In Enemy Territory: Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins

In Enemy Territory: Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins

It’s an NFC showdown with the Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins Sunday afternoon. Here’s an in-depth look at key match-ups, Redskins’ personnel, schemes on both sides of the football and my score prediction:

On offense

Redskins’ defensive coordinator Jim Haslett runs a 3-4 defense that has the talent to be good but just hasn’t lived up to expectations on that side of the football. The weakness on that defense is the back seven, where their pass coverage is the second worst in the league according to Pro Football Focus.

However, the Redskins have players who can get after the QB, specifically at the OLB position. And that’s where two of the key matchups start at for the Bears. Let’s take a look:

OTs Jermon Bushrod and Jordan Mills vs. OLBs Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan

Last week, Jermon Bushrod had his best game of the season against New York Giants’ star DE Jason Pierre-Paul. Bushrod gave up two hurries but finished the game with an overall grade of +3.4, his highest of the season from PFF. He had both the highest run blocking and pass blocking grades of any Chicago offensive lineman.

The eye-popping sack numbers are not there for Orakpo this year, but this is still going to be a pretty tough matchup for Bushrod. The same can be said for RT Jordan Mills, who will have his hands full with Ryan Kerrigan. Both players rank in the top 15 in PFF’s pass rush ratings.

The Bears’ offense has the capability to make big plays against this struggling Redskins secondary, but if Jay Cutler doesn’t have enough time, we won’t be able to see it. If the Bears offensive line can give Cutler time, you have to like some of the matchups across the board with the Bears’ receivers against the Redskins’ secondary.

As good as Okrapo and Kerrigan are at getting to the QB, they can be exposed down the seam in pass coverage. CB Josh Wilson has struggled this year, and with WR Alshon Jeffery emerging as a legit weapon, it’s one of the few matchups head coach Marc Trestman can exploit. David Amerson is a guy with a lot of talent, but he’s still raw and can be exposed with double moves.

With that said, here’s a look at a key WR/CB matchup to watch:

Brandon Marshall vs. DeAngelo Hall

Cutler calls DeAngelo Hall simply “another player,” and although Hall is not a star caliber CB, he’s still a very good veteran who can make opposing QBs and WRs pay big for even the simplest mistakes. Case in point: back in 2010 when Hall picked off Cutler a record-breaking four times, getting his Jersey sent to the Hall of Fame.

Cutler and Hall have a long history as two players who simply don’t like each other. This time around Cutler will have one of the best WRs in the league in his corner in Brandon Marshall when they face off again. This is a matchup that favors the Bears as Marshall’s great understanding of the route tree and how opposing CBs play him will help him to take advantage of Hall’s aggressiveness.

The Redskins are one of the worst in the league at run defense. In front of them are the Jaguars and the team they will face tomorrow afternoon, the Bears. A lot of it has to do with the Redskins not having the talent on the line of scrimmage to run a true 3-4. LBs Perry Riley and London Fletcher are decent run defenders, but like any LBs defending the run, they don’t excel when you have OL getting up field and getting a body on them.

Roberto Garza has quietly been having a solid season, and he will be counted on to shutdown Redskins’ NT Barry Coefield. If the Bears’ OL can dominate at the line of scrimmage and get Matt Forte to the second level, it should open up the opportunities for play action.

On defense

A lot of the focus will be on RG3, as the second year QB is starting to get back to his 2012 form, pre-ACL injury. The first step to neutralizing RG3 is to make the offense one dimensional, and to do that Alfred Morris can’t have a big day against the Bears’ front seven. The Redskins rely heavy on the play action pass to make big plays through the air.

If Morris is effective early on in it could spell trouble for the Bears’ defense, as the play action pass will come when linebackers and safeties are forced to pay extra attention to Morris, therefore opening up the middle of the field for receivers to make big plays.

The Bears’ defensive line has to be stout against the run, and our first key matchup on the defensive side of the football starts at the line of scrimmage …

NT Stephen Paea vs. LG Kory Lichtensteiger 

Paea returns this Sunday after missing the past couple games with a turf toe injury. Paea is one of the better run defenders on the Bears’ defensive line, and it’s no coincidence that the front seven struggled to stop the run the past few games when Paea was out.

The Bears will need a very effective Paea Sunday against Lictensteiger; one of the Redskins better run blockers and overall interior linemen. Paea, along with Corey Wootten, dominating their matchups in the trenches will allow for the Bears’ LBs the opportunity to have a big day in pursuit of the football.

The read-option is something the Bears’ front seven will have to deal with also. RG3 had a big night running the football against a Dallas Cowboys defense that is a mirror image of what Mel Tucker runs here in Chicago. All eyes will be at LDE, the position Shea McClellin is currently starting at for the Bears.

Tucker will need his second-year DE to understand his assignment against the read-option, which will sometimes ask him to either crash down toward the RB, allowing the LB to pursue RG3, or scraping to the outside to pursue the runner (depending on how they align McClellin in certain packages).

The LBs also can’t get sucked in, specifically rookie Jon Bostic, who will be making his first NFL start Sunday. The LBs will need to be on alert and play RG3 for the option on the most obvious run situations.

On the outside here’s a CB/WR key matchup to watch:

CB Charles Tillman vs. WR Pierre Garcon

Along with Paea, Tillman will be returning back to the field after missing last week due to a groin injury. Garcon is one of the very few legit WR weapons the Redskins have as the former Indianapolis Colt is statistically having a solid season.

It will be interesting to see how Tillman matches up against Garcon, who can be a physical WR over the middle and also threaten downfield with his speed. Garcon will likely get his yards, but Tillman can’t allow Garcon to get past him downfield and complete the big play.

The statistics are not there, but the Redskins have talent at the WR position outside of Garcon. Leonard Hankerson is big, fast WR who can threaten in the red zone, and Santana Moss, while not the same player he was a few years ago, still has the ability to make plays from the slot position. At TE, rookie Jordan Reed is starting to emerge as one RG3’s favorite targets.

The Redskins have an offense that has the potential to put a lot of points on the board, but head coach Mike Shanahan still waiting for his guys to put it all together this year. When you combine that with a struggling defense, it answers your question on why the Redskins are 1-4 through five games.

Score Prediction: Bears 24, Redskins 20

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