Marquee Match-Up of the Week: MJD and the 4-3
Coming off of last week’s Monday night win in Dallas, the Bears confidence has to be sky high. However, that’s what it was coming off of the week one victory over the Colts, and look what happened the next game.
Fortunately for them, they get to travel to Northern Florida to face the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. Of course, there is the whole “any given Sunday” mantra, and the Bears will have to come to play to win. Still, it will be a game that the Bears should win pretty comfortably.
With that said, there are still some match-ups on both sides of the ball that I’ll be playing close attention to on Sunday.
When the Bears have the ball: Mike Tice vs. the 4-3 defense
In a mid-week press conference, Mike Tice talked about how tough it is to practice for a 3-4 defense and how much better he likes when the Bears play against a 4-3 defense. Well, Tice will get his wish on Sunday, as the Bears will face a basic 4-3 Jaguars defense.
The Bears have a 4-3 defense in just one game this season: week three against St. Louis. In that game, the Bears came out with a very vanilla offensive gameplan. It could be because Matt Forte was injured. It could be because the Bears were coming off of the offensive debacle in Green Bay where nothing went right. Whatever the case may be, the Bears certainly did not try to take many shots down the field in that contest.
If Tice really does mean what he says, he probably will really open up the playbook Sunday and try to let the offense loose. However, like we’ve said, he didn’t do that in the Rams game. I’ll be intrigued to see how Tice calls plays in this one. Will he loosen the reins on the offense and let them loose against the 4-3, or will he play it safe like he did in the Rams game and really play “not to lose” instead of “to win?”
When the Bears have the ball: Maurice Jones-Drew vs. the Bears Front Four
While they faced a tough, physical running back in week three in Steven Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew is a notch ahead of him and is a notch healthier than him. He will be the best running back the Bears have faced thus far this season.
The Bears defensive line has been probably the biggest key to the defense’s resurgence thus far this season, putting more pressure on the quarterback than they have since the 2006 season. However, it remains to be seen how good this unit is at controlling the line of scrimmage on run plays. They will be tested going up against a physical running back in MJD and against a very good run blocking Jags offensive line. The Jaguars have a lot of weaknesses, but the interior of their offensive line is not one of them, as experienced players Eben Britton, Brad Meester and Uche Nwaneri are a big reason why Jones-Drew has had success in his career.
We know the Bears love to rotate their defensive lineman, and I would expect to see even more of that Sunday. Lovie Smith usually elects to dress seven defensive lineman, but given the physicality expected up front, I wouldn’t be shocked if they dressed eight. Matt Toeania was inactive on Monday night, and with him being more of a run stopper than a pass rusher, he’s a logical choice to be active and get more than a few snaps. This could be the first time we see Nate Collins active this year as well. In a game like this, fresh bodies up front will be important.