In pursuit of a third straight victory following road wins over San Diego and St. Louis, the Bears enter Week 11 rather healthy.
Outside of Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte and Pernell McPhee’s statuses up in the air for Sunday’s meeting with the Denver Broncos, the Bears are healthier than they’ve been all season.
Jeffery is battling a groin injury while Forte and McPhee have knee injuries. All three are questionable. Forte and McPhee practiced on a limited basis Friday and it appears McPhee should be able to return after missing last week. Forte is likely to be held out until possibly next Thursday night’s Thanksgiving game in Green Bay. Jeffery is iffy at best after sitting out the last two practice sessions.
Wide receiver Eddie Royal (knee) is the lone player to have already been ruled out. He’s missing his third straight start opening up a spot for Marquess Wilson once again.
Inside linebacker Shea McClellin returned last week and made a big impact with a team-high eight tackles and recovered his own forced fumble. However, he’s been limited all week with his nagging knee issue. It’s likely just rest in practices and he should be able to play in full on Sunday.
Left tackle Jermon Bushrod (shoulder), center Hroniss Grasu (neck) and safety Antrel Rolle (ankle) are all probable. Rolle and Grasu will start while Bushrod should serve as a top backup. Grasu’s return to the offensive line should propel the rushing attack as Matt Slauson slides back over to left guard and Patrick Omameh will be at right guard over Vlad Ducasse.
Here are the five Bears to watch as they welcome the Broncos to Soldier Field on Sunday.
Quick throws to tight end Martellus Bennett is something the Bears need to make happen against a stingy Broncos pass defense on Sunday. Denver ranks first overall in yards allowed through the air (182.8) and Bennett is coming off a Week 10 outing where he was held to three receptions for 18 yards.
Bennett still leads the offense with 48 receptions on 70 targets. With Alshon Jeffery’s status up in the air for a second straight week, Jay Cutler could have to lean on his tight ends, Bennett and the emerging Zach Miller. The duo can make big plays whenever they get the chance.
Up against a Broncos defense that is allowing an average of four receptions, 47 receiving yards per game and three total touchdowns to opposing tight ends, Bennett should have to fight his way to each and every yard. This is a big game for the 6’6″ Texas A&M product.
The Bears’ fifth-round selection, free safety Adrian Amos has looked more like a seasoned veteran than a late draft pick. With or without an actual veteran in Antrel Rolle on the field, Amos has excelled.
In nine games this season he has 32 tackles and a pass breakup. He doesn’t make many flashy plays in pass coverage, but he makes smart ones. He really shines in run support when the Bears stack the box.
Up against a first-time starting quarterback in Brock Osweiler, I’m expecting Amos to be laser focused for this big matchup. He has been good thus far and now is his time to put himself on the map.
Another rising young defensive back for the Bears is undrafted rookie Bryce Callahan. The Rice product earned a lot of love when he signed back on May 3. He’s taken over full time as the slot corner for the last three weeks as Sherrick McManis struggled mightily to stay in position.
Callahan has fared well and right now he’s giving the Bears a boost at their cornerback spot next to Kyle Fuller and Tracy Porter. Head coach John Fox is known for his ability to develop undrafted players, most recently Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris, who the Bears will face this Sunday.
Callahan has nine tackles and a pass breakup over the last three weeks. Facing a speedy wideout in Emmanual Sanders, Callahan should have his hands full. He needs to stay in his zones and continue to progress in his fourth start.
How about this Willie Young guy? He wants to be known as a defensive end rather than an outside backer and after last week’s three tackles, one interception performance against the Rams, he can call himself whatever he wants as long as he continues to make plays.
At age 30, Young has had to learn a new position and he really shined as a starter opposite Sam Acho last week. With Pernell McPhee out, but trending towards a return this Sunday, Young should still have a vital role. Lamarr Houston as well.
Keeping Young and Houston fresh behind McPhee and Acho will do this defense wonders. All four can rush the passer and Young and Houston have really started to put it all together in this 3-4 scheme. Look for Young to be flying around on Sunday.
Sam Acho had a quiet afternoon making only two tackles in last week’s victory over St. Louis, but with McPhee back for this game that boosts his value. A rotation at linebacker would be ideal as Young and Houston are two versatile pass rushers. Acho can be used in that fashion in the right situation.
Expect Acho to focus on the running aspect first and foremost against the tandem of Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson, but when Vic Fangio dials up blitzes it could benefit Acho greatly. He has only three quarterback hurries tied with Dallas defensive end Greg Hardy. Acho needs this game.
Thoughts on Sunday’s matchup against the Broncos? Make sure to comment below.
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