Since Bears cornerback Deiondre Hall' had played fellow Eagles rookie qaurterback Carson Wentz twice in college when Northern Iowa would match up against North Dakota State, I asked Vic Fangio this week whether or not he would tap into a rookie's experience when it comes to game-planning for the No. 2 overall pick Monday night. The man who's in his 17th season as an NFL defensive coordinator and 30th as an assistant coach had a quick answer.
Our John Mullin wrote earlier in the week about how the Bears don't pencil in an automatic win just because they're matching up against a first-year signal-caller. And Fangio himself was effusive in his praise for Wentz, not tamping down the enthusiasm coming out of Philadelphia after last week's successful debut against the Browns, or the hype from ESPN, which is airing the game.
The thing is, while Fangio can disguise pre-snap looks, like any defensive coordinator he prefers, and his defenses operate best, when they can effectively rush just four men to the quarterback. As the ingredients in his base 3-4 grow and improve, the question is whether he has that yet on this roster. Or whether they're ready to do that yet. They only sacked Brock Osweiler twice, and hit him just eight times last Sunday. That Texans offensive line was without two starters, and these Eagles blockers are better than the group they faced in Houston.
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The Tribune's Rich Campbell wrote Friday that Fangio's defenses are 5-2 against rookie quarterbacks since he joined the 49ers in 2011, with a 57 percent completion rate and an 84.3 rating. For perspective, members of that 2011 defense included five Pro Bowlers that season (Justin Smith, NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, Carlos Rogers and Dashon Goldson) along with Ahmad Brooks, and would add two more Pro Bowlers over the next two seasons in Aldon Smith and Eric Reid.
Here's a closer look at how those rookie quarterbacks fared individually in those seven games:
|2011||Andy Dalton (CIN)||17-32 157 yards||0/2||1||40.8||SF, 13-8|
|2012||Russell Wilson (SEA)||9-23 122 yards||0/1||2||38.7||SF, 13-6|
|2012||Ryan Tannehill (MIA)||17-33 150 yards||1/0||2||74.1||SF, 27-13|
|2012||Russell Wilson (SEA)||15-21 171 yards||4/1||1||115.3||SEA, 42-13|
|2013||Mike Glennon (TB)||18-34 179 yards||2/1||4||75.5||SF, 33-14|
|2014||Derek Carr (OAK)||22-28 254 yards||3/0||1||140.2||OAK, 24-13|
|2015||Jameis Winston (TB)||15-29 295 yards||2/1||1||96.2||CHI, 26-21|
Winston's performance last December is the only exhibit of Fangio's Bears defense against a rookie, and he posted the most passing yards in the seven examples, with a better deep threat in Mike Evans and more established running back in Doug Martin than the Eagles' tandem of Jordan Matthews and Ryan Mathews. It should also be noted that Houston's offensive playmakers are generally regarded as a better group than the Eagles group that comes to town, even moreso without injured tight end Zach Ertz.
The unexpected rise a year ago from 30th in overall defense to 14th was a pleasant surprise and a credit to the brain power and experience of Fangio and his defensive staff. We'll see Monday night if they can bring the Eagles and Wentz back to earth.
*Programming note: Join Boden, Lance Briggs, Alex Brown and Jim Miller at a special earlier time Monday night for "Bears Pregame Live," from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on CSN*