By Jeff Joniak-
One of the best free agent signings in the NFL has been tight end Martellus Bennett. Battling shoulder and knee pain, Bennett has played 351 of a possible 358 snaps. Jay Cutler’s completion percentage to Bennett is 70.5% in line with the peak performers at the position this season. In the fourth quarter, Bennett has caught 14 of 15 targeted throws averaging 10.5 yards-per-catch. On third downs, Bennett has snagged all nine of his targets, including two for touchdowns. He’s made some clutch catches and is not easy to bring down after the catch.
The tight end production could not have been worse in 2012. The Bears only got 25 catches for 256 yards and Bennett is already at 31 catches and 349 yards in six games.
Analyzing the math after six weeks the defense is lagging behind the rest of the league in all but a few categories. The brightest statistic is their number three ranking in interception percentage at 4.5%. They’ve swiped nine balls in 209 pass drops, and put three of them in the end zone. Sack percentage is another story at 3.8%t, which is second to last in a league averaging 6.87%.
The Bears have also been above average in rushing yards-per-carry which ranks ninth at 3.83. The passing numbers against the Bears are significant, but they’ve managed to make enough plays late to ensure four wins. Once the Bears get through the first 10-games of the season they will have played at least nine games against quarterbacks that have made the playoffs at least once in the last two years. They will also have played quarterbacks who have won seven Super Bowls. The Bears continue to force turnovers and Marc Trestman believes those are not happening by accident.
There is at least some kind of pressure causing quarterbacks to make throws or fumbles that are creating opportunities for takeaways. However, everyone realizes the pressure needs be more consistent if the Bears want to have a playoff defense.
Jonathan Bostic makes his first NFL start at middle linebacker against the Redskins. He couldn’t have more on his plate than facing the read option, zone stretch attack put together by head coach Mike Shanahan. Bostic’s preparation this week has to cover a lot of bases. Quarterback Robert Griffin III will run out of the pistol and will try to take advantage of Bostic’s aggressiveness, reading his run fits and flows to the ball in hopes of confusing him. Bostic’s reputation is good when it comes to reading his keys in the run game, and sniffing out screens. However, he also has to worry about Washington’s Alfred Morris, another in a long line of productive Shanahan backs who just know how to find the creases behind cut blocking lineman. The Redskins will test Bostic early and often.
4th and Short
While the Bears defense is the only team in the NFL that has not allowed a fourth quarter touchdown, the Redskins have scored only one first half offensive touchdown this season. It was a Morris 30-yard run in the second quarter against Detroit. The Redskins have three defensive touchdowns in five games, and all have occurred in the first half.
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.