Behind Enemy Lines with Chicago Bears' Featured Columnist Andrew Dannehy
With their 2013 season on life support, the New York Giants are beyond desperate at this point to get their first win of the 2013 season and to prove that they’re really not as bad as they have looked.
The problem, though, as former Giants Hall of fame coach Bill Parcells would say, is, “You are what your record says you are.”
Things certainly aren’t about to get any easier for the Giants, who four days following a heartbreaking loss to the Philadelphia Eagles are on the road against the Chicago Bears, a team coming off consecutive losses to the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints.
To gain a better perspective of what kind of Bears team the Giants are about to face on Thursday night, I contacted the Bears’ Featured Columnist Andrew Dannehy, who has covered the Bears for the Bleacher Report since March.
Per his B/R profile, Dannehy is the Associate Editor for the Trempealeau County Times (Whitehall, WI), for whom he writes a weekly sports column titled "The Way It Is," named the third best Weekly Sports Column in the 2009 Wisconsin Newspaper Association Better Newspaper contest.
He is also a contributor for cover32, a new website that covering all 32 NFL teams.
Here are his thoughts about what the Giants can potentially expect from what’s certain to be an angry and focused Chicago team, which at 3-2 is looking to jump ahead of the Detroit Lions for first place in the NFC North.
What one under-the-radar player do you feel the Giants should be most concerned with and why?
Can Alshon Jeffery still be considered under-the-radar after a 200-yard game? If yes, it’s definitely him as he has star-caliber talent and appears to have turned a corner with 325 yards in the team’s last two games.
He’s on pace for 90 catches and over 1,300 yards this season. He’s making teams pay for giving Brandon Marshall so much extra attention.
I have to agree with Dannehy here, as Jeffrey has certainly opened more than a few eyes with his play over the last two weeks. An offense that has a “pick your poison” type of passing game is sure to create headaches for opposing defensive coordinators.
What scares me most about the Bears receivers is that the Giants pass rush just isn’t getting home, while the safeties and linebackers have been prone to play-action.
Unless this is cleaned up, it would not surprise me to see quarterback Jay Cutler have a huge statistical night.
What do you view as the two biggest matchups (one on each side of the ball) and why?
Both come along the offensive and defensive lines, as I think the team that gets the most pressure on the quarterback will win.
For the Bears, they need 2012 first-round pick Shea McClellin to start playing up to his draft status. He has a good opportunity going against Giants 2013 first-rounder Justin Pugh, who has struggled this season.
On the other side of the ball, Jason Pierre-Paul is still a scary dude. He’s struggled with injuries this season, but prime-time lights always make good players feel a little better.
Newly signed left tackle Jermon Bushrod has been a bust for the Bears, so they’ll likely have to help him out with (Jason Pierre-Paul). That, in turn, could lead to either Justin Tuck or Mathias Kiwanuka having a big game opposite him.
I hope Dannehy is right about the Giants pass rush being able to exploit Bushrod. However, none of the Giants defensive ends have demonstrated any kind of burst off the line so far this year, nor have they been able to disengage from blocks.
Pierre-Paul has been starting to play more like his old self, but it’s been a slow process. Tuck, who usually moves inside to tackle on pass rushing downs, has been playing like a shell of his former self.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell rarely tries a blitz these days, most likely due to concerns about the linebackers, whose collective speed won’t be confused with that of their counterparts in the Bears’ linebacking corps.
Too bad that rookie defensive end Damontre Moore, who is listed as doubtful on the Giants’ injury report, is dealing with a hamstring injury. Given Moore's eagerness to want to make plays, lining him up across from Bushrod might have been just what the doctor ordered for the Giants’ lethargic pass rush.
What do you see as the Bears’ biggest weaknesses on offense and defense?
The Bears’ biggest weaknesses are at the line of scrimmage.
Early in the season, there was a lot of talk about the Bears’ improved offensive line, but that has mostly been a myth. They are a little better, but chicken poop did not become chicken salad this offseason.
Sack totals are down due to a change in offensive philosophy, but the line is still the biggest weakness on Chicago's offense.
The Bears defensive line simply hasn’t been what they expected. Part of it is due to injury, as they lost Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton in their third game, and his replacement in the starting lineup—Nate Collins—tore his ACL last week.
Defensive end Julius Peppers hasn’t been what he was in past years, and neither McClellin nor Corey Wootton have had much of an impact.
Their inability to pressure the quarterback has led to numerous big plays for the opposition, as the Bears have given up 25 passing plays of over 20 yards, the second most in the league. The Giants have 21 passing plays of over 20 yards, the fourth-highest rate in the NFL.
I’m not as familiar with the Bears as Dannehy is, so I’ll certainly defer to his knowledge of the team. However, I think he is selling the Chicago defense short.
The Bears defense is one that thrives on creating turnovers—they have eight interceptions and six fumble recoveries.
That’s bad news for a Giants team that leads the NFL in turnovers with a minus-13 margin. Opponents have scored 62 points off Giants miscues this season.
Ultimately, the Giants are going to win a game. I don’t think it’s going to be this one, however, as there are too many questions for which New York has yet to find answers, such as the turnovers, the lack of a running game and the communication problems and struggles on third down that have appeared on both sides of the ball.
That’s a lot for the coaching staff to try to fix in a short week, which is why I don’t see this game against the Bears as being the one that the Giants snap out of their funk.
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