By Jeff Joniak
As a tandem, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey have piled up 1,101 yards in receiving in the first seven games. They've been targeted 120 times, with 79 receptions, and seven touchdowns. However, five interceptions have been thrown on targeted throws to them. Pro Football Focus calculates a stat called "Yards Per Route Run," which breaks down total receiving yards divided by the number of plays a receiver runs a pattern to calculate their per-snap contribution.
Marshall was third in the NFL last season at 2.76; this year he is down to 2.12. However, Jeffrey is now tenth in the league, jumping from 1.41 as a rookie to 2.21 in 2013. Both receivers are Top 20 in targets. Jeffrey is tenth in yards, Marshall is thirteenth.
No one has pumped up Jeffrey more than Bears offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer. Monday night on the Bears Coaches Show on WBBM, Kromer said: "When you watch him in practice every single day, he does the right thing, he's got the right footwork, he's working hard, he's focused on the task at hand, so it doesn't surprise you when he gets in the game and makes plays." Jeffrey is also averaging 14.7 yards per carry running the ball on the reverse, and he and Marshall blocking in the run game are weapons.
With 429 defensive snaps in his seven games, Lance Briggs put together an impressive body of work against the run. Pro Football Focus has him for a league-high 52 solo tackles, tops among 4-3 outside linebackers, with 30 of those constituting a failed offensive play, which is ranked second in the NFL. Now, they also have him for 15 missed tackles, which is also tops in the league, but how that stat is graded varies from team to team. Briggs and Bruce Carter of Dallas have allowed the most completed passes in their area at 31 with 213 yards after the catch, the second-most in the NFL behind Chad Greenway of the Vikings. Briggs also is second among linebackers with eight pass break-ups, and his nine tackles for loss in the run game indicate a high combined number of big plays made by Briggs, who also has two sacks and two forced fumbles. His presence and leadership will be missed no matter how you slice it.
Adam Podlesh is coming on strong and executing the punting game plan for the Bears. Only 17.2 percent of his 29 punts have been returned this season, which is by far the fewest(5) in the NFL. Every other punter is at 23 percent and higher. Podlesh has only one touchback. Eight of his punts have been downed by the coverage unit, another 10 resulted in fair catches, and five have been kicked out of bounds. He is one of only 19 punters at the magical 40-40 average gross and net yardage numbers. His hang time is worst in the league, but in terms of pinning teams deep or to the sideline, Podlesh has improved after rough games at Pittsburgh and Detroit.
4th and Short
Corey Wootton, playing three-technique defensive tackle for the first time in his life on a three-down basis, had the best performance of all the guys up front. Wootton works hard on his technique before, during, and after every practice and is improving his worth and value with his versatility. Given the attrition on defense, more personnel creativity might be necessary.
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