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Scouting Report: Attacking Packers Inside Linebackers Will Be Key for Bears Offense

Regular season football is here.

Finally, the games matter again for the Chicago Bears. To begin the season, the Bears will play their biggest rival in the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night football welcome in the 100th NFL season.

The Bears offense is poised to take a big step forward in year No. 2 of the Matt Nagy offense. Specifically, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Without progress from the most important position in football, the Bears have no chance at their ultimate goal: winning the Super Bowl.

Each week during the regular season and hopefully, postseason, I will scout the Bears’ opponents. It will be broken down into two articles per week. This week, the Packers present an interesting challenge.

They fired Mike McCarthy and hired Matt LaFleur to be their new head coach. For the purpose of this article, that doesn’t matter. I’m going to focus on the Packers’ defense and how the Bears can take advantage of the lackluster unit that saw a lot of turnover in the offseason.

Let’s get started.

Defensive coordinator – Mike Pettine

Scheme – 3-4

Players to Watch 

  • Za’Darius Smith was the Packers’ most important acquisition this past offseason. He’s a versatile player that can line up pretty much anywhere on the field. Last season with the Ravens, Smith recorded 8.5 sacks and 25 QB hits. For $66 million, Smith better have double-digit sacks. His speed off the edge is something that is difficult to deal with. 

  • Adrian Amos signed with the Packers for $37 million. The Bears weren’t willing to pay Amos that much and actually had former Packers’ safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix graded higher in their system. The two teams basically swapped safeties for the 2019 season. There has been talk out of the Packers’ preseason, that the defense could play a decent amount of Cover 1 with Amos leading the way at safety. 

  • Darnell Savage Jr. could end up being one of the best draft picks of 2019. He will be the starting safety on the other side of Amos. Now, it’s not ideal to have two “strong safeties,” but Savage has more skill and playmaking ability than Amos. He had 38 solo tackles and 4 interceptions last season at Maryland. He will need to clean up his tackling though if he’s going to be a consistent NFL player. 

Preston Smith was the second pash rusher the Packers signed this offseason. He had just 4 sacks last year. The Packers are hoping Smith can return to his 2017 form, where he had 8 sacks and 21 QB hits.

Strength: Talented, Young Corners 

The Packers are loaded at CB. Jaire Alexander is becoming a star in the NFL, while Kevin King and Josh Jackson could also become elite NFL defenders. For now, it looks like veteran Tramon Williams will get the start at CB2. Add Amos and Savage to the mix, and the Packers have a secondary that’s on the rise. Luckily for the Bears, these players are still young and can be inconsistent at times.

Side note: the front 7 would have been the strength of this Packers’ defense, but the team decided to foolishly release Mike Daniels. That is something that could come back and haunt them.

Weakness: Inside Linebacker Depth 

The Packers are razor-thin at ILB. They will go into the regular season with just for ILBs: Blake Martinez, Ty Summers, James Crawford, and Brady Sheldon. Only one of those players has started in an NFL game before (Blake Martinez).

Rookie Ty Summers did lead all the NFL in tackles during the preseason.

Live look at Matt Nagy:

How Can the Bears Exploit It? 

Two players came to mind when thinking about the Packers’ lack of depth at the ILB position. Cordarrelle Patterson and Tarik Cohen. They are going to give the Packers problems, whether they are used as RBs or out of the backfield to catch passes. 

After watching Packers-Patriots film from last season’s week 9 matchup, it’s obvious the Patriots gameplan was to exploit the mediocre ILBs. That was obvious on a drive in the second quarter, when the Patriots used Patterson out of the backfield on four straight plays. The result was a touchdown, an easy one if I’ve ever seen one.

Patterson had his best game of the season against the Packers. It’s not surprising considering the personnel on their defense.

If the Packers go with the single-high safety look, then Trubisky should carve them up and utilize his playmakers like Cohen and Patterson. Now, if the Packers decide to play it safe and play 2-3 safeties then Nagy can use his new toys at RB, David Montgomery, and Mike Davis.

My friend, The Linkster, has a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen if the Pack play it safe.

Let’s not forget that the Bears have RBs that can catch the football now. Montgomery can also run routes out of the backfield. Who covers RBs usually? ILBs. Sure, Roquan Smith could make some plays in coverage, even Danny Trevathan, but Blake Martinez? No.

Depending on what defense the Packers are in, expect, Davis, Montgomery, Patterson, and Cohen to all be involved and make big plays at some point on Thursday night. Nagy is going to find ways to attack those ILBs and keep the Packers’ defense on the field.

Conclusion

The only player that concerns me on the Packers’ defense is Za’Darius Smith. His numbers from last season don’t do him justice. He’s a talented player that is versatile enough to play several different positions on defense. Amos and Savage are skilled players but in their own ways. 

Packers’ fans expecting big things out of Amos are foolish. Eddie Jackson is a big-play guy. Amos does a lot of good things well, but if Pettine thinks he can put Amos into coverage one-on-one, he’s foolish. This is a player with 3 career interceptions.

If this is Amos in cover 2, I welcome the Packers playing him in cover 1.

Good luck, GB.

Nick is the editor-in-chief at TheLoopSports.com. He is also a Chicago Sports fanatic, avid sports bettor, fantasy sports nut, and totally didn’t try to sell his soul on eBay (which he’s still waiting to get back by the way). For more fun, follow him on Twitter @PetroTLS

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