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Tactical Thinking: Bears at Redskins

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Coming off their first win of the season, the Bears look to extend their streak by physically challenging the Redskins’ receivers.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

EDITOR: We wanted to give ECD’s latest Tactical Thinking a refresh and boost back to the top of our page since the game is on Monday night this week.

Looks like (almost) everything went according to plan at Denver, with the Chicago Bears and their pass rush being a focal point in their first win of the season. Matt Nagy and his squad are now 1-1, just like the beginning of last year, and their schedule gets considerably easier from this point forward.

At Washington, I see this being a match-up that favors the Bears heavily on paper. Through two weeks the Redskins just haven’t shown much to cheer about for their fans. At least, aside from Terry McLaurin’s electrifying debut to begin his rookie season.

Kyle Fuller and the Bears’ secondary will likely establish a “no fly zone” in the D.C. area on Monday night.

Bears are stacked with seasons of experience in the secondary

NFL: Chicago Bears at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Much like what I pointed out in the week two edition against the Broncos, the Bears have plenty of players who are 1) healthy and 2) seasoned in their secondary. Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson headline a veteran group that also includes Buster Skrine, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and Prince Amukamara.

They’ll be facing off against a fairly green receiving corps for the Washington Redskins. Besides six year pro Paul Richardson, none of the other prominent players in the position have more than two years of experience. To start the season, there hasn’t been much overall production from this group. And they haven’t been tested vertically by a group as solid as the Bears’ secondary.

Washington bets on the future to shine bright

NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Okay, I’ll just say that Terry McLaurin might be the biggest steal out of this year’s draft class. He’s racked up 187 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 10 receptions in the first two games of his career. To say he’s a big-play threat is a major understatement.

Everybody else...well, that is a real question. Washington opted not to add more experienced threats into their weaponry during the offseason. Instead, they counted on their previous big ticket signing in Richardson to lead a young group that will be cheap to control for several years. Whether that turns into a mistake or not is to be determined.

Kyle Fuller’s physicality will cancel out Terry McLaurin’s speed

NFL: Chicago Bears at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

McLaurin is off to a strong start in his rookie campaign. A big reason for that, secondaries haven’t really challenged him off the line of scrimmage, nor utilized much of a bracket over the top. Naturally, a rookie with little-to-no film in the NFL will be tough to scout against on film.

I’ll admit, I haven’t watched much of McLaurin even while he was at Ohio State. From the few occasions I did glance and notice him, he looked like a speed specialist who’ll burn you in space. When he was pressed in coverage, he didn’t appear to make nearly as much of an impact. Fuller’s ability to jam receivers and be instinctual for the ball is better than anyone McLaurin has faced so far this season.

Coming off his best season in his career, Fuller looks to continue his ascent into the league’s elite rankings among corners. He didn’t have his best game against Emmanuel Sanders, but unlike Sanders, McLaurin isn’t able to fight off bigger DB’s at the beginning of their route. I see this being a case of the veteran being glued to the rookie and taking the young receiver out of the game.

The ‘Bama Brothers will look to smother any vertical threats

Chicago Bears v Denver Broncos Photo by Timothy Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Eddie Jackson and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix have been interchangeable since their days playing for Nick Saban at Alabama. Lately, we’ve seen more of E-Jax being dropped into the box, where Clinton-Dix bails and drops deep into coverage. Both players have the versatility to play as raiders, where they can fly in on a blitz or provide help over the top.

Given the state of Washington’s receiving corps, these two might just hangout in a loose style for most of the night. I just cannot see Richardson, McLaurin, or anyone in that receiving corps being much of a threat in the short passing game. Plus, they’re playing against a QB in Case Keenum who doesn’t get the ball out quickly. As long as the deep vertical routes are contained, the Bears’ defense should be just fine.

Where everybody else is focused on Mitchell Trubisky’s performance, I’m more interested to see if this secondary can thrive under Chuck Pagano’s watch. Systematically, and physically, they’re similar to the Baltimore Ravens’ squad of 2011. More importantly, I think this will be Kyle Fuller’s best game as a pro to this point in his career.