The Chicago Bears are looking to bounce back in Week 2 versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But they will have to overcome some late-developing hurdles to get a much-needed win before having to face the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3.
Keep an eye on these four key situations that will have a significant impact on how this week versus Tampa turns out.
4 Bears Things to Watch for in Week 2 vs. Buccaneers
Injuries Piling Up
The Bears have dealt with injuries all offseason, just as most teams have. They got healthy in time for the season opener but have regressed with several players now dealing with ailments including two starters: Teven Jenkins who will be out for at least another two weeks after suffering a calf strain and Kyler Gordon who suffered a broken hand in the opener.
Gordon’s hand required surgery which he underwent this week.
Jenkins donned a boot immediately after suffering the injury that he has since shed and says that he is feeling “good”, though he and Gordon are on injured reserve. Cornerback Josh Blackwell is also out for this game.
That will push practice squad call-up Greg Stroman into the nickelback role on Sunday. But it’s not just injuries keeping key players and personnel out.
Matt Eberflus’ Playcalling
Defensive coordinator Alan Williams is away from the team for personal reasons with no timeline for return. His absences will leave play-calling duties to head coach Matt Eberflus who did so for four years with the Indianapolis Colts before coming to helm the Bears before last season.
Williams’ defense came under heavy fire for a lack of pressure on Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love in the opener.
It will be interesting to see how different Eberflus’ approach is from Williams’, if at all. The two were in Indianapolis together, and it’s hard to suggest that it’s Williams’ scheme any more than it is Eberflus’
The Buccaneers’ offensive line is not as strong as the Packers’.
Justin Fields’ Protection
Quarterback Justin Fields took four sacks in Week 1. After tying for the league lead in 2022, it was an inauspicious start for him and the offensive line. The Bears re-tooled the front five, shifting Jenking from the right side, moving Cody Whitehair back to center, and adding Nate Davis and Darnell Wright and right guard and right tackle, respectively.
However, Davis could miss Sunday’s contest as he deals with a death in the family, per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. The matter has led to his previous absences this preseason, per Courtney Cronin of ESPN.
Chicago has utility interior lineman Dan Feeney on hand in the event Davis is out.
Still, with Jenkins – who was their best offensive lineman when healthy last season – already out, and their top offensive free agent in jeopardy of missing the game, too, it’s another challenge for the remaining linemen and Fields to overcome.
Chase Claypool’s Effort
Last week saw the re-emergence of negative narratives about wide receiver Chase Claypool after his lack of effort on several blocking plays was plainly visible during the game. He failed to catch either of his two targets on a day when the offense’s inability to sustain anything wasted a 10-point first-half effort by the defense.
Wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert assumed some responsibility for getting Claypool back on track.
And Fields noted he will be looking in Claypool and DJ Moore’s direction more often. But the Bears are still looking for a return on their hefty investment to land the talented pass-catcher from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Perhaps an outing against a banged-up Bucs defense is the perfect remedy for this offense.
Prediction: Bears 24 Buccaneers 21