The Chicago Bears receiving corps had gotten rather stale in the past few years compared to the group featuring Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery we had gotten used to seeing. From last season to now the Bears have gone from a team whose best wideout was Cameron Meredith, to a team that added three talented wideouts and a starting tight end. The Bears acquired #1 wideout Allen Robinson, speedy wideout Taylor Gabriel, and tight end Trey Burton through free agency. The team also drafted a guy who was coveted by many Packers draft writers including myself in Anthony Miller from Memphis. Miller was a second round pick for the Bears, and should serve as their number two wideout. This group also features former top 10 pick Kevin White whose first three seasons were plagued with injury.
The Packers also boast a new look secondary, adding Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson through the draft in addition to the signing of familiar veteran Tramon Williams. The group will likely feature second year corner Kevin King as an outside starter, who is coming off a season ending shoulder surgery. King also injured the opposite shoulder in camp, but should be good to go for this match up. Davon House will likely provide veteran depth in this game, coming off the bench. This position is now 5 deep, a large improvement from what the Packers have had the prior two seasons. The organization seems to have learned its lesson about cornerback depth, and hopes to avoid injury this season.
Pettine’s Defensive Alignment
It is hard to say what Mike Pettine will do in terms of scheme. What I do know is that Pettine likes to run man coverage, and when running zone he runs a fair amount of Cover 3. Do not necessarily expect the corners to follow one specific guy the entire night like we saw in Dom Capers defense in the past. Each corner should get the opportunity to cover a few different guys by the end of the game.
As it currently stands, expect Kevin King and Tramon Williams as outside starters at corner, with Jaire Alexander manning the slot in nickel. When the Packers go to their dime coverage (4 cornerbacks), I expect Tramon and Jaire in the slot with King and House on the outside. House was listed ahead of Josh Jackson on the depth chart, this could certainly change in time. The team will likely want to bring Jackson along slowly. Haha Clinton-Dix and Kentrell Brice are almost certainly your starting safeties, especially with Josh Jones dealing with an ankle injury.
Allen Robinson is a true number one wideout. It is important to note that Robinson is coming of an ACL tear from early last season with the Jaguars. Robinson stands at 6’3 and about 210 pounds. Robinson is a possession type receiver, he isn’t going to burn you deep often. He posted a 4.6 second 40 yard dash time when he was drafted in 2014 and is coming off that aforementioned ACL tear. Robinson can jump (39 inch vertical) and catch passes, which has made him the talented player we saw in 2015 and 2016.
Being an outside receiver, Robinson can expect to see a lot of King and Williams lined up across from him in coverage. I like King’s match up with Robinson. King is an even match in height to Robinson and gives up only about 10 pounds to the big wideout. King is also faster than Robinson, but he will have to hold up physically and in coverage to limit Allen Robinson to a quiet night. Tramon Williams figures to match up well also. Tramon is a physical corner, and he should be able to keep up with Robinson’s speed even in his mid 30’s.
Here is a better look at how Allen Robinson (15) can beat you. You see him running a 9 (fly) route here, and although he doesn’t have tons of separation, he is able to go up and get the ball.
This is a guy who was a lot of people’s draft crush to the Green Bay Packers. His stock slowly climbed to the point where the Bears selected him as their second round pick in this years draft. Miller became a fan favorite with his combination of hands, route running, and athletic ability. I saw a lot of comparisons to Greg Jennings prior to the draft, and I think they are spot on. Miller weighs about 200 pounds and is 5’11” tall.
Miller seems like a good match up for Williams and Alexander. Obviously Jaire Alexander is going to have an easier time guarding the shorter wideout than he would a guy like Allen Robinson. Miller will not be able to out athlete Alexander, and I do not think he will be burning Tramon Williams on a regular basis either. Miller will likely share slot duties with Taylor Gabriel.
The play above is a touchdown catch of Anthony Miller in his last season at Memphis. Miller makes contested catches much like his teammate Robinson. Even when he is covered, he can still get receptions. The Packers corners will need to be physical, but the ability of Mitch Trubisky to put the ball in the right place will be huge. He has limited chemistry with both Miller and Robinson.
Fresh off a Super Bowl win, Trey Burton is out to prove he is more than just a TE2. The Bears signed Burton this offseason after a gruesome injury to their tight end Zach Miller. Burton is an undersized tight end at 6’3″ 230 pounds, so do not expect him to move guys like you may see Mercedes Lewis do on Sunday night. While being undersized, Burton comes with some extra speed.
Covering Burton would be a lot less tricky if speedy rookie Oren Burks wasn’t expected to be out of the lineup. From the inside linebacker position, the Packers will rely on Blake Martinez, Korey Toomer, and Antonio Morrison to cover Burton. This will be a difficult task, especially for Morrison who is lacking in coverage ability. The Packers will most likely need to rely on their safeties to provide good coverage on Burton.
This play shows some of the damage Burton can do over the middle when he gets past the linebackers. A player with Burton often looks like a wideout out there making plays.
This is a player who is a 5’8″ 165 pound speed demon, not a whole lot else. Speed in the range of Gabriel’s 4.27 40 time can get you paid with a little skill mixed in. Gabriel signed a 4 year 26 million dollar contract with the Bears this offseason coming off a 378 yard and 1 TD year with Atlanta. Gabriel got paid over his production value just like Ted Ginn and Sammy Watkins have in the past, because those guys can do so much for an offense. No wonder the Packers seemed to be in search of a deep threat wideout during the draft. Gabriel saw his average yards per catch drop 5 yards from 16.5 in 2016 to 11.5 in 2017.
The only corner who can truly keep up with Gabriel is Jaire Alexander, and he will see some of him in the slot. King and Williams aren’t the athletes that Gabriel is, but they are far more physical than the receiver. Pettine is familiar with the speedy wide receiver, having coached him in Cleveland in 2014 and 2015. Some scheming may need to be done to assure Gabriel does not beat anyone deep. A close eye should be on Gabriel being featured in reverse plays as well.
This play may still sting a little bit. Matt Ryan tosses a perfect ball to Taylor Gabriel for a 47 yard touchdown on this play. Gabriel beat Dimitri Goodson and Haha Clinton-Dix on this play, working out of the slot. This is where Gabriel is most dangerous, he is able to clear out defenders for others like Burton to work the middle as well.