Behind Enemy Lines: Part II

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

Nate Caminata: Even when given the chances, it seems that Cedric Benson (3.1 yards per carry) still has yet to produce. Given the upswing in production with the change at quarterback, is a change at running back looming in Chicago? And if so, what does the other Adrian Peterson provide that Benson does not?

John Crist: Much like the Bears organization was reluctant to make a change at quarterback last season considering it was Rex Grossman's first chance as a full-time starter, I believe Benson will be given every opportunity to emerge as a difference-maker this season despite myriad stumbles along the way already. GM Jerry Angelo invested a first-round draft pick and a lot of money in Benson just two years ago, so it's time to see if that decision will pan out and whether or not Benson is the future of the Chicago ground game. Peterson is simply too valuable on special teams, so starting him ahead of Benson would weaken the coverage units since nobody can handle both of those jobs at once.

That being said, Peterson is more elusive in the open field and catches the ball out of the backfield noticeably better, so look for him to get his share of action Sunday no matter how well Benson performs.

NC: Brian Griese seems to be shaking off the rust at quarterback. What is the difference between Week 4 Griese and Week 7 Griese, and what has his production meant to the Chicago locker room?


QB Brian Griese
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

JC: Remember that Griese went nearly two full seasons between starts, so it was only natural that he would be a little rusty and needed some time to develop that rapport with his receiving corps. Nobody in their right mind could have expected Grossman to engineer that 97-yard game-winning touchdown drive in Philadelphia last Sunday, which means Griese's Q-rating in the locker room just received an immeasurable uptick. Most importantly, Griese is much more accurate with the football than Grossman ever was and has therefore brought a run-after-the-catch element to the passing game that was seemingly non-existent before.

Not only has Griese secured the starting job for the rest of the season barring injury or an inexplicable collapse in production, but it appears that the front office is growing more comfortable with the idea of opening 2008 with the 10-year veteran under center.

NC: Chicago's defense has obviously improved with the return of its starters. Is it too early to proclaim that the Midway Monsters are finally back, especially given the fact that they are near the bottom of the league in nearly every statistical category, or has this team finally stabilized itself enough to make a run behind its defense?

JC: It's still too early to believe that this Bears defense is anywhere near as good as it could be until CB Nathan Vasher returns, but that probably won't happen before the team's bye in Week 9. DT Darwin Walker has missed each of the last two games with a bum knee, meaning Anthony Adams – not even active in Week 1 because of all the depth in front of him – has started alongside Pro Bowler Tommie Harris and Antonio Garay – on the practice squad coming out of the preseason – is getting significant snaps. This unit ranks somewhere in the 20s in rushing defense, passing defense, and total defense, although Donovan McNabb and Co. were completely shut down in the red zone last week and forced to kick field goals most of the day.

Vasher in street clothes means seventh-round rookie Trumaine McBride will start opposite Charles Tillman at corner, further cementing the notion that the team does not trust Ricky Manning Jr. in coverage on the outside and will do anything possible to employ him solely in the nickel package.

NC: Devin Hester had three receptions (13.7 yards per catch) against Philly. Can we continue to see Hester's presence in Chicago's offense? How involved will he become, and what element does he provide that the Bears were missing previously?


WR Devin Hester
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

JC: Hester had pretty much zero impact at receiver the first few weeks of the season, mainly because offensive coordinator Ron Turner only had him on the field for gadget plays like fake reverses and bubble screens. The former cornerback has begun to learn more of the playbook and seems to be a higher priority in the passing game right now than both Rashied Davis and Mark Bradley, but there are sure to be some growing pains along the way – the team was forced to burn a timeout in Week 7 because he didn't know where to line up coming out of the huddle. However, the fact that he was on the field for that much-ballyhooed two-minute drill against the Eagles and actually made two catches on the drive proves that the coaching staff is gradually trusting him with more responsibility.

The Bears have lacked the threat of the big play offensively for quite some time, but Hester's natural ability in the open field gives them that opportunity both as a target and a decoy.

NC: After such a dramatic victory over the Eagles (see: Griese's 97-yard drive), is there a chance for a hangover as the Bears return home?

JC: The defending NFC champions stunk up the joint in Week 6 against an inferior Vikings team at home right after upsetting a superior Packers team in Week 5 on the road, so the precedent for a follow-up letdown is certainly there.

Be on the lookout for Part III of Behind Enemy Lines on Friday. To go back and read Part I, where Nate answers five questions from John, Click Here.

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com. Nate Caminata is the Publisher of RoarReport.com.


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