Thanks to Dane Noble of Windy City Gridiron for taking the time to answer our questions. Great stuff here.
1.) Are you concerned with the play of the D Line since Melton went down? What level of dropoff do you expect there with his replacement?
Absolutely. And not only did we lose Melton for the season with a torn ACL, but his backup, Nate Collins, suffered the exact same injury a week later. Stephen Paea is another NT, but he has missed two straight games with an injured toe. Luckily, Paea returned to practice this week, and he should be able to go Sunday. For an defensive line that has always been stacked deeply over the last few years, this is not a good thing for a Chicago Bears defense that is predicated on creating a pass rush with their front-four. Even before all of the injuries, Chicago was having a tough time up front, and had been using a lot of blitzes to get a better push in passing situations... Now, it's going to be even tougher.
2.) The Bears have given up 21+ points in all of their games. What has been working by opposing offenses that the Redskins will likely follow? Any weak links?
To work backwards through your question, the aforementioned DL is having a tough year. The Bears are still doing a good job versus the run, but the passing game has been our weakness. Play-action passes and misdirection have worked against the Bears' defense very well, and when they're not causing turnovers, they're being exposed. Pass coverage issues are nothing new for Chicago, it's just no longer being hidden by interceptions and defensive scores.
3.) Ryan Kerrigan has been in beast mode this season. The Bears OLine in recent memory has always seemed to have been subpar...how is it this season given how much the Skins love to blitz?
One thing the Bears have done an excellent job of in a very short period of time is improving the OL. Out of five linemen, we have four new starters, and all of them have done a good job. We added Pro Bowl LT Jermon Bushrod this past offseason, as well as veteran Guard Matt Slauson, and drafted two new guys who are both starting as rookies (RG Jordan Mills and RT Kyle Long). That's 80% new, with only long-time Chicago Bears veteran Roberto Garza left from last year.
Jay Cutler is being sacked a small fraction of the amount that he was used to since coming to Chicago, and is on pace to have the best statistical season of the year. If the Bears can stay in a fast-paced, hurry-up-and-get-rid-of-the-
damn-football mode, it will be hard to get to Cutler. New head coach Marc Trestman has done a good job of picking up the offensive pace, teaching Cutler how to get through his progressions quickly, and getting the ball out of his hands instantly, so we'll see how they stack up against Kerrigan and company.
4.) The Bears have an impressive 11 TDs for INTs since 2012 (next closest team has 6) and Bears already have 4 defensive TDs this year. Can you break down what is working so well? Roster, scheme, all the above?
Lovie Smith built a culture that is still very much ingrained in that defense. He was a master at teaching technique, and instilled a mentality of not only playing sound defense, but taking the ball away from the runner on every play. Every. Single. Play. That was not only something they hoped to do, but literally expected to do on every single defensive play. When you preach and teach something for a long enough period of time, you can brainwash people, and that's exactly what Coach Smith did. Fast-forward to 2013, and the Bears have a new defensive coordinator, but the culture and mentality hasn't changed. Mel Tucker slid right in didn't try to change too much, so that same mentality remains.
5.) Finish the sentence....for the Bears to lose this game, __________ has to happen. Score prediction?
For the Bears to lose this game, RGIII has to happen. Basically, if your quarterback can keep the defense on its toes (play-action, misdirection, etc.), you guys will be able to move the football in bunches. Our guys have not done a good job this season (which is nothing new) of staying at home, and it has not been difficult to trick them. Send the dogs one direction with a steak, then run the other direction. As far as score predictions, I really hate doing those... But since you're one of my favorite bloggers, I'll throw out a 24-20 Chicago Bears victory.
Thanks, Dane, for the kind words. I appreciate the kind words. I've been working hard on the typos and grammar!