Bears-Buccaneers: What to Watch 4
After containing the Falcons’ Julio Jones last week (four receptions for 66 yards, and just one catch for four yards in the second half), the Bears face an equally imposing receiver in 6-5, 231-pound Mike Evans, who had 96 receptions for 1,321 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. The Bucs also added former Pro Bowl receiver DeSean Jackson, who averaged 19.0 yards per catch in three years with the Redskins.
“Both present a great challenge,” Bears cornerback Marcus Cooper said. “As a secondary, we have to step up to the challenge. Luckily for us, we have a great front seven that can put some pressure on [quarterback Jameis] Winston, and that helps us in the [secondary].
Said rookie safety Eddie Jackson: “Mike can [just let Winston] throw the ball up and get it. DeSean can beat you straight-line and route-running. We have to be on top of that and play fundamental football and keep our eyes on the right keys in the secondary. The front seven has to get pressure, and we’ve got to cover a little longer to keep Jameis under control.”
The Bears were 0-8 on the road last season, including a 36-10 debacle against the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Week 10. But their last road victory was against the Bucs at Raymond James — a 26-21 victory in Week 16 in 2015.
The Bucs are looking for third-year quarterback Winston, the top pick in the 2015 draft, to take a big step after throwing for 4,090 yards, 28 touchdowns and 18 interceptions last season.
As a rookie, Winston was 15-for-29 for 295 yards, two touchdowns and one interception (96.2 rating)against the Bears in 2015. He was 23-for-33 for 312 yards, two touchdowns and one interception (107.1 rating) last season.
“He’s just a little bit better at everything,” Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “He’s throwing the ball a little bit more accurately. He’s got great pocket feel. He’s a very confident player. I see why they took him [No. 1 overall].”
Rookie running back Tarik Cohen was one of the NFL’s surprise players in Week 1, when he had a 46-yard run and a 19-yard touchdown reception against the Falcons. Now he’ll be facing a defense that knows what he can do. It’ll be up to the Bears to counter whatever the Bucs come up with.
“Yeah, I expect a little bit of that in the game plan,” Cohen said. “I know [the Bears’ coaches] will draw up some schemes that can’t be beat for Tampa also. [It’s a matter of] just listening to them and relying on fundamentals.”
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