By Jeff Joniak-
(WBBM) With the Bears season opener just over a week away, CBS Chicago and WBBM Newsradio bring you Jeff Joniak’s first journal of the 2013-14 season.
Blitzing linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks coming from all angles from a fast defense looks intriguing. I’ve long favored the corner blitz as a weapon and well-timed and unchecked can mean a big play.
When Charles Tillman does it, there is added value because of the “Peanut Punch.” There’s a good chance the ball is coming out. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is not necessarily going to be blitz heavy, but he knows pressure breaks pipes. The more applied the better, and his unit is equipped with a bushel full of players who can be good on the blitz.
Alshon Jeffery is not just a chain mover, he’s a playmaker. Six of his seven catches in Oakland produced first downs last Friday, which is outstanding production. However, he is far more than a possession receiver.
With the ball in his hands, he, like Brandon Marshall, is equipped physically to take short passes and turn them into big gains. A defense cannot sleep on Jeffery, who has more than adequate speed to get over the top on a deep post, like he did in his first NFL game last September against the Colts. He also caught a 55-yard pass and led the team in average yards per catch at 15.3.
So, he was good from Day One. Today, he’s polished up and better equipped to impact the attack. Jeffery missed six games with two different injuries last season, so his next hurdle is staying healthy.
Brandon Marshall is taking his performance in Oakland hard and questioning his readiness, his health, and his role just under two weeks shy of the season opener. He says it’s a little bit “frustrating,” and a star that competes like Marshall does, a little frustrating takes on a different level of concern.
He’s coming off his third hip surgery and hinted that “some people” may think he needs to be further along than where he is physically, suggesting he’s being rushed or pushed.
His quarterback Jay Cutler admits Marshall is behind in his conditioning, and the hip is a little tight.
Marshall will get through this, but clearly he feels he’s behind in a new system, and what Marc Trestman and Aaron Kromer will ask of him in the game plan. As Cutler put it, they have to “figure out exactly what routes” they want Marshall to run and where they want him on the field to maximize his impact.
Fourth & Short
Jay Cutler trusts Earl Bennett in a three-receiver set, working inside routes out of the slot. His absence since an Aug. 2 practice concussion complicates the process of settling on the best group of receivers for the final 53.
Bennett is an experienced asset that has endured some bad-luck medical conditions that have slowed his overall progress, and it’s amplified this year in a new system with new coaches. Bennett is starting to run, but we know little about when he is expected to be ready to return or where he’s at with conditioning.
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.