By Jeff Joniak–
(CBS) — The Bears (1-4) host the Jaguars (1-3) on Sunday at noon at Soldier Field. Here are my observations leading into the game.
Quarterback Brian Hoyer has thrown it 65 times on first down, completing 74 percent of his passes for the fourth-highest yardage in the league (576 yards) with three touchdowns, no interceptions, no sacks and a 115.9 quarterback rating. Before suffering a thumb injury, Jay Cutler threw for 242 yards on 17 attempts on first down, completing 82.4 percent of his throws with one touchdown, one interception and three sacks.
The combined 818 yards on first down would rank behind only Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. The Bears are first in the league in earning four or more yards on their first-down pass plays (70.6 percent), with a league-high 60 completions.
In terms of running the ball, the Bears are fourth in the league in that regard, gaining 5.5 yards per carry on 56 attempts. Winning on first down sets the table for an efficient attack that stays on schedule and ahead of the chains. However, what does it all mean if they’ve scored only nine touchdowns in 55 possessions in five games?
Jordan Howard knows how to run the ball. What strikes me about his first two starts is his patience. He sticks his nose in the hole, uninterested in bouncing it outside the point of attack. He squeezes into tight gaps despite his size and gets to the second level with authority.
Despite only 51 carries, Howard is 20th in the league in yards after contact (107), which equates to 2.1 yards per carry after contact. That’s better than backs like Ezekiel Elliott, LeGarrette Blount, Carlos Hyde, Matt Forte and Todd Gurley. Eleven of his carries have topped 10 yards or more, which is among the top nine backs in the league. Here’s hoping his carries increase.
Bears defensive line coach Jay Rodgers has been keeping second-year nose tackle Eddie Goldman mentally sharp while he recovers from an ankle sprain.
“He does a project every single week,” Rodgers said. “Each guy in our room has a project to do, whether it be study this guy, whether it be stances and splits and rush tendencies, all these different things we try to put together as a group. And he’s got his part too. Then I’ll give him a test at the end of the week as well even though he may or may not play. I am keeping him mentally sharp, so when he’s ready to practice, he doesn’t skip a beat.”
Rodgers has each lineman present these projects to the unit, which promotes communication between players that help create tips on how to defend opposing offenses and specific players.
A quick look at third-year Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles finds inconsistency in his game. His third-down snaps are statistically some of the worst in the league. Four of his six interceptions in four games have come on third down, where his quarterback rating is last in the league at 41.4 with a completion rate of just under 55 percent. His overall interception rate so far is at a career-high. He was sacked 106 times in first two seasons, and he’s been chopped down a dozen times already this season. However, Bortles did throw 35 touchdowns last season for more than 4,400 yards.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.