Much of the focus since last week’s nail-biting win over the New York Giants has been on the poor play of the Bears’ defense. It’s been crippled by injuries to Henry Melton, Nate Collins and now D.J. Williams, and other players have failed to live up to expectations.
It’s somewhat uncharted territory for the Bears over the past decade and a half or so, and left some Bears, fans and media in a bit of a quandary over who and what this edition of the Bears really is.
But a complete evaluation of this team reveals they are tied for first place in their division after six games at 4-2 and, while the defense has disappointed, the offense has picked up a chunk of the slack. Maybe this team is exactly what Marc Trestman was brought in to turn them into.
“We (offense) didn’t do enough on our part to help win games,” quarterback Jay Cutler said. “We put the defense in a lot of bad spots. We’re still not where we want to be offensively. It’s a process. I think we’re getting better and better.”
Clearly, Trestman’s first choice would be to be as good as possible on both sides of the football. But his choices on defense appear limited at this point. There is no question this club will have to rely on the offense if there are to be playoffs in its future, and Trestman believes he can still get more from tight end Martellus Bennett.
“What you see is we move him around, we put him out at different positions, we get him in space,” Trestman said. “We have him lined up outside and we’re trying to create as much value as we can.
“We’re hoping we can get back to the points, and we’ll get back to it this week, where he’s on the line of scrimmage, he’s at the point of attack and those types of things because he’s valuable by being able to block the edge.”
Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer believes a big part of the improvement on offense is his rookie right tackle.
“Jordan Mills has continued to get better,” Kromer said. “He continues to develop and understand football more. He has done a nice job. What Jordan has done is continue to work on fundamentals and make sure that his defender rushes outside. In the running game, he’s physical and has landmarks and footwork, so he has had success.”
Cutler agrees Mills is a big part of what’s new and exciting.
“I think Kyle (Long) gets a lot of the hype, a lot of the attention,” Cutler said. “But Jordan’s the one over there who’s really locking down that side. I think through the first six games of the season, there’s a comfort level that he gives Kyle. It’s a little bit of the yin and yang. Kyle’s upbeat and Jordan’s the calmer of the two. The way they’re playing, they’re giving me an ability to throw the ball and they’re run blocking well and it all starts up there.”
Part of the focus on the rookies on the O-line and getting Bennett more involved in blocking the edge are because of the areas where the offense still needs to get better.
The Bears are still just 17th in the league running the ball, and a byproduct of that is they are just 20th in time of possession.
The best way to help a struggling defense is to keep it off the field, and it’s a safe bet those are two areas the Bears will be focused on Sunday in Washington.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.