By Dan Pompei, Chicago Tribune –
If the Bears have any hope to pass the Packers, pass is the operative word.
And there is no opportunity like right here, right now.
Three hundred yards in the air should be easy for Jay Cutler and company with this group of gifted receivers.
They hung 314 on the Colts, even though they backed off in the fourth quarter. If there is any doubt this is a different offense, consider the Bears didn’t net 300 passing yards in a game once in 2011, and they averaged only 188 passing yards.
These Bears are going to light up some defenses, especially defenses with vulnerabilities.
The Packers, meanwhile, remain at least as susceptible to the pass as they were a year ago, maybe more so. Judging by how they played against the 49ers, Clay Matthews remains their only consistent pass rusher.
And then there is their defensive backfield.
“Their secondary definitely has fallen off,” one pro scout who has evaluated the Packers said.
Nick Collins was a standout at free safety, but he was released in the offseason after suffering a neck injury. Charlie Peprah replaced him in the starting lineup but had knee issues and was let go as well.
So this year the Packers had to move Charles Woodson from cornerback to safety on base downs to pair with promising Morgan Burnett. On passing downs, Woodson moves back to corner.
M.D. Jennings played safety in nickel against the 49ers but was benched after blowing a coverage on a Randy Moss touchdown and missing a tackle on a Frank Gore run.
Jerron McMillian, who is more of a box safety than a coverage safety, replaced him.
At cornerback, there also is uncertainty. Tramon Williams, who had a very disappointing 2011, is the solid starter. Opposite him, second-year man Davon House probably is the best the Packers have, but he missed the opener with a shoulder injury.
That left them with Jarrett Bush, whom Sam Shields replaced in the nickel.
When Cutler was asked about the Packers defensive backs getting physical with Bears receivers this week, he said, “Good luck.”
Against the likes of Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Devin Hester and Earl Bennett, they are going to need it.
Comprehend the trend
Cutler vs. Packers
One problem with the Bears’ hopes of torching the Packers secondary: The Packers have had Cutler’s number.
In seven career games against the Packers, including one in the postseason, Cutler has a 65.3 passer rating — his lowest against any team he has faced more than twice.
He has thrown more interceptions, 12, against the Packers than any other team. The next closest is seven against the Chargers.
And he has been at his worst in Lambeau Field. Cutler’s rating in two games there is 40.1. He has been intercepted more times in Green Bay, six, than in any other city other than Denver and Chicago.
Conversely, Aaron Rodgers has a 98 passer rating against the Bears and has thrown five fewer interceptions than Cutler in two more games. Rodgers has had some off games against the Bears but last season threw for eight touchdowns and one interception against them in two games.
If the Bears are going to overtake the Packers, they must reverse this trend.
We know the Bears defense is starting to show some gray. The starters from opening day have an average age of nearly 29.
Five of them are on the wrong side of 30, and Matt Toeaina leaves his 20s on Oct. 9.
But the numbers say it isn’t just the Bears defense that is old. It’s the whole team.
The Bears have the seventh-oldest roster in the league, according to STATS. Their average age as of last week was 27 years, 67 days.
By comparison, the Packers have the sixth-youngest roster at 26 years, 73 days.
The oldest team in the league, interestingly enough, is the Lions, at 27 years, 326 days.
And here is a quirk: The Bears’ offensive players (starters plus reserves) are older than their defensive players (starters plus reserves).
The offense averages 27 years, 200 days. That gives the Bears the third oldest in the league.
The defense averages 26 years, 300 days. That puts them at 11th oldest in the NFL.
The Bears have been looking for an offensive tackle since early in the offseason. They landed one Monday when they signed Jonathan Scott.
With 28 starts and six years of NFL experience, Scott falls in line with the type of veteran backup Phil Emery likes (see Chilo Rachal, Geno Hayes and Kelvin Hayden).
Best case scenario: Scott becomes the quality swing player who backs up both left and right tackle, maybe even pushing a starter if the starter struggles.
If Scott comes on, it will enable Chris Williams to concentrate on guard, a position for which he likely is better suited.
Scott is 6-foot-6, 318 pounds with good length. He played well for the Steelers last year and was signed in the offseason by the Lions, who drafted him in the fifth round in 2006.
He injured his knee in camp, was placed on injured reserve and then cut. The knee does not appear to be a problem now.
Just to be sure, though, the Bears waited until after the first game to sign him, undoubtedly so they would not have to guarantee his salary for the entire year.