Grading the Bears: Halfway through the NFL season
The NFL season is halfway done and the Chicago Bears will enter their bye week at 3-5 and spiraling downwards with back-to-back embarrassing losses. But for the Bears, the bye week may have come at the right time.
After splitting the first quarter of the season at 2-2, the Bears went 1-3 in their next four including two losses in a row. Now they find themselves three games back of the Detroit Lions and two games out of the Wild Card in the NFC. Here is how I graded the Bears through their first eight games this season.
Is Jay Cutler deserving of some blame? Yes, he is but he’s not deserving of the full blame he’s been receiving from fans after the teams poor start. The bottom line is that Cutler hasn’t played like a quarterback who just got a new contract in the off-season. If the Bears want any chance of making late season run, Cutler must play better.
Matt Forte has continued to be one of the lone bright spots on this Bears roster. He’s second in the NFL with 58 receptions on the season and has already gone over 1,000 yards from scrimmage on the season. Forte started off slow but has really turned it on recently.
The Bears have two talented wide receivers in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, but the two haven’t produced like many expected. Marshall shined in the San Francisco game, while Jeffery is starting to come on as of late. While the Bears added Santonio Holmes in the off-season he continues to be ignored in the offense.
Martellus Bennett has put together another fine season as a Chicago Bear and continues to be a favorite target for Cutler. Bennett has struggled in some games, but has 47 receptions and five touchdowns on the year. Backup tight end Dante Rosario has also seen playing time and has been serviceable when called on.
The Bears offensive line played well last season but so far in 2014 they have struggled. Numerous times penalties have hurt Bears drives and they have allowed pressure on Cutler. The offensive line will need to play better in the second half of the season.
After spending money in free agency to improve the defensive line, it’s been both good and bad. Jeremiah Ratliff continues to be the best defensive lineman while Willie Young has had a major impact. And quietly, Stephen Paea has had a good start to the season.
Then there is the bad. Jared Allen has struggled all season long and has hardly made an impact. But it gets worse, Lamarr Houston has been bad all season long before injuring himself in New England.
The Bears linebackers core has been plagued by injuries, but it’s no excuse for their poor play especially with the starters struggling. Lance Briggs hasn’t had an impact and just looks slow. The same can be said with D.J. Williams who has been bad as well. Then there is Shea McClellin who continues to start despite his poor play.
Second year man Jon Bostic has looked better at times this season but has also made the same mistakes he did as a rookie. Bostic will need to show improvement for Bears fans to have any hope. A bright spot has been Christian Jones, who has played well overall in his limited time.
The unit has been hit with injuries left and right but hasn’t played terrible this year. Rookie Kyle Fuller has been a standout player winning the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month award for September and has played well through 8 games.
With an injury to Charles Tillman, Fuller stepped up and has proved he belongs. The other corner back, Tim Jennings, has also played consistently well throughout the first half of the season.
As for the safety play? That’s a whole different story.
There really hasn’t been a standout player as the group has struggled as a whole and cant seem to get two consistent starters for more than a game. If the Bears want to see their record improve, the safety play will have to be better.
Outside of Robbie Gould and Pat O’Donnell, the special teams unit has just been flat-out awful. They still haven’t found a return man who can provide them good field position and it took them five games to get a return past the 20-yard line. It’s been one of the worse units in years and its hurt the Bears.
I don’t know what has happened to Marc Trestman, but he will need to fix it in the second half.Yes, the Bears haven’t played great but Trestman has been full of questionable decisions this year and the playcalling has just been…uh weird?
One has to wonder if Trestman has lost his locker room after things went south this season. Trestman is likely on the hot seat and will need a turn around in the second half to keep spirits high in Chicago.
As for Mel Tucker? Well it’s going to take a lot for him to save his job in Chicago. The defense hasn’t improved much and is still a disaster that hurts this team.