The Bears received some great news on Thursday well in advance of their inter-conference meeting with the Dolphins this Sunday.
Left tackle Jermon Bushrod, whose missed his last two starts with knee and ankle injuries returned to practice in a full capacity. Linebacker Shea McClellin and cornerback Sherrick McManis also practiced in full and are on track to return this week.
Miami comes to town losers of three of their last four games. However, Bears head coach Marc Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer are very well aware of the Dolphins pass rush.
“They’ve hit the quarterback a bunch of times in every game,” Kromer said in Thursday’s press conference.
While Trestman had nearly the same thing to say on Thursday: “They’re hitting the quarterback in every game.”
The Dolphins made things uncomfortable for Green Bay’s Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers last week, sacking him three times, generating six quarterback hits and forcing him out of the pocket often.
Defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon each have 3.5 sacks this season, while defensive tackles Jared Odrick and Randy Stacks have 2.5 sacks combined.
Miami also has rotational defensive end Derrick Shelby, who has two sacks. Linebacker Chris McCain has a sack and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell has a position-high four run stuffs. The Dolphins are very deep with playmakers on the defensive line.
The Dolphins have bounced back after a slow defensive start. Miami allowed just over 27 points per game after the first three weeks, but over the past two games they’ve surrendered only 20 points per game. Overall they’ve given up the 11th fewest points this season.
With all that being said, Miami’s defense has some holes and if Jay Cutler can get ample time in the pocket he could exploit the Dolphins pass coverage.
Opposing quarterbacks are completing over 60 percent of their passes against the Dolphins. Miami has given up 10 passing touchdowns this season and teams are converting nearly 42 percent of the time on third downs against them.
The Bears’ offensive line has been steady for the most part. With Michael Ola filling it all left tackle they’ve surrendered six sacks the past two weeks, but in the four games prior they allowed eight.
With the return of Bushrod it should help the Bears slow down the Dolphins solid pass rush. Although the Bears currently rank as the No. 18 offensive line, according to Football Outsiders things are looking up for the healthy unit.
Matt Slauson and Roberto Garza are past their ankle issues, while Kyle Long has been steady all season.
Jordan Mills struggled with pre-snap penalties and holding his own in Atlanta, but he should bounce back. Mills was limited in Thursday’s practice with the same foot issue that forced him to have off-season surgery.
On paper this is a nice matchup for the Bears, who are still seeking their first victory at Soldier Field.
However, if they let the Dolphins establish pressure often it could be a long afternoon for Cutler and Co.
The Bears seem to be just hitting their stride nearing the midway point of the season. Can they hold off the visting Dolphins on Sunday?
Thoughts on the key matchup?
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