7.) The safety position needs another overhaul
The Bears got strong performances from the defensive line, most of the linebackers (cmon Timu!), and the cornerbacks, but the safeties were a weak link again. The safeties have been so bad that the Bears benched Adrain Amos, their best safety last season, for rookie Deon Bush. It made no difference though and Amos was re-inserted into the lineup to start the second half.
Amos took the place of Harold Jones-Quartey who was clearly the Bears worst defensive player on the field. He gave up both of the Lions biggest plays on the day. A bomb to Marvin Jones, who HJQ allowed to get behind him, and a touchdown to Anquan Boldin after HJQ fell down.
The Bears blitzed more than they had all season on Sunday and almost sacked Stafford multiple times, but Stafford was able to get out of trouble by finding whoever HJQ was trying to cover. I noted four plays where Stafford escaped blitz pressure by completing a pass to HJQ’s man.
HJQ’s inability to cover ruined what should have been an effective blitz package by defensive coordinator Vic Fangio on Sunday. It’s surprising that HJQ is even in the lineup, being less than two years removed from DII Findlay College, but with how poorly he’s played this season he clearly doesn’t deserve to be starting for the Bears anymore. Unfortunately, the Bears are so weak at safety that they may not have a better option on the roster the last few weeks of the season.
Rookie Deon Bush wasn’t much better this week either. The 4th round pick looked tentative on the field, letting plays come to him instead of aggressively attacking like he was known for in college. On Matt Stafford’s game-winning TD scramble, Bush had a clear shot at Stafford a few yards from the goal-line but hesitated, let Stafford come to him, and then missed the tackle which allowed him to score.
The Bears other options are Chris Prosinski, who isn’t good, and Demontre Hurst, who at least has some potential. None of the Bears five safeties have played well enough to earn a starting job next year and it’s looking like the Bears need to completely overhaul the position again.
Every offseason the Bears seem to be in the same spot with their safeties. It’s about time they allocate significant resources to the position instead of trying to get lucky with over the hill veterans (Antrel Rolle) or multiple late round draft picks.
8.) Akiem Hicks is playing like a Pro Bowl DE
The Bears front four continued its strong play of late, despite giving up 114 rushing yards to a team missing it’s top two running backs. They only gave up 28 rushing yards in the first half, but once they lost NT Eddie Goldman to another ankle injury they were undermanned and wore down in the second half.
The one d-linemen who played well all game was Akiem Hicks. He’s been a steal for the Bears after signing for just $5M per season. Hicks has been a force against both the run (six tackles Sunday) and the pass (seven sacks on the year).
With Hicks signed for just one more season, the Bears should do whatever it takes to extend Hicks and build around a potentially explosive combo of Hicks and Goldman. Adding another DE to the rotation this offseason and the potential of Jonathan Bullard and Cornelius Washington could give the Bears a legitImate top-ten defensive line in 2017.
9.) Tight end Daniel Brown looks like a keeper
The loss of tight end Zach Miller seemed like it would be the end of any usefulness from the Bears tight end position, but Daniel Brown has stepped up to become a viable building block for the future at the position.
The former wide receiver from James Madison has quickly become a key part of the Bears passing game. In his third start, Brown had a team-leading six catches for 42 yards and is becoming one of Matt Barkley’s most reliable targets.
Brown has a very similar skill-set as Zach Miller and has the potential to become a dangerous receiving option. So far he’s run mostly short in and out routes, but to truly develop as a receiving threat Brown will need to be effective in the seam as well like Miller was.
The last few games should give the Bears a better idea of what Brown can become next season. He’s clearly passed the more heralded Ben Braunecker as the Bears tight end of the future.