Jason Peters (left) and Germain Ifedi (right) have so far answered big questions at offensive tackle, but they’ll both be tested Sunday against Browns defensive ends Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.
Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2017 draft ahead of quarterback Mitch Trubisky, has 13 1/2, 10 and 12 sacks in the past three seasons and made the All-Pro team in 2020. He had a sack and three pressures against the Chiefs in Week 1 but was not a major factor last week against the Texans.
Peters has been effective in pass protection through two games — ranked fifth in the NFL by Pro Football Focus, for whatever that’s worth. But he suffered a quad injury in Week 1 and a dislocated finger in Week 2. How well and how long he’ll hold up against one of the best pass rushers in the league is a legitimate question. And even if Peters can neutralize Garrett, Clowney vs. Ifedi on the other side might be where the Bears are most vulnerable.
The Bears’ run defense is fifth in the NFL after two weeks — a little leaky against the Rams’ Darrell Henderson (16-70, 4.4, 1 touchdown), but better against the more dangerous Joe Mixon last week (20-69, 3.5). Now they face a different type of challenge against the Browns’ outstanding duo of Nick Chubb (26-178, 6.8, 3 TDs) and Kareem Hunt (19-84, 4.4, 1 TD).
Even as the defense declined the past two seasons, the Bears have had a knack for rising to the challenge against top rushers — including Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook. That will be the challenge against Chubb and Hunt.
“They are physical and they run angrily and mean,” defensive coordinator Sean Desai said. “They run with their shoulders over their toes. They’re not afraid to hit the ball downhill and they are not afraid to make anybody miss. From a defensive linemen to a defensive back, they can make anybody miss in the hole. It’s going to take a lot of people at one time to get them down.”
PLAYER TO WATCH
Bears rookie Justin Fields, the team’s first-round draft pick (11th overall) will be making his first NFL start. Fields played five snaps against the Rams in the opener and played 42 snaps against the Bengals — most of them in place of injured starter Andy Dalton.
But this time, Fields has the advantage of getting all the first-team reps in practice, with a game plan presumably more tailored to his strengths. On the road against a playoff team and a defense that while vulnerable still has some bite is not an optimal situation, but the Bears are counting on Fields’ cool demeanor and steady hand to avoid being overwhelmed.
Fields is obviously inexperienced, but he’s also an unknown to the Browns — a multi-dimensional player in a fledgling offense. Even the Bears will be experimenting to find out what he likes and what he does best. So while the advantage almost often goes to the defense against a rookie quarterback, Fields’ unique ability also gives the Bears a chance to utilize what coaches cherish — the element of surprise.