The Cubs Way: Brett Jackson is still thinking big


The Cubs Way: Brett Jackson is still thinking big

Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo became fast friends and sent each other text messages last winter: We got to make this team.

Cubs executives had other ideas, a long-range plan that had them ticketed for Triple-A Iowa out of spring training. They would polish their game, so that whenever they were called up to Wrigley Field, theyd never go back down again.

While Rizzo has crushed it in the Pacific Coast League, building buzz for his eventual promotion, Jackson still has something to prove.

Jackson entered Tuesday hitting .243 with five homers and 18 RBI through 46 games. The 23-year-old outfielder had also struck out 64 times in his first 181 at-bats.

Jackson recently sat down with Comcast SportsNet in Des Moines, telling Luke Stuckmeyer that he can see the light at the end of the tunnel, both for himself and the entire organization.

Certainly, I dont think Im off to the start I wished for, Jackson said in an interview airing on SportsNet Central on Tuesday at 10 p.m. But I think statistics can indicate something thats not necessarily true.

The punch-outs are something, but I think every day Im moving in the right direction to become a better player. Every day Im excited to come to the park and see how Ive grown and see how I make those adjustments. Id certainly rather be making those adjustments in Iowa than Chicago.

(Its) a struggle (that) in the long run is going to make me grow as a player and advance my potential.

Jackson is intelligent and self-aware, a 2009 first-round pick out of Cal-Berkeley. He fits Theo Epsteins ideal vision of a player who may not do one thing extremely well (like hit 30 bombs), but can make contributions across the board, grinding out at-bats, running the bases and covering a lot of ground on defense.

The skys the limit, said Cubs pitcher Randy Wells, whos spent time in Iowa this season. Hes going to be a big-time player. Hes got every tool that you need.

Jackson doesnt lack for confidence, and many in the organization have noticed the way he carries himself in the clubhouse, that sense of belonging when he walks through the room.

Jackson and Rizzo are supposed to set the tone for future Cubs teams, as glue guys in the lineup and the clubhouse, the idea being that their personalities and work ethics will rub off on teammates.

(Jacksons) a great talent, Iowa manager Dave Bialas said. He competes very well. You never have to get on him about running out a groundball, because hes playing hard every day.

People who were around the Iowa team last season remember how Jackson struggled when he first came up from Double-A Iowa in the middle of July, before turning it up last August, hitting .351 with six homers, 19 RBI and a 1.023 OPS in 28 games.

Jackson was also said to be pressing when former general manager Jim Hendry scouted the team last summer, thinking he was close to being called up. One team official noticed his sense of urgency to get to the big leagues, almost from the moment he signed.

Every night I go home, Jackson said, I feel that Im like an adjustment away, (that) Im on the cusp of going off as a hitter.

Jackson talks a good game, and isnt afraid of the television cameras or the media hype or the fan expectations that will come with his arrival on the North Side.

Its motivating, Jackson said. Thats one of the pleasures of playing for a Chicago Cub team, or a New York Yankee team, one of those big organizations in a big city.

Baseballs not the same without pressure. Its not as fun without pressure. We take that pressure and we run with it. We thrive off it. I enjoy it.

At times, yeah, you get down on yourself. (But) thats how you make the adjustments. Thats how you grow.

We want to do big things in Chicago and were not settling for anything less.

General manager Jed Hoyer made it clear that no one will be promoted from Iowa just to shake things up or try to rescue the offense. Each prospect in the organization was given an individual player plan, outlining goals and expectations for this season.

So Jackson will have to complete the checklist. But he was untouchable in the Epstein compensation negotiations with the Boston Red Sox. And recent first-round picks Andrew Cashner (San Diego Padres) and Tyler Colvin (Colorado Rockies) were traded away last winter.

That leaves Jackson as an eager spokesman for The Cubs Way.

Its an attitude, Jackson said. (You) talk to guys that have been with the Yankees before and (look at) the way the Yankees and Red Sox carry themselves: (You) know youre going to win going into a game.

There are certain players that go into their at-bat knowing theyre going to win, whether they win that at-bat or not. Thats the attitude that were going for in Chicago, (what) Theo talks about.

The Cubs Way is something I want to be a part of its something that I believe in.

Rizzo appears to be on the faster track, but pretty soon it will be time to start the Jackson Watch.

Bears Grades: Defense wears down under assault from Aaron Rodgers and Packers

Bears Grades: Defense wears down under assault from Aaron Rodgers and Packers

GREEN BAY, Wisc. — It was a bright spot, a small one on an otherwise dismal night of losing to the Green Bay Packers. But it was at least something.

After struggling for months to stay healthy and gain NFL weight, Leonard Floyd finally played like the ninth-overall pick of an NFL draft.

The rookie outside linebacker collected a sack in the first half, then exploded past Green Bay right tackle Brian Bulaga as part of stunt with fellow linebacker Willie Young on the third play of the second quarter for a second sack of Aaron Rodgers, one that came with a strip of the football and recovery in the end zone.

"We had a great play called,” Floyd said. “Willie came down and picked the guard for me and I looped around and the play was done and I made it. It felt great [to get a touchdown], but at the end of the day I wanted a win."

That was one of the very few bright spots as the Packers piled up 311 yards through three quarters, at times using wide receivers Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery as running backs because of injuries. The drumbeat continued with touchdowns on three straight Green Bay possessions in the late third and early fourth quarters.

The defense has allowed 23 or more points in five of seven games this season, with the Packers rolling off consecutive touchdown drives of 85, 84 and 57 in the second half as the Bears were limited to 2:49 time of possession in the fourth quarter.

“It helps when you’re playing [defense], to actually have a little bit of a break,” head coach John Fox said. “Unfortunately in the second half, I think that probably caught up with us a little bit.”

The defense had its fullest complement of personnel yet this season, with outside linebackers Floyd and Pernell McPhee both active (McPhee for the first time this year following offseason knee surgery), in addition to starting cornerbacks Bryce Callahan and Tracy Porter, both of whom were injured during the Jacksonville game. It was not enough.

[BEARS GRADES: Quarterback woes take offense to new low in loss to Packers]

Defensive line: F

The interior of the line was quiet for most of the game, with wide receivers lining up as running backs averaged more than five yards per carry. Cornelius Washington had the only hit by a defensive lineman on Rodgers as the line rarely collapsed the pocket with center-push or even kept him in the pocket.

Linebacker: B-

Floyd started after two games inactive and a zero stat sheet vs. Detroit. He struggled too often getting disengaged from Green Bay left tackle David Bakhtiari at the outset before breaking through with second effort for his first career solo sack. That was topped by the strip-sack and recovery for a touchdown in the third quarter. Floyd had a third hit on Rodgers and a tackle for loss.

"It is very tough,” Floyd said. “He gets the ball out pretty quickly. You just have to keep rushing every snap. He is at his best when he is scrambling around playing backyard football."

McPhee was a welcome addition to a slumping defense, even in his limited capacity (19 snaps). McPhee was not credited with any tackles but was surprisingly fast off the ball initially, and got penetration to alter running lanes and some pressure on Rodgers, although he appeared to slow somewhat, not unexpected considering how limited he has been throughout the year because of the surgery.

Sam Acho provided some edge pressure with two hits on Rodgers and a pass deflected. Jerrell Freeman had a quarterback hit and delivered a game-high 13 tackles.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Secondary: D

The secondary was forced to cover long into plays because of absent pressure on Rodgers but the coverage had its own problems with an offense that threw 56 times but was never intercepted. Three Green Bay receivers totaled double-digit receptions: Davante Adams (13), Cobb (11) and Montgomery (10).

Cre’Von LeBlanc started at corner as the Bears opened with six defensive backs, and delivered a goal-line stop in the first quarter, stuffing Montgomery, who was used as a running back because of injuries to the Green Bay backfield. LeBlanc finished with seven tackles and a hit blitzing Rodgers.

Porter matched up with Jordy Nelson and allowed the Green Bay wideout just one catch on four targets through three quarters. But breakdowns were deadly, allowing the Packers to stage their two longest scoring drives of the season in the second half. The second came when Porter and safety Harold Jones-Quartey both covered the same man in the end zone early in the fourth quarter, leaving Adams alone for his second TD catch of the game.

Adrian Amos interfered with Nelson to give the Packers a 44-yard penalty pickup in the first quarter. De’Vante Bausby had a number of solid plays despite a lack of meaningful pressure from the front. But Bausby had two holding penalties on the Packers’ second fourth-quarter scoring drive.

"There were a lot of penalties out there.,” Bausby said. “We had a good scheme and plan, but we just didn't finish in the second half as a group. Facing Rodgers is a challenge, but I felt like our play calling was excellent. We just didn't finish."

Special teams: B

Connor Barth converted from 39 yards to tie the game in the second quarter. It was Barth’s seventh in his last eight attempts. Pat O’Donnell turned in another strong night punting, averaging 43.8 net on five punts. Coverage helped keep three of those inside the 20.

Bears Talk Podcast: What's next for Bears at QB after Brian Hoyer suffers broken arm?


Bears Talk Podcast: What's next for Bears at QB after Brian Hoyer suffers broken arm?

Lance Briggs, Alex Brown and Jim Miller break down where the Bears go at QB following Brian Hoyer’s injury and evaluate the defense’s gutsy performance on Thursday night against the Packers despite numerous injuries. Plus, a look at the big picture and who can help the Bears down the road.

Check out the latest edition of the Bears Talk Podcast here: