By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) For the second straight week, the Bears have a primetime road matchup, this time on Monday night against the Jets. Chicago is in for a physical challenge, and here are five individual matchups to focus on.
Bears center Brian de la Puente vs. Jets nose tackle Damon Harrison — The Jets run a hybrid front, consisting of both three- and four-man lines. When they play their three-man line, Harrison mans the nose as well as anyone in the league. Not only is he stout enough to hold the point, he’s quick enough to shoot a gap. The Bears are struggling to get their running game going, and if de la Puente is unable to get movement on Harrison, he will require help from the guards, which will create single-block opportunities on the edge for the Jets.
Bears right tackle Jordan Mills vs. Jets defensive ends Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson — Through two games, Mills has required help from tight ends and running backs in pass protection, and the Bears have only gained one yard on two carries when running behind him. The Jets use Wilkerson and Richardson interchangeably on the edge and sometimes line them up next to each other. The Bears figure to throw the ball a lot Monday night, so Mills must be able to hold up on an island.
Bears defensive ends Lamarr Houston and Willie Young vs. Jets right tackle Breno Giacomini — Houston was the big financial splash for the Bears in free agency, but early on, they’re getting far better returns on their investment in Young. Giacomini came over from the Seahawks, where he was a weak link on their line. The Bears are using a rotation at end to keep legs fresh and get optimal matchups. This week, they have a decided advantage against Giacomini on the right side.
Bears nickel back Isaiah Frey vs. Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley — With Charles Tillman lost for the season, rookie Kyle Fuller moves outside, and the question becomes who the Bears will use inside as the slot corner. When Tillman was healthy, Tim Jennings played inside, but he now figures to go outside with Frey moving inside. Frey played 16 games last year as the nickel slot corner. He was assignment sound but didn’t make many plays on the ball. Kerley is shifty and dangerous in the open field. If injury-hampered Eric Decker is unavailable, Kerley’s targets will certainly be on the rise.
Bears nose tackle Stephen Paea vs. Jets center Nick Mangold — In addition to being tops against the run, the Jets are first running the ball, averaging 179 rushing yards per game. They have great success running the ball right up the middle behind Mangold. Paea has been effective with his pass rush so far, but he’s given ground in the run game. If the Jets can turn Paea out of the hole and get their running backs to the second level untouched, it will again put the Bears’ back seven on defense in a compromised position with their downhill pursuit angles.
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.