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Across The Middle — Week Eight

| October 26th, 2016

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Suddenly, the 2016 Bears season has a chance to be productive.

The loss to the Packers dropped the team to 1-6 and they’ll almost surely fall to 1-7 on Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings. But with Jay Cutler back at quarterback, it feels like they can accomplish something, even while not making the playoffs. The Bears need to figure out who their quarterback is going to be going forward. (It was never going to be Brian Hoyer.) It might be Cutler and we finally have a situation where we can get an accurate read on him.

Cutler played well in the Bears first two games but they were facing two of the ten best defenses in the league with a makeshift offensive line, no running game and Kevin White still trying to figure out what was happening. While Cutler was out, the line came into its own, Cameron Meredith proved to be an upgrade (at least in the short term) and Jordan Howard went off. The only thing they were missing was a quarterback who could put the ball in the end zone. If Cutler is playing with a full deck and can’t put points on the board, the Bears need to find a new quarterback.

These next nine games just might be among the most important in the history of the franchise because they may determine who is playing quarterback for the foreseeable future.

Getting After the QB

He didn’t have much of an impact on the game but if Pernell McPhee can become the player he was last year, the Bears are going to be a team no quarterback wants to face.

One thing the Bears did against the Packers last week that they’ve really never done was pressure Aaron Rodgers. I had the Bears down for 23 quarterback disruptions in the game. (They had 10 on Green Bay’s first two possessions.) The Packers eventually realized the Bears had Bausby and, at times, Glenn at cornerback and changed their offense. But they had to make that change or they wouldn’t have done jack against the Bears. If the Bears had better cornerback play, they would’ve shut Green Bay down.

With McPhee, Lenny Floyd and Willie Young, the Bears could have three premier edge players. With Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman and Cornelius Washington, they have three guys who can push the pocket.

I don’t know what they can do about the cornerback position right now but the Bears just might have a really good front seven and with that a really good defense.

Was Nice Knowing Brian Hoyer

Even if Hoyer didn’t break his arm, Cutler was getting the job back. A guy can’t keep missing wide open touchdown passes. Judging by Fox’s face after Hoyer missed Bellamy last week, he knew he had to go back to Cutler.

But Hoyer wasn’t a bust — looking at you Jason Campbell. If nothing else, he gave us some interesting discussions.

The Green Bay game was the rubber match for Hoyer. The final test. He failed. He looked lost and couldn’t make throws that you expect starting quarterbacks to make. But Hoyer gave the Bears two great games. He showed that they have talent at the skill positions and, when healthy, they can block. I don’t know if Cutler’s injury was actually the reason why he wasn’t playing but Fox had to see Hoyer fail before he could bench him. I’m not sure I wouldn’t have done the same thing in his shoes.

As fans, we should appreciate what Hoyer did, the same way we appreciated Josh McCown. Hoyer did what he could and if the Bears were able to get a couple more stops, it would’ve been enough to win two more games.

I still think Hoyer is one of the 32 best quarterbacks in the league. That being said, I don’t think there are 32 good quarterbacks in the league. I think he’ll sign as a backup somewhere next year — probably wherever Josh McDaniels coaches — and end up becoming the starter.

Running The Backs

The Bears seem to be out of sorts with what to do at the running back position.

I don’t know what Jordan Howard did to get his playing time cut but the Bears are handling him poorly. What we saw in his first few games is that he needs to a few carries to get rolling. By giving him a couple carries then throwing Ka’Deem Carey in for a few series, the Bears aren’t allowing Howard to get into rhythm. This role is perfect for Carey, who is at his best as a spark off the bench, but it’s not ideal for Howard.

The fact that the Bears are having Howard and Carey split snaps makes me wonder if Jeremy Langford is going to regain his starting job when he returns from injury. Langford was the unquestioned starter before he was injured.

Charting The Bears

• It was a busy day for (I don’t want to look up his first name) Bausby and Cre’Von LeBlanc. I had Bausby giving up seven catches for 53 yards, but he also had three penalties that gave Green Bay first downs. It wasn’t all bad for LeBlanc, who had two of the Bears QB disruptions and two passes defended, but he was beaten quite a few times.

• He still doesn’t have much in terms of technique but Corneilus Washington can get to the quarterback. He had two QB disruptions and drew a holding penalty on Floyd’s strip-sack.

• It wasn’t pretty for the Bears QBs as Hoyer and Matt Barkley combined to throw 13 inaccurate passes on 27 drop backs. Not good.

Bring On The Vikings

If the Bears don’t have Kyle Long and Josh Sitton, this could get ugly. The Vikings have a handful of guys who can get after the quarterback and the Bears only hope is to be able to push their edge rushers wide so Cutler can step up in the pocket. Without Long or Sitton, there may not be a pocket to step up into.

The injury list will be important to watch for the Bears defense too. We need to see what they’ll have at cornerback because Bausby and Hurst can’t get the job done, even against Minnesota’s mediocre receivers.

Lastly, the Bears have to tackle. Not tackling killed them when they played the Vikings in Minnesota last year as Jerick McKinnon destroyed them on dump off passes all game.

If the Bears tackle well and force the Vikings into long-yardage situations, they should be able to abuse Sam Bradford all game. Given his injury history, the Vikings could end the game going against Shaun Hill. The Bears can beat Shaun Hill.

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