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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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Across The Middle with Andrew Dannehy

| October 14th, 2015

• The Bears have two wins because they have a good coach and a good quarterback. You were told that they would win some games for that reason, I know you were because I’m the one who told you. (Pats self on back).

• Through five games in 2014, Matt Forte had 118 touches. Through five games in 2015, he has 120. I don’t know when we should start worrying about over-usage, but he looks damn good right now. He isn’t the only one getting the ball a lot, the Bears backup running backs have combined for 26 touches after totaling 42 last year. Fox wasn’t kidding when he said he wanted to run the ball, the Bears are 12th in attempts after finishing 30th last year.

• Coming into the game, there was a debate about which team had the better quarterback. That debate is dead. You saw on Sunday why turnovers aren’t the end all, be all when it comes to quarterback play. The guy still has to be able to make plays. Smith can’t. Cutler can.

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A New Cutler Emerges: Rapid Fire Reaction to the Suddenly Exciting 2-3 Chicago Bears

| October 12th, 2015

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Where do we start? Oh yeah, the quarterback.

  • There can’t be more outlets – mainstream media or internet – who’ve been more strident in their belief that Jay Cutler can be a winning quarterback than right here. The last two weeks he’s shown why. If the Bears are in the game, if their defense does not allow 300 points, if Cutler is put in a position to win…he can go out and beat any team in the league.
  • Cutler’s touchdown pass to Marquess Wilson was the prettiest throw I’ve ever seen from a Bears quarterback.
  • Cutler dropping the snap, picking it up and finding Forte with defenders at his feet TO WIN THE GAME was no less impressive.
  • Jay still makes mechanical mistakes on a lot of throws, especially when there’s pressure coming from his blind side. Just needs to step into his throws and deliver the ball.
  • Matt Forte might just deserve a two-year extension. I don’t care how old he is. He’s playing like a 25 year-old.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Telling Stats, McPhee’s Defense, Around the League & Travel Distances!

| October 6th, 2015

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THAT DARNED STAT

  • Bears are currently 7th in yards allowed per game (309) and 5th in passing yards allowed (189.8). Considering the lack of consistent pass rush and deficiencies in secondary personnel, these are remarkable statistics.
  • The ten teams leading the league is total rushing attempts are a combined 13-27.

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  • Turnovers remain the most important stat in the sport. Not a single team in the top 12 in turnover differential is under .500.

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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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A Reason For Optimism: Rapid Fire Reactions to the Bears Opening Day Loss to Green Bay

| September 14th, 2015

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There is reason for optimism in the Kingdom of Bears Fans today. With a brand new collection of coaches installing a brand new scheme the Bears went toe-to-toe with a better foe and for a majority of the game held their own. Give Rick Morrissey, a guy I generally don’t care for, a lot of credit for this passage:

The Bears looked like a professional football team Sunday, no small thing after last season’s debacle, though they still walked away 31-23 losers. There are no moral victories in the NFL, but there are losses that don’t stink to high heaven. This was one of them.

It will be a long year, but maybe it won’t be the kidney stone many of us thought it would be.

Here are my rapid fire thoughts.

  • Jay Cutler threw the crucial interception. Aaron Rodgers did not. Rodgers never does.
  • On the Cutler pick, this wasn’t a typical pick. He was duped into that interception. He didn’t try to force a pass into a tight window.
  • Packers had to make every single play to win this game. James Jones was heroic. Eddie Lacy pulled in one-handers. Clay Matthews chased down sure thing touchdowns. Did the Bears have anyone on their offense do anything exceptional?
  • Catch the ball, Forte.
  • Paging Pernell McPhee. Come in, Pernell McPhee. (Side note: I earned this will become a thing if McPhee no shows a few games. Ravens have a history of letting the right guys walk out the door.)
  • With the complete absence of a pass rush it’s hard to complain about the secondary’s overall performance. Fangio didn’t get overly aggressive with blitz packages. Approach seemed vanilla but that may require a second viewing.

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Thoughts on the Second Preseason Game

| August 23rd, 2015

On the offensive side…

  • If I were going to write a book entitled Stupidest Plays in NFL History, sure, Leon Lett is going to be on the cover. But in the chapter dedicated to the preseason, Jay Cutler deciding to neck joust Greg Toler in practice game – video above – is going to receive ample attention. Cutler may not be the most well-liked player around Chicagoland but  without him the Bears will resemble the unwatchable teams from the first half of the previous decade. Taking a physical risk like that is borderline insane. You know how I know I’m right? David Haugh called the play “smart”.
  • Sure seems like Adam Gase is wisely using Cutler’s athleticism in a way previous offensive play callers ignored. They’ve shown a few read option looks through two preseason games and Cutler is being allowed to roam outside the pocket, where historically he’s been most efficient. If injuries are going to keep mounting at the receiver spot, Cutler is going to need all the time possible to allow them to get open.

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Jeff & Jahns: Sun-Times Beat Discusses the First Week of Bears Training Camp [AUDIO]

| August 6th, 2015

On this episode of Jeff & Jahns, the Sun-Times beat writer tells me that…

    • Shea McClellin has been handed the reins of Vic Fangio’s defense (and I laugh)
    • He believes Jay Cutler’s lack of interceptions thus far is newsworthy
    • Marquess Wilson is still out there making too many mental errors to expect major impact
    • Pernell McPhee and Marc Mariani are the players jumping off the field (Mariani at wideout)
    • Jordan Mills still looks to be the weak link on the offensive side of the ball
    • Much, much more!

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