Chicago Bears: 5 Players to Watch in Week 9
The two teams last meet up in the regular season back in 2008 at Soldier Field with the Titans claiming the 21-14 victory.
Here is my list of five players to watch this Sunday:
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The safety combination of Chris Conte and Major Wright has been a welcomed sight in Chicago after years of struggling to find a perfect combination.
The tandem has played well for much of the season, with only a few minor lapses here and there.
Conte struggled a bit at times against the Lions two weeks ago on Monday Night Football and was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell on Sunday. Despite the hit looking like something out of his control (LaFell's head was lowering as Conte made contact), he will likely be fined by the league.
The Titans receivers boast big play potential with Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and Kendall Wright all having the ability to stretch the field, meaning Conte will have his hands full this Sunday.
The Bears have relied on both safeties playing roughly 12-15 yards off the line of scrimmage to prevent big plays from happening down the field. Expect them to implement the techniques this weekend with their receivers as well as with tight end Jared Cook.
It will be interesting to see if the personal foul penalty he received on the hit last week will prevent him from going for the knockout hits against the Titans.
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Expectations for Brian Urlacher coming into this season following a knee injury at the end of last season were mixed.
Many were not sure if he could ever go back to being the player that could cover all areas of the field, run stride for stride with tight ends or punish running backs. The first couple weeks of the season had many believing that he couldn't return to that form, but in recent weeks, the Urlacher of old has started to return.
He will face the tough task of trying to slow down former Pro Bowl running back Chris Johnson. Johnson struggled out of the gate, amassing only 210 yards in the first four games with the majority coming from a 141-yard performance in week four. In his last three games though, he has 385 yards, including a 195 yard performance against the Buffalo Bills.
His combination of speed and elusiveness makes him very difficult to tackle. Urlacher will have to rely on his lateral quickness to bring down a guy whose trademark has been getting to the outside and burning defenders.
Sunday will be the biggest test of Urlacher's knee this season and expect the Titans to attack him early.
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It again took until the fourth quarter for Jay Cutler to start to click offensively Sunday, but with a little more than two minutes on the clock, he willed his team downfield, going 6-of-7 and setting up Robbie Gould for a game-winning 41-yard field goal.
He has been stellar in the fourth quarter all season, going 34-of-46 for 517 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions.
Going against a defense in Tennessee that has given up the most yards on defense this season, the Bears and Cutler should have no problem moving the ball. Sunday he struggled with getting rid of the football quickly, and by starting the game with short to intermediate passes, should help him find a rhythm that will ultimately allow him to work the ball down field later in the game.
The Titans secondary is giving up 282 yards per game, fourth-worst in the NFL, as well as giving up 17 passing touchdowns, tied for second-worst in the league.
Cutler and the Bears should be able to expose their weaknesses in the secondary by not only targeting Brandon Marshall but by trying to get the ball more into Earl Bennett's hands. Cutler and Bennett, who both have ties with Nashville because of their collegiate careers at Vanderbilt, will look to both have a solid outing come Sunday.
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After struggling the last few weeks, the Bears decided to not dress Amobi Okoye in favor of Nate Collins. Collins made the team after a strong training camp, but was suspended the first game of the year due violating the NFL's substance abuse policy last year and the Bears simply had no room for him in their rotation.
He played well against the Panthers in limited snaps, registering three tackles in 35 snaps, likely opening up an opportunity to dress again on Sunday.
The Bears have been blessed with a solid rotation at defensive tackle, and with the Titans expected to want to run the ball with Chris Johnson, Collins has the opportunity to show off his talents.
He is mostly a run-stopper but has the ability to get after the quarterback, which was evident Sunday when he got a few quarterback pressures on the elusive Cam Newton. The Bears will continue to rotate along the defensive line and do not be surprised to see Collins snaps increase from the 35 he saw last week.
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After missing some time from a knee injury, fullback Evan Rodriguez has been active for the Bears last two games, but has not played.
The Bears have relied heavily on Kyle Adams as their fullback in Rodriguez's absence and simply haven't found a spot for him since he's been healthy.
His size and speed are what drew the Bears to draft him in the fourth round and it was expected that he would slowly find his way into the offense. It has been surprising that they have not tried more to get him matched up on the outside against a slower linebacker or smaller defensive back to truly extenuate his skill set.
He will likely see time in short-yardage situations, but it would be nice to see him become more of a threat in the passing game, whether out of the back field in the flat or lining him up in the slot against lesser talent.
With the way the Titans have struggled defensively, this week may be the best opportunity to get him more involved before facing stiffer defenses against Houston and San Francisco in the coming weeks.