The 'tight' spot for the Bears defense

The 'tight' spot for the Bears defense
November 1, 2013, 6:45 pm
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Jermichael Finley won't play for the Packers Monday night. But maybe the Bears and their fans should get to know Andrew Quarless. Or Brandon Bostick. That's Bostick with a "k" at the end, not Bostic.

Those are Finley's backups at tight end on Green Bay's depth chart. And if wide receiver Jarrett Boykin can have a 100-yard day catching footballs from Aaron Rodgers filling in for the banged-up Randall Cobb and James Jones (who caught three touchdown passes at Soldier Field last December), then Quarless and Bostick can.

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I spent some long-overdue quality time with Bears play-by-play voice and longtime friend Jeff Joniak on Wednesday, which was quiet at Halas Hall as the only day this week the team wasn't practicing. As we discussed the state of the team -- and specifically the defense -- I mentioned that I'd seen that, in the Bears' three losses, opposing tight ends had caught 27 passes for 345 yards. That includes Brandon Pettigrew of the Lions, Jimmy Graham of the Saints and rookie Jordan Reed of the Redskins.

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As usual, Jeff one-upped me. He reached for a sheet of paper and passed it to me. This is what it said:

"Quarterbacks are completing 79 percent of their 62 targeted throws to tight ends against the Bears defense after seven games -- 36-of-37 targeted throws to players like Tyler Eifert (5-for-5) and Jermaine Gresham (5-for-5) of the Bengals, Brandon Pettigrew (7-for-7) of the Lions, Jimmy Graham (10-for-11) of the Saints and Jordan Reed (9-for-9) of the Redskins have been completed. Seven of the nine targets to Reed resulted in first downs. Overall, tight ends have caught 49 passes for 584 yards and two touchdowns on the Bears for an average of 11.9 yards per catch and 83.4 yards per game. The Bears still have to play Jason Witten of Dallas, Jordan Cameron of Cleveland, Jared Cook of St. Louis, and Pettigrew a second time."

Through seven games last season, the Bears allowed, by my count, 41 catches by tight ends for about 350 yards, including a 13-catch, 122-yard night by Witten in a Bears victory.

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Make no mistake, third-down Master Rodgers is well aware of the Bears' lack of pass rush, two rookie starting linebackers and a struggling tandem at safety. So whether it's Quarless or Bostick at his disposal, expect Rodgers to utilize his tight ends against the Bears this week.