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Tannehill Injury Provides Opportunity for Bears To Embrace Future & Trade Glennon

| August 4th, 2017

Ryan Tannehill’s injury at Dolphins practice sent a Jolt Cola through the veins of the NFL yesterday. This is what always happens when a team loses their starting quarterback during the summer months. The other thirty-one all stand at attention, processing such an injury in a very similar manner.

Stage One: How injured is Tannehill? Before overreacting teams have to know if the QB is done for the year, several months, four weeks…etc? With this injury it sounds like Tannehill could be looking at a two/three month rehab or season-ending surgery.

Stage Two: Who is out there? The three names that sprinted into media mouths within minutes of the injury were Cutler, Romo and Kaepernick. Kaepernick does not fit what Gase does. Romo just signed to be the lead analyst on CBS. That job isn’t worth giving up to quarterback an 8-8 Dolphins team to second or third place in the AFC East. And then…there’s…Cut-ler! Darling Cut-ler! (Catch that reference, win a prize.)

Stage Three: What do we have that can provide a solution and help build our future? Call it Bradfording. The Dolphins need a quarterback. And if you have one on your roster they want, it could be worth the Joe’s Stone Crab fortune.

The Bears have one.

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More Camp Thoughts For a Thursday…

| August 3rd, 2017

Yesterday was an exceedingly positive day coming out of camp. But all that really matters is how many times the cart comes out.

  • Adam Jahns does a nice job breaking down the drama surrounding Kevin White in these early days of Bourbonnais. For my money, WR coach Zach Azzanni made a major mistake here. Why is a position coach calling out a player, insinuating he’s lost confidence, on the second day of padded practice? Why is John Fox allowing a first-year position coach to create a storyline that doesn’t actually exist? It’ll be surprising if Azzanni is so forthcoming moving forward.
  • Of course, Adam Hoge makes the exact opposite argument for WGN. With White being Wednesday’s star, Hoge believes Azzanni may be “pushing the right buttons.”
  • Amazing how hung-up on the quarterback pecking order fans seem to be. Let me clear something up. Mark Sanchez can’t play any more. If he’s on this roster in September – and he shouldn’t be – it’ll be in a break-glass-for-emergency/mentor role. Why wouldn’t Sanchez make my final 53? Because if you need him in October, he’ll be there, sitting at a bus station in Naperville, checking his cell phone repeatedly.

More practice today!

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Trubisky And Other Impressions From A Day At Practice

| August 2nd, 2017

“Wow! Who threw that?” Is the question my wife asked in our first real exposure to Mitch Trubisky at Saturday’s training camp practice.

It was a day in which everyone wanted to talk about the fumbled snaps but even a football novice like my wife could see that there was a definite difference in what Trubisky had to offer versus that of Mike Glennon and Mark Sanchez.

I don’t mean to minimize the snap issue. If a team can’t complete the snap, they can’t run a play. But there hasn’t been a quarterback in the history of the league who hasn’t figured out how to take a snap from the center. Let’s repeat that. There hasn’t been a quarterback in the history of the league who hasn’t figured out how to take a snap from the center.

The rest of that practice should have Bears fans excited.

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Three Thoughts For a Practice-Less Day in Bourbonnais

| August 1st, 2017

Kevin White, Struggling?

Adam Hoge is not an alarmist. So when he opens a column with Kevin White’s early “struggles” there is reason to pay attention.

“He’s not where I want him to be or where we need him to be,” Bears wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni admitted Monday. “He’s a work in progress. He’s had a good three days. Good first day, OK second day, much better today.”

Azzanni was just referring to the three days since pads went on and Sunday’s quiet practice prompted the wide receivers coach to pull out some of White’s tape from West Virginia.

“He forgets about (West Virginia) sometimes because of the battle he’s had the last two years,” Azzanni said. “I wanted him to see how he used to go up and just grab that ball out of the air and he’s starting to do that again. I know he had a drop in one-on-ones the other day. The other thing is, he’s a prideful kid and he lets that beat him up and you cannot do that.”

White needs two things: (a) sustained game action and (b) success. And I’m a believer that achieving a will directly lead to be b. But tentativity from a player like White is understandable when he must be thinking that every cut in the middle of the field could be the one that ends his season. White’s not going to be confident and explosive on Day 3 in Bourbonnais. The Bears need to hope he is both of those things come Week 8 in New Orleans.

The One Throw Column

There’s a new trend developing with camp coverage across the league. Because media is limited to both what they’re allowed to see and what they’re allowed to cover – Pat Finley has resorted to drawing plays on what seems to be napkins – writers are turning in copy wherein they draw major conclusions from minor moments. Rich Campbell did so yesterday in the Trib, writing about singular moments from Glennon and Trubisky.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Camp Thoughts, Telander/CTE & More!

| July 31st, 2017

Five Camp Thoughts Through A Few Days

  • Tanner Gentry may be benefiting more than any other player on this roster by being low on the pecking order. While he’s situated with the 3s, he’s developing a relationship with the soon-to-be starting quarterback and face of the franchise. This isn’t Joe Anderson Boner or Daniel Braverman. This is a talented kid who may leave Bourbonnais with the faith of the most important player on the roster.
  • Bears won’t wait long to elevate Trubisky from that position, however. Right now he’s in “earn it, rook” mode. Give it a week.
  • Yes, the leap in competition level will be extraordinary. But I’m told by people on the ground that Adam Shaheen looks like he’s going to be something special. And for a team that struggled mightily in the red zone to get touchdowns a year ago, Shaheen’s productivity may begin on day one because it’ll be hard for any defense to match-up with his size and speed.
  • I’m a Kyle Fuller skeptic. I don’t doubt his ability. I don’t doubt that he’s having a good early camp. But the organization believed, less than a year ago, that Fuller lacked the heart and desire to be a professional football player. If that’s changed, wonderful. But I need to see it in September.
  •  Another summer, another weird injury as Markus Wheaton had an appendectomy that will greatly stunt his assimilation into this offense. Bears have big plans for Wheaton so the appendix not bursting should mean he’s back into the fray in 3-4 weeks.

Telander Donates His Brain

Other than my friend Rick Pearson, the best political journalist in Chicago, I rarely look inside the Chicago Tribune (physically or digitally). Rick Telander is one of the reasons why the Sun-Times has gathered almost all of my attention and why I was so thrilled to hear their new ownership pledge allegiance to good, local writing. Here’s an excerpt from his wonderful piece on his brain, and CTE:

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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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