Coming off their first victory of the 2018 season, the Chicago Bears should feel pretty good. Anytime a team is able to win a nationally televised game it boosts their confidence.
The Bears defense may have a different feeling than the offense, which has been far too inconsistent in two games this season. Second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky looks raw, while rookie head coach Matt Nagy’s abilities as a play caller are still developing.
While the Cardinals defense seems like an easy matchup on paper, the Bears offense needs to come out sharp on Sunday afternoon. Otherwise, this could be one of the biggest upsets in the NFL this week.
After losing the Honey Badger in safety Tyrann Mathieu, the Cardinals don’t have much on defense in terms of impactful players. Cornerback Patrick Peterson is still an All-Pro, but he’s not shadowing opposing team’s No. 1 WRs as much. Peterson is also not going to be playing man as often as he once was.
Under new head coach Steve Wilks, that role will change. Instead of being used almost exclusively in press coverage on the team’s top receiver, Wilks will move Peterson around, have him line up off the ball more and even have him rush the passer on blitzes.
At defensive end, Chandler Jones is still a beast, while Markus Golden has some potential as well. Safety Budda Baker is a work in progress and Deone Bucannon has proven to be an inconsistent player. He was benched after struggling in week one.
There’s not much going on with this unit, which makes it vulnerable in multiple ways. More on that later.
Head coach Steve Wilks brought over a 4-3 defense with him from the Carolina Panthers. However, the Cardinals are rarely ever in a traditional 4-3 defense. Instead, they are more in a 4-2 nickel look.
After watching the film, it appears that five DBs are in on every play. Hence, the 4-2 nickel defense I spoke of above.
The Cardinals also like to disguise their blitzes. They also blitz fairly often given the lack of pure pass rushers on their roster. At times against the Los Angeles Rams, the Cardinals fooled third-year QB, Jared Goff. In fact, Goff should have thrown two interceptions in the game.
As expected, Peterson, the Cardinals best player on defense, is moved all over. He should still be on WR Allen Robinson a fair amount on Sunday. Robinson is coming off a game in which he was targeted 14 times. Of those 14 targets, Robinson caught 10 of them for 83 yards.
Matchup the Cardinals can exploit: Mitch Trubisky’s ability to read a defense
Opposing defenses will try to confuse Trubisky this year, especially a team like the Cardinals who lacks playmakers. Trubisky needs to make the right reads before and during the play to be successful on Sunday.
The Cardinals will mix things up. The Bears offensive line has been solid so far this year, so I could also see them blitzing even more than they have so far this year. Peterson roaming around should also make the Bears nervous as well.
If I’m Nagy, I avoid going after Peterson and take my chances elsewhere, which brings us to the next portion of this opposing team preview.
Matchup the Bears can exploit: Staying committed on the ground
The Bears haven’t run the ball enough this year. Nagy even admitted RB Jordan Howard has to get more touches for the team to be successful. Through two games, Howard has carried the ball 29 times.
The Rams stayed committed to the run game against the Cardinals and it allowed them to attack the hole of any 4-3 defense – the middle of the field. Sean McVay was still running the ball in the second quarter after finishing with -1 rushing yards in the first.
It opened up the middle of the field. Specifically, the play action crossing routes. Staying committed to the running game will not only help open things up over the middle of the field but it will also allow Trubisky to be in positive passing situations.
Running Taylor Gabriel out of the backfield on Monday night is also something that could be used to attack the Cardinals defense. The Rams had similar success against the Cardinals when handing the ball off to their wideouts.
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