, but struggles in run defense. The Packers had a lot of turnover at the CB position this off season. They retained their number 1 CB in Shields who has been consistently studly through his career, but they lost Tramon Williams and Davon House in FA. To replace him, the Packers will look either to Hayward to make the transition from predominantly a slot CB or to one of their first two round picks in Randall or Rollins. Hayward has had very limited experience on the outside, but has performed solidly in the limited reps that he has had at the spot. If Hayward ends up not being able to get the job done, the Packers are lucky to have rookies who have looked so solid against other teams starters in the preseason. Rollins has earned a +4.5 grade on 150 snaps in the preseason while Randall has earned a +1 grade on only 87 snaps. At safety, the Packers will likely be without Morgan Burnett, who suffered a calf injury in pre-season. That means the starting safeties will likely be Clinton-Dix and a combination of Sean Richardson and Micah Hyde. Hyde played 720 snaps last season and graded out very well in pass defense, but struggled in run support. Sean Richardson didn’t play last season, but played 92 snaps this preseason and graded out very well in run support, but earned a -.7 in pass defense.
Edge: If Jeffery plays and is close to 100%, I’ll give the edge to the Bears, mostly because of all of the question marks on the Packers side of the ball. If he doesn’t and Royal is forced to trot out as the number 1 WR I’m going to give the edge to the Packers, mostly by default.