The Chicago Bears pass protection is going to be tested in an extreme way
While the Chicago Bears have the big-name veterans, the New Orleans Saints defensive line has had a bigger impact on games this season than the Bears front four. Cameron Jordan highlights a front, but his versatility allows the Saints to bring in Trey Hendrickson, and Marcus Davenport as a depth platoon that can also be unleashed with all three on the field.
To put it into perspective the trio of edge rushers have 25.5 sacks while Khalil Macks, Robert Quinn, and Barkevious Mingo combine for 13.5
That number is beefed up by Hendrickson, who has had a breakout year as he set to hit free agency. Hendrickson will see Charles Leno often, but Leno is a stylistic matchup for Hendrickson.
Hendrickson can win more with speed and bend, and one area we have noted that Leno does excel at his quick feet. He typically is better against speed rushers than power rushers. In the first game the Saints and Bears played, the two met, and Leno held Hendrickson in check for the most part. It was a ho-hum game in his breakout year.
On the flip side, Marcus Davenport has had a disappointing third NFL season. However, Davenport also had a season-high seven pressures and his only full sack against Charles Leno. The biggest issue with Leno is power, and even going back to the 2018 NFL draft, we wrote about drafting Davenport due to his power off of the edge.
What is worth noting is that Week 17 was his second-best game behind the time he met Leno. Is Davenport going to be the unheralded hero who blows up the Bears offense? Let’s review the first time they met.
Losing the power battle
As noted, the scouting report on Leno is that he can be pushed around by stronger edge rushers, and Davenport is a bully of an edge. It should be no surprise that when you turned on the tape to review Davenport vs. Leno that the big losses were due to Leno being overpowered.
Look at the snap below. Leno tries to sway his hands but misses. Davenport gets his hands inside of Leno and starts to drive him back. It starts with one push, and then Davenport is able to gather himself and move him right into the quarterback. It does not help that a blitzing linebacker was right there too.
Watch the feet of Leno below. He takes three shuffles into his set and then boom, he is driven backward. This is another pressure that impacts the pass as well. Foles is checking down, likely due to the pressure, but his check-down is on that side, and the pass is forced.
The play below is the definition of the bull rush. On this play, Davenport does not even extend his arms, he just plows right into Leno and forces him into the quarterback. This once again forces a quick and errant throw.
Davenport slips out of stance below. Somehow, he still has the momentum to drive Charles Leno back into the passer. Once again, Foles is looking to his left to pass, and once again Davenport is in his face, even with a quick pass.
It is going to be tough to say that Leno, who always loses those strength battles, is going to improve. Where he does need to improve is plays like the one before. Davenport squares up Leno and immediately cuts to the inside. Leno looked like he was anticipating Davenport to run at him, and the counter got to him.
The Saints threw a lot of stunts at the left side of the line, and you can see that Rashad Coward is in the play below. Technically, you could argue that Leno should be passing off Davenport here. Still, both Leno and Coward stick with their men, and both promptly beat. It is going to help Leno immensely to have Cody Whitehair next to him rather than Coward. Still, Leno has to be able to hold up in all areas away from the bull rush.
Charles Leno wins
As noted, Leno had good tape against Hendrickson, who is the flashy name with stats. He also had a few good reps against Davenport, who ate his lunch for most of the day. Below, you can see that Davenport shoots to the outside, and Leno is right there. He is able to fire out of his stance and get him out of the tackle box.
This also does line up with our initial scouting report that Leno wins with quick feet and move forward off of the ball.
The play below also shows the strengths that Leno has always had over the years. You will not beat him to the outside often. Especially if you are a power rusher like Davenport. Leno has quick feet to the outside and has the flexibility to flush his man out.
Lastly, Leno handled a spin move quite well. Again, it comes to his quick feet, and it comes to him being lighter on them than Davenport. When Davenport went with straight downhill power, he won. When Leno was able to shoot forward, or out to the sideline, he was much more comfortable.
How to contain Marcus Davenport
It sounds wild that a player with 1.5 sacks is a potential playoff game wrecker, but the Bears have to be cognisant that Leno will struggle with Marcus Davenport. They need to run RPOs, and having the mobility of Mitch Trubisky can add bootlegs and roll-outs that slow down Davenport, or give Leno easier blocks.
When throwing in the drop-back game, a chip blocker could help. However, that blocker should be helping to the inside, rather than outside.