Bears-Titans What to Watch 4: Delanie Walker could be a handful

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Tennessee Titans tight end Titans tight end Delanie Walker (82, making a catch in front of the Colts’ Vontae Davis) has 46 receptions for 607 yards (13.2 avg.) and five touchdowns this season. (Jeff Roberson/AP


Veteran tight end Delanie Walker is the Titans’ leading receiver (46 receptions, 607 yards, 13.2 avg., five touchdowns). He is tied for the NFL lead in touchdowns by tight ends, is third in yards and fourth in receptions. That figures to be a tough match-up for either Danny Trevathan or rookie Nick Kwiatkoski.

Just two weeks ago, the Bears struggled to contain Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate, the Naperville Central product who had a career-high seven receptions for a career-high 84 yards and one touchdown in the Bucs’ 36-10 victory in Tampa. Last week, Giants tight end Will Tye scored his first touchdown of the season in a 22-16 victory over the Bears at the Meadowlands.

Walker is a much more dangerous threat.

“He is a tough matchup, really playing well,” said Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who saw Walker up close with the 49ers in 2011-12. “He can run, he’s strong and big. Some people say put a [defensive back] on him, and he overwhelms them with his size. Put the linebacker on him and the linebacker may not be fast enough. So it becomes a mix. You have to cover him with both types of people.”


Safety Adrian Amos’ drop of a sure interception last week against the Giants highlighted the most glaring issue with the Bears other-wise improved defense this season — they struggle to take the ball away.

The Bears, who are 10th in the NFL in  total defense (340 yards per game), have an NFL-low eight takeaways in 10 games this season (tied with the Colts) — five interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

The Titans are tied for 13th in giveaways with 13 (eight interceptions, five fumbles). And five of quarterback Marcus Mariota’s giveaways have been returned for touchdowns — three fumbles and two interceptions. 


Bears rookie linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski will replace suspended starter Jerrell Freeman. A fourth-round draft pick from West Virginia, Kwiatkoski started for injured Danny Trevathan against the Cowboys in Week 3, but struggled and played only 18 snaps. He was better the following week against the Lions. But since Trevathan returned, Kwiatkoski has played just 20 snaps on defense.

“I’ve definitely made a lot of progress,” Kwiatkoski said. “I’ve learned week-by-week — in practice, the meetings, during the game. I feel like I’m moving along. But there’s still a lot of things I can learn and a long way to go.”


The Bears’ offense, which is ranked 31st in scoring average (14.3 points), could be without eight of the top 11 players from the season opener, including their only Pro Bowl veterans — quarterback Jay Cutler, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and guards Kyle Long and Josh Sitton — plus tight end Zach Miller.

Matt Barkley is expected to make his first NFL start, in place of Cutler. Emphasizing the running game with Cutler out could be a boon for the offense.

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