Monday, December 11, 2006

Last Chance to Impress

The word is that Lovie Smith will replace Rex Grossman at halftime tonight if the Bears' quarterback struggles in the first half against the St. Louis Rams. This should be a good night for Grossman to finally break out, and for the same reasons, if he cannot, this should be a good night for Brian Griese to smoothly transition to QB1 (Sorry Saracen, you're out).

St. Louis, of course, is not a very good team. It's offense and special teams are average, but the offense has been in a slide since Orlando Pace went down. It's on defense, though, where St. Louis's true incompetence shines through. The Rams are 29th in defensive efficiency in the entire NFL. They're 26th against the pass and 29th against the run.

What is most interesting though is that St. Louis's defense should invite the kind of game calling designed to get a quarterback into a rhythm, and help him relocate (Rex) or establish (Griese) some confidence.

The Rams do a decent job on #1 wide receivers. That's fine because the Bears don't really have a dominant #1, and in any case, plays on which Grossman locks on to a wide out are exactly why we're in this mess. Beyond simply encouraging Grossman and the Bears to spread the ball around, however, the Rams are particularly vulnerable to (among many things) passes to the tightend and running backs. They rank 23rd in pass defense against tight ends and 21st against running backs.

Early in the season when Rex was having success the Bears were utilizing Desmond Clark a lot more. They were even making use of the fullback out of the backfield. And if Grossman struggles, this kind of ball control passing attack is both Griese's strength, and a good way to help Griese establish his rhythm and confidence.

So, I expect Grossman to finally play his way out of this slump tonight. But if he doesn't, this is the perfect opportunity for Griese to smoothly transition into the job.


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