IRVING, Texas – Three questions I'm mulling over this morning as the Cowboys prepare to depart for Chicago:
If you were Scott Linehan calling this game how would you attack this Bears defense?
I believe the first thing I would do is get Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Jason Witten going very early in this game. What I have to assume is that my defense will have some matchup problems with this group of Chicago skill players, and running the ball down-after-down might not generate enough points.
Sure, it might keep them off the field, but the way my offense has struggled on third down here the last several games, I am going to try and jump start my group. Besides, I am not going to wait for the Bears to score points on my defense, then try to react with the passing game -- like I did against the Eagles. I instantly go into attack mode and work these Bears defensive backs over.
I am expecting this Bears secondary to play a lot of man coverage, so routes that get Bryant, Williams and Witten open on the move should prove successful. In studying the games that the Bears played against New England and Green Bay here recently, that is exactly what these two offenses were able to do and it put them in a bad situation. The weather and field conditions appear to be prefect for the game, so I see no reason why you'd call this game in any other way.
What are the chances we finally see Josh Brent in some game action?
Ask and you shall receive. This was the first week in which Josh Brent took the majority of his snaps with the defense -- and not on the scout team, like he had in the previous weeks. It has been a long road for Brent, but his conditioning appears to be where it needs to be. These defensive coaches feel good enough about what he can do to help this team, scheme-wise, to use him against the Bears on Thursday.
Brent has been practicing at the nose tackle spot while working with Terrell McClain, who has been lining up at the under-tackle. I am not sure what we will actually see from Brent when he is put in the game, because it has been a full two years since we last saw him in a NFL game. Where Brent can help this defense is his ability to hold the point in the running game by taking up a blocker or two, which would allow Rolando McClain or Anthony Hitchens that extra count to get to the ball.
If I have any doubt, it would be about how much Brent can really help as a pass rusher other than just getting some inside push. What I worry about is that this Bears offensive line does a good job of handling power rushers and that is what Brent is.
The Bears have struggled on defense this season, but is there a guy that really worries you?
What is strange about this Bears defense is when you look at the names on paper, you'd think it would have been a much better group overall, but they are what they are.
The player that worries the most, other than maybe Jared Allen, is defensive tackle Stephen Paea. If you were to draw up the perfect nose tackle in a 4-3 scheme, Paea would be right there along with the Seahawks' Brandon Mebane in my book. Both are difficult guys and are able to anchor down at the point and play with outstanding upper body strength and power.
These defensive tackles take on so many blocks, and how they maintain contact balance and play on their feet is so important. It is rare that you see Paea or Mebane get knocked out of position. What also makes these guys difficult to block is how quickly they are able to get out of their stances and up the field. There were snaps on tape this week watching Paea where it appeared that he surprised the blockers with how quickly he was on them.
You can understand why he is having the type of season he is, with his six sacks and nine quarterback hurries. This guy is a player that has to be accounted for each and every down.