Chicago Bears: Questions Left Unanswered After Week 1
The Chicago Bears put together an impressive effort against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1. Their dominant effort was one of the highlights around the NFL, and Bears fans should be excited about what can happen this season.
It is tough to get a good feel on what kind of team the Bears are after one game. There are still some questions left to be answered. As the team moves on from their first win, here are some things to look for going forward.
Can Brian Ulracher Play an Entire Game at a High Level?
Brian Urlacher jumped over a huge hurdle when he practiced all week leading up to the game against the Colts. He then eased the minds of Bears fans when he took to the field and played. However, due to the game situation, Lovie Smith pulled him in the third quarter.
At this point we know Urlacher is healthy enough to take the field, but can he play an entire game right now? If he can, will his knee and conditioning allow him to play at a high level late in the fourth quarter?
There is still a level of uncertainty surrounding Urlacher. Not only did he not play the whole game but when he was on the field, it was against an inferior opponent. We should get a better gauge of where Urlacher is after going on the road to Green Bay in a short week.
Will This Offensive Line Be Able to Protect Jay Cutler?
The offensive line started a bit slow in Week 1. They blew a couple assignments and right tackle Gabe Carimi had a false start when the team was backed up towards its own goal line. They were able to get into a groove as the game went on, but how much of that had to do with the exit to Dwight Freeney?
The Colts don't have many strengths on their team, but when Freeney is opposite Robert Mathis, they can muster up a pretty good pass rush. Freeney exited the game late in the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. It was right around that time the line settled in and began to play well.
Maybe it's just coincidence or the Freeney injury had a direct impact. Either way the game against the Colts was not the best barometer towards seeing if this offensive line can consistently protect Jay Cutler.
Over the next three weeks they will see Clay Matthews, Chris Long and DeMarcus Ware. They combined for 38.5 sacks last season. These next three games are crucial towards figuring out what this offensive line can do.
Is Kellen Davis a Bust?
For a couple years now we have been waiting for Kellen Davis to "break out" and become a premier tight end. Coming into Week 1 he was looked upon as a solid weapon on offense and all he did was go out and get shut out in receptions.
The only play Davis stood out on in Week 1 was the first play from scrimmage for the Bears. He whiffed on a block, allowing Colts linebacker Robert Mathis to sack Jay Cutler for a 12-yard loss. The tight end was mostly MIA for the remainder of the game.
Whether it was because the game was out of hand early or he just didn't get open, the jury is still out on Davis.
One would think a 6'6'', 259-pound player can get open for at least one catch—even in a blow out. As teams begin to rotate to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, he is going to have to make plays in the middle of the field—but can he do it?
Has the Pass Rush Improved?
One thing is for sure—Henry Melton was awesome in Week 1. Julius Peppers had some decent rushes and even Corey Wootten made a big play. First-round pick Shea McClellin had one good pass rush but was quiet for the rest of the game, and Israel Idonije struggled.
The Bears finished the game with three sacks including one leading to a turnover and five hits on the quarterback. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck attempted 45 passes and the Bears did make him uncomfortable for many of those attempts.
The true test comes against Aaron Rodgers. Arguably the league's best quarterback, Rodgers will be able to move the pocket and make plays on the run. His unflappable demeanor will mean the Bears are going to have to get a more consistent effort up front. Make Rodgers frustrated because of a pass rush and you begin to open some eyes.
What Can We Expect from Evan Rodriguez?
Evan Rodriguez had an outstanding game blocking. He was instrumental in springing Matt Forte and Michael Bush as the team got the running game going late in the first quarter. However, we didn't see those outstanding pass-catching skills advertised after he was drafted.
When the game got out of hand, there was probably no need to showcase Rodriguez in the passing game. Why give other teams tape on what is considered a mystery player right now? Rodriguez not being used as an offensive option in Week 1 means we will have to wait longer to see what the young man can do with the football.
Who's the Second-Best Receiver?
The route Alshon Jeffery ran on his touchdown was a thing of beauty. What was even better was his soft hands as he hauled in the perfect pass. Devin Hester had a couple of grabs but also had a key penalty, and Earl Bennett got loose for three catches.
Right now the excitement around Jeffery is high and deserved. He had a good game, but it's still a little early before we crown him the second-best receiver on this team. Hester might be taking a lesser role going forward, but Bennett will get more looks as the season goes on.
What needs to be focused on going forward is how Jeffery adapts to defenses keying in on him. The secret is out and he will see heightened pressure. Whether Jeffery responds well or not will be the key towards calling him the team's second-best receiver.
Are Matt Forte and Michael Bush the Best Running Back Duo in the NFL?
It's always good when your running backs combine for three rushing touchdowns. Matt Forte and Michael Bush seem to be the perfect compliments to each other, but are they the best duo in the NFL?
Not too many teams can say they have a guy like Forte who can run or receive and move an offense down to the red zone. An even smaller amount of teams can say they have a guy who can bulldoze his way into the end zone from the goal line, but the Bears have both.
Forte and Bush have the ability to be a special tandem that will give opposing defenses nightmares all season. Right now Houston's Arian Foster and Ben Tate are probably still a better 1-2 punch, but it's not out of the question for Forte and Bush to surpass them as the season goes along.
Have the Bears Figured out the Safety Position?
Major Wright played a whole game in Week 1 without getting hurt. He made no mistakes and led the team in tackles. Chris Conte held down the back safety position well and walked away with a turnover.
The Colts offense is not much to be desired but still, it was a good effort by the Bears' starting safeties. It would be nice to stop spinning the revolving door at the position and get some consistency going forward. In addition to staying healthy, Conte and Wright are going to have to pass the tests against more formidable offenses going forward.
Within the Bears' own division, the wide receivers are very talented. Don't look any further than Week 2 against Green Bay to see how the safeties respond. Hopefully the duo that started the season will be the same that finishes it.
Has Jay Cutler Taken the Next Step?
It didn't start pretty, but it sure ended well. After starting the game 1-10, Jay Cutler went on a tear, finishing the game 21-35 for 333 yards and two touchdowns.
The pick six early on was a poor read. He made up for it by driving the team down the field multiple times. The pass to Alshon Jeffery was nothing short of amazing. Cutler showed his usual ability to move around and extend plays, but he also showed his affinity to force the football at times.
There is no doubt Cutler is excited to have Brandon Marshall. He targeted Marshall 15 times, including some while the receiver was double and triple covered. Still Cutler had a good game. He looked comfortable in the offense after the initial start.
Week 1 does count no matter who the opponent is but Cutler is going to have to put together a season full body of work knocking off more quality quarterbacks in order for us to elevate him to an elite level. Still, it was a nice start on the road to what can be a special season.
Are the Bears the Best Team in the NFC North?
The Bears were by far the most impressive of the NFC North teams in Week 1, but they also played a team who won two games last year.
Along with the Bears, the division's cream of the crop includes the Packers and Lions. Both teams struggled in Week 1, but it is still too early to call one better than the other two. The Bears seem to have a complete football team and they have the ability to knock the Packers off the top spot.
Division matchups will be key in figuring out who is the best. The Bears will need to have a winning record against the Packers and Lions if they want to be the leader in the group. Not having played either yet, it is still too early to call them the best in the division.