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Joniak's Journal: Expect Ryan Pace To Explore Waiver Wire

By Jeff Joniak–

(CBS) The Bears (2-5) are on the road to face the Chargers (2-6) on Monday night. Here are my observations leading up to the game.

First impression

With no deals made by the Bears at the now-expired trade deadline, I would still expect general manager Ryan Pace to explore the waiver wire and practice squads for players throughout the rest of the season. It sounds like veteran outside linebackers Willie Young and Lamarr Houston were open to moving on, given their modest snap counts against Minnesota. However, they must continue to prepare to play, given the unique game plans put together by defensive coordinator Vic Fangio based on the opponent. The Bears need more of a pass rush.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Young was adamant when asked if he can be a threat rushing the passer at outside linebacker.

"I'm a threat now," Young said. "I'm always going to be a threat. I say that with confidence, not being conceited, because I put the work in."

At the same time, Young continues to have the mindset that he's an edge rusher in a 4-3 scheme, because it has got him to where he's at in his sixth season. Young has one sack in 126 snaps, which is 21 percent of the unit's total in seven games. His snap count ranks fifth among Bears linebackers. Houston has played in 116 snaps, 16.6 percent of the time. He to owns one of the Bears' 12 sacks, which ranks 27th in the NFL.

Second thought

If running back Matt Forte and receiver Eddie Royal aren't healthy enough to play Monday, the Bears' third-down passing game will take a hit. Royal has caught all nine of his third-down pass targets, and Forte has caught eight of his 12.

Rookie running back Jeremy Langford has good hands, despite his crucial drop in the fourth quarter against Minnesota, but offensive coordinator Adam Gase could use Antone Smith or Ka'Deem Carey in a third-down back role. In terms of yardage, Marquess Wilson has been the Bears' best third-down option, with 194 yards and a touchdown on eight catches for an average of 24.3 yards. That yardage is 12th-best in the league and better on average than any of the top 20 receivers in yardage gained on third down, with the exception of rookie sensation Amari Cooper of the Oakland Raiders (24.4).

Third degree

Philip Rivers is coming after the Bears secondary.

Look for the Chargers to get the Bears in nickel as much as possible to test the third and fourth corners. While the majority of Rivers' completions have come in the 6-to-20-yard range, with time he will heave it deep to receiver Malcom Floyd or speedy tight end LaDarius Green. Rivers has completed 12 of his 27 pass attempts that traveled 21 yards or more in the air, with an NFL-best six touchdowns. His 130.8 quarterback rating in that regard signals a successful deep ball game.

However, it's the yards after the catch the Bears have to get on top of against the Chargers. With 1,624 yards after the catch, the Chargers are far and away top in the league in this category, joining only the Saints and Patriots with more than 1,200 yards. Running back Danny Woodhead leads the NFL with 489 yards after the catch on his 39 receptions. Receiver Keenan Allen -- who just went on injured reserve with a lacerated kidney -- is 16th with 255. He's also fourth in the league with 13 first downs on third-down receptions. His absence will be felt, but the Chargers will continue to throw under coach Mike McCoy.


There are some impactful rookie running backs at the midpoint of the season, and if Forte misses a game or two, Langford is expected to get his first significant load running the ball against the Chargers. His 27 carries have earned 2.96 yards on average, but he flashed an aggressive point-of-attack style while replacing Forte against the Vikings last Sunday.

San Diego's Melvin Gordon has fumbled four times and is getting only 3.81 yards a carry working behind a banged-up and constantly changing offensive line. Detroit's Ameer Abdullah is earning 3.57 yards a carry, and Cleveland's Duke Johnson is at 3.2 yards on his 56 carries. Jacksonville's T.J. Yeldon is at 4.02.

The biggest rookie impact is coming from Rams running back Todd Gurley, who on 94 rushes owns an NFL-best 6.12 yards-per-carry average and three touchdowns. Seattle's Thomas Rawls -- the undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan who filled in for the injured Marshawn Lynch -- has carried 69 times for an average of 5.45 yards

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.


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