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  • The Bears’ defense is adjusting extremely well under new coordinator Chuck Pagano. Can the unit keep it up in Washington on Monday Night Football?
By Andy Benoit
September 23, 2019

The third week of the NFL season wraps up with the Bears visiting the Redskins on Monday Night Football. We have three things to watch and a score prediction ahead of tonight’s NFC clash.

1. Some people—OK, maybe just me—had concerns about Chicago’s defense under new coordinator Chuck Pagano. Pagano is a terrific coach, but his system, historically, has centered around blitzing, which inherently comes with man coverage. Chicago’s defense thrived under previous coordinator Vic Fangio by playing an array of subtly disguised matchup zones, very often behind a four-man rush.

Through two games, it looks Chicago’s doubters (me) were wrong about Pagano and this defense; the marriage is off to a fantastic start. Yes, Pagano is incorporating more blitzes—particularly with slot corner Buster Skrine, who has thrived on those assignments. But Pagano is calling on these only periodically, and instead of just playing straight press-man coverage behind the blitz, the Bears are matching up from off-coverage positions, which better plays to the skills of cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara. The off-coverage also recreates some of those subtle disguises that this defense performs so well. One player in particular who has shined here is third-year safety Eddie Jackson.

It’s still early, and at some point this defense may come to realize it must go out of its way to overcome what has so far been a deficient Bears offense. What happens to the defensive approach then? Because of that offense, I still feel good about my 7–9 prediction for the Bears. But here’s giving credit where it’s due to Pagano and that defense.

2. New quarterback Case Keenum has been fine for Washington, though there are times where you wonder about his vision from the pocket. We mean this in terms of progression reads and field vision, though it might also include Keenum’s literal vision; being 6' 1", there could be things he simply can’t see behind his offensive line. This team can’t afford the missed opportunities that come from poor vision. Washington’s passing game is extremely well-designed and not overly talented. For this offense to succeed, it must consistently capitalize on those sharp designs. Monday night will be tough, as the Bears, with their active secondary, are an especially difficult defense to read.

3. Redskins first-round rookie defensive end Montez Sweat immediately had his “welcome to the NFL” experience in Week 1 when he went up against cagey Eagles veteran left tackle Jason Peters and discovered that NFL pass rushing requires not only raw talent (which Sweat has) but also an array of well-honed moves (which Sweat doesn’t have... yet). The Mississippi State product learned this lesson all over again in Week 2 when he disappeared against Cowboys perennial Pro Bowler Tyron Smith. Now Sweat is facing Chicago’s solid but unspectacular Charles Leno. Will he show some pass rushing juice?

Bold Prediction: Mitchell Trubisky will throw for two 25-plus-yard touchdowns as the Bears go after Washington’s hot-and-cold secondary with designer downfield shots.

Score Prediction: Chicago 26, Washington 13

Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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