Chicago Bears: 5 Players to Watch in Week 3
Last Thursday's 23-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers was an early setback for a team believed to be one of the best in the NFC.
This Sunday in Chicago, the Bears will get a chance to redeem their poor plays from last week when they take on the 1-1 St. Louis Rams.
The Rams are young but tough, having lost to the Detroit Lions in Week 1 by a late touchdown from Matthew Stafford, and winning against the surging Washington Redskins this past Sunday. The Bears will need to put the struggles of last week behind them and focus on beating a team that, while talented, is not at the same level as they are.
Here is my list of five players to watch this Sunday:
Jay Cutler had arguably one of the worst games of his career last Thursday, when he threw four interceptions, was sacked seven times, and finished the game 11 of 27 for 126 yards.
The media have been quick to jump on Cutler this week for his in-game display of frustration (yelling at and bumping into left tackle J'Marcus Webb), and Sunday will be his first chance to put the past behind him and move forward.
Cutler struggled last week, not just because of poor offensive line play, but because he put himself into bad situations and at times forced the issue, which resulted in interceptions.
Cutler will have to be careful with Rams defensive back Cortland Finnegan, who is likely licking his chops for an opportunity to face Cutler. Finnegan, a former Pro Bowl-er, will likely be matched up with Cutler's favorite target, Brandon Marshall.
Cutler likely won't change his approach to the game and will still take chances, but he may have learned his lesson from last week and should learn to get rid of the ball sooner.
For the third week in a row, J'Marcus Webb makes the "Five Players to Watch" list. Webb will be in the crosshairs more than usual this week following the incident with Cutler.
Webb played terribly last week against the Packers and Clay Matthews, giving up 2.5 sacks.
The task this week does not get much easier with the Rams' Robert Quinn. Although not as dangerous as Clay Matthews, Quinn already has two sacks this season and is part of a nice 1-2 combination at defensive end for the Rams, along with the former second overall pick, Chris Long. Quinn is quick and athletic and will force Webb to rely on his footwork to stop him.
After seeing what happened last week when Webb was left to fend for himself, offensive coordinator Mike Tice should give Webb some help on the edge, whether with a tight end or a chip from the running back/fullback.
An ankle injury in Thursday night's game forced starter Matt Forté to miss the remainder of the contest, and according to an ESPN Chicago report, it is unknown when Forté will return.
Michael Bush was signed in the offseason for this very reason.
Bush had a career high 977 yards last season for the Raiders, filling in for injured starter Darren McFadden.
Bush already has two touchdowns on the season and is a more than viable replacement for Forté if he cannot go this Sunday against the Rams. So far this season, the Rams have given up an average of 4.9 yards per carry against the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins.
With the struggles that Jay Cutler and the offensive line had last week in pass protection, expect the Bears to use Bush and the running game as a way to get the offense headed in the right direction.
According to ESPN Chicago, the Bears will replace starting left guard Chris Spencer with Chilo Rachal.
Rachal, a former second round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2008, was signed this offseason, and since 2008, has started 38 games.
A center with the Seattle Seahawks before switching to right guard last season with the Bears, Spencer struggled mightily during the preseason. Lost in the debacle that was J'Marcus Webb vs. Clay Matthews, Spencer also struggled against the Packers' pass rush.
Rachal brings in a lot of experience to the offensive line and although he has never started at left guard in his career, he feels like it will be an easy transition (h/t CBSsports.com):
"This is the first time playing left guard in my career. I like it. I am naturally left-handed. I should like this position better than right."
The Bears will need Rachal to provide better pass protection this week then Spencer had in the first two games. With an injury to Forté and with Rachal starting, don't be surprised to see the Bears try to get the running game going early to help Rachal get settled.
The big story throughout training camp this year was the health of Brian Urlacher.
Urlacher vowed to be ready for the season opener, and he was, but head coach Lovie Smith removed Urlacher for the second half. Urlacher played the whole game last Thursday against the Packers, and although he did record eight tackles, his speed and agility seemed a step or two behind.
The assumption is that Urlacher will continue to improve and get better as the season goes on, and Sunday the Rams will once again test his abilities early. The Rams like to run the football, whether it is with Steven Jackson, who was injured last week, or Daryl Richardson.
If the Bears can get out to a big lead like they did against the Colts in Week 1, don't be surprised to see Urlacher watching the second half from the sidelines because of Lovie's desire to keep him fresh.
Matt Eurich is a contributor to Bearsbacker.com. Follow Bears Backer on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute news about the Bears. Also, check out Matt’s work on Bleacherreport.com and follow him on Twitter @MattEurich.
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