It feels as though Week 5 versus the Washington Commanders needs to be the week for the Chicago Bears.
Their matchup against the Washington Commanders on Thursday Night Football is far from a clash of two Goliaths. The two teams have a combined record of 2-6 on the season. But Washington is responsible for 100% of those wins. And they pose specific challenges to a Chicago squad that is vulnerable in several spots to start the season.
“Their front four, for our offense, is probably one of the biggest challenges,” head coach Matt Eberflus said after practice on October 4. “Really good,”
4 Things Coaches & Players Are Watching for vs. Commanders
1) Matt Eberflus Cites Commanders’ D-Line, WR Core
The Commanders boast four first-round picks along their starting defensive line. Led by two-time Pro Bowler Jonathan Allen, the group also includes Da’Ron Payne – a one-time potential Bears trade target – on the inside.
That is a daunting challenge for the interior of the Bears’ offensive line.
The Bears might get starting left guard Teven Jenkins back from injury. But it would be his first action of the season, a potentially unfavorable scenario. But the Bears’ young tackles will also see a combination of Chase Young and Montez Sweat. Both are premier pass rushers when healthy.
“They got a couple good receivers that are really skilled,” Eberflus continued. “Those guys are really good players and they they pose the biggest challenge for us.”
GET OFF ME
– scary terry
— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) October 1, 2023
Commanders’ top wideout Terry McLaurin has gotten off to a slow start this season with just seven receptions and 85 yards over the last two weeks after an eight-grab, 86-yard performance in the season opener and a 6-41 line in Week 2.
But the Bears could be down four starters in the secondary.
Kyler Gordon is still on injured reserve for a couple more weeks. Eddie Jackson and Jaylon Johnson failed to practice all week and Jaquan Brisker tweaked his hamstring on Wednesday.
2) Larry Borom Mindful of Chiefs’ Pass Rush
“Winning our 1-on-1s,” left tackle Larry Borom said when asked what the biggest challenge will be. “They got five across the board that can play. So we all just gotta win our 1-on-1s.”
Borom is filling in for injured left tackle Braxton Jones who started every game as a rookie last season but has joined Gordon and Jenkins on injured reserve since the season began. He is one of the few holdovers from the previous front-office regime, and he has allowed just one sack and two hurries in two games, per Pro Football Focus.
He did allow a team-high four pressures, though, something that will need to be cleaned up.
Washington is tied for the fourth-most sacks in the NFL with 13 while the Bears have allowed the third-most with 17: something will have to give.
3) Yannick Ngakoue: ‘Sacks Come in Bunches’
Washington has also allowed the most sacks in the league with 24 as quarterback Sam Howell is one of just two quarterbacks to absorb more sacks than Bears quarterback Justin Fields this season. The other is New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones who was sacked 10 times by the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football.
“Just keep rushing, keep fighting,” EDGE defender Yannick Ngakoue said. That’s what pass rush is all about. They [sacks] come in bunches. … Show that energy. Show that energy as a defense – as a defensive line, specifically – and just get to the quarterback.”
— ImBearingDown (@ImBearingDown) September 14, 2023
The Bears have two sacks despite overhauling their pass rush this offseason.
Ngakoue is the only player on the team credited with a full sack on the season with Dominique Robinson and Zacch Pickens splitting the other. His five pressures on the season are tied for the 13th most while DeMarcus Walker is right behind him, also tied, with four pressures. The pressures put Ngakoue on a similar pace as last season.
He had 9.5 sacks last season and, despite the lack of sacks this year, he is remaining upbeat.
“It’s been great. Getting to know my teammates, getting to know every man in the room. It’s been an awesome experience so far. Love being here.”
4) Duron Harmon’s Super Bowl Experience
While it’s probably a long shot given he just signed this week, we could see veteran safety Duron Harmon take the field with all of the injuries in the secondary. A more likely scenario is Ejiah Hicks and Quindell Johnson man both spots as they did when Brisker and Jackson have both been out of games this season.
Still, Harmon is the most accomplished player in the room.
Fun fact: Duron Harmon has had at least two interceptions in each of the last six seasons.
— Josh Buckhalter (@JoshGBuck) October 3, 2023
“Leadership, anything they need from me, man,” Harmon said when asked what he hoped to bring to the team. “Try to help guys out. When I was young, older guys helped me. “
Harmon won three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots who drafted him in the third round of the draft in 2013. He spent last season with the Las Vegas Raiders, and he has also played for the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons in his 10-year career.
He noted that he had not been paying much attention to the Bears specifically while searching for his next opportunity. But Harmon – who has started 78 of the 161 games he has played in his career – did note that he is “excited” to help show his teammates how to prepare and play at a high level.
Harmon was asked what he would like to show if he gets on the field on Thursday.
“Just that I know what I’m doing,” he said. “It’s been a long time. So just that I know what I’m doing, and that I’m accountable.”