The Chicago Bears head into the bye week at 2-4, which is the record most assumed they'd have entering thier week off. Yet the disappointing overtime loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday has left a bad taste in everyone's mouth.
The Bears have been banged up through the first six games, so the bye couldn't have come at a better time, giving the team an opportunity to heal up, both mentally and physically.
“[We want to do] a bunch of different things but I think it’s getting guys healthy, getting them rested," head coach John Fox said this week. "It comes at a time when we could use the rest to get some guys healed up. We’ll self-scout some things; we’re working on that as we speak. Some things we want to present to the players and what we want to do to improve it, in all three phases.”
Following the 37-34 loss in Detroit, let's take a look at the Bears players whose stocks have risen, and those who are trending downard.
Amos has started all six games this season and he's been solid as a rock. He's a willing, aggressive tackler who will lower the boom when given the opportunity. He had an ugly missed tackle in Week 2 against the Cardinals, which led to a David Johnson touchdown, but since then he's been the picture of consistency in run support. In addition, Amos hasn't given up any big plays down the field and has not allowed a touchdown all season. He's consistent and smart, which is exactly what the Bears need in a young safety, the position widely considered the quarterback of the defense.
Cutler has led the Bears on scoring drives in the final minute of the last three contests. He's been inconsistent at times but when the games are on the line, he's produced in a big way. Yet Cutler has been dealing with a hamstring injury and he's had to weather the loss of key players like Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal and Jermon Bushrod, not to mention first rounder Kevin White. This is a good sign going forward. If the big-name players get healthy over the next two weeks, this offense could come out of the bye week guns blazing, which would lead to big things for Cutler in the second half of the season.
Jeffery returned last week after missing the previous four contests. It didn't take him long to resume his role as Cutler's top down-field target, as he finished with 8 catches for 147 yards and 1 TD. The two-time Pro Bowler's presence opened up the offense and spread out the defense, while giving Cutler a reliable outlet target in the face of the rush. If he can stay healthy going forward, expect Jeffery to lift Chicago's passing attack to the next level.
I'll admit, I was one of the many who predicted bad things for Grasu following the season-ending leg injury to Will Montgomery. Yet Grasu has been a very pleasant surprise. He has displayed very good leverage at the point of attack, and has used angle blocks to his advantage. He's also done well in making the line calls and has been outstanding in space. After giving up a sack in his first start two weeks ago, Grasu allowed just 1 QB hurry and no sacks against a formidable Lions defensive line. The third-round rookie may just be a keeper after all.
Goldman has quietly been Chicago's best interior defensive lineman. He shared a sack with Jarvis Jenkins against the Lions and now has 1.5 sacks and a tackle for a loss this year. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Goldman is second on the team in QB hurries (7). So not only has the second-round rookie been stout as a two-gap run-stuffing nose tackle, he's also been able to push the pocket in the face of opposing quarterbacks. Just six games into his NFL career, it appears the sky is the limit for Goldman.
Fuller was showing progress the two weeks leading up to the Lions game but he regressed in a bad way in Detroit. Matthew Stafford was 8 for 8 when throwing at Fuller, who gave up two touchdowns and is tied for fourth in the NFL in touchdowns allowed (4) among cornerbacks, per PFF. Fuller lacks anticipation, awareness, consistency and discipline, and has already been benched once this year. The former first-round pick is surely on a short leash and must flip the switch if he wants to still be in Chicago next season.
McManis is an experiment at nickelback gone wrong. Against the Lions, he allowed Lance Moore - a 32-year-old journeyman receiver four inches shorter than McManis - to catch five passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. McManis is tied with Fuller for the fourth most cornerback TDs allowed (4). McManis has played the boundary corner position his entire career, where his 6-1 frame and long arms are best suited. He's shown the past six games he doesn't have the requisite quickness or experience to line up in the slot.
Ducasse has been called for seven penalties this year, which is second most among NFL offensive linemen. In addition, he struggled mightily as a run blocker against the Lions. Patrick Omameh is recovering from an ankle injury and practiced last week. The next two weeks should allow him to heal completely and then push Ducasse for the starting right guard spot.
No tight end in the NFL has been targeted more than Bennett (54 targets). As a result, he leads all tight ends with 34 catches but he's not doing much with with them. He's averaging just 8.6 yards per catch and there are seven tight ends in the league with more receiving yards than Bennett. In addition, three of Cutler's four interceptions this year have come on passes intended for Bennett. He's a key cog to this offense and needs to produce at much higher level, especially given the sheer volume of opportunities he's been given.
Ratliff returned to action last week but couldn't finish the game after suffering a neck injury. The past two-plus seasons, Ratliff has played in just 18 of a possible 38 contests. He can still play but at 34-years-old, it's clear he's a fragile veteran who shouldn't be relied upon for more than a handful of games this year.