In my continuing coverage of the Bears revamped offensive line, I have decided to look at the Bears opening week opponent the Cincinnati Bengals and their three primary pass rushers Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap.
Michael Johnson [6’7″ 270lbs.]
Cleveland Browns  *Joe Thomas
Washington Redskins  *Trent Williams beaten badly.
Miami Dolphins  *Stunt
Pittsburgh Steelers  *Max Starks
Kansas City Chiefs  *Donald Stephenson
Oakland Raiders  *Jared Veldheer
Dallas Cowboys [.5] *Tyron Smith
Pittsburgh Steelers  *Max Starks
Baltimore Ravens  *Bryant McKinnie
-Incredible length, but also does not pack a lot of physical punch.
-Good Burst and Lean [:57]
-Occasionally rushed from inside, but not overly effective [1:16]
-Cannot bull rush
-Dip on the edge is nasty [2:01]
-Struggles to get off of a block once it is established [2:56]
Michael Johnson is a speed/length up field rusher. He wants to beat the offensive tackle with speed and hand use from a distance working around the edge. He does display a willingness to go inside on a rush, but only after he has been shut out from the outside edge. He does not want to engage with the Omen and he does not want to use a power rush unless he absolutely has to. A talented player, but a little one dimensional and I think that is why they were reluctant to do a long term deal.
How to Attack Him
Run the ball at him early in the game and allow Bushrod to wear on him physically for the 1st quarter and slow him down. Use quick draws and inside screens to punish him for the explosive up field rush that he wants to do. I would also line up a tight end close to Bushrod, even if he is not going to block, this way Johnson will not see as much green space on the outside and will be more inclined to bull rush Bushrod, which should be a win for Bushrod who is the stronger player. Bushord should take a deeper set, as the threat of a bull rush is not as strong, and not give him his outside shoulder as quickly.
The Match Up
This is not the match up that scares me, even though it is a tough match up. Bushrod is a physical player and from what I saw in the pre season he gets his body in good position to force the bull rush and not give up the edge. Johnson may have his plays, but he seems to feast on LTs that get sloppy with their technique.
Carlos Dunlap [6’6″ 280lbs.]
6 sacks, this number is not representative of his talent as he splits time with Geathers.
Jacksonville Jaguars  *Cameron Bradfield
NYG  *David Diehl
San Diego Chargers  *Jeromy Clary
Dallas Cowboys [.5] *Doug Free
Pittsburgh Steelers [.5] *Mike Adams
Baltimore Ravens  *Michael Oher
This is not as impressive of a list of opponents that he has beaten for sacks as Michael Johnson. This usually indicates a guy who feasts on weak competition, which could be good or bad depending on how you view Jordan Mills.
-Good length and uses inside arm to create separation from the offensive tackle.
-Decent Burst, not Johnson, but enough to consistently threaten the edge.
-Will run by the pocket attempting his outside rush.
-Solid and active hands, but does not really use them to win reps cleanly.
-Gets stuck on blocks against physical offensive line and does not react well to a physical hand punch.
-Will come inside much more often than Johnson.
-Will go to the bull rush more often than Johnson and has the power to collapse the pocket.
Dunlap is actually the rusher that I thought was better on tape as he was more willing to abandon the speed rush and come inside or go to the bull rush. This makes him a threat because you cannot predict pre snap as accurately what is going to happen. Dunlap like Johnson wants the edge and he wants to speed rush around the offensive tackle, he is not as fast as Johnson so he goes to other moves more often that Johnson, but with less production.
How to Attack Him
A couple times in the first quarter when Geno Atkins is not lined up over Long I will slide the right side of the protection out to Mills. Mills will over set Dunlap who when he realizes the outside is gone will come inside where Long will wipe him out. After a couple of times of this Dunlap will be less likely to test the inside and it makes him more 1 dimensional. I would also have the back chip if possible to force the bull rush more often and force him to dance in front of the tackle. I would throw a lot of short passes
That Match Up
There are things to like about Jordan Mills in this match up. He uses his hands very well and he has a strong punch that can be used to force Dunlap past the pocket, which he likes to do and to stop the bull rush. Mills is a strong physical player so if he can stop the bull rush and beat up on Dunlap early he may make him 1 dimensional coming up field. What I do not like about this match up is that Dunlap brings it. He is big, quick and active and he can punish you if you use poor technique. He is willing to use 2-3 different types of rush and that can be difficult for a rookie to handle as it requires pin point focus in your first NFL game. I also worry that Mills will not be given a lot of help and he will be going against some relentless rushers in Dunlap and Geathers. Mills has to keep Dunlap off of his body with his arms to be successful in this match up. I can think of much easier first opponents.
Geno Atkins [6’1″ 303lbs.]
Baltimore Ravens  *Bobbie Williams totally overwhelmed filling in for Yanda.
Washington Redskins 
Jacksonville  *Brad Meester
Miami Dolphins  *John Jerry is just so slow.
Pittsburgh Steelers  Doug Legursky
Kansas City Chiefs  *John Asamoah
Oakland Raiders 
San Diego [.5] *Louis Vasquez, incredible burst and hand use.
Dallas Cowboys 
Pittsburgh Steelers  *Willie Colon gets ragged doll in a show of incredible strength, Ramon Foster pushed back.
This was an interesting analysis as Geno Atkins feast on some very mediocre interior offensive linemen. I am not diminishing the sacks, but he does not have a game where he is beating Marshall Yanda, Jahri Evans or Logan Mankins for multiple sacks. This tells me that he is a guy who can be slowed down by good play, technique and athletic ability. He is not as unstoppable as the numbers may tell you. Atkins is incredibly impressive to watch.
How to Attack Him
What makes this so difficult is the fact that Atkins is both incredibly quick, but also very powerful and stout because of his size. You have to slow down Atkins as so much of what they do on the defensive line is built off Atkins collapsing the pocket and forcing the quarterback back or to scramble directly into the up field rush of Johnson and Dunlap. Atkins is the engine that drives the pass rush similar to Tommie Harris in 2006. The first thing we have is size and length at the offensive guard position which should help in covering up and engulfing Atkins before he gets moving. If he gets moving and can use his quickness the advantage flips to Atkins. I would have Long and Slauson use their size and long arms to short set and get control of Atkins before he can explode. He needs to be double teamed and you need to vary which player is coming at him otherwise he will be able to predict and react. Some plays it needs to be Garza that helps and others the tackle needs to crash down and allow Bennett to block the defensive end. By varying the double he will have to think before he explodes. I would also run the ball directly at him early and often. He is exceptional on the backside of zone run and he is too quick for an offensive tackle to cut off. Run at him and allow our 320lbs. OGs to tee off on him and get some confidence going. Nothing slows down the rush like some well times cut blocks, which Slauson seems pretty good at, and they should be cutting him 1/4 rushes so he slows down. I would also run a number of draws and inside plays allowing Atkins to quick swim/rip up field and then just asking the offensive guard to wheel on him and keep him up field.
Slowing down Atkins will be just as much about the mental games you play with him.
The Match Up
This is the key match up in the game and the tough part is that this is by far the toughest match up. With Atkins mix of quickness and power I do not know if there are many interior offensive lineman who could shut him down. Especially considering Slauson is a solid pro and Long is a high upside rookie. This is going to have to be a team effort to stop him and it is going to require coaching to chip in and help the offensive line, something we have not see in a long time on offense. I am very interested to see Long vs. Atkins because of Long’s physicality and athletic ability we could be seeing a real battle and Long may have a shot. I am just hoping that Slauson can slow down Atkins and make him work back to the quarterback . I am not really confident about this simply because we have never seen Kyle Long play against a player of Atkins ability.
This is a brutal way to start the season for a revamped offensive line, that while more talented is light on experience and reps together and with these coaches. I think if the Bears can stop/slow down Atkins they have a shot of not being beaten by the Bengals pass rush. Johnson, Dunlap and Geathers are talented players, but they feast on a collapsed pocket. I expect some serious growing pains and this game may look closer to last season’s play than the dominance we saw flashes of in the pre season. The Bears must stay out of 3rd and long and avoid penalties because you do not want to give these guys the green light to do nothing but pass rush.
I am looking for the coaches to flash the offensive minds and protect the offensive line and in affect protect Jay Cutler. Scheme and keeping these Defensive Linemen thinking about what we are doing will be key.
People are going to flip out after this game and pan the offensive line because they are no better than last season, but bringing an offensive line together takes time and the rookies will be seeing talent and schemes that they have not seen in the past 4 preseason games. To me this game is about experience and growth and while I expect some bad moments I still think we can overcome them with some adjustments. I would like to see Forte established early and often and for us not to take the Martz approach of not letting our offensive line move forward and not protecting them.