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Data Entry: How the Bears Should Handle Mitch Trubisky

| July 28th, 2017

Ryan Pace and John Fox have quite literally gambled their careers on Mitchell Trubisky, so now the question becomes how they should handle his rookie season to give him the best chance of success going forward.

With that in mind, I looked at how teams handled the rookie seasons of the quarterbacks drafted in round 1 in the last 20 years. There were 55 QBs in the sample, but I removed the 6 drafted in 2016 and 2017 because it is too early to draw any conclusions about their career outcomes. This left me with 49 round 1 QBs between 1998 and 2015.

I loosely grouped each quarterback into either a hit (developed into at least a solid starter for several years) or a miss (failed to establish themselves as a solid starter) and then looked at two different factors: how much they played in their rookie year and how well they played relative to their peers around the NFL as a rookie (full data can be seen here). Let’s look at each factor and see if any trends can be observed.

Rookie playing time

The amount of playing time 1st round QBs saw as a rookie varied wildly. Some players didn’t see a single snap their rookie seasons, while others took every snap, with many players scattered at various points in between. Overall, I couldn’t determine much of a trend to indicate players who played more would turn out differently than players who sat and learned.

  • 8 of the 9 players who started every game their rookie season turned into solid starters – with poor David Carr being the lone exception.
  • But 8 of the 9 who started 13-15 games did not. I don’t think those extra few games make that much of a difference, and trends are scattered below that, with too much noise to make any conclusions.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Camp Opens, McPhee Hurt, Vikings Thoughts & More!

| July 28th, 2017

Camp!

Pernell McPheeling The Pain

From Patrick Finley in the Sun-Times:

By 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, the team had announced that linebacker Pernell McPhee would start the season on the physically unable to perform list. By noon Thursday, coach John Fox was back in familiar waters, trying to explain an injury — and its consequences — on the first day of training camp.

McPhee hadn’t made it through his physical on Wednesday, complaining of knee pain. Fox said team doctors “found a little irregularity” in his right knee, which is not the same knee that caused McPhee to start last year’s training camp on the PUP list.

A few thoughts:

  • The link to the full Finley article is provided above but don’t click it. The Sun-Times Bears coverage is, in my estimation, superior to what’s being produced at the Trib. But their website, especially on mobile devices, is unusable.
  • It’s starting to feel like whatever the Bears get out of the rest of this McPhee contract will be a bonus. It’s only a “little” irregularity when it’s not your knee. Do I think McPhee can still put together a productive 2017 campaign? Sure. But that productivity is more likely to come over an 8-10 game stretch than a full 16.

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Ranking the Bears: The Best They Have to Offer

| July 27th, 2017

Every list has to have an end. For the Bears, this is a pretty good ending because the top of their roster is actually pretty good.

Last year I ranked Jay Cutler as the best player on the team largely because there weren’t many options. Who was their franchise player? A guard who just struggled at tackle? A wide receiver who couldn’t stay on the field? A pass rusher who began the year on the PUP list? No. No. And No. They didn’t have a player to build around. They didn’t have anyone who ranked among the truly elite at their position.

That isn’t the case anymore. I finished the list by ranking the top 10 players on the team and I think it can be argued that the top four are among the very best at what they do.

10. Cam Meredith, WR. There may not have been a more underrated player on the team last year. A superb athlete who keeps improving. Statistics may not be as great next year because the team likely won’t throw as often, but he’s shown the ability to consistently get open and make plays with the ball in his hands. Also threw a touchdown pass. So there’s that.

(Jeff’s Note: Watching Cam Meredith develop in 2017 is one of the things I’m most excited about. I think the kid has star potential.)

9. Eddie Goldman, DL. Missed most of last season because of injuries, but still had 2.5 sacks and 12 tackles in just 198 snaps. Not bad for a guy who many thought was just a lane clogger. Powerful and athletic, Goldman allows the Bears to play small with just two down linemen. Really could be a cornerstone of their defense going forward.

8. Cody Whitehair, C. A key to the team’s future as the anchor of their line. He isn’t the top-ranked offensive lineman but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up being their best this year. Struggled with consistency early last year, especially with his run blocking, but improved as the season went along and was downright dominant at times. Leader.

(Jeff’s Note: When Andrew makes this list next year, I’ll be surprised if Cody Whitehair isn’t 1 or 2. I think he’s that talented and that important.)

7. Leonard Floyd, Edge. Two concussions in one year are certainly concerning, but there were times when Floyd was just ruining game plans. Watch what he did against the Packers. Or the Lions. They just couldn’t keep up with him. He did it using mostly athleticism, if he can learn a few more moves he could be unstoppable.

6. Pernell McPhee, Edge. Despite playing just 25 percent of the team’s snaps last year, McPhee was fourth on the team with four sacks and first with eight other QB hits. Given his knee issues, I’m not sure he’s ever going to be the every down dominant force we saw early in his first year with the team, but he might be even more dangerous in spot duty. I’d like to see the team use him the way Baltimore did. Regardless, once he got right last year, he got after quarterbacks.

(Jeff’s Note: Pernell McPhee is, in my mind, no longer expected to produce at a high level for this organization. Starting camp on PUP has solidified that for me.)

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Why This Summer is Different From All Other Summers

| July 26th, 2017

For those who have frequented this site over the last decade plus, you understand a few things about how I treat training camp and the preseason. The basics:

  • Nothing reported from camp practice is important because no team is going to show their fans / media anything relevant. The NFL has become the most secretive league in sports. Teams aren’t going display even an ounce of actual strategy while some rival scout sits with the public in the stands (which happens often).
  • Preseason game reps are the most overrated thing in football. Whether fans want to believe it or not, most franchises know about 45 of their final 53-man roster before the first preseason game is kicked off. The guys who can make an impact and grab those final 8 slots are going to make that impact on the practice field, not in preseason games. (The practice field fans and media DON’T see, where the actual playbook is used.)

This training camp is different. This preseason is different. Because all eyes will be on one player: Mitch Trubisky.

An argument could be made that the Bears fan has never, not one time in the team’s history, been through this process. Since 1951 the Bears have selected four quarterbacks in the first round. The Jims (McMahon and Harbaugh) were of a different time; the level of scrutiny they faced before playing actual games was minimal. Cade McNown was handed the starting quarterback job as a rookie. Rex Grossman was never going to play as a rookie, with that message stated by the organization repeatedly post-draft.

Mitch Trubisky is better than Mike Glennon. Right now. Today. He is the better quarterback. The Bears know this. And while you will hear all the normal platitudes about patience and development and bringing the kid up to the speed of the professional game (including Trubisky pledging allegiance to the backup role) there isn’t a person associated with the Chicago Bears who isn’t rooting for Trubisky to blow them away this summer and make it impossible to keep him on the bench come September.

That would go for any rookie quarterback. But it goes double for a guy drafted in such a bold, unpredictable manner. If reports start emanating from Bourbonnais that Trubisky is the superior performer and if he looks the part once the fake games start, a tsunami of fan support will overwhelm Halas Hall. Bears fans are an impatient lot but they see the right pieces forming up and down the roster under Ryan Pace. The calls to Waddle & Silvy and The Score will be relentless and passionate.

Just ask yourself this: are you willing to sit and watch the Bears slog their way to 6 or 7 wins under Glennon while the better player holds a clipboard?

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Ranking the Bears: Key Players Across the Roster

| July 26th, 2017

As we continue down the list, we get to the heart of the roster and an area where I really see the Bears lacking. While there are a number of really good players on this list, I just don’t know how many the team can really rely upon. Injuries issues. Age. Low Ceilings.

But here they are, ranked with short bios. Once again, you’re welcome.

40. Mark Sanchez, QB. Maybe this is a bit high but just two years ago he completed 64% of his passes with an average of 7.8 yards per attempt. That’s pretty good. Now in his 30s, he has to be the veteran presence for Trubisky.

39. Tarik Cohen, RB/KR. Everyone who has seen the Bears practice over the offseason has noted how much Cohen has been used in team drills. I need to see him with the pads on before I’l be sold he can be an impact player but the Bears seem ready to throw a lot at him.

38. Deon Bush, S. Took Bush awhile to get on the field last year and he didn’t really do much when he did. Only got his hands on the ball once in six starts. That was a dropped interception in the end zone.

37.  Jon Bullard, DL. No rookie was more disappointing last year. The word throughout camp was that Bullard was ready to make an impact, but once the season started it was clear that wasn’t true. He just didn’t know how to play the way the Bears wanted him too. Can he adjust? We’ll find out this year.

36. Eddie Jackson, S/PR. If not for a leg injury last year, Jackson could’ve been a first round pick. He’s a ball hawk who makes big plays once he gets his hands on the ball with five interceptions the past two years. My concern is that he isn’t the Vic Fangio prototype. Jackson is a natural center fielder. Fangio typically prefers to have his safeties be interchangeable.

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Steve McMichael: Long Year for the Bears, Hall of Fame will Call

| July 23rd, 2017

A former Bears great thinks it’s going to be a long year for the team.

“They’re going to be young, baby, so there’s going to be some suffering,” McMichael said with his thick Texas drawl. “There’s going to be mistakes all over the goddamn field, that’s what playing a young guy costs you. The ball is snapped, the play has started and they’re just standing there.”

McMichael knows what it takes to go from a young team to a great team. The Bears weren’t any good early in his career before they became one of the biggest icons of the ’80s.

McMichael, of course, remembers his time with the Bears fondly saying “Chicago and Mike Ditka is where Mongo was supposed to play, yes baby.”

During an interview to promote a charity wrestling event he is attending to help raise funds for the Gilbert Brown Foundation, McMichael spoke at length about his life in football. He noted his success in high school as a middle linebacker, tight end and kicker, earning all-state honors at all three positions.

After a brief stint in New England, in which McMichael said he “whopped” John Hannah’s ass in practice, he came to the Bears and the rest is history.

After 13 years with the Bears, the team released him, hoping to sign him for less money but, feeling insulted, McMichael went to Green Bay instead. He finished out his career, meeting Gilbert Brown and on Aug. 4 will be meeting fans as a fundraiser for the Gilbert Brown Foundation in Galesville, Wis.

McMichael finished his career with 95 sacks, behind only John Randle and Warren Sapp in terms of sacks by an interior player. Yet, McMichael hasn’t sniffed the Hall of Fame.

“One of these days they’re going to wake up and realize somebody who made that many plays should be in,” McMichael said before noting it took him 30 years to make the College Football Hall of Fame.

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Ranking the Bears: Guys Fighting At The Bottom of the 53

| July 21st, 2017

As the Bears move closer to training camp, we move closer to the top of the list. Most of the names here should be familiar, even though you may not remember they’re on the team. None, I don’t think, are guaranteed a roster spot.

Here they are, ranked with short bios. Once again, you’re welcome.

59. Jordan Morgan, OG. The Bears have big plans for Morgan but it’s going to take him time. He’s a powerful blocker that could replace Josh Sitton in 2018. He just isn’t ready yet.


58. Patrick Scales, LS. He’s no Patrick Mannelly but he’s fine.

(Jeff’s Note: Comparing long snappers to Pat Mannelly is like comparing a pop artist to Roy Lichtenstein. Just because you’re not the greatest ever, doesn’t mean you can’t be great.)


57. Michael Burton, FB. Considered to be a true blocking back and should be an upgrade over last year’s dead weight, Paul Lasike. But can they really justify keeping a fullback who hasn’t shown he can do anything but block?


56. Hroniss Grasu, C. There was some optimism about Grasu last year but he never appeared in a game after tearing his ACL in August. He’s probably better than he was as a rookie, but what does that mean? The team brought back Eric Kush, another center who can also play both guard spots, so they’re certainly not banking on the former third-round pick. If Kush plays as well as he did last year, I’m not sure Grasu has a spot on the roster.

(Jeff’s Note: I’d be surprised if Ryan Pace was willing to call it quits on Grasu’s career, barring another significant injury this summer. But if the Bears are actually considering moving Cody Whitehair from center in favor of Grasu, I’d rather they cut the Oregon product now.)


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Ranking The Bears: The Long & Longish Shots

| July 19th, 2017

Training camp is just around the corner and the Bears have a number of young players with whom fans should become familiar. They also have a number of players who you won’t remember existed this time next year.

This is my second year doing a ranking of the roster and long gone are the likes of Kieran Duncan, Ben LeCompte and Joe Sommers. Last year’s list was topped with quarterback Jay Cutler — an argument I’d still make — but looking back it’s easy to see why the Bears didn’t win many games. This year, the bottom of their roster is much better and their top 10 is legitimately good.

At the time of this writing, the Bears have a full roster with 90 guys ready to head to camp. You don’t need to know all of them, but you probably want to. To save you some time, I ranked them all again.

You’re welcome.

90. Mitchell Kirsch, OL. UDFA from James Madison. Really hard to judge what he’ll be. Good size, average athleticism.

89. Hendrick Ekpe, Edge. UDFA who didn’t produce much at Minnesota or test very well at his pro day.

88. William Poehls, OT. Huge guy (6’7″, 334 pounds), Was a UDFA from Montana who has spent time on a couple of practice squads.

87. Titus Davis, WR. Third-year pro who has had trouble sticking with a team. Put up decent numbers at Central Michigan, but it’s hard to see him making the team. His brother Corey was the fifth pick in the draft last April.

86. Rashaad Reynolds, CB. A bit small (5’10”, 189) but jumped well at the combine in 2014. Hasn’t been able to stick after spending time with the Jaguars and Lions.


85. Daniel Braverman, WR. The next Wes Welker, right? Not quite. After what many thought was a strong training camp, Braverman didn’t make the final roster last year and nobody claimed him. When he finally got on the field, he had a tough time getting open and didn’t make anywhere near the impact many thought he would. Easily the winner of the 2016 Joe Anderson Boner Award. Could he repeat in 2017?

Jeff’s Note: Hahah.


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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Ten Days Out From Camp

| July 17th, 2017

BIGGS ON BURTON

You know it’s the dead zone of the NFL calendar when Brad Biggs is doing deep dives into the fullback position. In his Trib piece he dissects what’s at stake for Michael Burton in Bourbonnais. A selection:

Burton enjoyed a productive rookie season for the Lions in 2015 before the position was phased out of the offense midway through last season. The Bears also have Freddie Stevenson, an undrafted rookie from Florida State, on the 90-man roster.

In order for a fullback to make sense on the 53-man roster, and more importantly the 46-man gameday roster, the Bears will have to make better use of the position than they did in 2016. Lasike was active for 10 games, on the practice squad for four weeks and inactive for the final two games. More importantly, he was on the field for only 76 offensive snaps and 34 plays on special teams. Lasike was a developmental player, and a broken wrist in the preseason led to a reduced role at the outset.

Sun-Times Survives?

Honestly, I don’t know what the work is like in the Sun-Times off the sports pages. Honestly, I don’t know even know the non-Bears sports pages. But the Bears writing in the Sun-Times is simply better than the Trib’s army these days. Am I biased? Of course I am. My friend is there. But my friend is also really, really good at his job.

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Camp Battle to Watch: Carey v. Langford

| July 12th, 2017

Forgotten since the emergence of Jordan Howard, Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey could be battling for an important roster spot.

As great as Jordan Howard was last year, he had to leave a number of games with various bumps and bruises. He also missed a lot of time in his one season at Indiana. Neither of these things are surprising when you consider his violent running style. The Bears need a backup who can fill in for a series. They need a backup who can fill in for a game. I’m not sure they have one who can do both.

That’s where this dilemma begins.

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