Three Bears necessities for a win vs. Jaguars

Three Bears necessities for a win vs. Jaguars

It seems it will only be a matter of time before all the talent Jacksonville has amassed through the draft in recent years, and free agency this past offseason, comes together into a winning formula. After an 0-3 start of their own, has that tide begun to turn, beginning with their win over the Colts in Week 4 in London? The Jaguars are an NFL-worst 1-16 since the start of 2014 in enemy stadiums. If the Bears become that second victim Sunday, a 1-7 record heading into their bye week appears likely.

1. Keep laundry in the locker room

Averaging six penalties over the first four games is a fairly acceptable average, pending timing. Ten for 80 yards last week in Indy was not, especially considering seven of those came on offense, inside the Colts' 40-yard line. That meant Brian Hoyer missing an open Alshon Jeffery in the end zone simply prevented what would have been a lucky win, based on all the yellow flags preceding that final gasp. The last one was a Bobby Massie hold on 3rd-and-5 from the Colts' 25. Speaking of which...

2. Massie missing

The early returns on one of Ryan Pace's priorities in his second turn through free agency have not been encouraging. Yes, the offensive line as a whole should have completed its "Getting to Know You" process with five straight games together, and they've allowed just three sacks the last three games. The right tackle has struggled against speed rushers, as various scouting reports and game film showed back in March. Held out of practice Friday with a sore ankle, he's now questionable to play against two rookies who've combined for five sacks, lining up primarily of the Jags' left edge, Dante Fowler Jr. and Yannick Ngakoue. Even if backup Mike Adams has to step in, the situation may scream for extra blocking help regardless.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

3. Third party

When the Bears have the ball, this game "features" their No. 29-ranked third down offense (30.9) against Jacksonville's No. 29-ranked third-down defense (opponents averaging 45.6 percent success). And when that Jaguars offense that has some weapons (including a pair of 1,000-yard receivers last season) has the ball, they're converting just 28.6 percent on third down, worst in the league. So as the Bears defense must keep that trend going, how about giving Jordan Howard and Ka`Deem Carey more than 17 combined rushes, as they were held to last week in a one-possession game throughout, despite averaging 6.6 yards per rush? At least until you're consistently stopped by a middle-of-the-pack run defense, paired with a seventh-rated pass defense.

Count down toward Sunday's noon kickoff on CBS by joining Lance Briggs, Alex Brown, Jim Miller and Chris Boden for Bears Pregame Live at 11 a.m. on CSN.  As soon as the second quarter ends, log on here at as Miller and Boden break down the first 30 minutes and go over adjustments on Bears Halftime Live. Then, when the game ends, immediately flip back to CSN for 90 minutes of reaction, analysis, live press conferences and locker room interviews on Bears Postgame Live.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Cam Meredith return to the Bears?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Cam Meredith return to the Bears?

Hub Arkush (Pro Football Weekly/670 The Score), Mark Grote (670 The Score) and Mark Carman (WGN Radio) join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel. Quenton Nelson works out at Notre Dame’s pro day. If he’s still on the board at 8, should the Bears take him? Plus the panel talks about the Cubs outfield heading into 2018 and if it’s time to shut down both Jonathan Toews and Lauri Markkanen.

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

USA Today

Could Quenton Nelson increase his value by playing tackle?

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Quenton Nelson hasn’t met with the Bears yet during this pre-draft process, and doesn’t have a local visit scheduled with them. But maybe that’s not too surprising.

Harry Hiestand has better intel on him than anyone else after coaching him for the past four years at Notre Dame, after all. 

“Coach Hiestand, he’s known me since I was an immature freshman that wasn’t good at football, until now being a lot more mature and responsible and doing the right thing and a good football player,” Nelson said. “He knows everything about me.”

Could part of that intel provided by Hiestand be that Nelson has the ability to eventually play tackle?

Nelson might be the closest to a “sure thing” prospect in this year’s draft, with his reams of dominant film and off-the-charts work ethic projecting him as an All-Pro for years to come. But that he plays guard is a stumbling block, given interior positions generally don’t hold as much value as tackles in the NFL.

So here’s a potential scenario for the Bears: They draft Nelson at No. 8 — which is still "high" for a guard — and plug him at left guard in 2018. They then, under the careful watch of Hiestand, slide him to tackle in 2019. 

“I’m pretty convinced that Q could do whatever he sets his mind to,” Mike McGlinchey, a first-round tackle in his own right who's Nelson’s ex-Irish teammate and workout buddy, said. “If that’s what teams want him to play, I’m sure he’ll take that head on and perform to the best of his ability.” 

Nelson, to his credit, is confident he could make the switch to tackle (he was recruited by Hiestand as a tackle, and began his college career backing up Zack Martin at tackle). He said the only team that’s asked him about it so far is the Cincinnati Bengals, though it’s unlikely he’ll still be on the board when they pick at No. 21. 

But maybe the thought of guards being significantly less valuable than tackles is slowly becoming antiquated in today’s NFL. Four of the top 10 highest paid offensive linemen, by total contract value, are interior linemen. Three of the top 10 offensive linemen with the most guaranteed money are guards, led by Andrew Norwell, who inked a five-year, $66.5 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this month with $30 million guaranteed at signing. Only one offensive lineman — Nate Solder, who just signed with the New York Giants — is guaranteed more money. 

Following the money, if teams are willing to splash down loads of cash for the best guards in the league, a team may be willing to spend a top-10 pick on a guard who could immediately be among the best at his position in the NFL. Or the calculation for whatever team drafts him may be this: Would you rather have him as a perennial All-Pro guard or "merely" a solid-to-good tackle? 

Regardless of where he ends up playing, though, Nelson is one of those supremely-talented players who takes the right approach to his craft — in other words, one of those guys you just want to get in your building. And while Nelson said he’d love to play for his hometown New York Giants — who could be interested in him with the No. 2 pick — he said getting to link back up with Hiestand would be an incredible opportunity, too. 

“That would be amazing to play for him,” Nelson said. “He’s the one that made me into the player I am today. I wouldn’t be here without him or be in any conversations in the draft without him, so it would mean a lot to play for him again.”