Bears

Pressure is key to stopping Oklahoma QB Jones

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Pressure is key to stopping Oklahoma QB Jones

Notre Dame hasnt faced a quarterback this year as good as Landry Jones, who's thrown for 1,644 yards and 12 over Oklahomas six games. But there exists an avenue for beating Jones, one that a few teams have followed over the last four seasons -- including Texas Tech and Kansas State, which became the third and fourth teams to win in Norman during the Bob Stoops era.

Oklahoma has cruised in its last three games, beating Texas Tech, Texas and Kansas by a combined 108 points. In each of those games, OU got out to an early lead and was able to comfortably run its offense against a good defense (Texas Tech) and two fairly bad ones (Texas and KU).

But against Kansas State, Jones and the OU offense didnt get off to a quick start, and had to play from behind for a good chunk of a game the Sooners wound up losing. The same slow-start issues popped up in OUs first game of the season, a 24-7 win over UTEP in which Jones only threw for 222 yards.

NFL scouts have taken notice of Jones performance in those two games, and in turn, one thinks the OU quarterback is nothing more than a mid-round pick.

If he gets hit a couple times, hes done, the scout told NFL.com earlier this month. (via Pro Football Talk). Lots of skill, absolutely -- great size, good arm, accurate, tons of production the last three years. But hes killing himself. ... He shows he can do everything we want him to do, he just hasnt shown he can do it consistently in pressure situations.

Hes great if his team gets a lead early and mixes it up on offense. If they get behind, and hes got to lead them back with a defense pinning their ears back, he struggles.

So theres the blueprint for Notre Dame to stop Jones. Put pressure on him, and try to punch Oklahoma in the mouth early. If Stephon Tuitt gets loose early and Notre Dames running game can grind out points in the first quarter, that could set the tone for the rest of the game. But if Jones is able to get comfortable in the first 15 or 20 minutes, it could be hard to break him out of that groove.

Oklahomas offense isnt all about Jones, though -- the Sooners have a pair of running backs averaging over six yards per carry, and Kenny Stills and Penn State transfer Justin Brown have been more than reliable pass-catchers for Jones.

It's the balance on offense. It's not just Landry Jones. If it's just Landry Jones, then they're not where they are, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. It's their ability to run the football equally as well as throwing the football. It's one of the most balanced offenses in the country in terms of they can play physical, they can throw the ball, and of course Landry Jones has got those weapons that allow him to be so successful. The offense is certainly about Landry Jones, but more importantly it's the balance that they have.

Whether Notre Dame can disrupt that balance early could decide which way Saturdays game goes.

The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

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USA Today Sports Images

The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

Asking players about how the defense is “ahead” of the offense is a yearly right of passage during OTAs, sort of like how every baseball team has about half its players saying they’re in the best shape of their life during spring training. So that Vic Fangio’s defense is ahead of Matt Nagy’s offense right now isn’t surprising, and it's certainly not concerning. 

But Nagy is also working to install his offense right now during OTAs to build a foundation for training camp. So does the defense — the core of which is returning with plenty of experience in Fangio’s system — being ahead of the offense hurt those efforts?

“It’s actually good for us because we’re getting an experienced defense,” Nagy said. “My message to the team on the offensive side is just be patient and don’t get frustrated. They understand that they’re going to play a little bit faster than us right now. We’ll have some growing pains, but we’ll get back to square one in training camp.”

We’ll have a chance to hear from the Bears’ offensive players following Wednesday’s practice, but for now, the guys on Fangio’s defense have come away impressed with that Nagy’s offense can be. 

“The offense is a lot … just very tough,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “They’re moving well. They’re faster. They’re throwing a lot of different looks at us and that’s just Nagy’s offense. If I was a receiver I would love to play in this offense, just because you get to do so many different things and you get so many different plays. It just looks fun over there.”

“They’re moving together, and I like to see that,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “We’re not a bad defense. They’re practicing against us, so they’re getting better every day, and vice versa. It’s a daily grind. It’s going to be tough, but those guys, they got the right pieces. I like what I see out there. When somebody makes a play, they’re gone. Everybody can run over there. It’s the right fit for Mitch, it’s the right fit for the receivers, the running backs.”

Still, for all the praise above, the defense is “winning” more, at least as much as it can without the pads on. But the offense is still having some flashes, even as it collectively learns the terminology, concepts and formations used by Nagy. 

And that leads to a competitive atmosphere at Halas Hall, led by the Bears’ new head coach. 

“He’s an offensive coach and last year coach (John) Fox, I couldn’t really talk stuff to (him) because he’s a defensive coach and it’s like Nagy’s offense so if I get a pick or something, I mean, I like to talk stuff to him,” Amukamara said. “He’ll say something like ‘we’re coming at you 2-0.’ Stuff like that. That just brings out the competition and you always want that in your head coach.”

95 Days to Kickoff: Waubonsie Valley

95 Days to Kickoff: Waubonsie Valley

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O'Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we'll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Waubonsie Valley

Head coach: Paul Murphy

Assistant coaches: Ron Griffin, Tom Baumgarnter, Chris Genslinger, Brad Caldwell, Josh Cuttone, Noel Soto, Ryan Voitik, Duane Butts and Ken Anderson

How they fared in 2017: 4-5 (4-4 DuPage Valley Conference). Waubonsie Valley failed to qualify for the IHSA playoff field.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ Oak Park-River Forest

Aug. 31 vs Libertyville

Sept 7 @ Neuqua Valley

Sept. 14 @ Edwardsville

Sept. 21 vs Naperville North

Sept. 28 vs Neuqua Valley

Oct. 5 vs Prairie Ridge

Oct. 12 @ Naperville Central

Oct. 19 @ Metea Valley

[MORE: 96 Days to Kickoff: Jacobs]

Biggest storyline: It's all about the schedule. Can the Warriors survive a challenging lineup --which includes playing Neuqua Valley twice-- and make the playoffs?

Names to watch this season: WR Julian Cain and DL Avante Rogers

Biggest holes to fill: The Warriors will have several new faces on both the offensive and defensive lines in 2018. 

EDGY's Early Take: It's not often that veteran head coach Paul Murphy and his Warriors view the playoffs from home. But that's what happened last year. They were the first Waubonsie team since 2006 to do just that. Look for the Warriors to rely on a strong group of receivers to bounce back this fall. They also feature a good group of underclassmen ready to step up. Also, they will need to get used to life in the newly-realigned DuPage Valley Conference. The 2018 schedule includes two games against big district rival Neuqua Valley and a loaded non-conference slate which includes some heavy hitters.