Jackson key for Bears secondary

If Chicago's defense becomes too focused on stopping Philadelphia's top-ranked rushing offense, the Eagles big-play receivers will make them pay over the top.

There has been a lot of talk at Halas Hall this week about the difficulty of stopping Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, who leads the NFL in rushing yards (1,343) and yards from scrimmage (1,850). It's a test the Chicago Bears are taking seriously.

"He's certainly special. He's such an explosive player; he can do it all," coach Marc Trestman said yesterday. "But we face good backs each and every week. He's certainly one of the best in the league. He's a difference-maker. We're going to have to know where he is and we're going to have to do whatever we can to neutralize him. Last week we went in and it was (Browns receiver) Josh Gordon, their tight end (Jordan Cameron), we had to neutralize them. You go in and every week you say, ‘Who do we have to neutralize this week?' Make sure we minimize their ability to make a difference and then you work from there. He's certainly the starting point."

If McCoy has a career day against the Bears, it's likely they'll fly out of Philadelphia with another tally in the loss column.

Yet McCoy isn't the only threat in Chip Kelly's high-powered offense. In particular, receiver DeSean Jackson is a dynamic weapon, one who can score every time he touches the ball.

Jackson is fifth in the league this season in receiving yards (1,275), yet he's just 21st in the NFL in targets (117), which says a lot about his big-play ability. He's a burner whose 17.0 yards per catch are seventh best in the league.

This shouldn't be too daunting for the Bears or cornerback Tim Jennings, who has faced two of the best receivers in the game the past two weeks. Against the Cowboys, Jennings held Dez Bryant to two catches for 12 yards, and last week he limited Josh Gordon, the league leader in receiving yardage (1,467) to just three catches for 67 yards. Gordon's stat line looks even worse when you take away his 43-yard TD grab in garbage time. When the game mattered, Jennings held Gordon to just two catches for 24 yards.

"Tim's a very confident player," coordinator Mel Tucker said. "He's a good player. He's got tremendous experience and he knows what it's all about. He's going to step up to whatever challenge you put in front of him. That's the type of player he is."

While Jennings has been sound, Chicago's safeties have not, and that's the worry against Philadelphia. In zone sets, Major Wright and Chris Conte will be tested mightily against Jackson's speed. If they get caught sleeping, which has been an all-too-common occurrence this year, Jackson could easily build on last week's 10-catch, 195-yard performance.

And things don't get much easier on the other side of the field where Riley Cooper is another dangerous downfield threat – his 18.1 yards per catch are third most in the league. Matching up against Cooper will be Zack Bowman, who had two interceptions last week, one of which he returned 43 yards for a touchdown.

"Zack, he is an experienced guy. He doesn't get too high or too low. He is very consistent," said Tucker. "He knows what it is all about out there. He's got excellent ball skills, he's got a good catch radius, he's got good speed, he's got really good awareness. That is what you are looking for at the corner spot. So, he made some big plays for us in the game and hopefully he will continue to do that."

Bowman is coming off a strong outing but he's been very inconsistent in the past. Against the Eagles, neither he nor the safeties will have the luxury of making mistakes, or else Philadelphia's speedy wideouts will have a field day on deep routes.

"It's not up to just one guy," Tucker said. "Rush and coverage working together, being assignment sound, making sure you know where you are at all times. I think all those are contributing factors to trying to contain those great players."

Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.

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