Five Things to Watch in Titan's Game...............
Bears at Titans: 5 things to watch
Chief among them is pass rush, where Peppers needs help
http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/...3-26164541.gif Will Saturday's exhibition game against the Titans be Chester Taylor's last in a Bears uniform. (Scott Strazzante/Tribune photo)
By Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune reporter 6:47 p.m. CDT, August 26, 2011
The back end of the Bears defense stuck out as a reason for concern when it was last on the field.
Major Wright missed badly trying to tackle Giants running back Brandon Jacobs in the open field. Wright had some other plays that didn't go his way and as the free safety — who can be the difference in a 20-yard play and a touchdown — there are fair questions for him.
But what makes the defense go is the front end, specifically the four down linemen. Lovie Smith's unit is coming off its best season since the Super Bowl year of 2006 and that's because newcomer Julius Peppers buoyed the front. But the Pro Bowl performer can't do it alone and one explanation for his eight sacks — only the third time in nine seasons he has been in single-digits — is the lack of a pass rush around him.
Here are five things to watch in Saturday's visit with the Titans with the starters expected to play into the fourth quarter in their third exhibition:
1. The Bears had 34 sacks a year ago, 17th in the NFL. Of course, sacks aren't the only measure of pass pressure and no one will tell you that faster than former defensive coordinator Greg Blache. The most sacks the Bears have had in the last decade is 48 in 2001 under Blache.
Defensive tackle Amobi Okoye had two sacks against the Bills in the first exhibition but there hasn't been a lot of pressure.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said he doesn't like to blitz much before the games count. First, he wants to see what the players can do man-on-man as he doesn't want to win with scheming. Second, he doesn't want to tip his hand.
The blitz wasn't a big thing under Marinelli anyway in his first season as coordinator. According to Football Outsiders, the Bears rushed five men or more only 22 percent of the time on third down, the lowest figure in the league. The players around Peppers, including left end Israel Idonije, need to ramp up the pressure.
2. Peel away the big compliments being thrown at the offensive line and the Bears are cautiously optimistic about the current lineup.
But nothing is set. As much as line coach Mike Tice wants continuity, it's a week-by-week process.
The focus remains on right guard Lance Louis because swapping him out and sliding Roberto Garza to his spot and inserting veteran Chris Spencer at center is an easy switch. Louis needs another strong game to maintain hold of the job.
3. There hasn't been this much noise about a Bears wide receiver coming off a 37-catch season like Roy Williams since dare we say David Terrell. Terrell, the last first-round draft pick before the Jerry Angelo era, had a gift for gab like Williams. It's approaching put up or shut up time for the free-agent addition though.
You have to wonder if the folks in Williams' camp in the organization are dwindling.
4. Special teams was sloppy last time out but the only way Dave Toub believes he truly can evaluate rookies is by playing them against the starters from other teams. So look for fresh faces in all four phases against the Titans.
If they can't pass the test, someone needs to be paying close attention to the waiver wire for veteran help.
5. Is Chester Taylor in his final eight days in a Bears uniform?
Kahlil Bell has momentum off a strong exhibition debut and has special teams value but will Angelo cut the second member of his big three signing spree from a year ago? Forget the idea Taylor is tradable. Who is going to fork over a draft pick for a soon-to-be 32-year-old back who averaged 2.38 yards per carry last season and is due $1.25 million?
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