Coming out of their bye week, the Chicago Bears are hoping to pick up where they left off before the late-game meltdown in Week 6 against the Detroit Lions.
Before the loss in Detroit, the Bears were on a two-game win streak and we were seeing a surprising amount of development from multiple positions on the defensive side of the ball.
The roster was shaken up last week following the release of defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff after multiple altercations at the team’s facility. General manager Ryan Pace wasted no time signing former first rounder Ziggy Hood, who happens to be coming off a similar situation to that of Ratliff before he signed with the Bears midway through the season in 2013. Second-year defensive lineman Will Sutton has been named the starter in place of Ratliff but will surely split time with Mitch Unrein and Hood as the season progresses.
The Bears are home this week, following a two-game road trip, to host the 4-2 Minnesota Vikings, who are currently streaking after a disastrous Week 1 effort. For the seventh straight week, the Monsters of the Midway will open up as underdogs.
How Close is Kevin White to Returning?
Just one game after getting star wideout Alshon Jeffery back, the attention turns to the status of the first-round rookie Kevin White. The seventh overall pick has been sidelined since OTAs with what turned out to be a shin fracture and is permitted to return to practice this week per the PUP rules.
After doing some light running at practice a few weeks ago, is White ready to take the next step?
The fact he is out running on a grass surface is a good sign but still may not provide any clues as to his status for the remainder of the 2015 season.
At a charity event this week, White said he’s “not closing the door” on coming back this year but admits he’s “a long way off”.
What exactly does that mean? The same thing it’s meant all season: There’s a chance he may come back but it won’t be easy and, most of all, the team will not rush their first-round pick.
Sources close to the team say the Bears are still "optimistic" White will make it back on the field after Week 10 but also cautioned that the organization views him as their “crown jewel” and will not rush him back this year, regardless of the season’s outlook.
As of right now, this is a fluid, week-to-week situation. Barring any setbacks, there’s reasons for optimism about White seeing game time this year.
Will there be any Depth Chart Changes in Week 8?
As per the team’s updated unofficial depth chart released on Tuesday, Will Sutton as a first-team defensive end looks to be the only change, on paper.
It doesn’t take a brilliant NFL mind to see that the Bears need to make changes, especially at the cornerback position.
Antrell Rolle is expected back at safety, which should help stabilize a weak secondary but Tracy Porter looks like the only NFL-caliber starting corner.
Kyle Fuller struggled again in Detroit after going un-noticed the two weeks prior. Sherrick McManis looks to be nothing more than a nice special teams contributor and Alan Ball appears to have landed in the coach’s doghouse.
Terrance Mitchell has battled injuries, but may have the highest intrigue-factor after showing impressive coverage skills in the preseason.
What exactly can Vic Fangio do with this troubled unit?
As stated above, Porter looks like the only starter worthy of keeping his job. He lacks ideal size but has done an impressive job with little help.
One has to wonder if Fuller would benefit from a move inside to the nickel. He shows strong run support, good overall tackling, and this move would limit his coverage assignments downfield, which could help him build confidence and work on his ability to play the ball instead of the receiver’s eyes.
McManis looks better suited in dime situations, while his primary value is on special teams. Don't be surprised if Bryce Callahan gets a look in the slot against Minnesota.
If Ball cannot find a way to get back in the coaches good graces, Mitchell may be a player to watch in the second half of the season.
One thing is for certain, the cornerback position is a liability and needs to addressed.
Are the Bears in "Fire Sale" Mode?
After an 0-3 start, Pace traded both linebackers Jonathan Bostic and Jared Allen for sixth round picks. Later, they released 2014 fourth round pick Brock Vereen and last week cut Jeremiah Ratliff.
The trade deadline is next Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 3 p.m. CT, and speculation is ramping up as to whether or not the Bears will be “sellers” at the deadline.
Names mentioned as possible trade options have been Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Jermon Bushrod.
Although the Bears are re-tooling, along with the fact Pace clearly wants “his guys”, it’s not realistic or productive to trade key pieces such as Jeffery and Bennett for mid-round picks.
If Pace doesn't see Forte or Bushrod as future pieces - which is very possible - those two could be moved for the right price.
It’s still unclear who exactly on the current roster is in Pace’s future plans but it’s hard to imagine that he would let young talent leave the building, while he's trying to bring in more young talent.
The value of players like Forte, Bennett and Jeffery may be similar in terms of production but the age factor could determine who stays and who goes, given the price is right.
Forte will be 30 in December and Bushrod is already 31, so when looking at likely trade candidates, they fit the bill much more than Jeffery at 26 or Bennett at 28.
Overall, the NFL trade deadline is nothing like the MLB’s, so the likelihood of any substantial moves happening are slim.
What to Watch this Week
- Who starts at right guard? Vladimir Ducasse has been the starter since Week 1 but the coaching staff could look to make a change if Patrick Omameh is healthy. It’s worth monitoring over the next few weeks.
- How does the defense plan to stop Adrian Peterson after giving up 155 rushing yards in Week 6 to the Lions? Peterson last week had 19 rushes for 98 yards but 75 of those yards came on a single run. Can Fangio’s unit find similar success? Having Rolle back will only help that.
- With Forte reportedly on the block, will Jeremy Langford continue to see more carries? Langford had 5 rushes for a measly 10 yards and had one catch for 17 yards on two targets in Week 6. Yes, Langford averaged two yards a carry but Forte didn't fare much better on 24 carries for a 2.9 yard average. If the Bears are thinking about dealing Forte, Langford could get an extended look in Week 8.