Joniak’s Journal: Bears’ Young Defensive Backs Building Confidence

By Jeff Joniak–

(CBS) The Bears (1-3) are on the road to face the Colts (1-3) on Sunday in Indianapolis. Here are my observations leading into the game.

First impression

Bears coach John Fox has had 17 job titles since playing defensive back at San Diego State. Ten of those jobs included the title of defensive backs coach, as he tutored many star players, including Hall of Famer Rod Woodson.

Vic Fangio’s defenses in Carolina in the late 1990s had 130 takeaways in four seasons. His 2004 Texans defense swiped a team-record 22 interceptions. In his four years in Baltimore as a defensive assistant, the Ravens’ opponent passer rating was a league-best 70.6, and Fangio’s 2014 49ers defense took away 23 passes.

Bears secondary coach Ed Donatell coached four defensive backs to six pro bowls in San Francisco.

Combined, the trio have amassed a century of coaching experience. In the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win, Bears defensive backs Deiondre’ Hall, Bryce Callahan, Jacoby Glenn, Cre’von LeBlanc, Adrian Amos and Harold Jones Quartey were on the field shutting out Matthew Stafford and the Lions to the tune of 52 yards in the final 15 minutes. The young defensive backs — all with two years or fewer of NFL experience — are in good hands learning how to play from these three coaches, and they’re building confidence with every play they make and every mistake they overcome.

Second thought

Given how Fox has used his running backs in the past, it was widely assumed the Bears would have a running back-by-committee approach in 2016. That’s not the case, at least for  now after the performance of rookie Jordan Howard and with Jeremy Langford injured. On the Bears Coaches show on WBBM Monday night, running backs coach Stan Drayton said production trumps all.

“You can’t knock what Jordan has done from a production standpoint,” Drayton said. “He’s getting the yards, he’s getting the yards post-contact, he’s doing pretty much everything in all phases of running back play fairly well. Not to sit there and say that he’s the guy, but he is putting the most production out there right now. When Jeremy’s out there, he’s probably the most versatile guy you have, but it’s a matter of getting the hot foot.”

Third degree

Of Howard’s 111 yards rushing on 23 carries Sunday, 69 came after contact. He runs behind his pads well, and he finishes runs with authority and physicality.

Langford spent time in the offseason watching his 2015 tape, looking for ways he could have created more after contact yardage by breaking tackles. Now he’s dealing with a multi-week ankle injury while Howard is quickly turning heads.

“Jeremy’s been frustrated, I believe,” Drayton said. “Dealing with a setback like this after he has worked himself into position to be a starter, that was a tough blow for him. However, he is rebounding. He is still being called upon for his leadership. I do believe he will rebound and be fine, but it’s never good when you have a competitive edge and you can’t put it on the football field.”


In 125 snaps so far this season, 35-year old Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis has only one hit on the quarterback and no sacks. Frustrated by his production at the moment, he’s still not one to sleep on. He’s a sack artist, with 118 in his 13 years. If the Colts keep playing him, the Bears have to keep blocking him.

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.

More from Jeff Joniak

More From CBS Chicago

News Via Email
Podcast Network

Listen Live