Adam L. Jahns’ “Inside the Huddle” column appears in Sunday editions of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Coach John Fox took out an ice bucket and doused the hot talk about Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and the Bears’ decision to pass on him three times in the fourth round of the NFL draft in April.
“Truth be told, I don’t know how much we would be talking about Dak,” Fox said. “A lot of it in this case has been the opportunity, and he’s made the most of it.
“I’m not downgrading what he’s accomplished, but it’s how a lot of guys make their mark. Everybody starts off as a nobody, they get an opportunity, they have success, and now everybody’s aware of them.”
Prescott is now viewed as a viable successor for Tony Romo in Dallas at a time when the Bears don’t have one for Jay Cutler.
It looks bad because Cutler is out indefinitely with ligament damage in his throwing thumb. It looks worse because two of the Bears’ three fourth-round picks haven’t played this season. And it could become a nightmarish situation if Prescott plays well Sunday night and defeats the Bears, just as Brock Osweiler and Carson Wentz did.
Nothing enthralls a fan base like a young, promising QB. The Cowboys have one. The Bears don’t.
“We felt we needed to get a young quarterback,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Tony Romo’s been such a good quarterback for us for the last 10 years, but he’s 36 years old, and we needed to get a young guy in here to start to develop.”
The future, however, is unpredictable, and it’s too early to compare Prescott to the Bears’ three fourth-round selections: linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, safety Deon Bush and cornerback Deiondre’ Hall. After two games, Prescott is having success in the most important position. But it’s only two games. Thirty other teams passed on Prescott, too.
The Bears’ evaluations of Prescott included a lengthy interview at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Fox said the Bears concluded Prescott was “a pretty impressive young guy.”
“He plays with a great deal of poise and composure,” Garrett said. “And he’s very prepared.”
Bears general manager Ryan Pace believes in adding quarterbacks often in the draft. But so far in Pace’s overhaul, the Bears just had too many other needs. The Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots — teams that define the QB-driven approach — are in vastly different stages as teams.
“We’ve tried to take, in our opinion, the best available,” Fox said. “And it’s not been a quarterback.”
Fox often suggests the Bears are “close,” but in reality, they require at least three or four strong draft classes. Chairman George McCaskey has said he’ll be patient with Pace and his building plan.
And Kwiatkoski, Bush and Hall are all part of that plan. Hall, taken eight spots ahead of Prescott as the third of the Bears’ fourth-round selections, has been the most impressive because he has been the most available. Kwiatkoski pulled his hamstring early in training camp and played only in the final preseason game. Bush hurt his hamstring in the joint practices with the Patriots and missed three weeks. They’re healthy now but playing catch-up. Seeing plays, calls and reads on film or from the sideline is different than experiencing those things on the field, even in practice.
“We’ll see if they end up playing this week,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “Until we get them out there in live action, it’s really hard to make a prediction there.”
Hall was pressed into early action at cornerback with Kyle Fuller out. Jacoby Glenn has started, but Hall has a role in red-zone situations. His technique in press-man coverage requires more time, but his long arms are an advantage in tight spaces, such as the red zone. His pass breakup in the end zone against the Philadelphia Eagles is an example.
“He’s made some good progress,” Fangio said. “But] it’s up and down.”
Hall will be part of the plan to stop Prescott, who’s looking for his first touchdown pass but has completed 62.7 percent of his passes in two starts.
Losing to another young quarterback with limited starting experience would be humbling for the Bears, and Prescott has his motivations.
“Every team had three picks before [the Cowboys] picked, actually — if not more to pick me,” Prescott said. “So that’s something that motivates and pushes me every day to make people — I’m not going to say regret, but rethink their decision.”
Having only been with the Bears for three weeks, quarterback Matt Barkley still is memorizing the language of coordinator Dowell Loggains’ offense.
But Barkley said some concepts are similar to what the Cardinals use.
“I feel really comfortable with this game plan,” said Barkley, who spent last season the Cardinals.
He better. Barkley is one bad-luck play away from replacing Brian Hoyer in Dallas. He’ll talk to Loggains about which plays he’s comfortable with heading into Sunday night.
“Every starter picks their favorite plays, their favorite third-down and red-zone calls,” Barkley said. “It will be the same with me. I wouldn’t say we’d be limited, but maybe I’d have to read a few off the wristband.”
Best of the best
Bears right guard Kyle Long measures his play against other offensive linemen, and there’s no mistaking what the Cowboys boast up front with left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and right guard Zack Martin. All three are All-Pro players.
“There’s no holes,” Long said. “None of those guys play out of control. You got arguably one of the best tackles in football, arguably the best guard in football, arguably the best center in football. And the other two guys are pretty darn good as well.”
No player offered a harsher critique of his own play than Long did last week. It was his missed block of Eagles defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao that resulted in the sack and strip of Jay Cutler.
“I just lost track,” Long said. “He went inside and I just lost my footing.”
As good as Long is at guard, his breakdowns have been noticeable. So his fire is burning.
“My approach has been what can I do to be the best player I can be this week to help my team because I haven’t been that,” Long said. “I need to do it.”