I really like the Henry Melton commercial in which he comes out from underneath the kids bed to shrug off the monster in the closet. That’s a really nice way to get me excited about the football season in general. However, with a mostly regional schedule on television these ghostbusters are gonna have to come from nowhere.
The Monsters of the Midway play 12 games that are scheduled to air at 12:00 PM CST. The Bears’ second half has 7 of 8 games on regional television. This implies that there’s not a lot of nationwide interest for this team.
Unless the defensive front and linebacking corps step up, it’ll be a long season. The drafting of Khaseem Greene, Cornelius Washington and Jon Bostic to complement Henry Melton, Stephen Paea and Julius Peppers was a stroke of genius by GM Phil Emery and his staff. All three of those young players will be immediate impact players on a young, evolving defense. The defense’s leadership is in the capable hands of Charles Tillman, Julius Peppers and Lance Briggs – all of whom want to win.
The defensive front seven is on a mission to get to the quarterback. Julius Peppers is a double team on the left side. Late last December, Green Bay approached the Bears defensive front by throwing the ball quickly off the line of scrimmage. Rodgers got rid of the ball quickly and his receivers made plays for him. He was terrific in short yardage. The Packers capitalized on both red zone entrances with touchdowns. The division’s on the line and in a game that was seperated by a mere 8 points, the Packers ran 23 more plays. And this was a game in which Chicago had the lead after the Marshall touchdown in the second quarter.
Pressure from both sides of the line of scrimmage will allow Trestman to trust his Pro Bowl corners to better read the receivers. The option of not having to make Tillman and Jennings stay in coverage in early long situation (first and second downs) brings an added bonus. When in third-and-long situations, they’re more likely to make a play because they’ll be fresher from the previous plays. The Bears run a solid base 4-3 that’s great against the run. They’re known for having great in-coverage backers, but are lacking pressure quickly at the point of attack. The Bears are most exciting when they’re creating turnovers close to the line of scrimmage, which allows for plays to go the other way. If Rodgers is left without pressure in his face, he can take those quick drop backs and hit Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones in stride allowing them to break free with only a few steps. In the Soldier Field game on December 16th, Rodgers hit three of his wideouts for 30-yard completions and all of them were set up by the short passing game to bait the defense into creeping up. Once you’ve got guys on the outside with a step when the defensive back is only 2.5 yards from the line it’s tough to catch up when they’re backpeddling. If the Bears had snuffed the short passing game early those long plays could’ve been prevented. The Bears did a phenomenal job of locking down the Packers’ struggling run game. Pressure on Rodgers to have to hold the ball longer while being pressured might not bare fruit in the first half, but maintaining the pressure will get his internal clock to speed up, which would force him to throw into plays that haven’t fully developed.
The Vikings? Well they’ve got lightning in a bottle with “All Day,” which in turn becomes one of the most potent play action disguises in the league. Ponder’s able to move adequately and the presence of Kyle Rudolph as a security blanket makes that offense tic. The Vikings also cleaned up in the draft this year with three first-round selections that included another weapon outside the numbers from Tennessee. Believe it or not, the Vikings special-teams game is one of the best in the business with Marcus Sherrils, and Blair Walsh is one of the best kickers in the league both indoors and out.
As for which offense the Monsters of the Midway should to fear more, it’d have to be the Packers with their strong receiving corps, notwithstanding the departure of Jennings. Jermichael Finley and a healthy Jordy Nelson make for a dangerous combination. The Packers’ running game will improve with the addition of Eddie Lacy of Alabama and Jonathan Franklin from UCLA. The Packers have the best quarterback in the division and their passing game is far more potent and synchronized than the Vikings. Peterson and a developing chemistry between Ponder and his new additions isn’t as daunting.