The Chicago Bears failed to apply consistent pressure on Houston Texans QB Brock Osweiler in the regular season opener.
Osweiler was sacked just twice, one of which was credited to blitzing inside linebacker Danny Trevathan. Along the defensive line, the only player of significance in the opener was first-round rookie Leonard Floyd, who had the team's other sack.
Yet Chicago's other rookie pass rusher, third-round defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard, believes he'll have a much larger impact against the Philadelphia Eagles this week.
"Monday is going to be fun," Bullard told Bear Report. "It's all eyes on you and the chance to get out there and make a name for yourself. It's important to get plays and show you know what to do.
"It's not that I am going to be nervous, but I will be aware that the spotlight will be shining. Lets put it this way: that will be a game where I'll want to do really well and not mess up."
Bullard said the bright lights of Monday Night Football are appealing to him.
"As a rookie you think back to all the years you’ve sat with your buddies watching Monday Night Football. It's a really big deal," he said. "And now with the opportunity to be on the field, I’ll know that my friends and family are watching."
In the opener, Bullard played just 17 of the team's defensive snaps. As such, his impact on the game was minimal.
"It was really exciting to play in my first regular season game last week. I was unhappy with the results of course, but I am trying to view it as a learning experience and something I can build on going forward," he said. "It was satisfying to get the chance to play against their [first team] and show I could do it. I didn’t have that many plays but I was productive. Every time I am out there progress is made. Overall my takeaway is to prepare better, play better. Facing the Texans was a great opportunity to play. I was definitely excited."
Despite playing just 17 snaps, Bullard did have a QB hit on Osweiler, which is a solid start for a player the Bears are counting on to apply inside pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
To that end, Bullard said he's in top shape both physically and mentally.
"Physically I’m feeling really good. My body is 100 percent for sure," he said. "The difference between preseason and regular season wasn’t that great for me. I pretended during preseason that each game we played determined whether or not we'd go to the Super Bowl. That’s the way to get any nervousness in your rear view mirror pretty fast. And even though in preseason you aren’t out there against the ones, you still know the routine, feel the intensity and the speed."
Bullard had 18 tackles for loss his senior year at Florida, along with 6.5 sacks. He showed that same ability to penetrate during training camp and the preseason, which could make him a weapon on passing downs this year.
Yet, at this point, Bullard is just trying to adjust to the many new aspects of playing in the NFL.
"None of it has been easy. There is a steep learning curve for any rookie new to the league," he said. "It's faster than college but in a manageable way. When I first began training camp I had that rookie problem of thinking before reacting. I think I’ve come a long way in the past few months. My speed on the line is better and my football instincts are kicking in more often than not."
If Bullard can develop rapidly, he'll be a big boost to Chicago's pass rush, which struggled in the opener without OLB Pernell McPhee.
"Going forward I need to keep my eyes on the double team. I was OK on that but definitely could improve," he said. "Play recognition I think I did a good enough job on. Overall I think I did all right. The vets on either side of me here in the locker room are laughing while I say that, but I think it's true."
His next opportunity to show improvement comes Monday night under the bright lights at Soldier Field, where a strong game by Bullard and the defensive line should propel the Bears to their first win of the season.
"I can’t really tell what it will be like out there since its my first one," said Bullard. "I don't think [I'll be nervous]. Football is football. I love to play. My guess is that it will be high-intensity, which is what we are all here for. This is the first home game. I know the fans will be up for that. They deserve to see a win and that is what we plan to deliver."