10 Things Chicago Bears Must Fix During Their Bye

Bob BajekAnalyst IIINovember 1, 2011

10 Things Chicago Bears Must Fix During Their Bye

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    Lovie Smith and his Chicago Bears are 4-3 after a two-game winning streak. As they approach their NFL bye week, the Bears really need to improve ten aspects of their game.

    These deficiencies could hold Chicago back in their run for an NFC playoff spot.

    If these 10 aspects are addressed during the bye, expect the Bears to win more than 10 games.

    If not, the Bears might struggle to reach .500.

No. 1: 3rd Down Conversions

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    The Chicago Bears offense is based around a strong running attack to milk the clock while utilizing play action passing at key moments.

    For the Bears to be successful, they need to improve their third down conversion rate.

    Right now, Chicago is ranked 28th in the NFL on third down conversions. The team is 26-of-87 in converting third downs, or 29.9 percent.

    The Bears need to convert more third downs so the offense could use up more time and give the defense some much-needed rest.

No. 2: Cutting Back Dropped Passes

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    The Chicago Bears receivers drop a whole bunch of passes.

    For example, wide receivers Dane Sanzenbacher (5), Devin Hester (4), Roy Williams (2) and tight end Kellen Davis (2) have dropped well thrown passes.

    Johnny Knox has been better this year, but he can also can be prone to drops. He had six last year.

    For Chicago's passing offense to be effective, the receivers and tight ends need to consistently catch quarterback Jay Cutler's throws.

No. 3: Better O-Line Blocking

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    The offensive line has done a better job of late, but the unit still struggles.

    In the first seven games, quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked 21 times and hit numerous others. One vicious hit was against the New Orleans Saints, when Cutler was clothes-lined in the throat by a Saints' linebacker.

    Besides sacks and quarterback hits, the line has struggled until recently in opening good running lanes for Matt Forte.

    Offensive line coach Mike Tice could work on utilizing the tackles to block outside linebackers on line shifts and maybe try using two tight ends behind the guards on short yardage situations.

    Another helpful hint is to never let inept guard/tackle Frank Omiyale play again by cutting him. Cutler would applaud that roster move.

No. 4: Better Use of Timeouts

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    This improvement goes out to Lovie Smith and his coaching staff.

    Many times this year, the Chicago Bears have called a timeout when they didn't need to. Sometimes they do not have the correct personnel on the field.

    Sometimes they are not in the right defensive or offensive personnel.

    And other times, quarterback Jay Cutler does not get the play call from offensive coordinator Mike Martz on time.

    Against the Detroit Lions on Oct. 10, Chicago burned two timeouts in a first-quarter drive and eventually lost the third on a bad challenge.

    Those timeouts would be better utilized for last minute drives or key third and fourth down situations.

No. 5: Playing to Jay Cutler's Strengths

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    Quarterback Jay Cutler has been blessed with great athletic abilities. The Bears, however, tend to shy away from using his speed and evasiveness.

    When Cutler was in Denver, the Broncos had him rolling out and using bootlegs.

    Against Tampa Bay, No. 6 had some nice throws on the run. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz needs to draw up some plays that complement Cutler's athletic abilities, thus making him more effective on the field.

No. 6: Reducing Penalties

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    The Chicago Bears are a highly penalized team.

    Chicago's offense is Top Five in total penalties in the NFL and Top 10 in total penalty yards.They have 53 penalties for 391 yards.

    In the Monday Night game against the Detroit Lions, the Bears had 14 penalties for 104 yards that killed drives while extending Detroit's offensive opportunities. The offensive line is prone to foul starts and holding penalties, which stifles good drives.

    More fundamental play should be emphasized, which will reduce dumb mistakes.

No. 7: Saftey Play Needs To Be Improved

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    For some reason, the Chicago Bears have had safety issues during Lovie Smith's entire coaching tenure.

    Chicago is ranked 27th in pass defense (272 yards a game), and a bulk of that blame can go to the safeties. Against both New Orleans and Detroit, the safeties allowed touchdowns over 70 yards.

    In those plays, the safeties blew their zones and coverage assignments. Now, the Bears cut second-team All Pro Chris Harris, mostly due to his declining production and a nagging hamstring. 

    Brandon Meriweather has been underwhelming as well and not playing disciplined in his zones. 

    The Bears are using second-year player Major Wright and rookie Chris Conte now, and there will be growing pains. However, they have played well the last two games.

    Defensive coordinator Ron Marinelli needs to make sure both Wright and Conte will play in their Cover 2 and Cover 3 zones properly so opposing quarterbacks don't carve out big plays.

No. 8: No Huddle Offense

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    The Bears have not had much time to work on their no-huddle. They rely mostly on planned play calls to use up most of the play clock.

    Certain situations could call for a change of pace, and going no-huddle would help.

    The no-huddle would up the tempo and throw defenses off guard. Chicago could utilize this, especially if they have a lead and want to kill their opponents' fight.

No. 9: More 4-Receiver Sets

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    Mike Martz has the Bears using many two-and three-receiver sets because he has tight ends reinforcing the offensive line.

    These formations occur because Chicago does not have good depth at receiver positions.

    However, the Bears will have more flexibility with Earl Bennett's return against the Philadelphia Eagles. With Bennett, Chicago should start using more four-receiver sets.

    Bennett, Roy Williams and Dane Sanzenbacher could line up in the slot while Devin Hester and Johnny Knox will be split out at the flanks.

    Quarterback Jay Cutler has a good rapport with Bennett, Williams and Sanzenbacher, so this would be a viable strategy to use more often.

No. 10: D-Line Needs To Create Pressure More Consistently

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    The defensive line has not consistently pulled its weight this year.

    So far, the unit has 14 sacks in seven games, but 10 of them came against the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings.

    Julius Peppers has  a couple stellar performances, but his production is down from last season.

    Henry Melton and Anthony Adams are not creating consistent pressure, while Israel Idonije has almost disappeared after having eight sacks in 2010.

    Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli should have linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher blitz more. He also could use some more stunting plays to make use of Peppers' athleticism.

    More consistent pressure would result in more poor throws and increase the chance for turnovers.

     

    Bob Bajek is a writing intern at Bleacher Report. He is also a freelance reporter and can be followed at Patch.com and Twitter.