Mitch Trubisky and the Chicago Bears offense will catch a bit of a break on Sunday with the news that Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly has been ruled out for Week 7.
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets Kuechly, who has been dealing with head and neck issues while in concussion protocol, will miss Sunday’s game and Kelvin Benjamin – Cam Newton’s top receiving target – has been listed as questionable.
When healthy, Kuechly is an all-world inside linebacker who is the anchor of the Panthers defense. His ability to cover sideline-to-sideline, range in pass defense, and attack downhill to stop the run remind me of Brian Urlacher. So imagine being without peak Urlacher against a team that just rushed the ball more than 50 times a week ago. Now you know how the Panthers might feel.
The Bears have their own injury issues, as Markus Wheaton will miss Sunday’s game because of a troublesome groin injury.
- The Chicago Tribune’s Rich Campbell walks through an important play from Sunday’s Bears win, but it’s one that is not likely to be top of mind right now because the Bears won. Mitch Trubisky was strip-sacked for the second consecutive game, and while he has thrown just one interception in two games, ball security is still a high priority for the rookie signal caller and the team as a whole. We can dream of big plays down the field mixed in with a bit of trickery, but those things aren’t possible if Trubisky continues to lose the football after being blindsided by sacks. John Fox warned us when he said there were problems beyond the quarterback position, and those need to be cleaned up if Trubisky is going to take the next step in his development.
- We have already seen Trubisky take a step in the right direction with his various throwaways in situations where forcing the ball could have led to a turnover and erased a scoring chance. In Nathan Jahnke’s NFL observations at Pro Football Focus, it’s noted that Trubisky’s six throwaways was tied for the seventh most over the last 12 years. While limiting turnovers is good, throwaways representing 37.5 percent of your passes seems alarming.
- Credit Trubisky for not falling into the traps set by a well-designed Ravens defense. Dowell Loggains explained how the Ravens tried to bait Trubisky into making risky throws by disguising coverages and attempting to take away some of the things he does well. Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times writes Trubisky showed some maturity with his decision making and acceptance of his role as a game manager.
- Meanwhile, JJ Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago writes that Trubisky’s play making ability still shines through despite the numerous throwaways and conservative, run-based game plan. He hasn’t had many opportunities to make things happen, but having made the most of his handful of opportunities is another positive sign regarding his development.
- The Bears’ offensive coordinator seems to have faith in rookie tight end Adam Shaheen despite having just one catch, writes Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times. Loggains insists Shaheen will be given an increased role, but finding snaps for a third-string tight end could prove to be difficult. Shaheen has been a non-factor in the passing game, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise because he has been used primarily as a run blocker this season. Fellow rookie Tarik Cohen still leads the team in targets, which needs to change of the Bears are going to take their offense to another level.
- Because of the offense’s struggles, the Bears need to make big plays on special teams, too. Patrick Finley of the Sun-Times breaks down the blown coverages on the two return touchdowns allowed by the Bears special teams that kept Baltimore in the game. Jeff Rodgers, who coaches the special teams, will have his work cut out for him as his unit will likely be without Sherrick McManis – who was listed as doubtful on the injury report.
- A well-earned award for Kyle Long, who has taken a long road to recovering from ankle surgery:
#Bears OG Kyle Long is the team's winner of the Ed Block Courage Award in vote by his teammates for his comeback from gruesome ankle injury.
— Bob LeGere (@BobLeGere) October 20, 2017