Chicago Bears Week 2: Takeaways

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Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

5.) Kyle Fuller stepped up

When Tillman went down, there was a collective fear from Bears fans everywhere that our secondary was in trouble, bur rookie Kyle Fuller took Tillman’s spot and proved that Phil Emery may have known what he was doing when he drafted Fuller 13th overall in this years draft. Fuller made two impressive interceptions in the 2nd half, both of which led to Bear touchdowns. The Bears drafted Fuller because they felt he was the best run stopper of all the top corners in the draft, but Fuller proved he could cover a little as well. Phil Emery wanted to make the defense younger and more athletic and he got at least one pick right this year in Fuller. His two interceptions were the highlight reel plays, but he also led the defense with 6 solo tackles and 3 stops (PFF)

6.) The rest of the Bears rookies contributed as well

Fuller was the headliner from this year’s rookie class, but he wasn’t the only one who made contributions on Sunday night. Starting 3-tech DT Jeremiah Ratliff got hurt early in the 2nd half which forced Will Sutton into the lineup. Sutton didn’t dominate, but held his own in 35 snaps. On the day he finished with 2 QB hurries and a nice tackle at the line of scrimmage on a Carlos Hyde run. The stats don’t do justice to Sutton’s contributions as he got penetration up the middle on multiple plays and was a big part of the Bears holding the Niners running backs to 63 total yards after giving up 174 yards to the Bills RBs last week. If Ratliff can’t go next week, I am confident that Sutton can move into the starting lineup without a significant drop-off. Fellow rookie DT Ego Ferguson wasn’t as good as Sutton, but got 22 defensive snaps and didn’t embarrass himself. With the injury to Ratliff and the inconsistency of DT Stephen Paea, the rookie DTs are going to get snaps moving forward and might be the key to the Bears run defense. Rookie safety Brock Vereen, a 4th round pick, got his first NFL action this week and was actually pretty good in coverage, though he had a clear line on QB Colin Kaepernick on a blitz and botched the sack. The Bears safety position is still a mess and if Vereen can just be adequate at the position and not make glaring mistakes he could see considerable playing time this season.

7.) Willie Young has been the Bears best free agent signing so far

Free agent DEs Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston got all the headlines, but free agent DE Willie Young has been the most productive free agent addition so far. I wrote last week about how Young needed more snaps and he got them this week with the expected increase in productivity. Young had two sacks, 2 QB hurries, and 3 stops in the running game. As the Lions starting DE last season, Young finished 3rd in the NFL in QB hurries with 48 behind just Cameron Wake and Greg Hardy (both Pro Bowlers) but had trouble finishing plays. That hasn’t been an issue for Young this year as he has 3 sacks already to lead the team.

8.) The interior run defense was much better

The Bears gave up 129 rushing yards which is a significant improvement over week 1 and the 163 rush yards per game they allowed in 2013. The interior D held the Niners to just 40 yards rushing between the tackles on Sunday. Kaepernick accounted for 66 rushing yards mostly running outside and I’m not sure why the Niners didn’t just run the read option every play because I’m not sure the Bears could stop it. The addition of rookies Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton to the rotation helped, as did improved play from Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea and also a solid game from MLB Jon Bostic (4 tackles, .5 grade). There are some areas that need improvement (outside contain) but regardless it was a much better showing than the 198 rushing yards they gave up last week to the Bills.

9.) Chris Conte & Shea McClellin actually played well

Two of the most maligned Bears stepped up and played well this week. Chris Conte had one of the best interceptions I’ve ever seen and McClellin actually had a sack. Conte finished with the 2nd highest grade of all Bears defenders (1.8) and McClellin finished with a mediocre .3 grade but had 3 tackles, a sack and did a better job containing the read option than his counterpart Lance Briggs. If the Bears D is going to be mediocre instead of embarrassing like last year, they will need McClellin and Conte to be at least league average at their positions. There have been plenty of mistakes from both players so far, but they have also shown signs of the talent that made them 1st (McClellin) and 3rd (Conte) round picks respectively.

10.) The Bears aren’t running the ball

Last year the Bears had the 2nd best scoring offense in the league and had a 1.4-1 pass-to-run ratio. I complained last week about the ratio in week 1 (2.7-1), but Sunday it was even worse at 3.1-1. It’s hard to complain about a win, but a roughly 3-1 pass/run ratio is unsustainable long-term. The Bears have one of the best RBs in football in Forte and they need to start getting him the ball on a consistent basis.

11.) The Bears special teams still suck

The Bears special teams seems to get worse every week. Bears beat writer Jeff Dickerson made a good point on the radio yesterday (ESPN1000). The last few years, the Bears kept good special teams players (Steltz, Franklin) and made them backups on defense. This year the Bears kept good backups (C. Jones, Draughn, Perry) and are trying to make them special teams players. It hasn’t worked so far; On the blocked punt, Draughn was in Steltz’s old blocking role and failed miserably, allowing rookie Aaron Lynch to block the punt. Draughn also had a hold on the opening kick return that pinned the Bears on their 7 yard line. Christian Jones, a high upside LB prospect, has taken Jerry Franklin’s special teams role and had a holding penalty on a punt return Sunday night. Senorise Perry looked tentative again as a kick returner and I wouldn’t be surprised if Canadian import Chris Williams gets a shot returning kicks next week. 2nd year DE Cornelius Washington was one of the Bears best special teams coverage guys during the preseason, but he was inactive for the 2nd week in a row. DE Trevor Scott got hurt this week, so maybe we will see the athletic Washington on special teams next week. Regardless of who they use, the Bears need to improve their special teams ASAP.

* 2nd year LB Khaseem Greene was inactive in favor of rookie LB Christian Jones. With the Bears expected to make some roster moves this week to add depth at CB & OL, don’t be shocked if the former 4th round pick Greene gets released. He had an awful preseason and has little special teams value.