Behind Enemy Lines: Bears vs. Colts
The Indianapolis Colts (1-3) and Chicago Bears (1-3) face off this Sunday in a matchup of two underachieving teams whose season's have been largely dictated by injury so far. Both teams look to get on track, but how does that go this week?
Jake: Assuming Jay Cutler misses Sunday's game with his thumb injury, what does this Bears team look like when it's led by Brian Hoyer rather than Cutler?
Mal: There is a stigma with Cutler; he will always be to blame; if even one mistake is made the media and fans scrutinize him. The fact is, he has done a good job for the Bears but this stigma carries over to his mental game and the team. Hoyer brings experience and a calmness to the team, he isn't flashy but he is smart and gets the job done. But, the main thing he brings to this Bears team is his relationship with offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains who was his QB Coach in Cleveland. His knowledge of the system is a huge plus that currently gives Hoyer the edge.
MM: How does the release of Cromartie affect the Colts secondary? Are the Colts better without him?
JA: In the short term, it really doesn't affect them all that much. In the long run, though, I do not like the move. The Colts have their top trio of cornerbacks back from injury, so Cromartie isn't needed right now, but Vontae Davis, Patrick Robinson and Darius Butler all have a knack for getting those small, annoying injuries that may keep them out a week or two. Outside of those three, the Colts have Darryl Morris and Rashaan Melvin. Not good times. Cromartie had one bad half of ball in the four games he started this year, but they will wish he was around if they lose another important corner.
JA: On a similar note, what does Jordan Howard bring to the table that Jeremy Langford doesn't?
MM: Jeremy Langford is a quick back who is only average at breaking tackles. He is also not an every-down back like Howard is. The fact is, Howard was a steal in the fifth round. He seems to be more of a pure running back than Langford is, better cuts and can break tackles. Both can catch out of the backfield but Howard's abilities overall make him the better of the two. If I had to compare Howard to anyone, it would be Matt Forte, and that of course is a natural fit in Chicago.
MM: The Bears are dealing with injuries to wide receivers and some new faces might have to step it up this week. How will the Colts prepare for this?
JA: Since Davis, Robinson, Butler and safeties Mike Adams, Clayton Geathers and T.J. Green are all healthy and the game is at home, they should respond well. They do tend to perform much better with the home crowd behind them. I imagine Vontae Davis will get the duty of Alshon Jeffrey, though he may not shadow him right off the bat unless needed. When Davis isn't on Jeffrey, the corner is likely to have safety help.
JA: How does Chicago plan to replace Kyle Fuller following his season-ending injury? Is it a serious blow for the Bears defense?
MM: Kevin White has joined Kyle Fuller on the IR, and the Bears feel since one is allowed back, both have a chance but that remains to be seen. I feel like the Bears have moved on and prepared for this in the pre-season since Fuller has really been a question mark all season. There are some young and talented corners that can step in. Right now, Jacoby Glenn seems to be the answer but rookie Deiondre Hall from Northern Iowa has been a real nice surprise. I think Fuller's leadership and talent is missed quite a bit, but, the young guys are getting a ton of experience.
MM: The Colts are off to a rough start at 1-3. Many people felt this year would be different with the return of Luck. From an outsiders perspective, I haven't seen any effort by management to give Luck any real weapons and see no difference in this year's team. As an insider, tell me why I'm wrong or right.
JA: Though management has not been perfect, I think the struggles right now can primarily be attributed to two things: lack of execution and poor coaching. The Colts so obviously excel most on offense when running the no-huddle and Luck has more freedom to do his thing, but they only go to it when they're down by multiple scores in the second half. There is also at least one isolated coaching decision that seems to happen each week that makes you say, "What the hell is going on?"
As far as weapons go, they do have weapons, but many people just don't see it. TY Hilton is a multi-time Pro-Bowler, and Donte Moncrief is due to breakout but is dealing with a broken shoulder blade. He should be back within a few weeks. Also, first-round picks were spent the last two years on wide receiver Phillip Dorsett and center Ryan Kelly, respectively, both of whom are starters. The Colts also drafted offensive linemen Denzelle Good, Le'Raven Clark, Joe Haeg and Austin Blythe over the last two years. They're trying, but it's not a quick fix.
The defense is what really needs the infusion of young talent. They have drafted T.J. Green, Henry Anderson, Clayton Geathers and David Parry over the last couple of years, who are all making an impact. But again, it's up to development.
JA: The Colts struggle mightily to bring pressure off of the edge. How is the Bears' pass protection?
MM: This has been a concern for the Bears since Week 1, although last week showed great improvement and have done a good job in pass protection. There is a huge weak spot, though, and that is RT Bobbie Massie. If the Colts can expose this early, the Bears will be scrambling a bit and it could cause problems.
MM: The running game looked better for the Colts last week. Do you foresee an uptick in running plays this week against the Bears?
JA: Running back Frank Gore is very effective, the Colts just have to abandon the run early because of large deficits. Gore was on pace for 100 yards at halftime of the last couple of weeks, and he is on pace for 1,000 yards on the season, but they need to be able to not let games get away in order for Gore to stay effective.
JA: What is the quality of this year's Bears team? Is it more the team that had close finishes against Houston and Detroit, or the one that got blown out by Philadelphia and Dallas?
MM: Like last year, the Bears have been bombarded with injuries. Week 1 against Houston is who I believe this team is, although the injuries started piling up that day. There are solid offensive weapons and a raw defense being run by a genius in Vic Fangio. The Bears have to run a tight ship and avoid mistakes. They have to control the clock and tempo. If mistakes are avoided, this team can beat just about anyone. Injuries and youth have blurred the lines of who the true Bears can be.
MM: Do you feel that Chuck Pagano could lose his job before the season ends if the wins don't start coming?
JA: Simply put, yes.Contract extensions in the NFL mean nothing, so pay no mind to the offseason extensions of Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson. Jim Irsay, though he claims to have faith in Pagano and Grigson, is very demanding, and he values winning above all else, like he should. If the Colts have an equal or worse record as they did when Luck played less than half the season, heads will roll, and Pagano's makes the most sense.
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