By Jeff Joniak–
(CBS) The Bears (0-1) host the Eagles (1-0) on Monday night. Here are my observations leading up to the game.
It’s little things here, little things there. We heard a lot about the little things biting the Bears in a season-opening loss to the Texans. It’s those little things that will often kill a team when it matters most. The mistakes aren’t insurmountable mistakes, as long as they don’t continue and multiply on a team with a number of young players at key spots on both sides of the ball. The idea of drafting players with a high football intelligence should minimize some of the repetitive errors that can ruin a perfectly nice Sunday.
Young receiver Kevin White needs reps and targets. As he sheds the rust from a season of surgical recovery, he will begin to emerge. White wants to be great and wants to reward those who believed in his skill set and ability to realize his significant potential. Growing pains come with every young player, and some of what comes naturally for some accomplished receivers needs to be worked on for others. White’s availability during practice each week will lead to dependability on Sundays. A hamstring pull complicated his opening week preparation and may have zapped some of his explosion. I believe we will see it sooner rather than later.
Late in the preseason, I asked coach John Fox if a strong front seven defensively is significant enough to carry a football team or at least guide it through the growing pains of a roster turned over and younger than it’s been in several years. His answer was of no surprise in that he reference every position group needing to share in the responsibility. However, a nasty and persistent pass rush absolves a number of sins committed by the rest of the team on any given Sunday.
Look what it did for the Houston Texans in Week 1 as they hit Bears quarterback Jay Cutler 13 times. Cranking up that pass rush against Eagles rookie Carson Wentz will be the first key for the Bears in Week 2. The front seven is vastly improved, and whatever roots it laid down in the months leading up to the regular season now needs to start bearing fruit.
Every Bears takeaway by the defense, every kick return netting 25 yards or more and every punt return that fuels decent starting field position will help the offense stay out of trouble. Good field position helps a play-caller and his quarterback.
The Bears feel they will take the ball away more this season. They’re trying to improve their kick and punt return averages. Eddie Royal flashed in Houston. Deonte Thompson has the speed to do some damage on kickoffs. They both need solid and consistent blocking to spring something big. The Bears are still looking for return options after signing former Browns running back Raheem Mostert on Monday to the practice squad. He averaged 31.8 yards per return in a December game against Seattle last season and ran extremely well against the Packers in an August preseason game.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.