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4 things to watch: Bears vs. Packers

Posted Nov 11, 2017

Senior writer Larry Mayer identifies four storylines to watch Sunday when the Bears host the rival Packers, including the continued development of rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

The Bears will look to register their third win in four games when they host the rival Green Bay Packers Sunday at Soldier Field. Here are four storylines to watch in the game:

(1) Will rookie Mitchell Trubisky continue to show signs of developing into the quarterback the Bears envisioned when they selected him with the second pick in the draft?

In his first four NFL starts, Trubisky displayed the playmaking ability, arm strength and athleticism the Bears saw on his college tape. Since replacing Mike Glennon as the Bears' No. 1 quarterback, the 23-year-old has completed 38 of 80 passes for 512 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions and a 66.3 passer rating. He has also rushed for 110 yards on 15 carries.

Before heading home for a few days during the Bears' bye weekend, Trubisky watched all 80 of his passes on tape, concluding that he needs to be "more efficient and continue to take care of the football, but be aggressive at the same time. Make more plays for this offense while playing within the offense and being myself and continue to be a leader."

Trubisky has focused on his footwork and fundamentals, which should help improve his accuracy. "When my feet are right and my eyes are right, I'm on the money," he said. "But when I change up or do the wrong footwork or my base isn't good because of the rush in the pocket, that's usually when the inaccuracies occur."

Leonard Floyd
Bears quaterback Mitchell Trubisky rolls out for a pass attempt against the Saints.

(2) How much of an impact will veteran receivers Dontrelle Inman and Markus Wheaton make on the Bears' 32nd-ranked passing game?

Trubisky should benefit from playing for the first time with the two experienced wideouts. Inman is expected to make his Bears debut less than two weeks after being acquired in a trade with the Chargers. The 6-3, 205-pounder is a student of the game who possesses an excellent work ethic and good hands. Inman started all 16 games for the Chargers last season, setting career highs in all receiving categories with 58 receptions for 810 yards and four touchdowns.

Wheaton has been plagued by injuries in his first season with the Bears. It started with an appendectomy and broken finger and training camp and continued with a groin injury Oct. 9 against the Vikings. But after missing the last three games, the 5-11, 189-pounder practiced all week without limitations and is expected to play Sunday against the Packers. Wheaton brings a speed element to the Bears offense, but he has caught just one pass for nine yards this season.

The Bears are still learning how to best utilize Wheaton. "Marcus has been here, but we don't have a lot of exposure with him because he was hurt in OTAs and hurt in training camp and he's missed a couple weeks," said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. "We're trying to figure out still where exactly he is, what exactly he's good at."

(3) Will the Bears be able to take advantage of a struggling Packers offense that is playing without future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers?

The Bears aren't taking anything for granted against inexperienced quarterback Brett Hundley, who possesses a strong arm and the athleticism to extend plays with his feet. But the drop off from Rodgers to Hundley is a significant one. The Packers were 4-1 with Rodgers, but are 0-3 since he sustained a broken collarbone Oct. 15 against the Vikings.

Rodgers has owned the Bears throughout his career, winning 13 of the last 14 games he's started and finished against them. He has also thrown for 21 touchdowns and just one interception in his last eight starts versus the Bears. Earlier this season, the two-time NFL MVP threw four TD passes to lead the Packers to a 35-14 win over the Bears at Lambeau Field.

Since replacing Rodgers, Hundley has completed 57 of 97 passes for 489 yards with one touchdown, four interceptions and a 58.3 passer rating in one relief appearance and two starts. "He has done a decent job for them since he started in there," said Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. "He's athletic, has a good arm. They've added the zone read and are keeping it in the running game, so he adds some different dimensions that way."

(4) Will the Bears defense be able to build on its successful first half of the season?

The Bears have played well on defense all season, but the unit has raised its level of play even higher in the last three games, generating eight takeaways and returning three of them for touchdowns. The Bears have produced 11 takeaways in eight games this season, matching their total from all of last year.

"We're just playing better," Fangio said. "We've had an influx of some new players. That always has an impact obviously. Knock on wood; we haven't been giving up too many big plays, which is something that will sabotage a game quicker than anything. Hopefully we can continue that."

One key to the resurgence of the defense has been the performance of young safeties Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos, a tandem that has combined to score three touchdowns in the last three games. Asked about their chemistry, Fangio said: "It's been good. It's been developing more than just the last couple games. It developed in camp somewhat, and then once Adrian got put in there, it has continued to develop. I think they work well together and they like each other. They're competitive, and that's an intangible that is important."