The Chicago Bears may have only put up 14 points last Sunday against the Houston Texans, but this is an offense that can present a lot of issues from a matchup standpoint. It all starts on the outside with former second-round pick Alshon Jeffery. At 6-3, Jeffery's ability to go up and win in contested situations makes him as tough a cover as anyone in the NFL. He isn't the fleetest of foot, but his ability to separate at the catch point allows him to come down with grabs that most in the league can't make.
Similar to the Eagles and Dorial Green-Beckham, the Bears like Jeffery to use his size to his advantage down the field on vertical routes. He does a really nice job attacking the football down the field (two of his four catches last week came on deep throws), and some of his best plays every year he's been in the league have come off of shot plays or fade balls on the perimeter.
This is a play from last season when the Bears put Jeffery in a bunch set. From a defensive standpoint, it's really difficult to play press coverage against a bunch set because of all of the traffic near the line of scrimmage, so Chicago knows he'll get a free release off the line here. Jeffery runs his go-to route here, a stutter-go, winning downfield on a jump ball for a touchdown.
As you can imagine, Jeffery is also a huge threat down in the red zone. Whether he lines up as the X-iso receiver all by himself to the boundary, or if he lines up inside, he is a threat near the goal line because of his size and leaping ability. The Bears and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains know this, and they have done a good job of leveraging that skill set inside the 20-yard line.
On this play from 2015, the Bears run a pair of seam routes against the Detroit Lions, with Jeffery in the slot. This creates a very easy situation for Jay Cutler. The safety in the middle of the field can't possibly defend both of those routes, so you have to make him wrong. Cutler wants to get the ball to Jeffery here, so he first starts to his left to hold the safety before working back to his right, where he throws this ball up where only his man can get it for the touchdown.
Jeffery isn't the only big receiver the Eagles will have to contend with on Monday night. The Bears have a former first-round pick on the perimeter who the Eagles will have to be sure to keep under wraps.
Second-year wideout Kevin White (a big topic of conversation on the podcast this week) has a similar build to Jeffery and the Bears have used him in similar ways so far through Week 1 and the preseason. On this play, White is lined up in a tight split tight to the formation running an over route across the field. White's ability with the ball in his hands was one of his most redeeming qualities coming out of West Virginia a year ago, and something that led to him being a top 10 pick.
On the very next play after that over route, the Bears ran a stutter-go with White and drew a pass interference penalty on the goal line. While White hasn't progressed to the level that many expected of him coming out of West Virginia, he's coming off a serious knee injury and is still learning the finer points of route running. Many believe that it's only a matter of time until he puts it all together, and the Eagles will need to make sure that he is covered up in the secondary on Monday.
Up front on the offensive line, the Bears have had a lot of moving parts. They have a new starting right tackle in Bobby Massie, who gave up a sack and a handful of pressures last week against Houston. They have a starting left guard who they just picked up less than two weeks ago in former Packer Josh Sitton, so he is obviously still jelling with left tackle Charles Leno (a former seventh-round pick) and center Cody Whitehair.
Whitehair was the starting left tackle at Kansas State a year ago, a position he held for three seasons. The Bears drafted him to be their starting left guard, and that's where he played for most of the preseason. After an ACL injury to starting center Hroniss Grasu early in Training Camp, Whitehair began taking more snaps inside. In fact, he actually pulled double duty working with the second-team offensive line at center while starting at left guard during the preseason. After the signing of Sitton, the Bears' staff made the transition to center complete, as Whitehair got his first start inside against the Texans.
One of the major concerns for any college offensive lineman making the switch from tackle inside to guard or to center when they move to the NFL is the speed of the game. The closer you move to the ball, the faster things move in the NFL, and with all of the different stunts and blitzes defenses can throw at you, you have to be prepared to react. All summer long, whether he was at guard or center, Whitehair had issues reacting to stunts inside, failing to pick up "looping" defenders coming into his gap, allowing penetration in the backfield. Last week against Houston was no different ... for the most part.
There were a couple of plays here and there where he was able to successfully pass defenders off and pick up a looping pass rusher. The Bears hope this is a positive sign of things to come, but this is certainly an area where the Eagles' defensive line could look to attack on Monday night.
In the run game, Whitehair had his share of issues as well with Houston nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who is no slouch despite his age.
In the two plays above, you see an example of a negative and a positive play for Whitehair. First, you see him get overwhelmed with Wilfork's strength at the point of attack and get pushed back at the snap. Second, you see him use his athletic ability to reach Wilfork down on the goal line and win a leverage block in the run game. Whether he's going up against Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Beau Allen or even Destiny Vaeao, the Eagles' defensive line against Whitehair inside is going to be a very interesting "game within a game" on Monday.
Carrying the ball for the Bears will be another young player in second-year back Jeremy Langford. A third-round pick out of Michigan State a year ago, Langford was one of the most athletic running backs in his draft class. The former receiver brings an added bonus on third down as a pass catcher. I've been thoroughly impressed with his improvement in pass protection as well, something that I'm sure he was able to pick up from his former teammate Matt Forte.
When things aren't clear for Langford on the play side, he is routinely able to cut back side and find a running lane. He's done it all summer long, and the Bears have a number of misdirection runs built into their game plan that allows him to take advantage of cutback lanes. His speed in the open field and his quickness in the open field allow him to make defenders miss as well.
In his longest run of the preseason, Langford made this Patriots safety miss a tackle attempt in space, as he races down the right sideline for a near touchdown. The Eagles did a solid job against a different type of back in Isaiah Crowell in Week 1, but this will be a good test on Monday with Langford and rookie Jordan Howard in Chicago's backfield. Keep an eye on the screen game for the Bears, something that was very effective for them in the preseason, but that they didn't really show a week ago.
Fran Duffy is the producer of "Eagles Game Plan" which can be seen on Saturdays during the season. Be sure to also check out the "Eagle Eye In The Sky" podcast on the Philadelphia Eagles podcast channel on iTunes. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University Football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices and opponents.