The Chicago Bears Need to Stay Aware of Jaire Alexander and Rashan Gary on Defense
Drafted in the first round of 2018 and 2019, respectively, Alexander and Gary have quickly developed into one of the league's top coverage-pass rusher duos. With two fortified game wreckers on the opposing defense, the Chicago Bears offense will certainly game plan around both of these high-caliber players.
For Gary, who is a 6'5" 277 lbs edge rusher from Michigan, rookie Darnell Wright will likely be the primary blocker, but there will also certainly be chips from tight ends and running backs in pass protection, as well as several double teams in the run game.
However, the best way to take Gary out of the game would be to implement more read options in his direction. If Fields were to use Gary as a "key" when running the option, it would effectively take the star edge rusher out of the play, as no matter who he would pick to follow, he would be wrong. Read option is a truly great scheme to help you gain a leverage advantage where one does not naturally exist, and isolating a player of Gary's stature would effectively force the other members of the Packers' front seven to make a play instead.
For Alexander, who is one of the league's true lockdown corners, it will be incredibly important to game plan around him and help wide receivers get open with good schemes. Alexander excels in man coverage, and will likely spend the majority of the game on the Bears' top target, the newly acquired D.J. Moore. Throughout the game, but especially in the red zone, it will be essential to know where Alexander is at all times and help the receivers get open with simpler concepts.
For example, take a look at the clip below from the 2020 season's NFC Divisional Round, where the Green Bay Packers schemed up an easy touchdown against one of the league's premier cornerbacks, Jalen Ramsey. In such a clear scoring position, Ramsey was one-on-one against Davante Adams in man coverage, and instead of running a low-percentile route like a fade, the offense simply moved Adams to the other side of the field. Ramsey had to follow him all the way across the formation but was not able to make it over in time, leading to an easy touchdown for Green Bay.
Against the Packers, similar concepts may be effective in helping Fields find low-risk throws on Alexander's side of the defense, which beats the alternative of trying him on a go route or throwing him a ball in coverage. At some point, Fields' connection with the wide receivers might be strong enough to truly test one of the league's top defenders, but while that relationship is still building early in the season, schemed-up looks might be the safest to avoid turnovers.