Larry Mayer and Eli Kaberon of ChicagoBears.com discuss the Bears players they'll be watching on both sides of the ball in Thursday night's road game against the Green Bay Packers.
Offense: Running back Jordan Howard
Howard leads a Bears running game into Green Bay that produced 220 yards on 38 carries in last Sunday's 23-17 overtime win over the Steelers. It wasn't Walter Payton rushing for an NFL-record 275 yards despite having the flu in a 1977 game against the Vikings. But Howard's performance was no doubt Sweetness-like. Battling a shoulder injury that forced him out of the game on two occasions, the second-year pro from Indiana rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, including a game-winning 19-yard TD in overtime.
"I knew he was a fighter," said fellow running back Tarik Cohen. "That's just what's expected of him. He's going to fight through. He's just a tremendous playmaker, so when he comes back on the field, everybody is just looking for him to make that next big play."
Howard will face a Packers defense that ranks 21st in the NFL against the run, allowing an average of 113.7 yards per game. Last season Howard was limited to 22 yards on seven carries in a 26-10 loss at Green Bay last Oct. 20, his lowest output in 13 games as a starter last year. In the rematch against the Packers last Dec. 18 in Chicago, Howard rushed for 90 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries in a 30-27 loss.
Defense: Safety Adrian Amos
With veteran safety Quintin Demps out indefinitely after breaking his arm last Sunday against the Steelers, third-year pro Adrian Amos will rejoin the No. 1 defense. Selected by the Bears in the fifth round of the 2015 draft out of Penn State, Amos started all 16 games as a rookie and opened 15 contests last season. He was supplanted in the starting lineup this year by rookie Eddie Jackson but now gets a second chance as the replacement for Demps. Asked about Amos, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said: "All you can say to him is, ‘let's go, here's your second opportunity. You knew it would come again. It has come early. Let's go play good.'"
Amos is a big hitter and fairly sure tackler who has yet to record an interception since joining the Bears. He showed improved ball skills in training camp, however, and hopes to carry that over into games. Asked about stepping in for Demps, Amos said: "Just like any other opportunity, just go out there and play ball. I love playing football. Never like to see anybody get injured, but that's a teammate and you know how much this means to him and everybody else to get out there and have an opportunity to play football. I'm just trying to cherish that opportunity to get to play."
Offense: Tight end Zach Miller
The good news for the Chicago offense in Week 3 was the success of the running game. The Bears ran it 38 times for 220 yards, scoring a pair of touchdowns and gaining 13 first downs on the ground. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen gashed the Pittsburgh defense, especially in overtime. All that running, however, just highlights how one-dimensional the offense was against the Steelers. Chicago struggled to move the ball through the air, as the Bears averaged just 3.5 yards per pass play. Only three Bears had more three or more catches in the game: running backs Howard, Cohen and Benny Cunningham. The team's wide receivers and tight ends combined for just three receptions.
Against the Green Bay defense, the Chicago offense should strive for better balance. That could mean getting tight end Zach Miller more involved. Miller had 10 receptions on 15 targets the first two weeks, compared to only one grab on three throws his way versus the Steelers. Green Bay has struggled against short throws over the middle, allowing opponents to gain more than 8.0 yards per pass on throws between the hashmarks of less than 15 yards. If Glennon and Miller can connect for some early throws, it could soften up the Packers defense, giving the Chicago offense a better chance to achieve the balance they need.
Defense: Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd
A year ago, rookie Leonard Floyd walked into Lambeau Field and had himself a coming-out party. In the Week 7 contest, Floyd recorded the first full sack of his career. He finished that game with a pair of sacks, including a strip/sack where he forced a fumble that he recovered for a touchdown. Since that date, Floyd has emerged as Chicago's top edge-rush threat, though that hasn't materialized into any sacks so far in 2017. Floyd is still looking for his first quarterback takedown of the season, and once again he'll have Aaron Rodgers in his targets on Thursday.
Floyd has played in 170 of a possible 194 defensive snaps this season, but on a good many of them, his responsibilities have been to do something other than rush the quarterback. Versus the Steelers in Week 3, he often times defended running backs or tight ends on passing plays, or played the run on handoffs to Le'Veon Bell. Floyd does have one tackle for loss and a pair of quarterback hits on the season. That first sack could come on Thursday, as the Packers struggle in pass protection. Rodgers has been sacked 13 times in three games, including six times in a Week 3 overtime win versus Cincinnati. Both of Green Bay's top offensive tackles, David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga, have been limited in practice this week due to injuries, meaning Floyd could have himself another Lambeau party this year.