Fresh off an impressive comeback win on Monday night in San Diego, the Bears had a short week to prepare for their next opponent, the St. Louis Rams.
Health has been an issue for most of the season for the Bears and with the news that wide receiver Alshon Jeffery suffered a groin injury in Wednesday’s practice session that was certainly a worry. However, Jeffery put together a limited session on Friday and appears to be on track to play on Sunday. He’s listed as questionable.
Seven other Bears are also questionable with the only player ruled out already is wide receiver Eddie Royal (knee).
Running back Matt Forte (knee) has been limited all week, but even he admitted that if he’s not fully healthy then it might not be smart for him to suit up. Look for rookie back Jeremy Langford to get the nod once again this week.
Linebacker Shea McClellin and center Hroniss Grasu both seem to be ready to return. McClellin missed the last three games after suffering a knee injury in Week 5 in Kansas City while Grasu has missed the last two starts due to a neck injury he suffered in practice prior to Week 8.
Starters, cornerback Tracy Porter, linebacker Pernell McPhee (knee) and safety Antrel Rolle are also listed as questionable, but will start this Sunday. Porter has a hip issue while Rolle is still dealing with a nagging ankle problem and McPhee continues to fight through a knee issue. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod (shoulder) is questionable as well, but he’s now the clear-cut backup with Charles Leno running with the starters.
Here are the five Bears to watch as they head out to St. Louis to take on the feisty Rams on Sunday.
It’s very rare for Jay Cutler to make this list considering the focus seems to always be on him and rightfully so. However, this week Cutler faces a Rams defense that has allowed the fewest passing touchdowns on the season (5).
He owns a career-high 89.6 passer rating along with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions on the year. Over the last five games, Cutler has combined for nine touchdowns (8 passing, 1 rushing) and only three interceptions. Smart with his decision making this season, Cutler should be able to do enough to keep the Bears afloat in St. Louis.
Undrafted out of TCU, the expectations weren’t very high for rookie linebacker Jonathan Anderson. He flashed in the preseason as a pass rusher and last week the Bears made the boldest of moves by placing the green dot on his helmet and allowing him to call the plays at inside backer. It paid off as Anderson led the defense with a career-high 12 tackles.
Playing on 69 of the 70 defensive snaps a week ago, Anderson will be in line for another big role regardless of Shea McClellin’s possible return. Anderson is simply too good to leave on the bench. Expect him to be all over the field once again as the Bears look to contain rookie phenom Todd Gurley.
Third-year man Marquess Wilson has produced just two receptions over the last two weeks. He saw 61 snaps last week in San Diego as he was on the bench for 11 offensive plays. With Alshon Jeffery (groin) nicked up and Eddie Royal (knee) out again, the Bears could really use a big performance from Wilson.
Over the last three games, he has been targeted 10 times coming up with only four grabs for 83 yards. From Week 4 to Week 5, he totaled 12 catches on 17 targets with back-to-back 80 plus yard performances. The Rams allow the fourth-fewest passing yards per game (219.8), so Wilson will have to do all he can to gain separation and make plays.
Pernell McPhee’s streak of three consecutive games with a sack was snapped last Monday night in San Diego. The Bears’ sack leader with five has been battling a nagging knee issue over the past two weeks. McPhee sat out of practice all week.
Despite the knee issue, McPhee still played 59-of-70 snaps last week as he accounted for three quarterback hits. He ranks seventh in the NFL in quarterback hurries with 17. Rotational outside linebacker Lamarr Houston took full advantage of his 16 snaps against San Diego as he recorded two sacks on the game’s final drive and finished with a team-high four quarterback hits.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio needs to find a way to use McPhee, Houston and Willie Young, the three best pass rushers in a creative way.
The Bears have to set the edge against Gurley and versatile speedster Tavon Austin. Those efforts will come from stacking the box to force Nick Foles to pass and the defensive ends will have to play a big part including leader Jarvis Jenkins.
Jenkins has been quiet as of late, mustering only six tackles and failing to record a single quarterback hit over the past two games. From Week 3 to Week 6, the first-year Bear had 15 tackles and 3.5 sacks. The Bears’ defense has a tall task ahead of them and it would be huge if Jenkins could step up.
Thoughts on Sunday’s matchup in St. Louis? Make sure to comment below.
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