Five Chicago Bears To Watch This Week

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Aug 22, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is sacked by Chicago Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee (92) at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Outside Linebackers

Yes, we’re cheating here. Deal with it.

I couldn’t make up my mind whether I thought Jared Allen or Pernell McPhee should be included as the final player to watch, so I opted to go with the outside linebacker position, which was completely invisible in the Bears’ loss to Green Bay.

Sep 3, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears linebacker Jared Allen (69) warms up prior to a game against the Cleveland Browns at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Combined, the starting outside linebackers totaled nine tackles, six of which came from McPhee and three from Allen. Expected to be the primary pass rushers, neither of the two registered any sacks or quarterback hits on Aaron Rodgers in Week 1.

Bluntly put, that has to change for the Bears to have any chance of beating the Cardinals on Sunday.

The Bears don’t have the luxury of great cornerbacks or enough talented personnel in the secondary to allow them to blitz their linebackers on most passing plays. Fuller and Ball struggled in Week 1, and they’re covering better receivers this week.

That means Allen and McPhee need to get the pressure themselves on Carson Palmer, who wasn’t sacked at all in Week 1 against New Orleans, because the Bears will need to keep as many men as possible in coverage.

Allen is making the transition to outside linebacker, so some bumps and dearth of production are expected. Still, watching him last week was frustrating. On most plays, he was lined up a little further outside than when he was a defensive end, but was still on the line of scrimmage. That’s not a big change; it’s simply a different angle. On too many plays, Allen was pushed upfield, allowing Rodgers to either step up in the pocket or escape the pocket.

For McPhee … there aren’t really any excuses. He ended up with six tackles, which is good. And he was held on one passing play where he seemed likely to sack or at least hit Rodgers. Part of being a good pass rusher is putting pressure on the lineman blocking him along with the quarterback, as that draws penalties.

Sep 13, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws while under pressure from New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) during the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

But McPhee didn’t come to Chicago to collect penalties on offensive linemen. He’s here to get sacks, to knock the quarterback down and to harass him on as many plays as possible. One game without doing any of that is OK; everyone has an off day. Two games, though, can’t happen for the Bears’ biggest catch in free agency. The Bears need Pernell McPhee to pressure Palmer, to knock him down and to prevent Palmer from being comfortable in the pocket.

McPhee could be playing with an injured wrist, according to ESPN, so that could impact his game this week. If needed, the Bears do have some quality pass rushing reserves in Willie Young and Lamarr Houston, neither of whom contributed much in Week 1.

The Bears should have their chances to pressure Palmer. The Cardinals like to throw the ball down the field. Palmer averaged 9.59 yards per attempt in Week 1, good for fifth most in the league. The longer Palmer holds the ball, the better the chances the Bears have at pressuring him.

If Allen and McPhee can’t rattle Palmer, expect Sunday to be a long day for the Bears’ defense.

Next: What If The Bears Had Hired Bruce Arians?

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