December 09, 2022

Bears Analysis

Here’s 3 adjustments Matt Eberflus, Chicago Bears can make over 11-day break

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus reacts during the first half against the Washington Commanders, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, in Chicago.

The Bears have 11 days between games after Thursday’s loss to the Washington. They will next face New England on “Monday Night Football” on Oct. 24. Head coach Matt Eberflus plans to take these 11 days to re-evaluate everything about his team.

The Bears are 2-4 and look like they could be battling with the 1-4 Detroit Lions for the bottom of the NFC North division this season. General manager Ryan Poles has to be thinking long term when he looks at his roster. His concern shouldn’t be about wins and losses in 2022.

That being said, it’s Eberflus’ job to draw the most out of his roster, no matter who is on it. Here are some suggestions for how he can improve the results on the field in 2022.

These suggestions are looking at the roster as it’s currently constructed. Poles absolutely should explore the trade market. He should be looking for a receiver who can make life easier on Justin Fields, and he should be looking to unload pass rusher Robert Quinn to whichever team is willing to give up a draft pick.

Other than bringing in new players, what can the Bears do to adjust? Here’s some ideas.

1. Make an effort to feed a No. 2 target

Chicago Bears tight end Cole Kmet tries to avoid a tackle by Seattle Seahawks linebacker Joel Dublanko during the first half Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, in Seattle.

There’s no easy solution for the Bears’ offense right now. The offensive line is inconsistent, the talent at wide receiver is lacking, and the quarterback isn’t trusting in either the line or his targets. Simply throwing the football more isn’t going to solve the underlying problems. Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy are going to continue to lean on the rushing attack. That’s fine. They’re competitive when the run game is rolling.

Darnell Mooney clearly is the best thing they have going at receiver. Nobody outside of Mooney has more than 10 catches on the season. No passing attack is going to be dynamic with only one reliable pass catcher. The Bears should make an effort to force feed a second option. Ideally, that would be tight end Cole Kmet, but it also doesn’t have to be.

Kmet caught 60 passes for 612 yards a year ago. This season, he’s on pace for about 30 catches. He has been targeted 15 times in six games. That’s 2.5 targets per game. It shouldn’t be this hard to give the lead tight end four or five targets per game.

Maybe receiver N’Keal Harry also could become that reliable No. 2 once he gets back on the field. He’s nearing a return from an ankle injury. But it’s hard to see a receiver who has missed two months developing an immediate chemistry with the QB. For Kmet, chemistry isn’t the issue. It’s time to throw him the football.

2. Keep blitzing

Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams talks to a player during their game against the Houston Texans Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Defensive coordinator Alan Williams’ unit is not creating pressure with four pass rushers. The most success they’ve had on third downs has been when they went blitz heavy against Washington and Houston. That’s partly why the Bears should explore trading Quinn. If he’s not creating pressure, what’s the point of keeping him on the roster?

It’s clear that edge rusher is a position the Bears need to invest in over the offseason. Eberflus’ ideal defense creates pressure with four pass rushers. The 2022 version is not doing that.

If blitzing more frequently gets the job done better than the original plan, the Bears should stick with it. Williams brought the blitz a lot against Washington – and it worked. It doesn’t have to be every third down. But the Bears can’t afford to be last in blitz rate, as they were before Week 6.

3. Consider a change on the offensive line

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1), center Sam Mustipher (67) and offensive tackle Teven Jenkins (76) walk off the field near the end of the second quarter of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Some fans might put this higher on the list.

Let me preface this by saying that we don’t know the extent of left guard Cody Whitehair’s knee injury or when he will return, other than that he’s expected back sometime this season.

By going on injured reserve, Whitehair must miss four games,and he is two games into that window. If he can return after only four weeks, there’s no reason to panic. Weather the storm for two more weeks, then put Whitehair back at left guard and move Lucas Patrick to center, shifting Sam Mustipher to a backup role. We’ve never gotten a look at Patrick at center because, first, he injured his thumb in July and, now, Whitehair is out.

The biggest problem with the O-line as it’s currently operating is that Patrick and Mustipher are struggling in pass blocking. When they’re lined up next to each other at left guard and center, respectively, it creates issues on the interior. If Whitehair is going to be out for longer – let’s say he misses two months and returns sometime in early December – then the Bears need to look at adjusting the interior.

Recently acquired lineman Alex Leatherwood is likely to return to the active roster soon. The former first-round pick has a high ceiling. At this point, the Bears have nothing to lose by playing him. The question becomes where does he play? He has the potential to be a solid right tackle, and that’s where he was practicing before he got sick and missed a month.

The Bears could try Leatherwood at tackle and bump Larry Borom to left guard. Or they could give Leatherwood a look at left guard. Leatherwood never started at left guard in college, and Borom did for only part of one season. Doing either would mean shifting Patrick to center and Mustipher to the bench.

Eberflus has been hesitant to mess with continuity on the O-line, but the status quo isn’t getting it done.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.