By Jeff Joniak-
(WBBM) It is far from a shock that Lovie Smith turns to his No. 2 to play like a No. 1 Monday night in San Francisco. Aside from landing a No. 1 receiver, it was first-year general manager Phil Emery’s mission to land a number two quarterback during free agency.
He wanted an experienced No. 2, who could play like a No. 1 if necessary. The time is now. The 49ers do not present a simple assignment for Jason Campbell.
“They didn’t get to the NFC championship by a fluke,” said Campbell. “They’re showing it this year why they’re a really good football team. With that being said, I can’t be putting pressure on myself to feel like this is one game to show what you can do.”
Monday’s start against the 49ers is Campbell’s 71st, but first in 13 months after a cracked collarbone ended his Oakland Raiders season.
“It’s definitely an opportunity,” Campbell said.
He’s had many in his career with Washington where he was a first-round pick out of Auburn and then in Oakland with the Raiders. The worst part of Campbell’s football life is Mike Tice represents his 12th different offensive coordinator in the last 12 years dating back to college.
He’s never really had the opportunity to digest and develop a system for a string of seasons. It no doubt has impacted his development. Overall, he’s lost more starts than he’s won, but he’s accurate. A career completion percentage of 61 is NFL caliber.
He’s an athletic quarterback with size(6-5, 230) who ran a 4.7 forty at the NFL scouting combine in 2005 with a vertical jump of 38”. He can leave the pocket and make plays with his feet, but he is a pocket passer, and when given the time his accuracy means the chains move.
You might say he is conservative, rarely forcing throws, settling for the check downs and more of a horizontal game. 73% of his career pass attempts have been thrown from behind the line of scrimmage to 10 yards. On those throws, his completion percentage is 69% with 49 of his 74 career touchdowns.
In one week of practice snaps his job is to quickly learn the body language of his receivers determining when they’re open and when they’re not. He knows the offense, now he’s charged with executing it.
Here’s the burden of turning to the two, when the one is out. The Bears are 12-1 in games Jay Cutler starts and finishes, and 1-6 when he doesn’t. Campbell’s experience should bridge the gap, and it’s up to the Bears’ skill position players to make plays when they have the opportunity.
This cannot be a mistake-filled affair on Monday night pock marked with dropped catchable balls, fumbles, interceptions, false starts, first down holding penalties, or missed assignments that lead to sacks.
The 49ers defense will feast on those mistakes. As it is, the 49ers at home will play as physical as any team the Bears meet this season, period.
The end game is Campbell is capable of leading the Bears to their 8th victory in 10-games and their fourth on the road this season.
Nothing about it will be easy. Never is for the No. 2.
And it supposed to rain, again.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play voice of the Chicago Bears on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. You can follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffJoniak.