Five on the Bears
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - After a dazzling debut, Carson Wentz faces a number of other firsts on Monday night as the rookie star leads the Eagles into the Second City for a “Monday Night Football” matchup against probably the NFC North’s worst team, the Chicago Bears.
The Monsters of the Midway are not all that scary these days and when asked what worries him most about the Chicago defense on Thursday, Eagles coach Doug Pederson had to think a little bit before coming out with an answer, the pass rush.
PRESSURING THE ROOKIE
Chicago managed two sacks in its season-opener in Houston last Sunday with ex-Broncos star Danny Trevathan getting his old teammate Brock Osweiler, as well as rookie first-round pick Leonard Floyd and Eddie Goldman splitting another takedown.
Floyd got the start at OLB in his debut ahead of veteran Lamarr Houston and teams with the underrated Willie Young to give the Bears pretty impressive speed off the edges but we are not talking about Richard Dent here when discussing Chicago’s ability to get to the quarterback.
Lane Johnson is on track to play again in Week 2 and he and Jason Peters certainly are capable enough to handle what John Fox and Vic Fangio throw at them.
“Their pass rushers on the outside Young, (OLB Sam) Acho, guys like that on the outside, it's a different animal than we had last week,” Pederson said. “I think they can really bend and attack the quarterback.”
Although Pederson is worried about the pass rush, the bigger issue for Wentz may be scheme because Fox and Fangio are know for multiple fronts and they may try to throw the kitchen sink at the rookie signal caller to confuse him, something Pederson seems to have a beat on.
“You get into their sub-defenses, (Fox) will show you different odd looks, along with his even looks,” Pederson explained. “What we call spinners, he'll take a D-end or a tackle and one of his athletic guys and move them around and create some confusion. So we have to be on point with how we identify it.”
Pederson then tried to break it down as simply as possible for his young QB.
“It's a lot of stuff around the box, but zone coverage on the back end.” he said. “So, if you know that and you can protect it, then there are some opportunities to complete the ball down the field.”
Really the only success Cleveland had offensively last Sunday was winning 50-50 balls down the field and that might be a bigger issue on Monday night because the king-sized Jeffery is perhaps the best in football when it comes to winning contested balls.
He’s got a tremendous ability to high-point the football, along with rare body control that makes him open even when he’s not open.
The fact that veteran cornerback Leodis McKelvin may not be available on Monday also complicates things for Jim Schwartz and his defense when it comes to defending Jeffery.
If you are looking for an area to exploit on the Chicago offense, it’s certainly the tackles, Bobby Massie and Charles Leno, who are just not starting caliber players, a big problem for the Bears because Jay Cutler is known to struggle when he's taken off his spots and forced to throw the football before he wants to.
After facing Joe Thomas for 60 minutes, Leno will be like a night off for Connor Barwin while Brandon Graham’s speed and motor will be a handful for Massie. Then you have Vinny Curry coming in as the closer for Schwartz, which bodes will for quite a bit of pressure from the Eagles’ defense.
RUN THE FOOTBALL
The Bears’ defense allowed Lamar Miller to rush for 106 yards last week and Houston had 129 yards on the ground total at a 3.7 yards per clip. The 3.7 aspect of that isn’t bad but Chicago front generally has trouble getting interior penetration so generating negative plays is difficult for this defense and should set up some manageable second-down plays for the Eagles if they feed Ryan Mathews early.
973epsn.com Prediction: It’s not going to be as easy as it was last week but this is another nice opponent to get Wentz past his first NFL road start, as well as his first nationally-televised affair, before the really heavy liftting starts against Pittsburgh on Sept. 25. Eagles 21, Bears 17.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen