Larry Mayer and Simon Kaufman of ChicagoBears.com discuss the Bears players they'll be watching on both sides of the ball in Sunday's home game against the Detroit Lions:
Offense: Tight end Trey Burton
Burton started to develop a rapport with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in training camp and the preseason and that cohesiveness only grew during the first half of the regular season. Burton leads the Bears with five touchdown receptions, tying his career high he set last season in helping lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl championship. The five TDs are also tied for the third most among NFL tight ends.
Burton caught nine passes for 126 yards and one touchdown Oct. 21 in a loss to the Patriots. He had only two receptions in last Sunday's rout of the Bills, but both were key. His 26-yard catch on third-and-15 sustained a drive that led to the Bears' first touchdown and he later caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Trubisky.
While the Bears spread the ball around on offense, Burton has been one of the unit's most dependable players this season, catching 29 passes for 371 yards. The 371 yards are a career high, topping the 327 yards he compiled with the Eagles in 2016.
The Bears will need a balanced offensive attack Sunday against the Lions, and Burton no doubt will do his part both as a blocker in the run game and a reliable target for Trubisky in the pass game.
Defense: Cornerback Kyle Fuller
Fuller is proving that the Bears' decision to match the contract offer he received from the Packers during the offseason was the correct move. The 2014 first-round draft pick is playing the best football of his career, making tremendous breaks on the ball and performing with a high level of confidence and aggressiveness.
Fuller is tied for the NFL lead with four interceptions, with all four coming in the last four games. Last Sunday in Buffalo he picked off one pass and broke up two others that resulted in interceptions by teammates Leonard Floyd and Adrian Amos Jr. "I thought they were all three huge plays," said defensive backs coach Ed Donatell. "Causing interceptions is just as important as getting them, and they were all really good. He made great breaks on all the plays."
The Bears will need Fuller to keep playing at a high level Sunday against a Lions offense led by quarterback Matthew Stafford. Detroit traded receiver Golden Tate to the Eagles last week but still have receivers Kenny Golladay, an emerging weapon from Northern Illinois who has 33 receptions for 523 yards and three touchdowns, and Marvin Jones, who has caught 32 passes for 453 yards and five TDs.
Offense: Receiver Allen Robinson II
After missing the last two games with a groin injury, Robinson was cleared to fully participate in practice on Wednesday and said he's good to go against the Lions. With Robinson sidelined, others have stepped up and receivers Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller and Burton have been particularly reliable in picking up the slack.
With Robinson returning to the lineup, it gives the Bears one more weapon in an offense that's coming into itself more and more each week. Up until his injury, Robinson was putting up solid numbers, having tallied 25 catches and two touchdowns this season in the first six games.
It will be interesting to see how the Lions match up with Robinson. He'd usually face cornerback Darius Slay, but Slay has missed practice this week due to a knee injury. Slay is a dynamic playmaker on the defensive side, so if Robinson is able to line up against someone else, it may be an advantage in getting him back into his rhythm in his first game back in three weeks.
Defense: Linebacker Roquan Smith
In the midst of all the noise the Bears defense has made over the first half of the season, it's easy to forget that the most talked about defensive storyline for most of training camp was Smith.
The rookie linebacker out of Georgia had a big week against the Bills last week, racking up 12 tackles, but he's still looking to string back-to-back big weeks together. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has said he's satisfied with where Smith is at and is keeping in mind that the rookie missed most of training camp due to contract negotiations, so he's still getting a grasp on some things.
With linebacker Khalil Mack likely back this week against the Lions, it'll provide more opportunities and space for Smith to create havoc and get to the quarterback against an offensive line that allowed 10 sacks last week.
With the Bears defense producing four takeaways and two touchdowns last Sunday in Buffalo, senior writer Larry Mayer ranks the team's top 10 ballhawks since 2000.