Five weeks into the season, the Chicago Bears have found a way to disappoint fans on a national showing twice already and trail by three games in the NFC North.
One could assume this isn’t exactly the start a team who hosted the NFC Championship Game last season needed to get off to.
The Bears (2-3) are looking way up at the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers (5-0) and surprising kings of the comeback Detroit Lions (5-0). What a predicament to be in already. Keep in mind both the Packers and Lions have head-to-head wins already versus the Bears.
Chicago has no one to blame but itself for the lack of execution on the field. Aside from a Week 1 domination of the Atlanta Falcons, the Bears have failed to play solid, consistent football. Penalties, turnovers and allowing big plays defensively have caused a large hole in the Bears’ ship that is filling the boat faster than Chicago can bail it out.
If things are going to get righted in this second quarter of the season and beyond, certain players and coaches need to step up their play. Football is a game of adjustments, and the Bears are getting awfully close to having their backs up against a wall.
Here are the top 10 Bears personnel who have to take it to the next level:
Five weeks into the season and the thought of trading Lance Briggs in the offseason doesn’t seem like such a bad idea in hindsight.
Briggs has failed to make a noticeable impact on the defense so far. He has been in on a fair amount of tackles (45) but has no sacks, no interceptions and just one forced fumble.
The Bears running defense has been a serious letdown. Briggs is going to have to improve his blitzing success rate if he is going to be anything more than a decent tackler at the linebacker position.
The mastermind behind the Chicago Bears way of operation—head coach Lovie Smith.
Smith has shown before that with suspect rosters he can still achieve results. This season will have to be no different if he wants to stay off the coaching hot seat for another campaign.
A lot of the blame for the offense being too one-dimensional, the defense giving up large chunks of yards at a time and the clock management falls on Smith’s shoulders. If he wants to clear his name, these areas have to start improving, and that’s on him to correct.
Yes Devin Hester can return punts and kickoffs for touchdowns, but even a broken clock is right twice a day, right?
Hester is capable of causing just as many headaches for his own team as he does for the opposition. Monday night’s performance at Detroit was evidence. Hester dropped a very catchable ball inside the Lions 5-yard line, ran a wide receiver screen backwards on the first drive of the second half for an 8-yard loss and most frustratingly returned a kickoff that was bound for the sideline to Chicago’s own 6-yard line.
The “Devin Hester Wide Receiver” experiment is over. The Bears need to know when to cut their losses and just use him as what he is—a great returner.
How the mighty Julius Peppers has fallen. What appeared to be a Defensive MVP-caliber 2010 season has been followed up by a lackluster 2011 showing thus far.
Peppers has struggled to get into the backfield to cause mayhem. This may not be very surprising though because offenses can easily double-team him and take him out of the equation. But when that happens, other players can step up and make the impact Peppers couldn’t. That’s not happening through five games.
A constant force at right defensive end is the key to any successful defensive line. Peppers needs to find a way to get more sacks and hurry opposing QBs before they can find ways of torching the secondary downfield.
In all fairness to J’Marcus Webb, what can be expected from a seventh-round left tackle from West Texas A&M of the powerful Lone Star Conference?
Webb has been getting beaten off the snap by almost every defense end he’s lined up against. Along with a plethora of flags, Webb also has allowed multiple free rushers at Jay Cutler in the pocket.
Securing Cutler’s blind side is of the utmost importance if the Bears want to see the Cutler investment even have a chance to pay off dividends. The left tackle play has to improve. Simple as that.
There’s a reason a coach like Bill Belichick would release a fifth-year safety who’s made it to two Pro Bowls and caused chaos in the Patriots secondary. These kinds of players don’t just walk for no reason.
The Bears saw a chance on Meriweather, took it and are now suffering from the risk.
Meriweather is an absolute wild force that plays overly-aggressive and dangerously. Meriweather is a bigger threat to be out of position defensively or lay a hit with his dome than he is to play in a Cover 2 defense.
Meriweather needs to get his head out of his ass and stop trying to deliver Madden-style blows every chance he gets. This is the NFL, not a video game. Play like it.
The dear boy himself, Mike Martz, has been at the center of Bears fans’ crosshairs since Week 1 of last season.
His previous track record of faults included calling a significant higher number of passing plays and abandoning the run. Other charges include unnecessary screening and poor blocking downfield.
This year Martz has added a new problem to the mix, just to keep things “fresh.” Since he is responsible for all the play calls, he has the mindset of calling the perfect play and sticking to it no matter what.
This means Cutler has a very little amount of time on the play clock to assemble the formation and isn’t allowed to audible. These issues have caused the Bears to kill unnecessary timeouts on drives which ends up costing the team in the clock management department.
Could this be the last straw for Martz in Chicago? Has he demonstrated he is incapable of manufacturing an offense compatible with Cutler?
Similar to the criticism on the Bears left tackle J’Marcus Webb, the expectations for reserve right tackle Frank Omiyale are very low.
But since rookie first-round draft pick Gabe Carimi went down in Week 2 with a leg injury, Omiyale has stunk up the Bears offensive line.
Omiyale, or “False Start Frank” as some in the city call him now, drew a handful of yellow handkerchiefs in the last two weeks against Carolina and Detroit. He is more trouble than he’s worth and a source close to the team says he could be bound for the street very soon.
The bar is six inches off the ground for Omiyale. Yet however, he has still found a way to trip up over it and fall flat on his face.
It may come across as a surprise but, yes, Anthony Adams is still a member of the team.
The numbers wouldn’t shock anybody either. How do eight tackles, no sacks and no fumbles sound for a starting defensive tackle who’s started the first five games on the season?
Bears General Manager Jerry Angelo, a former defensive tackle himself, confessed this position would be the team’s biggest hole to fill this previous offseason. What does the team do? Stick with Adams and Henry Melton. Both have been absolute busts.
It won’t be long before the cries for Amobi Okoye, Matt Toeaina and Stephen Paea come howling down Lake Shore Drive to get snaps on the defensive line.
Whatever combination the Bears decide to throw out there on gameday, it has to be better than what they have right now. Teams that can’t force pressure defensively seldom win, especially titles.
Raise your hand if this one comes across as a shocker.
The acquisition of former Lions and Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams has proven to be an nightmare.
The talk coming into 2011 from the Bears brass was that Williams would reconnect with his former offensive coordinator Mike Martz, get plugged right in as the team’s starting X receiver and transform into the tall, physical wideout Chicago desperately needed. That never happened.
After dropping the ball—literally and figuratively—in the first week of the season, Williams was in hot water with his starting role on offense. He has since stripped of such a role to make room for Johnny Knox who led the team with 51 balls and nearly 1,000 receiving yards last season.
The idea that Williams could generate a deep threat and somehow still haul in 70 catches for 1,000 yards and eight-ish touchdowns this season is absurd. Williams can’t possibly live up anything close to those expectations, even if he was a starter.
It’s hard to catch touchdowns and first downs when most of the balls thrown your directions ricochet off your hands and land on the turf below.
Former Bears wide receiver Mushin Muhammad left the one-liner “Chicago is where wide receivers come to die” echoing down the halls of Halas Hall on his way out. Apparently Williams heard the cry and decided this would be the appropriate road to the unemployment line.
It’s hard to believe he hasn’t cashed it in professionally yet.
Brett Lyons is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials.
Follow Brett Lyons on Twitter @BrettLyons670.