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Trench Warfare: Pace’s Roster Building Strategy Comes Into Focus

| June 6th, 2016

The following is a guest column by the artist known as Data, also going by the name Johnathan Wood. If you’d like to write a guest column for DBB, email jeff@dabearsblog.com.

General manager Ryan Pace has had 2 offseasons to shape the Bears roster the way he sees fit. There are a number of different ways you can look at his moves and draw conclusions about his priorities, many of which have been discussed in detail. Pace himself has talked repeatedly about wanting size, speed, length, and football junkies. He has shipped out locker room problems and replaced them with high character football players (Ray McDonald aside).

But when I’m looking at what a GM prioritizes, I look at how he allocates his resources. Who does he invest his high draft picks and big free agent contracts in? Looking at Chicago’s recent moves through this lens gives a clear answer: Ryan Pace wants to build a team that wins in the trenches.

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Bears Building Team That Could Take Control of NFC North

| May 18th, 2016

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is sacked and hit by Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (50) in second half action. The Colts defeated the Green Bay Packers 30-27 on Sunday, October 7, 2012, in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Sam Riche/MCT) ORG XMIT: 1129744

Since taking over before last offseason, Ryan Pace and John Fox have completely rebuilt the Bears defense and it should result in a team that contends for the NFC North in both the near and long term.

I don’t care what happened last year. The Packers are still the team to beat in the NFC North. They have the best coach, the best quarterback and – while they’re certainly declining – I’m not ready to proclaim the Vikings or any other team the new King of the North. But what the Bears did to the Packers on Thanksgiving wasn’t a fluke and now they’re building up their talent level to do it consistently. At the very least, with a good defense, they’ll give themselves a consistent chance.

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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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Putting My Thoughts on the Trade of Martellus Bennett in One Place

| March 18th, 2016

Dec 22, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett (83) carries the ball during the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Bears 54-11. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Twitter is not the avenue for nuance. Hopefully DBB can be. My thoughts on Martellus Bennett’s trade to New England:

  • I completely understand the trade from the front office perspective. Ryan Pace is a young GM in a high-pressure gig and he’s not going to employ anyone he views as not having bought into his program.
  • Nobody begrudges Bennett wanting more money as he’s one of the best tight ends in the league. But when his lack of commitment on the field was perceived as linked to financial demands, his hour glass flipped.
  • Hard to criticize a player for not trying hard but I’ve done so with Bennett multiple times this season. It was also very clear from watching the games that Jay Cutler didn’t believe Bennett fought hard enough for balls thrown in his direction.
  • The phrase “buy in” puts everything on Bennett. But did the Bears try and sell him? Did Pace ever sit Bennett down and explain how he can thrive in this system, with this quarterback? It was in the best interest of both parties to make this work.

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Bears Drafting Quarterback at 11 Unlikely, But Not Crazy

| March 16th, 2016

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While still unlikely, the possibility of the Bears drafting a quarterback with the 11th pick in the first round is no longer as crazy as it once seemed.

Daniel Jeremiah’s most recent mock draft created a stir amongst Bears fans because he had them taking Carson Wentz in the first round. Ryan Pace has made it clear he wants to build around Jay Cutler, but he has also said he would take the best player available in the draft. The moves he made in free agency should give him the option of doing just that and if it’s a quarterback, so be it.

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Pace Has Magical Opening Week of Free Agency

| March 13th, 2016

Free agency success does not often equate to the field. Frequently the team making the largest cash splash in March lands with a deadened thump come September and beyond. But what Bears GM Ryan Pace has achieved in the first week of free agency is nothing short of a miracle.

Go through the league. Every team. And find the most improved position groups. Outside of the Giants defensive line, whose makeover cost about three hundred zillion dollars, one could argue the two most significantly upgraded positions in the NFL are on the Chicago Bears roster at inside linebacker and right guard.

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Five Thoughts on Free Agency, Day One

| March 10th, 2016

It was an exciting opening of the league year for the Chicago Bears. And one thing is absolutely certain: they got better. Five thoughts…

  • The signings of Danny Trevathan and Bobby Massie mean the 2016 Bears will open the season significantly better at inside linebacker and right tackle. It also means they will see their most significant upgrade at right guard. Vlad Ducasse is horrible. Kyle Long is one of the best guards in the game.
  • There will be a lot of chatter about the money given to Tracy Porter but it won’t come from me. Porter is not a shut down corner but he had a solid 2015 and the Bears didn’t need to create another hole in a secondary full of them.

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Thoughts on Alshon Jeffery’s Future in Chicago

| February 22nd, 2016

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Ian Rapoport reported last week the Bears are open to not bringing back Alshon Jeffery in 2016. Here are some thoughts.

  • I’ve never believed the theory that the Bears selected Kevin White in the 2015 draft because of a best player available philosophy. I believe they selected White because they envision him as a dynamic, game-changing, number one wide receiver. By the same token they don’t view Jeffery that way. Does Jeffery have that potential? Absolutely. But is he among the game’s best at the position? No.
  • Leaking this news to RapSheet serves a particular purpose for the Bears. They have now let people in Jeffery’s camp know they are comfortable with him walking out the door. It’s very clear the Bears don’t intend to break the bank for Jeffery so they are trying to convince him to take a team friendly, long-term deal.
  • The Bears have a ton of cap space. Not sticking Jeffery with the franchise tag makes zero sense if they believe he’s part of their future.
  • If Ryan Pace decides to move on from Jeffery, he better be sure. Letting a terrific player leave your organization in his prime, especially if he succeeds elsewhere, is not something fans let a GM forget.

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Rapid Fire Response To the Year-End Press Conference

| January 4th, 2016

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Brief but interesting conversation between the assembled media and Ryan Pace/John Fox. Here are a few thoughts:

  • Small thing but Pace had a piece of paper in front of him identifying the members of the media. It was a nice touch to be able to say first names with each response and I think it tells you something about Pace’s ability to reach people.
  • Pace’s most telling comment was about his happiness with the makeup of the running backs room. Sure sounded like he viewed Forte as part of the future.
  • Pace had the perfect tone on Cutler. He reiterated the organization’s commitment to him while not ruling out taking a QB if he’s viewed as BPA. (I would be shocked if the Bears considered a QB in the first round.)
  • If Charles Leno Jr. isn’t the starting left tackle next season Pace is a really good actor. Effusive praise.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Around the League, Three Bears Thoughts, Boomer on Catches, Cutler Update!

| November 16th, 2015

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Around the League We Go!

  • Through nine games, Jeremy Langford has only 100 yards less from scrimmage than Melvin Gordon.
  • Someone in the Browns organization needs to walk down to the head coach’s office and tell him playing Josh McCown is no longer an option. I’ve never believed Johnny Manziel’s ability would translate to the pro game but losing down the stretch with McCown does the team zero good. (Manziel was quietly good in that Steelers game yesterday and Manziel isn’t quietly anything.)
  • Tom Brady is full of magic. That’s the only way I can explain it.
  • Giants should be 8-1. They’ve only played one poor game all season. I wouldn’t want to be walking into the Meadowlands in January once this group puts it together. (They are also +12 in turnovers this season. They are secretly good.)
  • The NFL got what they wanted by changing the extra point rule. They made kickers way too relevant on Sundays. (And they’ve delayed at least 7-10 of my piss breaks.)

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