The Chicago Bears are back to work at Halas Hall this week after their bye week. After losing their last game against the Oakland Raiders in what was a dismal performance on both sides of the ball, the team headed into the bye week licking their wounds a bit.
The defense allowed their first 100-yard rusher of the season against the Raiders, and they’re looking to rebound after what was easily their worst showing of the season. They’ll face a very difficult opponent in their return to Soldier Field, as the 5-1 Saints come to town. Here’s what to watch for on the defensive side of the ball:
Can Kyle Fuller Return to All-Pro Form?
Fuller has been a bit of a disappointment so far this season. While he is tied for the team lead in interceptions with two, he hasn’t looked like the same player he became last year. He has been outplayed at the corner position by Prince Amukamara, and he has drawn several flags so far.
He has three costly penalties already this year after having four all of last season and three all of 2017. Two of his three penalties this season have come on third down in the fourth quarter, which is not the time to get called for defensive penalties.
Fuller had a clutch interception in the fourth quarter against the Broncos, and he needs more plays like that and fewer flags moving forward.
Will Khalil Mack Play Angry?
The last game Khalil Mack played in, the Bears’ loss to the Oakland Raiders in London, he left the stadium early without speaking to reporters. It was supposed to be a revenge game of sorts for him. Instead, he lost to his former team and failed to notch a forced fumble or get a single sack.
Mack will likely be double and triple-teamed all season–he’s just too dominant a force not to be. But coming home to Chicago after a loss like that? It’ll be fascinating to see how he responds.
Will the Bears Defense Still Showcase Depth?
After losing Akiem Hicks for most of the regular season, this defense is about to be tested. Second-year standout Bilal Nichols is still recovering from a broken wrist, so his play and progress are both worth monitoring.
As when Hicks missed the Vikings game, the Bears will need to rely primarily on Nick Williams and Roy Robertson-Harris to fill the huge hole in the defensive line after losing him. The Saints will be bringing one of the league’s best running backs to Soldier Field in Alvin Kamara, so their first test after the bye will be a big one.
Will Leonard Floyd Step Up With Akiem Hicks Out?
Leonard Floyd has had a decent season so far. But he hasn’t broken out as some had hoped, and if he’s going to, now is the time, especially with Akiem Hicks out. While Floyd isn’t filling in for Hicks, he needs to step up his game with Hicks out, because the defense will be missing one of its biggest playmakers.
Floyd had two sacks against the Packers Week 1 and hasn’t had any since. He needs to start winning more of his battles in the line, especially with Khalil Mack usually drawing double and triple teams.
How is Roquan Smith?
After missing the Bears’ home against the Vikings Week 4 for undisclosed personal reasons, Smith returned to the lineup for the Raiders game, but he didn’t look like himself.
He failed to help contain Raiders running back Josh Jacobs, and he seemed to be a step off in coverage, as well. It was an uncharacteristically slow performance by the entire defense, so perhaps it was just one weird game for everyone–that happens. How Smith performs in the Bears’ first game back from the bye will still be worth watching, however.