Here are some takeaways after reviewing the coaches’ film from the Bears’ 17-14 win over the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field:
– On the same week Kyle Fuller was placed on injured reserve, the Bears may have found a suitable longterm replacement. Bryce Callahan received his first start on the outside (he was the Bears’ nickelback last year) and played outstanding. The former undrafted free agent out of Rice caught the eye of the Bears’ coaching staff last year as an adequate slot corner, but I had no idea he could play outside. After using Jacoby Glenn on the outside opposite Tracy Porter in the first three weeks, Vic Fangio opted to start Callahan Sunday, with rookie Cre’Von LeBlanc at the nickel. Callahan saw a lot of Lions wide receiver Golden Tate, who finished with just one catch for one yard. It was just one game, but the Bears haven’t seen a performance like that out of a young corner since Fuller intercepted two passes in his second career game back in 2014. Of course, that’s probably a good reminder that they still need to see more from Callahan.
– Overall, the Bears have to feel pretty good with the young talent in their secondary. Glenn is going through some growing pains and was probably too green to keep starting on the outside, but he came in Sunday and immediately grabbed an interception. Fourth-round pick Deiondre’ Hall did the same thing. I keep saying Hall needs to play more, but if Callahan is going to play that well on the outside, there isn’t really a regular spot for Hall right now. Still, the future for Hall is sky high. Meanwhile, Adrian Amos remains steady on the back-end and, while Harold Jones-Quartey has some issues with his tackling technique, he’s made some nice plays, including a goal-line tackle Sunday. There will continue to be growing pains with this young group, but the early returns are promising. It’s a been awhile since we’ve been able to say that about the Bears’ secondary.
– Josh Sitton has to be in the running for top NFL free agent signings this year. With a quarter of the season already in the books, he is my highest graded Bear so far. He’s been nearly perfect in pass protection and has been getting more in-sync with the rest of the line after signing just a week before the regular season opener. Sitton is an easy Pro Bowl selection at this point.
– The people at Pro Football Focus gave rookie center Cody Whitehair a negative grade Sunday, but they don’t use the coaches’ tape (at least with their initial grades), and I saw more good than bad from the end zone angle. There was another snap issue on 4th-and-short and he had a holding penalty, but Whitehair also played a big part in Jordan Howard’s 111 rushing yards on 23 carries. The second-round pick still looks like a steal.
– Eddie Royal continues to look like he’s five years younger and he showed both toughness and speed in his route on the 64-yard catch and run. That said, the pass protection is what made that play possible. On a deep corner route like that, the receiver needs time to get open and the Bears’ offensive line allowed Brian Hoyer to be patient and deliver a strike.
– Staying with the positive theme of this film review, defensive tackle Will Sutton was much better Sunday. The Bears were in the nickel package on 76 percent of their defensive snaps Sunday, but Sutton still played 43 percent of the snaps and was the primary nose tackle in the base package. He out-played Lions center Travis Swanson and consistently got in the backfield. That’s incredibly important for the Bears’ run defense with Eddie Goldman out with a high ankle sprain.
– On the negative side, first-round draft pick Leonard Floyd was pretty much invisible before pulling up with a calf injury. John Fox said Floyd could have come back in the game, so why didn’t he? Something to watch this week.
– The Bears’ third phase had a rough day. Connor Barth missed a 50-yard field goal, Eddie Royal ran sideways on two punt returns, DeAndre Houston Carson had another penalty (his third of the season), and the Bears missed two tackles (Sam Acho and Logan Paulsen) on Andre Roberts’ 85-yard punt return for a touchdown. Jeff Rodgers’ special teams unit has improved over the last calendar year, but Sunday was a step backward.