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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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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 Nine

| November 2nd, 2016

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There were a lot of reasons why the Bears beat the Vikings. The biggest is the simplest: the Bears had a QB who could make plays under duress and the Vikings didn’t.

That’s right, Jay Cutler is back and he reminded us all why the talk of moving on from him is premature (and probably stupid).

Everyone wants to talk about the arm but the arm isn’t what makes Cutler so good. Against arguably the best defense in the NFL, without his two best offensive linemen and two of his three or four best receivers, Cutler was in complete control. After a shaky start, he threw strike after strike, converting third down after third down, time after time.

When the shit hit the fan — and it did quite often — Cutler stayed cool and made the throws he needed to make. The Bears came into the game as one of the worst third-down offenses in the league. Thry were 7-for-14 against the Vikings.

This came days after a report that John Fox was “done” with Cutler. The report clearly got to the quarterback, who showed as much emotion as he ever has, including an somewhat teary embrace with QB Coach Dave Ragone after the Bears clinched the win.

I don’t know if these last eight games will be Cutler’s last with the team. I don’t think anybody really knows. But Cutler has the ability to control his own destiny. And regardless of what anyone in the front office thinks, it has been made crystal clear that the guys in the locker room love him.

If Cutler keeps playing like he did Monday night and like he has for most of the last two seasons, the Bears would be crazy to move on for an unknown.

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Across The Middle — Week Eight

| October 26th, 2016

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Suddenly, the 2016 Bears season has a chance to be productive.

The loss to the Packers dropped the team to 1-6 and they’ll almost surely fall to 1-7 on Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings. But with Jay Cutler back at quarterback, it feels like they can accomplish something, even while not making the playoffs. The Bears need to figure out who their quarterback is going to be going forward. (It was never going to be Brian Hoyer.) It might be Cutler and we finally have a situation where we can get an accurate read on him.

Cutler played well in the Bears first two games but they were facing two of the ten best defenses in the league with a makeshift offensive line, no running game and Kevin White still trying to figure out what was happening. While Cutler was out, the line came into its own, Cameron Meredith proved to be an upgrade (at least in the short term) and Jordan Howard went off. The only thing they were missing was a quarterback who could put the ball in the end zone. If Cutler is playing with a full deck and can’t put points on the board, the Bears need to find a new quarterback.

These next nine games just might be among the most important in the history of the franchise because they may determine who is playing quarterback for the foreseeable future.

Getting After the QB

He didn’t have much of an impact on the game but if Pernell McPhee can become the player he was last year, the Bears are going to be a team no quarterback wants to face.

One thing the Bears did against the Packers last week that they’ve really never done was pressure Aaron Rodgers. I had the Bears down for 23 quarterback disruptions in the game. (They had 10 on Green Bay’s first two possessions.) The Packers eventually realized the Bears had Bausby and, at times, Glenn at cornerback and changed their offense. But they had to make that change or they wouldn’t have done jack against the Bears. If the Bears had better cornerback play, they would’ve shut Green Bay down.

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Notes on a Wild Sunday For the Chicago Bears

| September 5th, 2016

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I didn’t see any of it coming. Any of it. Thoughts.

  • Impossible to suggest the Bears had planned to replace Robbie Gould at the start of the summer. Not when they brought in zero competition for him. But his big misses last season coupled with an incredibly shaky camp/preseason forced the Bears hand. Pace  and Fox know what this team is. They know they’ll need to win close ones. And they simply didn’t trust Robbie any more.
  • That being said, Robbie had a brilliant career in Chicago. Brilliant. Hester-Robbie-Mannelly-Toub is the modern era Mount Rushmore of Bears special teams.
  • Connor “Party On” Barth is a guy. Could be good. Could be shaky. But if the Bears thought this a possibility, why not bring a few kids to camp? I wrote about challenging Robbie this summer LAST FALL. The signs were there. It feels like the front office missed them.
  • I don’t care about Josh Sitton’s back issues. He’s still a damn good player. If the Bears only get one season out of him, that’s fine by me. They have the cash. Why not spend it? The risk/reward is ENTIRELY in Chicago’s column.

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Five Thoughts Before the First Preseason Game

| August 10th, 2016

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I’m sick of training camp updates and bold predictions that everyone will forget about a year from now. Here are a few quick thoughts before the Bears first preseason game.

Eyes In The Backfield

Forget running back by committee, Langford is the Bears starter and is going to get 70 percent of the carries as long as he’s healthy. The rest of the backfield, however, is worth watching.

Ka’Deem Carey is listed as the backup, but Jacquizz Rodgers is the only guy outside of Langford who is getting action with the starters. Carey has split second team reps with Rodgers. Jordan Howard started getting some reps there last week.

Most are assuming the Bears will keep four running backs, as they did last year, but they didn’t have a fullback last year. This year, it appears they’ll be employing and using a fullback, which could mean they keep only three running backs. The other option is keeping three tight ends, instead of four, but given the injury situation there, that might not fly. They might also keep seven wide receivers (more on that later) and will probably keep nine offensive linemen.

While keeping four running backs is still the most likely option, a lot could change between now and the final cut down day. The position is certainly worth watching throughout the rest of preseason.

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2016 Bears Defense Could Make Buddy Proud

| July 1st, 2016

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 1: Pernell McPhee #92 of the Chicago Bears celebrates after a sack during a game against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on November 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Vikings defeated the Bears 23-20. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

“QB’s are over-paid, over-rated, pompous bastards and must be punished.”-Buddy Ryan.

For the first time in a number of years, the Bears have a chance to have the kind of defense that would make Buddy Ryan proud. They finally have a number of players who can, and should, get to the quarterback.

The Bears’ sack totals since they stopped running Ryan’s defense are a bit depressing. They’ve finished last in the league in sacks more than they’ve finished first and haven’t topped 50 sacks in a season since 1987. This year, however, they have a legitimate chance to top that mark and punish opposing quarterbacks.

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Postseason Positional Analysis Part VII: Linebackers

| January 19th, 2016

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We start on the inside.

The Bears had five inside linebackers this season but only three are worthy of discussion. LaRoy Reynolds & Jonathan Anderson are the type of bottom-roster boys an organization needs but there’s also about 125 players like them circulating across the league. Whether they return or not in 2016 won’t make the teapot whistle.

Three questions about the others.

How Much Do the Coaches Really Like Shea McClellin?

Shea is a smart player and the coaches went out of their way throughout 2015 to applaud his impact on the defense. He also, once again, struggled to remain healthy for any substantial period of time and his level of play dropped precipitously once returning to the field.

Here’s how I’d summarize McClellin. He is constantly in position to make plays but rarely makes them. Is that a lack of physical ability? Maybe. Is that a lack of instincts? Definitely. Were his struggles this season more the result of a change to ANOTHER new position? Possibly.

Unlike many who’d like to see the Bears cut the Shea line, I’d like to see him return and continue to develop at middle linebacker. He won’t be expensive or require a lengthy deal so why not? At worst he’s a third linebacker off the bench who can also call signals.

How Much Stake Do the Coaches Put Into John Timu’s Finish?

Adrian Peterson had 18 rushes for 63 yards. Doug Martin had 17 carries for 49 yards. Ameer Abdullah had a more respectable 10 carries for 44 yards. This was a poor rush defense all season long that turned into a solid unit once Timu ascended into the starting lineup. Does this mean the Bears should move forward with Timu cemented in the middle? Of course not. But barring a big splurge in free agency, Timu should come to Bourbonnais with confidence.

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Vikings Hand Bears Third Straight Loss (Rapid Fire)

| December 21st, 2015

The Bears have hit a wall. They overachieved for the better part of this season and there seems to be very little left in the tank. Injuries and lack of talent have finally caught up with them. When a game is this lopsided there’s little reason to dissect the minutiae but here comes rapid fire nevertheless…

  • How Ryan Pace handles Alshon Jeffery will be interesting. He’s a difference maker on the field but he just never seems to be on the field. Can you really pay a receiver elite money when he is only out there ten games a season?
  • Offensive line is climbing the ladder of concern every week. Too many penalties and three of the five positions have been legitimately poor for several weeks. All the skill talent in the world won’t make a difference in 2016 if Bears can’t block em up front.
  • Jay Cutler’s season has stalled with the declining line play. But even when he’s had time to throw, there’s nowhere to go with the ball. No, the receivers are not getting open. But can’t Adam Gase create some easy non-bubble screen throws to move the ball? I keep hearing how effective Gase’s system has been. I haven’t a clue what that system entails.

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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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