Christian Jones can spot a Texan from across the locker room. They’re borderline cocky, but they’re not loud about it.
“Texans always have that little swag,” the Bears linebacker said. “This demeanor about themselves because they’re from Texas.”
Jones is all that separates the Bears from starting an all-Lone Star State inside linebacker duo Sunday night at the Taj Majal of Texas football, AT&T Stadium outside Dallas. Depending on matchups, the Bears figure to play Jones or Jonathan Anderson — a Corpus Christi native who went to TCU — alongside Waco’s Jerrell Freeman, from Mary Hardin-Baylor.
“Texas guys are pretty laid-back and chill,” Freeman said. “Pretty even-keel. Never too high, never too low.”
It might be hard to Anderson to stay that way. Sunday could be a watershed moment: a primetime start in his adopted hometown to replace Danny Trevathan, the Bears’ big-money free-agent acquisition who had surgery Wednesday to reattach a thumb ligament.
Less than two years after getting his diploma, Anderson hopes his former TCU teammates will make the trek from nearby Fort Worth to watch the game. His family is coming up from Corpus Christi, about six hours south.
“It’s good to go back home,” he said. “Because that’s really home to me.”
Anderson played two years of safety in college; his coverage skills helped the undrafted free agent make the Bears last season, starting three games and finishing with 40 tackles and one interception.
He feels more prepared this time around.
“It’s more mentally than physically — me knowing the plays and knowing what the offense is going to do and me learning my playbook,” he said. “That’s really helped me dissect (plays) and play a lot faster.”
He’ll get some help from Freeman, who matches Jones’ definition to a Texas “T.”
After pounding Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and running back Wendell Smallwood on consecutive plays Monday, Freeman was described by coordinator Vic Fangio as having a “fired-up calmness.”
“I get that from my mom,” Freeman said. “My mom’s a shark — a great white just plodding along. But if she has to get loose, she’s going to get loose.”
It will probably take two players to replace Trevathan. At 6-3, 251 pounds, Jones is two inches and 15 pounds bigger than Anderson. He could be a better fit against the Cowboys’ bruising run-blocking offensive line.
The Bears played the Florida State alum at both inside and outside linebacker in the preseason — “I wasn’t really sure what my role was, to be honest with you,” he said — but were impressed by his preseason finale performance against the Browns.
Though he’s yet to play a defensive snap this year, Jones is experienced — he started 13 times at inside linebacker last year and was second on the team with 98 tackles.
“He just needs an opportunity,” Fangio said. “And we’ll see what he does with it, if he gets it.”
His Texan teammates, Jones figures, will be accommodating.
“Hopefully,” he said, “they can show the Florida boy some love.”