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Match-ups That Matter: Eagles at Bears

| September 15th, 2016

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It’s hard to read too much into what the Eagles did to the Browns last week. The Browns are a triple-A franchise right now. But there was enough to digest in those sixty minutes. Which match-ups matter most Monday night?

VIC FANGIO V. CARSON WENTZ

It is the single biggest mismatch in the game.

  • In 2015, Carr got to 20, Osweiler got to 17 and Winston got to 21. Fox and Fangio’s defense managed to keep rookie/new starting quarterbacks in check, especially at Soldier Field.
  • The Bears have a lot of potential looks to show Wentz and many of those looks will be ones he’s never seen before. They can blitz from five different positions. Their outside linebackers are all capable of dropping into coverages. This is the kind of night where the Bears need Fox and Fangio to play chess and make the kid uncomfortable. Just lining up and playing ball, which is a lot of what they did in Houston, won’t work.
  • The Bears run defense found something in the second half against Houston. If the Eagles don’t make the down/distance easy for Wentz, he’ll struggle.

 WHITE & ROYAL V. EAGLES SECONDARY

Four thoughts:

  • I can’t imagine the Eagles coaching staff watching the Bears/Texans tape and having any thought other than, “we can’t let Alshon Jeffery beat us”. Expect Jim Schwartz to try and take Jeffery away all afternoon by pushing safeties in his direction.

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Across The Middle – Week 2

| September 14th, 2016

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The word of the day is perspective.

I like to think I’m as passionate a Bears fan as there is. I typically get nervous about the Sunday games on Friday and, when the Bears have a performance like they did against Houston, it ticks me off until the next Wednesday. But none of my common symptoms were there this week.

The reason is simple. The day after the Bears played their opener, my wife was scheduled to be induced and we welcomed the world’s newest Bears fan on Tuesday.

The Bears didn’t mean much to me last week and they don’t this week and I suppose that’s how it should be. But what happened last week shouldn’t mean much to you either. Just like the preseason, there’s a ton of instant reaction. But historically it hasn’t proven to be an indication of things to come.

Surely everyone remembers last season when the Rams beat the Seahawks and the 49ers thumped the Vikings? There were three playoff teams that lost to non-playoff teams last year and it seems to happen every year. Most of the teams in the league are still figuring out who they are the first three weeks of the season.

The Texans seem better than I thought (mostly because of Will Fuller) and the Bears have work to do. We knew the Bears wouldn’t be a finished product coming in. But what happened in Week 1 shouldn’t change your opinion of what kind of team the Bears have this year.

Coaches Have to Be Better

While I’m a big believer in the importance of winning in the trenches, the biggest area in which the Bears were out-classed Sunday was on the sidelines. John Fox single-handily cost the Bears a minimum of 11 points by not challenging two easy plays.

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Across The Middle: Preseason Week Four

| August 31st, 2016

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Admin Note: the five things I wish the Bears had columns will return Thursday & Friday.

John Fox made it very clear: Preseason games are just more practice and should be evaluated and valued as such. So why won’t people listen?

Like most people, I’m sure, my Twitter timeline was full of people freaking out over how the Bears were practicing on Saturday. Fox told the world before the game that it wasn’t crucial.

“It’s not the season. They call it preseason for a reason, it’s to evaluate, put your players in positions, take a look at players,” Fox said last week before the game. “We put a lot of stock in practice as well.”

After the game, his attitude was the same saying “we got a chance to look at some young guys and make some evaluations. That’s what preseason is for.” He later referenced preseason as “practice games” and spoke multiple times about playing players in different positions.

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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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Turn the Beat Around: Burkett, Bears & Beyond (to Houston)

| August 22nd, 2016

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BIRKETT ON PRESEASON FOOTBALL

Dave Birkett of the Free Press wrote a perfect column outlining the meaninglessness of preseason football. Here’s the first few paragraphs

Between forced season ticket buys, unwatchable second halves and pointless season-altering injuries, there are few redeeming qualities to preseason football.

But the worst part about the exhibition exercise that the NFL puts its 32 teams through four or, in some cases, five times a year is the overreaction that comes with every game.

Sure, that happens in the regular season, too. That’s the nature of our instant-gratification society.

But you don’t need to be the 2008 Preseason Champion Detroit Lions to know which games matter and which games don’t.

KEVIN WHITE’S MINDSET

Adam Jahns with quotes from Cutler:

As for White’s drop, Cutler sounded almost happy it happened. Such plays lead to more dialogue between him and the second-year receiver.

‘‘He handles it well,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘He’s always the first guy to blame himself, no matter what the situation is, so I just try to keep him positive and keep him going. There’s no point or real time for us to dwell on it. We have to move on, and he does that well.’’

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The Case for 10-6

| July 29th, 2016

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It is understood that camp has yet to begin and injuries can always pile up and derail a season before Labor Day. But at this point in the calendar, the Bears look an awful lot like a 10-6 team. Why? Five reasons.

Reason #1: Run Defense

The old baseball maxim is you need to be strong defensively up the middle. I’ve always argued the same goes for football. If you can clog the middle of the field, stop the run, cover the tight end in the seam, prevent the home run, you can defend any offense in the sport.

The 2016 Bears have the potential to be great up the middle. Hicks and Goldman are immovable objects. Freeman and Trevathan are top tier middle linebackers. Amos, while still developing, is an already terrific closer. This crop of players has the ability to make opposing offenses one-dimensional. And that will free up a pretty solid collection of pass rushers to wreck the game.

Stat Prediction: Bears will jump from 22nd in yards rushing allowed per game to top 10.

Reason #2: Fast Start

Bears open at Houston, playing a Texans team that better hope Brock Osweiler is worth the ridiculous amount of money they gave him. They are then home to Philly, playing a team in transition. They then travel to Dallas to play a Cowboys team they’ve beaten handily over the last few years. Then home to Calvin Johnson-less Detroit.

Stat Prediction: Bears open 4-0.

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Four Thoughts on Alshon Jeffery Not Signing an Extension

| July 18th, 2016

The deadline has come and gone. Alshon Jeffery will play 2016 on the franchise tag. What does it mean?

#1. An argument simply cannot be made the Bears front office values AJ as a top tier wide receiver. If they did this contract gets done in fifteen minutes. They’d pick a player with similar numbers and mimic that deal. Bears are willing to risk playing with AJ on the tag because they aren’t overly concerned about losing him.

#2. Jeffery has displayed the right attitude. And if he can’t find the motivation to deliver a career year with big money on the line he’ll never find it. Motivation, passion, the desire to give 100% on every down is something the Bears hierarchy (and quarterback) want to see from AJ on a consistent basis. They are far more worried about this element of his game than his health.

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Turn the Beat Around: Words of Wisdom From the Hired Hands

| June 20th, 2016

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ADAM L. JAHNS (THE L IS SILENT) ON KEVIN WHITE

From his piece in the Sun-Times:

How does Kevin White look?

Like a work in progress. His physical gifts are apparent. He’s fast and imposing. But his drops stood out, especially when Jeffery was out of town. White is under pressure to be a difference-maker and is clearly learning the finer points of being an NFL receiver. But I’ll say this: when Jeffery did return for minicamp, White’s play seemingly improved.

Many have larger expectations for White in what will be his rookie campaign. None of those expectations are possible if he doesn’t catch the ball. Whilst other writers – including one for this site – have been leading the White Hype Train, I’ll remain cautiously optimistic.

BIGGS (TOM) CALLAHAN

From his piece in the Tribune:

Cornerback Bryce Callahan, defensive end Akiem Hicks and, not surprisingly, wide receiver Kevin White consistently flashed during the spring. Callahan is the leading candidate to be the nickel cornerback, a position he played last season. He took advantage of ample time working outside while an undisclosed injury sidelined Kyle Fuller. Callahan led all defensive backs with four interceptions in the offseason, a statistic kept on the wall of their meeting room.

“That’s one of the main things Vic (Fangio) was preaching,” Callahan said. “We need more takeaways and more interceptions.”

Callahan has added nearly 10 pounds of muscle to his upper body, getting to him 193 pounds. He felt being under 185 might have led to getting dinged last season. While he’s not tall at 5-foot-10, he has a 41-inch vertical jump and is fluid in the middle of the field.

Callahan’s emergence would greatly improved the backend of the Bears secondary, still the team’s least talented meeting room.

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Expect a Career Year From Alshon Jeffery

| June 15th, 2016

With so much talk about Alshon Jeffery’s contract and value, it’s been largely forgotten — or ignored — that the Bears wide receiver is poised to have a career season.

You know, if he stays healthy.

While on the field, Jeffery was mostly great last year. His per game averages total out to about 96 catches, 1,435 yards and 7 touchdowns. Great numbers for sure, but not far from what we saw from him in 2013, especially considering the increase in targets. In 2016, however, the stars appear to be perfectly aligned for the fifth-year receiver to explode.

Here are a few reasons why:

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The Great Kevin White Hope

| June 2nd, 2016

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All the public buzz about how good Kevin White looked at practice last week was quickly followed by spattering of buzz-kill designed to manage expectations. But, why? There are plenty of reasons to think White is going to have a big year for the Bears.

The big knock on White is that he’s raw because he played in a spread offense in college. Here’s a news flash: over half the teams in the league — including the Bears — run a high percentage of spread concepts. The Bears had 21% of their passes travel behind the line of scrimmage last year and Jay Cutler threw from the gun nearly 86% of the time. Bill Belichick reshaped his entire offense around what he learned from Urban Meyer and Chip Kelly. Even classic West Coast guys like Mike McCarthy have incorporated spread concepts. It’s a safe bet that most of the people saying White won’t make an early impact also said the same about Marcus Mariota.

This is the league now.

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