PACK­ERS vs. BEARS

Packer Plus - - Analysis - GENE CHAM­BER­LAIN

Stats, ba­sics, ros­ters, coaches, depth chart

Lake For­est, Ill. – The Chicago Bears built some mo­men­tum while go­ing 3-5 in the sea­son’s first half thanks to de­fen­sive depth.

In the sec­ond half of the sched­ule, coach John Fox thinks build­ing on what they’ve es­tab­lished will re­quire the of­fense to step for­ward and show some depth.

“I think we’re prob­a­bly a lit­tle bit more whole than we were for sure last sea­son,” Fox said Mon­day at Halas Hall. “I think we still had in­ter­est­ing changes in line­ups, in par­tic­u­lar in the of­fen­sive line. Hope­fully we can stay a lit­tle bit more con­sis­tent as far as line­ups.

“We have to be right on top of it. When we are, we win. And we’ve lost some close games, we’ve won some close games. I’d rather see that be more con­sis­tent in the sec­ond half.”

The Bears re­turned Mon­day from their bye week, and when they re­sume prepa­ra­tion for Sun­day’s game at Sol­dier Field against the Green Bay Pack­ers, two of­fen­sive line in­juries and a re­ceiver group in a con­stant state of flux will be is­sues.

One po­si­tion where the Bears will be se­verely chal­lenged is tight end. Zach Miller’s sea­so­nend­ing dis­lo­cated knee means they’ve lost one of quar­ter­back Mitchell Tru­bisky’s few de­pend­able tar­gets.

“You can’t put a num­ber or an amount on it — he’s ir­re­place­able,” Tru­bisky said. “We love Zach and he knows that.”

Miller was to be re­leased from a New Or­leans hos­pi­tal Mon­day af­ter be­ing in­jured Oct. 29. He un­der­went surgery to re­pair a torn artery, sav­ing his left leg. Miller still faces surgery to re­pair the knee it­self.

“I talked to him a lit­tle bit and his mom over the course of the bye week, just to make sure (of) the whole fam­ily si­t­u­a­tion,” Fox said. “I think they feel very good about where he is.”

Miller posted a note on Twit­ter thank­ing team doc­tors and train­ers and sur­geons at the Uni- ver­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter of New Or­leans.

“With­out their team­work, ex­per­tise and ur­gent care I do not know if the out­come would have been as suc­cess­ful,” Miller said.

Tight ends Dion Sims, sec­ond-round pick Adam Sha­heen, and Daniel Brown now be­come more im­por­tant in the of­fense.

Tru­bisky will also need to tar­get wide re­ceivers more, and has more choices.

With re­cently ac­quired Don­trelle In­man now avail­able, and vet­eran Markus Wheaton ex­pected to re­turn in com­ing weeks from a groin in­jury to join Ken­dall Wright and Tre McBride, Tru­bisky could try get­ting the ball down­field more of­ten.

In­man spent the bye week learn­ing the of­fense.

“In San Diego I could miss train­ing camp and still come in and know the of­fense be­cause I’ve been there so long,” In­man said. “So it’s a dif­fer­ent learn­ing curve.

“It’s back to when I first came into the league and had to study, study, study. But I knew that com­ing in, so I ex­pected noth­ing else.”

McBride had a ca­reer-high and Bears sea­son-high 92 re­ceiv­ing yards against New Or­leans, but ex­pects build­ing a rap­port with Tru­bisky at this point in the sea­son will be chal­leng­ing. Train­ing camp is when such ties are es­tab­lished.

“On the field, in pads, that’s when that time is built, and we only get so many days to do that, so there’s no other short­cut,” McBride said.

The Bears start the sea­son’s sec­ond half ranked last in pass­ing at 157.5 yards per game.

Run­ning back Tarik Co­hen has pro­duced big plays, but the brunt of the of­fense has fallen on run­ning back Jor­dan Howard, who is fifth in the NFL with 662 yards rush­ing.

“We had key in­juries that took away from the of­fense, took away from the pass­ing game,” Co­hen said. “With peo­ple com­ing in and vet­er­ans com­ing back it’s go­ing to open up the of­fense, take stress off of Jor­dan and just re­ally get the ball and dis­trib­ute it in a lot of dif­fer­ent ar­eas.”

The other is­sue fac­ing the Bears is on the of­fen­sive line. Both guard Kyle Long (fin­ger) and cen­ter Cody White­hair (el­bow) suf­fered in­juries against New Or­leans, and their sta­tus will be more clear Wed­nes­day when prac­tice re­sumes.

A week off has Fox think­ing the of­fense can take on a dif­fer­ent look.

“I think we’ve leaned a lit­tle bit on our run as a foot­ball team, much like last year,” Fox said. “We’ll con­tinue on that path, we can get bet­ter in those ar­eas, we’ve had some neg­a­tive runs that we want to get cleaned up. I think the big­gest thing we’ve kind of stressed is things to do bet­ter in the pass­ing game.”

DER­ICK E. HINGLE/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

The Bears may open up the play­book a bit in the sec­ond half of the sea­son for rookie quar­ter­back Mitchell Tru­bisky.

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