The Dallas Cowboys have spent a great deal of money, and draft picks, to shore up a defensive secondary they felt was lacking after last season. Jerry Jones surprised everyone on draft-day when he sent his second-round pick to the St. Louis Rams, in order to swap first-round picks, to grab CB Morris Claiborne at sixth overall.
The Cowboys believed he was the most talented player in the draft with the most upside. Prior to this, Dallas signed CB Brandon Carr from Kansas City after four solid seasons with the Chiefs. The Cowboys’ secondary now ranks among the NFL’s elite with their strong start to the season.
As of week three, the Dallas secondary ranks second overall, allowing just 137.0 passing yards per game. The Cowboys’ defense overall has been stout in almost every phase of the game, and as of now is ranked first overall in the League after stifling the Buccaneers at home.
The resurgence of the Dallas defense has been in large part because of the boost brought by the young, talented secondary. Carr and Claiborne have already proved themselves.
After a Week-3 tilt with the Cowboys, the Buccaneers’ offense ended with only 91 passing yards, and a Sean Lee interception. Even with the lack of pressure up front, the Cowboys held Josh Freeman to a mere 10 of 28 for 110 yards, averaging out to about 3.1 yards per passing play.
Rob Ryan has this defense playing at its highest level since he was hired by Dallas last year. For more reference, the Cowboys held seemingly the most explosive offense, in the New York Giants, to only 187 yards through the air. Since then, New York has put up gaudy numbers (510 yards vs. Tampa Bay, and 288 vs. Carolina).
What does all this mean for the Bears?
The Bears’ offensive struggles over the past two weeks have been well documented. Jay Cutler seems to have regressed from 2011, and the much hyped free agent and drafted wide receivers are not doing their part either.
After Week-1, where it seemed almost impossible for Marshall to not go well over the 1,000-yard mark this year, he has taken a step back after being thoroughly dominated in Week-2 by a strong Packers secondary, and he’s failed to make it back over the 100 yard mark in each of the last two games. Marshall has dropped a number of passes, and is on pace to pass Terrell Owens’ drop number of 55 since 2007.
Is it true that Chicago is the place receivers go to die?
The Bears will face maybe the strongest tandem of corners on their schedule Monday night. With the possibility of having no Matt Forte and no Michael Bush, the onus of the offense will be laid upon the arm of Jay Cutler and the hands of Brandon Marshall.
The rookie, Alshon Jeffrey, will also have to contribute after a solid start through the first three weeks of the season. Jeffrey currently leads the NFL rookies in reception yards with 132 yards, averaging out to 14.2 yards per catch. The match-ups are not extremely promising for the Bears—Claiborne was a shutdown corner at LSU, and Carr adds grit as a 210-pound defensive back.
Marshall will not be able to overpower Carr like he has been known to do against more pedestrian corners. It will be on him to run his routes correct and precise (Carr has trouble dealing with quickness and staying up with receivers).
Bears must practice patience on offense
Jay Cutler will be under duress with the talent up front that the Cowboys boast and the lack of talent the Bears have on the offensive line. Cutler will have to fire throws into tight spots, in even tighter coverage. He’ll have to look away to his third option, and throw to his slot receiver instead of openly staring down Marshall.
This does not mean Jay shouldn’t take chances against this defense. The Cowboys are -3 in turnover ratio, and only have one accredited interception this year (Sean Lee vs. Tampa Bay). If Cutler is patient throughout the game, and plays with the right mechanics and mindset, he should be able to take some chances later on.
The Cowboys have been average vs. the run and play action, and the deep one-on-one routes will be there if the offense stays patient.
The Bears were embarrassed in their last outing vs. a talented secondary (four interceptions in Green Bay), and did not look much better against Cortland Finnegan and the Rams. The Dallas secondary has the talent and scheme to be among the elite.
The Bears will have to finally show the high-powered passing, attack against a top-level secondary, that seems to be missing.