I'm interested in hearing everyone's thoughts about the game plan next week. While last week's close win was very encouraging and suggests that this truly is a "New Day" and this team under its fearless new QB may actually have the moxie to overcome the team's reputation for always coming up short, if I'm the coaching staff, I'm equally concerned by some of the things we saw against the Vikings and would make a few adjustments.
In short, on offense my concerns were mainly about the conservative play-calling. While the run game was firing on all cylinders, in the second half, there were too many occasions where IMO they needed to mix in an occasional pass play to keep the defense on their toes. Other than that, as I didn't see too many issues, this will be a short list:
1. Get Uzomah more involved on offense to open up the middle of the field. I think he's an underrated, underutilized asset. If they can develop him into more of a threat, it will only open things up further for Chase and Higgins.
2. As mentioned above, while it's important to get Mixon going, they need to use the passing game to open up the run or the Bears will just stack the box.
Defense is what gives me the most worries, and I think it will be a very long night if they faill to address a few key issues from Game 1. Specifically, if I'm' the DC, I would be making the following changes:
1. As we saw what a liability Apple is in coverage, I think it's time to conclude that there is a reason why he hasn't panned out for his last 3 employers. Replace him with Philips, who is at least young enough to respond to coaching and show some improvement. Additionally, he has the speed to keep up with Mooney. I'm not sure we can say that about Apple.
2. Slide Bates over to Philips' side of the field, leaving the more capable Awuzie on an island with Robinson but be willing to adjust the game plan if this backfires and Robinson is killing them.
3. Focus on stopping the run. As Dalton gets the ball off quickly, this means keeping the DEs in on run contain and just running stunts and the occasional blitz to keep the offense honest. Primarily limit blitzing to obvious third and long situations and just show blitz on early downs to keep them guessing (but you've got to mix an occasional actual blitz in or they'll know it's just a bluff).
4. Add an extra defender to the front 7 whenever possible since Dalton loves the short passing game.
5. Prepare for Justin Fields. While the Bears will be giving AD the start in the hope that he'll torch his former team, I fully expect to see a number of RPO plays with Fields at the helm. Our defense should be devoting plenty of practice time this week preparing for this eventuality (Fields scares me a lot more than Dalton as we've always had a hard time handling Lamar). Additionally, if Dalton gets off to a rough start, it won't surprise me if the Justin Fields era begins in the second half.
1. If the winds are strong (as they often are at Soldier Field) and the Bengals win the toss, choose field direction over possession.
That's all the thoughts this armchair coach has. Let me know if you agree or disagree and feel free to provide your own input and suggestions (regrettably, I won't be able to answer them as anytime I try to post a comment, CJ's wonderfully designed Coral commenting system fails to pull up a captcha and then gives me a "wrong captcha" message).