IRVING, Texas – It's remarkable how similar the Bears' top two playmakers look to the guys we're familiar with here in Dallas.
As the Cowboys prepare for this road trip to Chicago, they'll have to find a way to deal with a physical, game-changing receiver and a remarkably well-rounded running back. In a lot of ways, the duo of Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte reminds me of Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray.
On top of that, Chicago boasts a phenomenal rookie cornerback whose name I think we'll hear plenty on Thursday.
Weapon: Alshon Jeffery, WR
Of all the skill players on this Bears offense, Alshon Jeffery is the one player that worries me the most.
I mean this as no disrespect to Brandon Marshall or Matt Forte, because they are outstanding players in their own right -- but Jeffery is a totally different animal. His physical appearance and ability to use it to his advantage makes him such a difficult player to defend.
It is clear when you study these Bears on tape that Marc Trestman is creating plays to get him the ball up the field, all while using his length on the play. He is a high-point receiver in every sense of the word, and even when corners are in position to make a play his reach enables to him finish the play. Another area where Jeffery shows up during games is on third downs. Trestman will put him in bunch formations or tight to the formation to give him space to work with. There are snaps where as soon as Jay Cutler gets the ball, his eyes focus quickly on Jeffery and his route.
He is one of the best in the league when it comes to positioning his body in a way where cornerbacks have no shot at making a play on the ball. Where Jeffery is also difficult to deal with is down in the red zone. One of the best plays that the Bears have is a screen where he is paired to the same side with Brandon Marshall and they throw Jeffery the ball while Marshall blocks at the point of attack. It's a difficult play to defend.
Nemesis: Matt Forte, RB
As important as DeMarco Murray is to this Cowboys offense, Matt Forte is the same for the Bears. When you talk about the complete backs in this league, he and Murray are the first two that you hear mentioned.
Like Murray, it is rare that you ever see Forte come off the field. He leads the Bears in both rushing and receiving, which speaks volumes for the type of player that he is. His running style is very similar to Murray, as well. There is that initial burst to get through the line, but not an extended one. His upper and lower body power is what makes up for his lack of home run speed.
He is such a physical player with the ball in his hands and does an outstanding job of finishing runs. The more that Forte carries the ball, the tougher he is to bring down. I like the way that Marc Trestman uses him in this scheme other than just a running back. It is not uncommon to see him line up outside wide as a receiver, and his skill level out in space like that makes him a dangerous threat.
He can run quality routes and his hands are outstanding. It looks likely that Rod Marinelli will match him with a linebacker to that side -- which a difficult assignment to deal with.
Under The Radar: Kyle Fuller, CB
When I was working on the college draft this past year, my favorite cornerback that I studied was Kyle Fuller out of Virginia Tech. I thought his style of play was perfect for what Rod Marinelli does with his corners when it comes to what is required of them in both man and zone coverage.
I was also impressed with his ability to line up in the slot and use his stop-start quickness to carry his man all over the field. His reactions were some of the best that I had observed of those corners coming out of the draf,t and he has shown that trait several times during his rookie season. I also grew to respect his toughness, as well.
He is not afraid to stick his nose in the action when the ball comes in his direction. In this scheme for the Bears, he will draw the most difficult assignments in coverage. Last week against the Lions, he was matched against Calvin Johnson and had a rough day, but to his credit there was not one time where he backed away from the challenge. In this matchup against the Cowboys, there is little doubt in my mind that defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will ask him to take Dez Bryant and that would allow him to focus his safeties in the middle of the field to deal with Jason Witten and also help in the running game.