Joniak's Journal: Bears See Promise In Rookie Safety Tandem
By Jeff Joniak--
(CBS) The Bears (2-4) are on their bye this week. Here are a few observations as they take a break.
Tuesday's bye week post-practice interview session included time with the defensive assistants. Secondary coach Ed Donatell had a large throng of reporters draped around him wondering where the interceptions are through six games. His secondary doesn't have one yet this season, as the three picks by the Bears have come from linebackers.
"We can only get better," Donatell said. "I know the guys are working together and the chemistry is good and they are good on their assignments, so that is coming. There's no question about it. It's just a matter of when."
Donatell is a tough-minded, outstanding teacher and a former NFL defensive coordinator. While he's impartial when it comes to shapes and sizes at corner and safety, he favors tough, physical, nasty hitters on the back end.
There are 13 rookie safeties on NFL rosters as of today. Only three start. The Bears are the only team in the NFL starting a pair of rookie safeties at the moment. Former Alabama star Landon Collins starts for the New York Giants. Penn State's Adrian Amos and undrafted University of Findlay product Harold Jones-Quartey are starting for the Bears.
"I feel really good about what they've done," Donatell said. "Amos has just been so steady, just mature beyond his years, and I mean 24-7. You can see that he was listening to Antrel (Rolle). When Antrel went out, there wasn't as much drop off in communication as there might be. There's some, but he's a real student of the game."
Donatell said Amos is "on the rare" side for a rookie to play as consistent and tough as he has in the first six games. As for Jones-Quartey, Donatell says he's focused, football means a lot to him and he's grown a lot in two weeks given the absence of Rolle, who remains out with an ankle injury.
Six weeks into the season, linebackers coach Glenn Pires is looking for his unit to start letting it rip when they see the opportunity to make a play. Teams generally run the same formations and concepts, so the carry-over in their preparation should start to click.
"You've now got to start to pick up on that and say, 'Hey, I've seen this before, now go,'" Pires said. "That has to start to kick in as you go. The concepts are different to a point, but they are really not."
Linebacker Christian Jones called his first game in Detroit with Shea McClellin out with a knee injury. Jones admits it's an adjustment, but he seems to have weathered his first storm from a communication standpoint despite the disappointment in the overtime loss Sunday.
"His arrow is going up," Pires said. "When we first started in May and June, he's getting better and better. Is it where he wants it to be? No, but it is on the upswing for him, yes."
As for McClellin, Pires said the veteran has a big-picture view of the opposing offense.
"He can see a lot of things," Pires said. "He's also a one-time guy. He gets it that first time, and he can see it and he can flow".
Bears running back Matt Forte leads the NFL in rushing yards after six games and is second in yards from scrimmage. The defense is ranked sixth against the pass, despite a big day by the Lions.
Quarterback Jay Cutler is third in the NFL on third-down passing, with a 114.0 quarterback rating, and in the top 10 in pass plays of 20-plus yards with 22. Inside the opponents' 30-yard line, Cutler's rating is ranked 29th in the league, at 71.1, with 3.86 yards per attempt, a completion percentage of 46 percent, six touchdowns and three interceptions.
Kicker Robbie Gould owns the NFL's longest streak of consecutive field goals made without a miss. He's perfect on all 15 of his attempts. Denver's Brandon McManus has hit 16 of 17 attempts, but his streak ended at 13 in a row at Cleveland on Sunday.
Linebacker Pernell McPhee continues to rank second in the NFL in quarterback knockdowns and hurries with 24.5, second to Justin Houston of the Chiefs.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.
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