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Bears Defense Should Take a Big Step in 2017

| May 8th, 2017

While they didn’t attack that side of the ball the way many people thought they should in the draft, the Bears defense should still be significantly improved in 2017.

Just last week the Bears made a significant addition to their front seven adding Jaye Howard from Kansas City. Howard is a bull against the run and has shown some ability to rush the passer, finishing with 5.5 sacks in 2015. He missed half of the 2016 season, but passed a physical and appears to be ready to go. Howard will start for the Bears and has the ability to play in their nickel packages, rotating with Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks, representing a significant upgrade over Mitch Unrein.

Howard will also push second-year player Jonathan Bullard. Bullard has the potential to be a stud but was terrible as a rookie. If the Bears — with one of the best defensive line coaches in the league in Jay Rodgers — can develop Bullard, they might have the best front seven in the league.

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Across The Middle — Week 10

| November 9th, 2016

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The hole is too deep for the Bears to win the NFC North this year, but they just might have the best team in the division.

The Bears are like the 2015 Detroit Lions in that the Lions were probably the best team in the division in the second half of last year, but their 1-7 start prevented them from making any moves. The sky was falling until they finished 6-2 to save coach Jim Caldwell — and possibly quarterback Matthew Stafford’s — job. The Bears are in the same situation with their team, their coach and their quarterback.

Like last year, there is no dominant team in the NFC North. I’m not even sure there is a good team. They’re all hovering around .500, which is likely where the Bears would be if Jay Cutler hadn’t missed most of the season. They almost certainly won’t be able to get back in the playoff hunt, but the Bears just might be able to have a significant impact on who gets in.

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Across The Middle: Preseason Week Three

| August 24th, 2016

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Dennis Green: “Who the hell takes the third game in the preseason like it’s bullshit?”

Me: Raises hand.

I used to believe we could get something meaningful from the third preseason game. There are dozens of reasons why that’s wrong, but the strongest was one I realized just a month ago. It doesn’t mean anything to the players who aren’t fighting for jobs or coaches.

I challenge anyone to watch a regular season game, follow it with the third preseason game and try to tell me there isn’t a significant difference in the product. I did just that a month ago, choosing to re-watch the Bears’ third preseason game against the Bengals last year. It’s just a different game.

This is true for many of the same reasons why none of the preseason games matter. Maybe there’s more game-planning in the third preseason game. Maybe teams do a bit more schematically. Maybe. But it isn’t a lot and whatever it is they do isn’t done with the same urgency as the regular season simply because it doesn’t have to be.

The Bears have most of their starters figured out already. They know what they’re doing schematically. The practice and simulation of a game-like atmosphere should help them. But this is preseason. The coach won’t lose his job, neither will the starters. It’s a practice and should be treated as such.

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Ranking the Bears Positions of Needs as Legal Tampering Begins Monday

| March 4th, 2016

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The Bears have needs. Many needs. So I’ve decided to apply a point value to those needs. 0 points would mean the Bears have absolutely no need to address this position during free agency. 10 points would mean the Bears are in trouble come 2016 if they don’t make a significant move. Here are the rankings, with a single sentence of rationale for each.

9.2 Defensive Line

Yes, Eddie Goldman looked like a long-term contributor for the Bears up front, but this unit was the least explosive on the entirety of the roster in 2015.

8.3 Inside Linebacker

McClellin, Timu and Anderson each had moments last season but the Bears need a true run-stuffing thumper in the middle of their defense.

8.1 Offensive Line

With so much talent available in the middle of the line (Mack, Boone, Incognito) the Bears would be doing their run game in 2016 a tremendous disservice by entering the season with so many question marks along the line.

8.0 Tight End

If Martellus Bennett is truly headed out the door (as the whole world is reporting) the Bears not only need to sign Zach Miller but also pair him with another player to threaten the middle of the field.

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Postseason Positional Analysis Part VI: Defensive Line

| January 18th, 2016

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BIG EDDIE

The development and production of Eddie Goldman was one of the best things to happen to the Bears this year. Goldman was billed as a run-plugging nose tackle and a two down player. He proved to be much more. He had 4.5 sacks and was third on the team with nineteen quarterback pressures, according to the official statistics released by the team.

He’s technically listed as a nose tackle, but he’s just as much an end in the Bears defense, lining up over the guard as often as he lined up over the center. Outside of what is considered their base defense, Vic Fangio used Goldman similarly to how he used Justin Smith. Forget about what positions they’re listed at, Smith was Fangio’s anchor in San Francisco and Goldman may be his anchor in Chicago.

THE REST OF THE GUYS…

The Bears have a few players who could be rotational but no other lockdown starters.

Jarvis Jenkins won fans over with a 10-tackle, two-sack performance against Seattle in Week Three but really didn’t do much the rest of the season. He was fourth on the team with 17 pressures, but a major liability against the run.

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Bears Beat Bucs, Put Sixth in Win Column (Rapid Fire)

| December 28th, 2015

Bears won their sixth game. Is it the biggest win in franchise history? Of course not. But a glance at their sideline as the clock wound down Sunday proved how important this win was for them. Loss after loss was tiring a staff and roster that knew they were improving but needed some tangible evidence. Rapid fire…

  • Adam Gase has a bully offensive line and a trio of talented running backs. Why does it seem like he runs the ball against his will? It sure seems like he’d prefer to throw those awful bubble screens on first down instead of pounding Langford behind Kyle Long.
  • My lord is Kyle Long something in short yardage. When is the last time the Bears had an offensive lineman who could move multiple defenders at the goal line?
  • John Timu, still making plays.
  • Pernell McPhee wants it. I get that. But why the hell are Pace and Fox marching him out there? Rich Campbell pointed out to me on Twitter that doctors have assured the Bears McPhee can’t do more damage to his knee but what about the rest of his body? He’s running at 8% speed! (He’s also a substantial financial investment. Why not protect it?)
  • If Kevin White turns out to be a star the Bears grabbed two first round picks in the 2015 draft. Eddie Goldman is that good.

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Across The Middle With Andrew Dannehy

| December 9th, 2015

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• The loss to the 49ers was flat out Trestmanesque and absolutely unacceptable. I’m not mad because they lost. I’m mad because their performance, regardless of the outcome, was not acceptable. Coming off of a big win with extra time to rest and prepare against a bad West Coast team playing a noon game, there was absolutely no reason for that game to have even been close, much less a loss. As much credit as we all gave John Fox after the win over the Packers, he deserves a ton of blame for this loss. He didn’t have his team focused and ready to go.

• I get that Robbie Gould is the whipping boy. He has to make that kick, but I  also don’t really care that he missed it. They didn’t deserve to win. That said, I don’t put 100 percent of the blame for the miss on Gould. Look at the last two attempts, both of the snaps were awful (more on that later). So, lining up for a game-winner he’s thinking about where the snap is going to be and if Pat O’Donnell can even get it down for him to kick it in addition to doing his job. He still has to make the kick and that’s no excuse, but he didn’t lose the game. They were asking him to win one that they really had no business winning.

• Gould certainly isn’t as much to blame for the loss as Adrian Amos. Nobody cares if he thought Gabbert was going to slide, hit him anyway. A penalty there doesn’t lose the game. Then, in overtime, everybody else on the defense knew what the 49ers were doing, what was Amos thinking? He’s been awesome this year, but that was a horrendous game.

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A Chip Shot From .500 (Rapid Fire)

| December 7th, 2015

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This was the type of performance many expected from the Chicago Bears this season. Ugly. But did anyone expect the Bears could play a game this poorly and still be in position to win? Well, they should have won. Rapid fire…

  • Is it time to worry about Robbie Gould? It certainly could be. He didn’t just miss two short field goals that would have won this game. He dead shanked them both. The coachspeak approach will have fans yelling “Bears didn’t lose this game because of the missed field goals” but you know what? They did.
  • Welcome to the NFL, Eddie Goldman. That was a dominant performance.
  • When did Willie Young become the Bears most dominant edge rusher again?
  • Kyle Fuller is a special player when the play is in front of him.
  • No clue what Fox and Fangio thought the Niners offensive approach would be but they looked thoroughly unprepared for all the things I saw in amateur tape study early last week.
  • The point above may be unfair, mind you. A lot of that responsibility would have been on the linebackers and the guys in the middle have looked lost in coverage.
  • 36 yards is now an extra point! Robbie essentially missed an extra point to win a game. Inexcusable. Gould has been a good one but I hate kickers.

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Things You Might Want to Watch During Thing People Call the Season’s “Dress Rehearsal”

| August 28th, 2015

Aug 8, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller (23) looks on from the sideline in the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles during a preseason game at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

It is not a dress rehearsal. People should stop calling it a dress rehearsal. Dress rehearsals are attempts to recreate exactly what the performance of the play will be. Coaches don’t game plan these third preseason games and they won’t put anything on tape their week one opponent will utilize.

But here is some stuff you can look at.

(1) The most alarming moments of this week’s podcast with Adam Jahns was the concern in his voice when discussing Kyle Fuller. If Fuller does not perform to a solid level in 2015, the Bears secondary has a chance to be historically awful. He could use a decent performance in August to set the stage for September and this Saturday night he’ll get an opportunity against one of the league’s best receivers, A.J. Green.

(2) Right tackle. You can look over there but don’t look too closely.

(3) Eddie Goldman played far deeper in the second preseason game than I expected or would have liked him to. But it might be interesting to see the big monster out there with the first stringers this weekend, clogging the middle of the line to set the young linebackers free.

(4) Injuries. The Bears have ailing wide receivers, an ailing and aging left tackle, a suspended nose tackle…etc. If they are going to make anything of note out of the 2015 season, it would be helpful to put a decent roster together for their three difficult games to open the season.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Goldman, Allen, Long & Some Odd Stuff From My Email Box

| August 10th, 2015

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Reason for Optimism on Defense?

Two passages from Patrick Finley in the Sun-Times. First, could Eddie Goldman’s emergence allow the Bears to move Ratliff to defensive end?

Calling his second-round pick a “big, square body,” Bears coach John Fox praised rookie nose tackle Eddie Goldman’s performance the past 10 days.

“That’s why we drafted him where we did,” he said Saturday. “He’s had a good camp so far. We’ll get back to camp and evaluate the tape and have a better evaluation.”

Friday, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Jeremiah Ratliff could play either nose or defensive end. If Goldman keeps playing well, it would be little surprise to see him start in the middle on opening day.

Second, are we about to see the emergence of Jared Allen as situational pass rusher? Seems he thrived at the position in Pernell McPhee’s absence.

With starter Pernell McPhee held out because of a coach’s decision, outside linebacker Jared Allen saw additional snaps at his new position Saturday.

He might have been the scrimmage MVP, too, after “sacking” second-string quarterback Jimmy Clausen and batting down one of his passes.

Third, what the hell is the Sun-Times doing with their web design? There is not a newspaper in America with a sloppier, less focused presentation. When you see designs like these it is very easy to understand why newspapers around the nation re being led into the ground.

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