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.
There are players in the Bears locker room who are Cubs lovers right now. Quarterback Brian Hoyer has long been a fan of the Cubs while also rooting for his hometown Indians. Rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard was wearing a White Sox hat this week in the locker room, but it was only a gift for throwing out the first pitch on the South Side this summer. He played baseball but didn’t love it like football while growing up, and he has a hard time watching it until now that the Cubs are in the NLCS.
Guard Kyle Long grew up loving the game.
“I remember all I needed was a stick and some rocks,” Long said. “Living out in the country a little bit, there’s a lot of space to hit rocks. Then we went on to bats. We chewed right through the wood down to where it would split. I just remember having fun. It was really fun, and that’s all we knew.”
Long was drafted by the White Sox and landed at Florida State as a recruited pitcher before he transitioned to football. Hear more of Long’s baseball thoughts in Sunday’s “Countdown to Kickoff” on WBBM during the second hour of the Bears pregame show with Tom Thayer, Jay Hilgenberg, Jim Schwantz and Ron Gleason.
Eighteen of Alshon Jeffrey’s 22 receptions this season have resulted in first downs. So it’s a good result when the ball is thrown his way. At just over six targets per game, Jeffrey has shared the ball with the now-injured Kevin White and Eddie Royal more often than some critics would like.
Entering the season, Jeffrey’s average target rate was 8.5 per game. On his catches this season, Jeffrey is gaining on average 18 yards. That’s worth nearly two first downs a catch, so as time moves on I fully expect Jeffrey to emerge as Hoyer’s top target and biggest impact player offensively.
While the Bears’ offensive efficiency is improving, mistakes have hurt their ability to score. They’ve missed three field goals, punted 21 times, turned it over seven times, turned it over on downs five times and just ran out of time five times. That accounts for 41 of their 55 drives this season. The 14 scoring drives match the league’s fewest, with Miami and Kansas City. Like the Bears, the Falcons have had 55 possessions but have 29 scoring drives, for context.
The Bears have been called for 18 offensive fouls, which is tied for the 12th-most in the league and has resulted in a loss of 145 yards. Jacksonville has committed a league-worst 21 defensive penalties. Plays designed to take advantage of that fact would seem to be a strategy by the Bears against the Jaguars.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.