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Data Responds: Bears at Packers

| September 29th, 2017

Two road games, two blowout losses for the 2017 Bears. Green Bay won the first quarter 14-0 after a great opening drive, followed by a 3-yard touchdown after Mike Glennon turned it over on Chicago’s first offensive snap. Things stayed quiet until the end of the first quarter, when a 47 minute lightning delay led to what felt like the start of another game.

Of course, the Bears still had Mike Glennon in at quarterback, so nothing changed. He turned the ball over 3 more times and shut down the entire offense with his incompetence before racking up just enough garbage time stats to make his performance somewhat defensible if you squint (stop me if you’ve heard that before).

Coaching

  • We’re starting here tonight, beginning with the continued ineptitude making appropriate personnel decisions late in a blowout. With all the practice the Bears’ coaches have gotten in these situations in the last few years, you’d think they would be great at it by now, but they’re not. Down 28 points in the 4th quarter, the Bears rode Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, their two best offensive players, to a meaningless late touchdown. Zach Miller, their best tight end who has made a career out of going to IR, played while rookie Adam Shaheen sat on the bench. Why? This is literally a fireable offense if the team’s management cares about their personnel at all.

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Data Responds: Bears at Bucs

| September 17th, 2017

Well that was ugly. The Bears turned the ball over 4 times in the first half, trailed 10-0 after one quarter, and 26-0 at halftime en route to a 29-7 final score. I’m going to focus most of my comments on the first half, because that’s all that mattered. The 2nd half was just playing out the string.

  • First, let me just start in general with the coaching. All three phases made huge mistakes in the first half as the entire team looked unprepared, and that is 100% on the coaches. They had key blown assignments, early wasted time outs, too many dumb penalties, and lots of sloppy turnovers. Somehow, Chicago’s coaches need to figure out how to get their team ready to play.
  • Can whoever has a voodoo doll for the entire Bears team stop already? Nick Kwiatkoski, Kendall Wright, and Tom Compton all left in the first half, though at least Wright returned. In the 2nd half, Josh Sitton and Akiem Hicks added to the walking wounded, though Hicks also came back into the game. For those scoring at home, that means the Bears left week 2 without their top 4 WRs, 3 of their top 5 interior OL, and 2 of their top 3 ILBs, plus their top CB has yet to see the field this year. Mark this as the 3rd year in a row where injuries are a defining story of the season, meaning the Bears need to figure something out with their conditioning and training staffs.
  • The coaches also continue to show zero feel for how to manage playing time in a blowout. You think they’d be better at it with all the practice they’ve gotten in the last few years. Somehow Akiem hicks and Josh Sitton were both playing so that they could get hurt in the 4th quarter down 4 scores, and the already overworked Tarik Cohen still saw touches in the 4th quarter as well.  Zach Miller, who might be Chicago’s best healthy pass catcher and is made of glass, made multiple catches on the final drive despite having a rookie drafted in the 2nd round sitting behind him. Why?

Offense

  • I’m starting at quarterback this week, because there’s nowhere else to start. Mike Glennon turned the ball over 3 times in Chicago’s first 3 possessions. He threw two terrible interceptions and showed zero pocket awareness on a fumble. By that point, the game was over at 23-0, and it was yet another terrible day for the former Buc. Glennon was far from the only bad Bear in this game, but he was the worst. His time as Chicago’s starting QB has already gone 2 games longer than it should have, and now it officially needs to be over. Yet with this pathetic coaching staff, I don’t doubt that Glennon will be starting next week, especially after showing “promise” in a meaningless 4th quarter (where he missed several throws and had another INT dropped by not one but two defenders).
  • Glennon was inexplicably not benched at any point during this game, and finished the day 31/45 for 301 yards, for a poor 6.7 yards per attempt. But that doesn’t accurately reflect just how bad he was, even on the non-turnover plays. He hit a bunch of throws underneath that any NFL QB should be able to make, and also forced several incompletions on short passes that went to his targets’ feet and/or behind them. We know what Glennon is, and it’s not good. There’s absolutely nothing he does at an above average level, but many things he’s quite bad at.
  • Tampa Bay came into the game focusing on stopping the run and keying in on Tarik Cohen in the passing game. This should have been predictable to Chicago in their game preparation, as those were basically the only things that worked last week, but they couldn’t come up with anything else effective. The 1st half yielded 16 rushing yards (on 14 attempts), 3 offensive turnovers, and 0 points. The passing game actually got some work going underneath in the passing game, but that approach requires long sustained drives without a mistake, which they are not capable of doing.
  • Speaking of Cohen, he came back down to Earth a good bit in week 2. Tampa Bay unsurprisingly focused on him after his big debut last week, and successfully shut him down. He also had an incredibly stupid punt return where he picked up a ball off the bounce when surrounded by Bucs, was immediately hit, and unsurprisingly fumbled.
  • The coaches needed to anticipate Tampa Bay’s defense would key on Cohen and use him as a decoy in this game. They failed to do that, which led to the offense being too predictable. Those edge runs that Cohen was able to turn into gains in week one were all snuffed out and contained this week. Their touches for Cohen became too predictable, and he continued to get too many (17, when the goal should be 10-12 for a player of his size, like Darren Sproles consistently gets).
  • Kendall Wright was featured more today after being completely ignored until the 4th quarter last week. I’m surprised it took that long for Chicago to realize they should try involving their best WR in the game.
  • In all the OL shuffling as Compton and then Sitton got hurt, 2nd year man Cody Whitehair moved from C to LG to RG. Continually moving one of your best players around seems like a poor strategy to me. Let him get comfortable and dominate at one spot.

Defense

  • Another week, another opening scoring drive by Chicago’s opponent. As Andrew Dannehy has been all over, this is a worrying trend for the defense, and one that leads to them losing games. Somehow, the Bears need to figure out how to stop putting themselves in a hole at the start of nearly every game.
  • Two other bad trends for the Bears showed up repeatedly in this game as well: the inability to force turnovers and the inability to get off the field on 3rd down. In the 1st half, Tampa Bay was 4/7 on 3rd down, including 3 3rd down stops negated by penalties.
  • Perhaps more worrying, the Bears failed to force a turnover until after the game was out of reach. They even had a great chance on the 2nd play from scrimmage, when Danny Trevathan tipped a ball up in the air that hung forever. Somebody needs to come up with an interception there, but no defender got even close. Pernell McPhee (it was good to see him for more than 4 snaps this week) finally forced a fumble in the 3rd quarter, which Leonard Floyd picked up.
  • Speaking of Leonard Floyd, the Bears need much more from him. Chicago’s supposed budding superstar has been mostly invisible through the 1st two games, though he finally showed up with a few plays in the 2nd half (after the game was over). They need him to be a difference maker. When that didn’t happen in the first half, the defense got zero pass rush and looked pretty mediocre.
  • Pretty much the only positive from the first half in my book was Kyle Fuller. Tampa Bay’s passing game moved the ball well, but everything went towards Marcus Cooper. By my count, Winston was 0/4 targeting Fuller in the 1st half. Of course, Fuller did drop an easy INT in the end zone in the 4th quarter, so it wasn’t all good.
  • Rookie safety Eddie Jackson had a solid game too. He put in good work in coverage (largely on Fuller’s side, where Winston had much less success) and plenty of sure tackling, including a nice tackle for loss in the run game.

Overall

  • That’s all I have from this nightmare. I feel like I put in more effort than the Bears today.
  • Seriously, we’re two weeks into the season and this team already looks lifeless. They didn’t even get excited after finally forcing a turnover in the 3rd quarter. It feels like the players have prepared themselves for another long, losing season.  Can you blame them?

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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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