By Jeff Joniak–
(CBS) Looking for their first wins, the Bears (0-3) host the Lions (1-2) on Sunday at Soldier Field at noon. Here are my observations leading into the game.
Mental speed and physical speed are different in the NFL. Thinking slows down the fastest of players. It’s a complex-yet-reactive game and more often than not, young players think more than they react. It takes time in a sport where time is short. Everything is about now. The Bears have no time to waste. They need a win against the Lions. Maybe a win eliminates the over-thinking. Maybe it doesn’t. No matter what, patience is in short supply but also required for a team still adjusting to all the new pieces on both sides of the ball.
Rookie running back Jordan Howard is now a key figure in the Bears offense after an ankle injury to Jeremy Langford. Don’t bet against him as he takes advantage of his opportunity to lead the run game. He doesn’t have the sample size just yet, but his 36-yard run in Dallas last weekend was intriguing. He believes he will be a physical, tackle-breaking runner who can handle the load. He’s been doubted many, many times before in his life, and he uses that to fuel his performance. You can hear more about Howard in Sunday’s Countdown To Kickoff radio pregame show on WBBM.
Entering Week 4, the Bears have yet to establish an identity. They get asked about that repeatedly. So does coach John Fox. Everything is a work in progress right now. There’s no continuity due to injuries, the starting quarterback has a bum thumb, the defense isn’t getting off the field and the offense makes too many mistakes. The identity is linked to what a team does best, and right now the Bears are still searching for that one go-to strength. For the time being, I would like the team’s identity to be linked to its ability to adapt and overcome as it works through the growing pains of a young roster.
Due to a combination of factors including performance or lack thereof this season, and injuries, the Bears are down to 13 players on the active roster, who joined the franchise prior to the hiring of General Manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox. Five of those players are on the injury report this week.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.