Larry Mayer and Eli Kaberon of ChicagoBears.com discuss the Bears players they'll be watching on both sides of the ball in Sunday's road game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Offense: Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky
The rookie first-round draft pick makes his second NFL start looking to build off a solid debut performance in last Monday night's loss to the Vikings. Trubisky gave the offense a boost, extending plays with his athleticism and throwing with accuracy on the run. He helped forge a 17-17 tie with a 20-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Miller early in the fourth quarter. But Trubisky made a costly rookie mistake late in the game when he threw an interception that led to Minnesota's winning field goal.
Asked about his objectives Sunday against the Ravens, Trubisky said: "Just continue to be clean with operation in and out of the huddle, be 100 percent on my checks at the line of scrimmage, always getting us in the right play. Have a better completion percentage and be more efficient on third down. Continue to be a leader and just win."
"If I can continue to do those things—and winning's the most important thing—we'll continue to see growth. It's all about working every day and coming out here in practice and just raising the level of play of my teammates and going out and grinding every day."
Defense: Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee
McPhee returns to Baltimore, where he faces his former team for the first time since leaving the Ravens for the Bears via free agency in 2015. As a reserve behind Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, McPhee wasn't going to receive a huge free-agent contract from the Ravens. But the seven-year veteran still wants to show his former team what they're missing.
McPhee seems like he's fully recovered from the arthroscopic knee surgery that sidelined him for all of training camp and the preseason. He played a season-high 45 snaps last Monday night against the Vikings, recording one tackle and two quarterback hits.
With fellow outside linebacker Willie Young placed on injured reserve this week with a triceps injury he sustained Sept. 28 against the Packers, McPhee will be counted on to help the Bears defense generate consistent pressure on Joe Flacco. The Ravens quarterback has completed 92 of 144 passes for 823 yards with four touchdowns, six interceptions and a 71.0 passer rating that would be the lowest in his 10-year NFL career. He's been sacked nine times in five games.
Offense: Tight end Zach Miller
In Trubisky's debut last Monday night, he threw 26 passes. More than a quarter of them were directed toward Miller, the rookie's favorite and most reliable target. Miller finished with just three catches, third on the team against the Vikings, but had the team's lone offensive touchdown. He has a knack for getting open and can work the middle of the field, giving Trubisky a reliable option in any situation. Miller also is valuable to the rookie as a blocker in max protection formations.
Baltimore presents a tough test for Miller. The Ravens have a talented secondary, with safeties Tony Jefferson and Eric Weddle patrolling the middle of the field. However, tight ends have had some success against them. Just three weeks ago, Jacksonville tight end Marcedes Lewis had 62 receiving yards and three touchdowns against the Ravens. It may be a lot to expect Miller to post those kinds of numbers, but if he can provide a reliable target for Trubisky, that may be all the Chicago passing attack needs.
Defense: Inside linebacker Danny Trevathan
Baltimore's offense isn't going to stretch the field too much. The average length of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco's passes this season is 6.45 yards, third fewest in the NFL among qualifying quarterbacks. The team's top two receivers are running back Javorius Allen and tight end Benjamin Watson, neither of whom average more than 10 yards per reception. All of that points out that the Chicago linebackers are going to play a big role in shutting down the Ravens offense. With lots of throws coming close to the line of scrimmage, the Bears can load the box and put pressure on Flacco, forcing him to make uncomfortable throws down the field.
Inside linebacker Danny Trevathan will man the middle of the field for the Bears and be entrusted in slowing down the Baltimore attack. Trevathan missed the Week 5 game versus Minnesota because of a suspension, and the Vikings took advantage, running for 159 yards, the most by a Chicago opponent all season. Playing in the middle of the field, Trevathan will do what he can to shut down Baltimore on early downs and put the Ravens behind the sticks. By forcing a lot of 3rd-and-longs, which the Ravens have issues converting, the Bears defense has a chance to take control.
Who gets your vote?
Which of these Players to Watch will have the greatest impact on Sunday's game?
QB Mitchell Trubisky
OLB Pernell McPhee
TE Zach Miller
ILB Danny Trevathan