Behind Enemy Lines: Part I

Our experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Nate Caminata of Roar Report, break down Sunday's game between the Bears and Lions at Ford Field in Detroit. Let's begin this three-part series with five questions from Nate to John.

Nate Caminata: Most Lions fans were anxiously awaiting the opportunity to play Rex Grossman, but it seems now that Brian Griese will get the starting nod. How will Griese change the complexion of the Chicago offense? What challenges will he present to Detroit's defense?

John Crist:
We'll find out for sure Wednesday at Halas Hall if head coach Lovie Smith does finally make the switch from Grossman to Griese under center, but all indications point to that indeed happening. Grossman has been incredibly frustrating for Bears fans because he's capable of so much and really makes some incredible throws from time to time, but his decision-making seems to be getting worse instead of better, defenses are exploiting his lack of mobility with heavy pressure from all angles, and the beating he's taken in both the local and national press has to keep him awake at night no matter how much he claims otherwise. Griese has still never started a playoff game and been released by three franchises during his 10-year career, but he owns a lifetime passer rating of 84.5 – Grossman's is 69.3 – and has completed passes at a 63% clip along the way.

Griese does not have an especially strong arm and is just as much of a statue in the pocket as Grossman, but he's quicker with his decisions, takes better care of the football, and, most importantly in the eyes of Bears fans, he's not Rex Grossman.

NC: Cedric Benson is among the lowest-producing running backs in the league. What explains both Benson's and Chicago's – a team ranked 26th in rushing – inability to establish a running game, and at what point will Benson draw the fabled comparisons to Rashaan Salaam, Curtis Enis and others before him?

RB Cedric Benson
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
You can't hide the fact that Benson has not performed very well this season, and losing three fumbles in his last four games – including Super Bowl XLI – is nothing short of inexcusable for a starting tailback in the NFL. GM Jerry Angelo traded away the battle-tested and wildly-popular Thomas Jones for nothing more than a flip-flop of second-round draft picks in order to clear the way for Benson, yet he continues to battle a reputation for being soft and is painfully aloof from time to time. I for one believed that he was a star in the making and destined for a season of 1,200-1,300 yards and 10-12 touchdowns, but there's no question he's a lot more Salaam and Enis than Payton and Sayers at this point in his career as a Midway Monster.

To be fair, the passing game has been grossly inconsistent and the offensive line went from "experienced" to "old" seemingly overnight, but Benson better start producing in a hurry or risk a running-back-by-committee demotion with backup Adrian Peterson and rookie Garrett Wolfe.

NC: Rookie tight end Greg Olsen had a few nice grabs during his rookie opener against Dallas. Given the team already had Desmond Clark, what added dimension does Olsen give Chicago's struggling offense?

If there was a silver lining to that abysmal offensive performance against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, it was the debut of Olsen and the options he gives this passing game alongside Clark. The two of them combined for four catches and 86 yards, including back-to-back completions of 52 yards to Clark and 21 yards to Olsen during the team's lone touchdown drive of the ballgame midway through the third quarter. Olsen has the ability to line up at tight end, H-back, fullback, and receiver, providing a ton of matchup problems for both linebackers and safeties while potentially creating more one-on-one coverage for the likes of Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad on the outside.

I hypothesized that a good chunk of offensive coordinator Ron Turner's playbook went out the window with Olsen missing in action due to injury the first two weeks, but he still wasn't on the field enough against Dallas and needs to become a bigger part of the game plan right away.

NC: The Bears are entering the game with myriad injuries on defense, including Tommie Harris. How will those injuries affect what Chicago would like to do defensively, especially with regard to pass defense?

DT Tommie Harris
Nam Y. Huh/AP Images
As the Bears found out last season, Harris is arguably the best in the business at his position and simply impossible to replace. Newly-acquired Darwin Walker has done the job at nose tackle in place of the injured Dusty Dvoracek, but now he will take over at the three-technique spot while Harris recovers from the sprained knee he suffered in Week 3 against Dallas. Second-year pro Jamar Williams might have to step in for Lance Briggs at weak side linebacker after the two-time Pro Bowler suffered a groin injury, but the biggest loss could be CB Nathan Vasher – he also hurt his groin and could be out of action for a while.

Ricky Manning Jr. has played well as a Bear in the nickel package but struggled immensely when needed to start, and now untested rookies like S Kevin Payne and CB Trumaine McBride will be asked to play big roles on defense much earlier than anticipated.

NC: What is the thought of a fellow division publisher on the Detroit Lions? Is it a wait-and-see approach, or given the Lions' offensive outburst, are outsiders taking this team seriously?

When asked what I thought about the rest of the NFC North before the start of the season, I was a backer of the Packers most of all because I was sure the Vikings didn't have enough offense and couldn't believe the Lions had enough defense. Jon Kitna and Co. have proven that they can sling the ball all over the yard as well as any team in the league, but the pass defense – 25th in the NFL last year and currently 31st this year – continues to be a weakness and could ultimately be this team's Achilles' heel. I think the division is much tougher and the conference as a whole looks to have made improvements from top to bottom, but Rod Marinelli's defensive reputation is yet to be justified in the Motor City and forces me to take the aforementioned wait-and-see approach with the Lions.

The Bears certainly aren't going to breeze through the NFC North the way they did in 2006 and have already dug themselves quite a hole, but none of these four clubs appear to be a Super Bowl contender just yet.

To read Part II of Behind Enemy Lines, where Nate answers five questions from John, Click Here.

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of Nate Caminata is the Publisher of

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