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 home game against the Detroit Lions:
Offense: Running back Jordan Howard
With running backs Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey both not expected to play due to injuries, rookie Jordan Howard figures to get plenty of opportunities to run the ball Sunday against the Lions. Howard was one of the few bright spots in last Sunday night's loss in Dallas, breaking off a 36-yard run early in the second half. The fifth-round draft pick is averaging 5.6 yards per carry through the first three weeks of the season, third best among NFL rookies.
After being active but not playing in the season opener against the Texans, Howard rushed for 22 yards on just three carries versus the Eagles and 45 yards on nine attempts in Dallas. He also caught six passes for 56 yards in the two games. "He's bigger than he looks," said coach John Fox. "He's a big body and has good feet and good vision, and those are pretty good qualities."
Defense: Outside linebacker Willie Young
If Young is able to play against his former team—he's listed as questionable after being limited in practice all week with a knee injury—the Bears would greatly benefit from his experience and playmaking ability. A rash of injuries on defense has forced the Bears to rely on several young and untested backups, many of whom struggled in last Sunday night's loss to the Cowboys.
The Bears certainly could use a performance like the one Young delivered two weeks ago against the Eagles when he recorded seven tackles, one sack and two tackles-for-loss. The defense needs some sort of boost after allowing the Cowboys to score three touchdowns and one field goal on four first-half possessions in Dallas. With outside linebacker Lamarr Houston on injured reserve and Pernell McPhee on the physically unable to perform list, the Bears are counting on a veteran like Young to help right the defense's ship now more than ever.
Offense: Quarterback Brian Hoyer
Three games is a fairly small sample size in the grand scheme of an NFL season, and it is often unfair to rush to conclusions based on such a tiny body of work. But through three weeks, it is at least safe to say that quarterbacks are having success against the Lions defense. All three quarterbacks Detroit has faced thus far this year have registered a passer rating of more than 100 while throwing a combined 10 touchdowns and just one interception. Collectively, opposing quarterbacks are completing more than 68 percent of their passes versus Detroit, gaining a league-best 5.13 yards per attempt.
With Jay Cutler unlikely to play Sunday due to a thumb injury, all of that should be music to Brian Hoyer's ears. Hoyer played well in his first start of the season, in Week 3, throwing for 317 yards and two touchdowns without a turnover in a loss to the Cowboys. Hoyer did well in spreading the ball around, with seven receivers catching two or more passes in Dallas. Facing a Lions defense that has struggled to stop opposing passers, Hoyer will have the opportunity to flourish. If he can move the chains reliably and not force throws, the quarterback should find chances to pick apart a struggling Detroit secondary.
Defense: Cornerback Jacoby Glenn
Second-year cornerback Jacoby Glenn plays with a fearless mentality, not backing down from any challenge in front of him. That's always the right frame of mind to be in for a football player, but especially this week, when Glenn and the Chicago defense will have to stop the talented Detroit passing attack. With veteran Tracy Porter on the other side of the field, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Lions attack Glenn,
Glenn has not been afraid of contact so far this year. His 19 tackles are second on the team and his five passes defensed are tied for fourth-most in the entire NFL. In Week 3, he also forced a fumble, his first of the season. If Glenn can have another standout day facing skilled wide receivers like Marvin Jones and Golden Tate, more people will start to recognize the Chicago defender who takes on any opponent in his way.