Chicago Bears: Midseason Report Cards for Each Positional Unit
The Chicago Bears hit their bye week at the perfect time in many different ways. This team is struggling through injuries and needed the time off. The bye also comes at a time ideal enough to analyze the team right around the halfway mark.
Even with the increasing injuries, the Bears have the chance to right the ship, fix some issues and get back on track in time for a playoff push.
As you would expect, the defense will not get high praise or quality grades. Cycle through as we grade the Bears by position at the halfway mark.
His one poor game came against the Lions. He threw four out of his seven interceptions against Detroit in Week 4. Even with that game, Cutler has 12 touchdowns and is completing nearly 65 percent of his passes.
Cutler has been efficient for the most part and has been able to engineer an offense ranked second in the league in points. Josh McCown did a very good job in relief of Cutler in the loss against Washington.
Last season was a nightmare for Matt Forte. He was seemingly lost in an offense that didn't know what to do with him. This year, he has re-emerged as the focal point of the offense and is well on his way to eclipsing last year's performance.
Forte already has six rushing touchdowns this year compared to his five last season. He has caught 35 passes this year and only had 44 receptions last season.
There's no doubt Forte has been more productive, but he's yet to put a complete game together. His high production outputs seem to come in spurts.
Despite having 35 catches already, he's averaging his lowest yards per reception at 7.5. His backup Michael Bush has been virtually non-existent due mostly to a lack of carries.
The Bears had a huge void at tight end, and Martellus Bennett has come in and done an admirable job.
Bennett already has 32 receptions and four touchdowns. Compare that to last season's starter, Kellen Davis, who had only 19 catches for two touchdowns all year.
There's no denying the Bears are better at the position with Bennett, but he's also the only option at tight end. Steve Maneri and Dante Rosario have been non-factors in the passing game.
The Bears are getting what they expected out of Brandon Marshall. He's a No. 1 receiver who will always have high-volume numbers. It's the emergence of Alshon Jeffery that excites the team and the fanbase.
Jeffery has 33 receptions already to go along with two touchdowns. He more than stepped into the role of the complementary guy opposite Marshall and has even been the go-to guy at times, due to the coverage on Marshall.
Earl Bennett has been hit or miss, and Marquess Wilson has only one catch. The Bears are still not that deep at receiver, but the two at the top are very good.
In the past, the offensive line was the pinata used to be beaten by every frustrated fan. The line was the weak link of the team, but much has changed since as early as last season.
Roberto Garza is the only returning starter on a unit that has improved more than any on the roster. Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson have done an above-average job on the left side in the passing game.
The talk of the unit comes in the form of rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills. Long has brought a mean streak the line so desperately needed, while Mills has quietly put together the best season out of all five players.
The defensive line is by far the most disappointing position on the team. Injuries and a lack of production have hampered the unit since the first game of the year.
Losing Henry Melton and Nate Collins has been tough. They were the team's two best run-stoppers, and the Bears have been gashed on the ground since their departure.
Has anybody seen Julius Peppers this season? The Pro Bowl veteran has only one sack this year, while last year's first-round pick Shea McClellin has only half a sack.
The only bright spot comes from Corey Wootton. He has only one sack as well but has put consistent pressure on the quarterback and has shown the ability to play inside due to the team's injuries.
Lance Briggs was on his way to having another solid year before he got hurt, but he still had his flaws. He has struggled to get the defense on the same page in the departure of Brian Urlacher.
Too many times this season, the Bears have not been able to get lined up correctly, and it has cost them on third down. Whether it's because Briggs is not in the middle or the fact that he's just not as good a recognition player as Urlacher, Briggs' signal-calling has hurt the team.
D.J. Williams and James Anderson have been fill-in players for the most part. Nothing flashy and no big plays from either guy. The Bears' linebackers used to be a unit prided on forcing big plays.
To the linebackers' defense, they have gotten little to no help from their friends up front. Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene might be able to inject some much-needed youth and excitement into this defense.
The only part of this defense that looks somewhat like old defense is the cornerback position. Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings have both had their struggles, but the two have still combined for six interceptions.
Tillman's various injuries have been more of a concern than any of the corners' play. Isaiah Frey has been solid in the nickel, and the overall lack of pass rush has put more than necessary pressure on all three guys.
There have been some big plays given up in the secondary, but that falls more on the next unit.
Whether they have been in Cover 2, Cover 3, man to man or providing support against the run, the Bears' safeties have been bad.
Last year, Chris Conte and Major Wright were the epitome of consistency. This year, they have been bad in every game this season.
Support up top against A.J. Green in Week 1? Bad. Kyle Rudolph down the middle in Week 2? Bad. Antonio Brown and Reggie Bush in Week 3 and 4 were bad while Jimmy Graham, Pierre Thomas, Rueben Randle and Jordan Reed are names that should haunt the safeties in the rest of the weeks.
Not all blame for the defensive struggles should be placed at the feet of Conte and Wright. As mentioned before, there has been no pass rush, and the linebackers haven't gotten much penetration all year.
Conte and Wright are singled out for the big plays they have given up. This team could easily be 3-4 due to these plays. If they played better, the Bears could be 5-2 at the very least.
Devin Hester has finally found the end zone again, and Robbie Gould has been solid. The issues on special teams come from the kick and punt coverage.
Adam Podlesh seems to have fixed his early struggles, but the lack of discipline continues to be an issue on both coverage units.
The blame doesn't go to the players but rather the coaches. The Bears miss Dave Toub on special teams. Joe DeCamillis has not done a stellar job getting his players ready week after week.
Penalties, poor lane coverage and players running on and off the field late are all a reflection on the coaching staff.
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