By Jeff Joniak
Josh McCown is truly appreciative of his opportunity to start in Green Bay Monday night. He made mention of it repeatedly in his 15 minutes at the Halas Hall lectern on Thursday. He’s particularly grateful for being tutored by quarterback coach Matt Cavanaugh and head coach Marc Trestman. When Trestman talks of “winning the day,” he backs it up with a daily plan, giving players an opportunity to get better and ultimately succeed on game day.
McCown sees tremendous value in both coaches. He says it’s fun to come to work every day. Brandon Marshall, in turn, paid McCown a compliment when asked about the differences in his throws, compared to Jay Cutler.
“Josh is going to have that ball in the air before you even turn your head. Jay has such a strong arm he has room to play with as far as the timing goes,” Marshall said.
What it means is Marshall has to get his head around quicker to meet the ball from McCown, which is really what coaches talk about when they harp on getting the ball out and timing. Cutler is blessed with rare arm strength that allows him to stick it in there at the last second. McCown doesn’t have that luxury and instead must rely on being efficient, managing the offense with good tempo and timing.
Evaluations of the Bears defensive personnel from quarterback Aaron Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy were vastly different than public opinion after seven games. Both praised the ability of the front four to generate a pass rush, even though the Bears are last in the NFL with only nine sacks. They also said the secondary is playing very well. McCarthy was very complimentary of injured linebacker Lance Briggs and made note of the unit’s continuing theme in 2013 of taking the ball away. Granted, neither viewpoint is going to be riddled with criticism of an opponent, but they’ve been impressed enough from what they’ve seen on tape to embrace the idea that the Bears will not be pushovers at Lambeau.
Here’s the word from coordinator Mel Tucker on what must happen for the Bears to get better defensively. “Do your job,” said Tucker. It’s a message that has been delivered repeatedly this season by Tucker, and last week by General Manager Phil Emery — and this week by Trestman. With the lack of continuity at every level of the unit in seven games, players are evidently trying to do too much. It’s led to a lack of gap integrity, and missed assignments. But according to Trestman, it has nothing to do with effort or preparation. One of the biggest issues is tackling, and even if players are in the right gaps, if they are not bringing guys to the ground and finishing plays, the yards and points will keep piling up.
4th and Short
In glancing at the NFL stat pack issued every week, I noticed Bears receiver Alshon Jeffrey and Packers receiver Jordy Nelson have identical total yards from scrimmage numbers after seven games: 649 yards on 39 touches equaling an average of 16.6 yards per touch. Jeffrey has 561 yards in receiving to lead the Bears, plus 88 yards on six rushing attempts, which pulls him even with Nelson. Where the big difference comes is in touchdowns: Nelson leads the Packers with seven. Jeffrey has two. He’s never made Pro Bowl, but Nelson might be on his way this season. Never a full time starter, Nelson has 256 catches in six seasons with an impressive 35 touchdowns and 15.3 yards/catch average. Nelson was the 34th pick out of Kansas State in 2008, Jeffrey the 45th pick from South Carolina in 2012.