What to Watch 4: Alshon Jeffery vs. depleted Packers secondary
Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who has not scored a touchdown in six games this season, has an opportunity for a break-out game against a Packers secondary missing starting cornerbacks Sam Shields (concussion) and Damarious Randall (groin), plus top reserve Quinten Rollins (groin).
Shields, who has not played since Week 1 against the Jaguars, was put on injured reserve this week. This will be the first Bears-Packers game Shields has missed since he entered the NFL in 2010 — when he had two interceptions in the Packers 21-14 victory in the NFC championship game.
Second-year cornerback LaDarius Gunter, an undrafted free agent from Miami, has played well as a replacement for Shields, but struggled last week against the Cowboys. With Randall — the Packers’ 2015 first-round draft pick— and Rollins out, Demetri Goodson, a 2014 sixth-round pick, is the next-man up.
“I don’t care who’s out there guarding me,” said Jeffery, who has 29 receptions for 487 yards (16.8 avg.) this season, including gains of 54, 49 and 38 yards. “Whoever’s out there, we’re going to try to take advantage.
After gaining 389 yards in a 17-16 loss to the Jaguars on Sunday, the Bears’ offense improved from ninth to seventh in total yards, but dropped to 32nd and last in the NFL in points scored. That minus-25 drop is by far the lowest for a team in the top 10 in total offense in the NFL (the Redskins — fifth in yards, 15th in points — are next at minus-10.).
In the last 30 years, the largest drop for a team in the top-10 in total offense is minus-17 — by the 2015 Chargers (ninth-to-26th) and the 1999 Bears (eighth-to-25th).
PLAYER TO WATCH
Newcomer Eric Kush is expected to start for left guard Josh Sitton, who is doubtful after suffering an ankle injury on the second-to-last offensive play against the Jaguars. Sitton has started 81 consecutive games and 129-of-131 since becoming a starter for the Packers in 2009.
Kush, primarily a center, has played in 10 games (one start) in four NFL seasons — three (with the one start) with the Chiefs in 2013 and seven last year with the Rams.
He’s ready for the moment if it happens.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I came in and learned everything. I get here early every day and work and study and get ready to roll regardless [of the situation]. I’m ready to go when the time comes.”
One advantage for Kush is that the rest of offensive linemen have been starting for the past six weeks. That should make it easier for him to fit as a plug-in player.
“I know where everybody’s going to go. I know the concepts,” Kush said. “You just need to build some trust [with linemates] and stuff like that. And you work on that through the week. We’re going to have some damn fun out there — that’s what we’re going to do.”
Overcoming injuries is a weekly hurdle for the Bears. Wide receiver Eddie Royal, who is out after suffering a toe injury last week against the Jaguars, is the latest starter to go down.
Sitton, Jay Cutler (sprained thumb), nose tackle Eddie Goldman (high ankle sprain) and running back Jeremy Langford (ankle) are doubtful. Reserve cornerback Deoindre Hall (ankle) is out.
Starting cornerbacks Tracy Porter (knee) and Bryce Callahan (hamstring) and tight end Zach Miller (ribs) are among seven players listed as questionable. The others are linebackers Jerrell Freeman (wrist), Leonard Floyd (calf) and Sam Acho (ribs) and running back Ka’Deem Carey (hamstring).
Running back Eddie Lacy (ankle) is among seven players who are out for the Packers. The others are running back James Starks (knee), tight end Jared Cook (ankle), cornerbacks Damarious Randall (groin) and Quinten Rollins (groin), safety Chris Banjo (hamstring) and wide receiver Jared Abbrederis (quad). Wide receiver Davante Adams (concussion) is questionable.