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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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In Langford’s Absence, Bears Should Give Howard a Run With the Starters

| August 23rd, 2016

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The third preseason game, the What We Thought They Were game as it’s affectionately known in these parts, is a solid opportunity to try some things out. John Fox and company know who is going to be on their final 53 (with possibly 1 or 2 exceptions due to nagging injuries) and know who their starters and starting rotation will be.

One of the things they know is that Jeremy Langford is going to be the starter and if he stays healthy will be given every opportunity to be an every down back. But Langford has a foot knock and there’s no godly reason he should see the practice or game field again until after Labor Day.

Jacquizz Rodgers and Ka’Deem Carey? We know what they are. John Fox knows what they are. Both can be valuable offensive pieces but neither is going to set the league on fire.

Jordan Howard runs differently. He runs tougher. Hits the hole quicker. Looks more difficult to bring down. But he’s been looking that way against guys who will never play an important down in the NFL.

What if the Bears dropped him in with the ones Thursday night and he ran through the Kansas City Chiefs?

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I Have Nothing of Note to Say About the Chicago Bears…

| May 16th, 2016

…so here are some thoughts of non-note.

  • Can people stop writing about Leonard Floyd’s weight? Who gives a shit about Leonard Floyd’s weight? He weighs what he weighs. I’ll start being interested in Floyd when he starts playing football.
  • I like how John Fox answers questions from media. When they asked him about Adam Gase’s new approach to rookie minicamp he basically said, “Yea whatever. We do our thing.” Fox doesn’t overthink football.
  • Dowell Loggains said Jeremy Langford needs to improve in the passing game. This is a fancy way of saying Langford needs to stop dropping the ball in pivotal moments or he’s gonna be off the field in pivotal moments.
  • Bears can say anything they want but Soldier Field’s surface is never going to improve. It’s been awful for more than a decade.
  • I can’t remember a Bears training camp that will have this much intrigue. The one hallmark of Ryan Pace thus far is he’s not afraid of roster turnover.

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Pace Wisely Using Draft to Invest in Offense

| May 11th, 2016

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With just two drafts under his belt, Ryan Pace is doing something neither of his predecessors did. He is using the draft to build an offense and support the quarterback.

One of the first things I wrote for DBB came at a time when we didn’t know if Jay Cutler was going to be the quarterback. It was clear the Bears had failed to provide the quarterback with necessary weapons and I argued Pace needed to do better.

Through two drafts, he has.

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Forte’s Exit Leaves Hole at Running Back

| February 18th, 2016

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There is no question Matt Forte lost a step and little disagreement about the Bears decision to let him go. But the reality of the situation is that by exiling Forte the club has created a big hole at the running back position. Forte, even after injury and the emergence of Jeremy Langford, was getting nearly 60 percent of the carries and was the team’s best back by every conceivable measurement.

Langford is most known for his speed and explosiveness but Forte led him in runs of fifteen yards or more by the staggering total of 10-3. Ka’Deem Carey is known for running hard and breaking tackles but — according to Pro Football Focus — Forte averaged more yards after contact (2.24-2.05) and broke a tackle once every 9 touches. Carey did once every 9.2 touches.

Even if you were to combine Langford and Carey into one back, they weren’t as good as Forte. Langford averaged 1.76 yards after contact and broke a tackle once every 17 touches and Carey has never had a run longer than 15 yards. (He’s had runs longer than 10 yards just twice.) Forte also averaged about a half-yard more per carry overall than the other two combined.

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Postseason Positional Analysis Part II: Running Backs

| January 11th, 2016

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Ryan Pace went out of his way to salute the Bears running backs room in his postseason presser and why wouldn’t he? Matt Forte, Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey were arguably the most versatile and dynamic backfield in the league.

Forte can do everything. Langford looks like he’ll be able to do everything. Carey was the ideal third back, most useful in short yardage and down around the goal line. (He also contributed on specials.)

Six weeks ago I would have said the Bears were crazy to re-sign Forte at his age and somewhat declining skills but my tune has changed significantly. Why? A few reasons.

(1) Bears are building a power run offensive line and having two top of the line backs was how John Fox found success in Carolina.

(2) Short passing game is essential to this offense and Bears may not be ready to allow Langford to exclusively assume that role as he’s been far too inconsistent catching the ball in big spots.

(3) Forte is still really good and there’s no reason to believe he’s going to fall off the cliff in 2016. Bears shouldn’t break the bank and bring him in on a long-term deal but two years at $5M per is reasonable and fair.

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Across The Middle With Andrew Dannehy

| November 24th, 2015

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• How many Bears players would start for Denver? Three? Four? Five, at most. Jay Cutler, Kyle Long, Marty Bennett and maybe Adrian Amos. Pernell McPhee could when he’s healthy, but he was a shell of himself yesterday. And, really, that’s it. But they could’ve won the game because they have a coach who wouldn’t let them quit and a quarterback who just kept coming after them.

• The anti-Cutler crowd didn’t waste any time, deeming him a failure again. Of course, they’re crazy. Cutler was great. How many times did he move around and find someone down field? That was their entire offense. Their quarterback had to make something out of nothing every time he dropped back. And it nearly worked against the best defense in the league. The same defense that held Aaron Rodgers to 77 yards passing. Cutler was the best player on the field.

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Bears Dominate Rams on the Road: Rapid Fire Recap

| November 16th, 2015

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Did anyone see this coming? Did anyone see the Bears going into an opposing stadium and thoroughly dominating the home team? Seriously. Any home team. The Bears were underdogs by more than a touchdown and played like Super Bowl contenders. It was impressive. Rapid fire…

– Jeremy Langford is a star. Speed, toughness, the works. If you wondered if Matt Forte was returning in 2016, you can stop wondering. Langford and Carey are a solid 1-2 punch in the backfield.

– Jay Cutler just continued to do what he’s done all season, except Sunday he was able to pile up some stats to support his excellent play. What’s been most remarkable about Cutler’s season is he is doing all this with a makeshift offensive line and without his receiving corps ever being healthy at the same time.

– Shea McClellin looked as good at middle linebacker as he’s looked all year – attacking the line of scrimmage and tackling in the hole. Easy to see what Fox and Fangio like so much about him at the position.

– McClellin’s strip of Tre Mason remind you of anyone? Sure as hell did for me.

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Bad Bears top Bad Chargers: Rapid Fire

| November 10th, 2015

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Jeremy Langford #33 of the Chicago Bears is pursued by Ricardo Mathews #90 of the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on November 9, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Call it what it is: This game was terrible and hard to watch. But, for the first time in three weeks, the Bears came out on top of the poorly-played game and there were a couple good signs. Rapid fire…

• There are two big stories in this game. Two stories that could have a big impact on the Bears future: Their defense got a stop when they needed it and Jeremy Langford looks damn good.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Hoge’s Three Points, Defense Improving & the Favored Raiders?

| September 28th, 2015

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HOGE NAILS THREE POINTS

Sat down to write a column Monday morning and after a Google search realized Adam Hoge (WGN) already wrote it. He makes three suggestions to John Fox and all three are 100% correct.

1. Start David Fales against the Raiders.

2. Stop the nonsense and just have Pat O’Donnell boom kickoffs out of the back of the end zone.

3. Give Jeremy Langford more carries.

Quick thought on each.

  • Wrote the column on why Bears should have started David Fales last week. Jimmy Clausen is horrible and everyone on earth knows that. (Did you see how Pete Carroll approached him Sunday? They were daring him to throw passes!) 2015 is in the books. Every decision should be geared towards 2016 and beyond.
  • Teams are going to move the ball on the Bears all season so they’re not afraid to return kickoffs from inside the end zone. There’s no different to them between starting on the 13 or 20 yard lines. Bears can’t cover kicks currently and they shouldn’t have to. They have a protective measure on the roster. They should use him.
  • Bears need to make a decision immediately whether Matt Forte is part of their future. If he’s not, he shouldn’t be on this team. I’d take Hoge’s point a step further. I think Langford should be receiving a bulk of the carries.

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