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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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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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Postseason Positional Analysis Part III: Wide Receivers

| January 12th, 2016

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If the Bears can ever get — and stay — healthy at the wide receiver position, their offense should really take off. Their top four receivers missed a combined 36 games, with the only one playing over half their snaps being Marquess Wilson. Youngers players stepped up and made plays but the position, expected to be a strength, ended up being a weakness.

ALSHON

If you took the numbers Alshon Jeffery put up in 8 1/2 games this season and calculated them out to a 16-game total, you see a star. The numbers are roughly 102 catches, 1,520 yards and eight touchdowns. Looks great, but you can’t give him credit for 16 games when he doesn’t play 16 games. Injuries are his biggest problem and there’s no reason to think they will go away. So how do the Bears assign him a value?

By not signing Jeffery before the season, the Bears made it clear they didn’t view him as an elite receiver. As good as he was at times, it’s hard to say he did anything to increase his value. The Bears can’t let Jeffery hit the open market, however, because someone else will offer him top-tier receiver money and Chicago doesn’t have a replacement. Whether it be with the Franchise Tag or a long-term contract, the Bears need to bring Jeffery back.

WHITE

We don’t know what Kevin White is. We think he’s a stud and when we hear Ryan Pace say he can’t wait to “unleash” him, it makes us believe that even more. Still, he’s going to be raw and nobody has a clue what kind of long-term effects the leg injury might have on him.

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Where Should Bears Fans Focus During These Final Four Games?

| December 7th, 2015

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There are four games remaining. And while the playoff dreams have faded there is still plenty for Bears fans to watch over this final month of games.

Chase for .500

An argument could be made there’s no difference between finishing 6-10 or 8-8, if the result means missing out on the postseason. But that argument won’t be made here.

8-8 is something. It’s a valuable season. It’s a foundation on which to build a successful program. John Fox can walk into the offseason program and say, “We won eight last year. All we have to do is win two more and we are in the tournament.” And with their schedule including the NFC East and AFC South, two more wins can be expected.

Also, winning three more games than a year ago is substantial improvement (as if that weren’t evident already). Three games are nearly 19% of an NFL season. Fans should embrace The Quest For .500.

Solidifying the Offensive Line

Three of the final four games are outside in the cold. What does that mean? It’s time to find out if the Bears have the kind of offensive line that can boss an opponent in the run game. They showed signs of doing just that against San Francisco.

Four of the five linemen are projected starters in 2016. Only right guard, currently occupied by Patrick Omameh, is possibly up for grabs. Will be interesting to see how they develop as a group down the stretch.

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Across The Middle with Andrew Dannehy

| September 30th, 2015

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Note From Jeff: We are going to keep experimenting with the Wednesday space until Andrew feels right. Today is a massive tone change. Hope you like it.

• Oakland rookie receiver Amari Cooper has been awesome this season, which should make Bears fans excited about Kevin White’s potential. Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel does some great pre-draft work  having scouts rank the players. Cooper came in as the top-ranked receiver totaling 12 first-place votes and 88 points, while White received seven first-place votes and 82 points, way ahead of the rest of the field.

• It sure looks like Mel Tucker is coaching the Bears special teams. Players make mistakes that lead to big plays on the field, but when different players keep making the same mistakes, it’s a sign that the coach isn’t doing a good enough job of coaching them. The Bears allowed two 40-yard kick returns in Week 1 and have allowed return touchdowns in consecutive weeks. This comes after last year when the one thing they did better than anyone else was cover kicks, leading the league in average allowed yards per return.

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White Injury Changes Little for 2015 Bears

| August 19th, 2015

ct-kevin-white-bears-draft-pick-20150430Losing a top-10 pick to a likely season-ending surgery sucks for any team. But Kevin White’s injury alone won’t change what the Bears 2015 season will be.

White wasn’t going to start. At least not right away after missing so much time in camp and with the way Marquess Wilson was playing. As physically talented as he may be, White enters the NFL raw and was drafted to a team full of polished receivers. The Bears were going to have packages for White, similar to how the Vikings used Cordarrelle Patterson as a rookie.

The Bears didn’t draft White for 2015. They drafted him for 2016-2026.

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