Inside the Huddle: Can young Bears CBs keep Aaron Rodgers down?
Adam L. Jahns’ “Inside the Huddle” column appears in Bears game-day editions of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Cornerback Jacoby Glenn is a young player in a rut for the Bears. And whether defensive coordinator Vic Fangio says it or not, he knows it.
Glenn’s struggles in coverage and with tackling turned into a backup role for him after he won the starting job in the preseason.
Can Fangio trust Glenn – who has been penalized three times for defensive holding and once for pass interference – on the field?
“Well, you know, we have to,” Fangio said this week at Halas Hall.
Fangio has to because Glenn has to play. Injuries have ravaged the Bears, leaving them thin across their roster, and no position looks worse at the moment than cornerback.
The short week doesn’t help starters Tracy Porter (knee) and Bryce Callahan (hamstring), who were limited in practice Wednesday after sitting out on Tuesday. They’re officially listed as questionable.
If Porter and Callahan can’t play, the Bears will be without their top four cornerbacks Thursday night against the Packers at Lambeau Field.
Kyle Fuller (he’s on the physically unable-to-perform list after knee surgery) and rookie Deiondre’ Hall (he’s in a cast after severely injuring his ankle two weeks ago in practice) already are out.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers surely is looking at some favorable matchup. He needs them, too. A typical Aaron Rodgers-like beatdown of the Bears would silence his growing critics for at least week.
With the Packers often featuring three-receiver formations, Rodgers might be examining a secondary that includes Glenn, De’Vante Bausby and Cre’Von LeBlanc.
Does Rodgers know anything about them?
“Well, just what I see on film,” Rodgers said. “You have to study all the film you have access to even if you’ve got to go back multiple games to try to find stuff on guys. You have to dive into that preparation even on a short week, and try and pick out anything you can take from that.
“Injuries are a tough part of this game, especially on a short week and playing on Thursday.”
To some extent, it help that Glenn and LeBlanc have played plenty. In five games, including three starts, Glenn has been on the field for 61.8 percent of the defensive plays. In three games as the top nickel back, LeBlanc has played 67.8 percent of the defensive snaps.
If needed, LeBlanc, who took over at nickel back against the Lions, said he’s ready to move to the outside. It’s where he primarily played for the Patriots before he was waived and claimed by the Bears.
“You’re still a [defensive back],” said LeBlanc, an undrafted rookie from Florida Atlantic. “You’re still guarding receivers. It’s just different roles and different responsibilities.
“Wherever they need me at, I’ll lock into that position. I’ll give it my all and do what have to do for the team.”
Bausby, who went undrafted out of Pittsburg State last season, was signed to the practice squad last season in December. He was one of the final cuts in September before re-joining the practice squad.
After getting promoted to the 53-man roster on Oct. 10, Bausby made his defensive debut on Sunday, replacing Porter for three plays when the Jaguars ran out the clock for their victory.
LeBlanc and Bausby fit Fangio and secondary coach Ed Donatell’s demands for physical, aggressive play from their cornerbacks.
“[Donatell] put a little more bump into my press [coverage],” said Bausby, who is 6-1. “And it’s been working.”
It better if he plays. Rodgers is overdue for a big game, and the Bears might be the ideal opponent for it.
“I’m ready to showcase my talents,” Bausby said. “I’m a product of Ed and Vic. I’m ready to show the world what they’ve been grooming me to be.
“Whenever my number gets called, I’m going to be ready to step out on the field and go hard.”
They say they’re ready for the real Rodgers to show up, too.
“You don’t go into the game and think just because he’s having a bad season I’m going to go in without preparing hard enough,” LeBlanc said. “I’m going to prepare like he’s Aaron Rodgers.”
The Bears’ offense has typically struggled against Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. His diverse defense has forced quarterback Jay Cutler into some of the worst outings of his career.
It’ll be on Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains to figure out Capers’ puzzle. It starts with establishing rookie running back Jordan Howard after his unproductive outing last week against the Jaguars.
Capers’ defense had been stingy against the run before last week, when Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott had 157 yards on 28 carries. But over five games, the Packers are allowing 72.4 rushing yards per game.
“Coach Capers, it’s a unique challenge because they do so much defensively,” Loggains. “They’re really good against the run. There’s a lot of movements. They’re really good up front. They like to blitz the safeties a lot. No. 21 [safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix] is a good player for them. They’re moving him around. They’re attacking a lot.”
Receiver Alshon Jeffery made headlines this week with his profanity-filled interview after the Bears lost to the Jaguars.
His words may have surprised some observers, but it should be expected. Similar to outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, Jeffery speaks with emotion. He always has. Curse words sometimes come with it.
And similar to McPhee, Jeffery is a captain, making him a sought-after player for the media. Here’s his message for the Bears’ red-zone problems.
“Sometimes you’ve got to be aggressive,” he said. “Sometimes you’ve got to go with it. That’s part of football.”
Nelson still matters
Packers receiver Jordy Nelson missed all of last season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and he hasn’t looked like the same explosive player he was before the injury.
Nelson has five touchdown catches this season, but he’s had problems with drops and he lost a fumble in the loss to the Cowboys. He called his performance Oct. 9 against the Giants “embarrassing” after he had four catches for 38 yards despite being targeted 13 times.
Despite his struggles, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio sees a player the Bears have to limit.
“He’s still the primary and one of the favorite targets of the quarterback [Aaron Rodgers],” he said. “I still see a very good receiver. I can’t speak for him and how he’s feeling. A lot times it takes those guys a half of season to get back to where they feel like should be. But he’s still running good. He’s still getting a lot of balls thrown his way. And he’s definitely one of their primary targets.”
0 – The 100-yard receiving games Alshon Jeffery has against the Packers. He has 13 in his five-year career.
8.3 – The yards per reception the Packers defense is allowing this season. It’s tied for the fifth highest average in the NFL.
107.3 – Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ average passer rating in 16 regular-season games against the Bears.