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Suddenly, Tight End Looks to Be a Position of Strength for the Bears

| June 1st, 2017

Zach Miller got injured in 2016. Because if it’s a year, and Zach Miller is playing football during it, he’s going to get hurt. His injury left the Chicago Bears with a crop of tight ends that could be described as…”Who?”

Logan Paulsen was supposed to be a blocking option but caught three passes (and dropped around three hundred). Harvard UDFA Ben Braunecker wasn’t supposed to see the field. Four catches. Daniel Brown showed up out of nowhere and caught a touchdown pass. I still don’t know who MyCole Pruitt is.

The Bears established an offensive identity last season. Tough, physical offensive line anchoring a power run game on the back of Jordan Howard. But that identity lacked a crucial component once Miller was admitted into the infirmary: a tight end that could both be a force at the point of attack and a threat through the middle of the defense.

Outside of quarterback, where his aggressiveness will define his general management tenure, no position was attacked with more fervor this off-season than tight end by Ryan Pace.

  • Dion Sims only has 74 receptions in four seasons but the Bears (a) signed him primarily for his physicality/blocking ability and (b) believe he’s capable of far more productivity if given the opportunity.
  • Adam Shaheen may have been a surprise second-round selection but early reports – from Adam Jahns and many others – are that Shaheen has been the early star of rookie camp/OTAs. He’s a massive human being with great hands, a perfect complement to what Sims provides.
  • Zach Miller is still here! And Zach Miller is still a very good player. But one should not expect Miller to contribute more than 8-10 games of healthy football.

And in case you were missing the Follies of ’16, worry not! Brown, Braunecker and Pruitt are all slated to be in Bourbonnais next month.

Do the Bears have a star tight end? It’s certainly possible if Shaheen becomes the player the Bears expect him to be. But one thing is certain: one of the biggest roster weaknesses in 2016 looks to be a major position of strength in 2017.

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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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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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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Martellus Moves to Boston & New Long Snapper Alert!

| March 16th, 2016

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Few things of note worth weighing in on.

  • Martellus Bennett is now a Patriot. This should thrill a player who cares about one thing: money. Ryan Pace doesn’t hesitate to dump players who don’t fit the culture. But I will reiterate what I’ve said for months. Bears should have spent entire offseason convincing Marty to buy-in. They’re worse without him.
  • Bears signed former Broncos snapper Aaron Brewer to a one-year deal. Most interesting thought on the signing comes from the Twitter feed of former Bears scout Greg Gabriel: “Don’t think for a minute the Bears signing a new snapper wasn’t all about Gould’s misses last year. That’s ALL it was about.” Do I buy the snapper being to blame for Robbie blowing games? No. Do I doubt the team considers it a factor? No.
  • Per Jimmy Shapiro at Bovada the Besrs have gone from 50/1 to 40/1 to win the Super Bowl this year. Have to say that’s a substantial jump considering the lack of sexiness surrounding their free agent haul. Vegas clearly understands the Bears are better today than they were ten days ago.
  • Based on CJ Anderson’s comments (re: chasing more money to Chicago) one has to assume the Bears had interest in the Broncos back. My only question is…why?  Anderson is an okay back but can’t you find a bunch of him in the middle of the draft? And why would the Bears want to put money into a position there they could potentially have a young star at cost?
  • Zach Miller was always coming back to Chicago, barring a huge divide in compensation. I don’t play the source game but here’s something I know: Cutler lobbied Miller aggressively to return. Don’t be surprised if Miller isn’t rewarded on the stat sheet next season.

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Postseason Positional Analysis Part IV: Tight Ends

| January 13th, 2016

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Right now the Bears have three tight ends on the roster worth discussing. Without further adieu, the least exciting of our postseason positional analysis columns.

KHARI LEE

The strangest move of the Ryan Pace era was dealing a sixth-round pick to the Texans for Lee, a tight end who is an exclusive blocker. (His attempts to catch Cutler passes have been comical.) If you’re looking for cutting edge analysis of Lee’s work as an additional member of the offensive line, you might want to look elsewhere. In the meantime, let’s assume Lee will be back in 2016 to validate surrendering the draft pick for the acquisition.

ZACH MILLER

34 catches, 439 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Miller has been one of the best stories of the season and from the way both he and the Bears have spoken it would be a surprise to not see him back in 2016. The only question now is how the Bears create a fair contract to compensate Miller for his production while considering his injury history. 2 years, $6-8M.

MARTELLUS BENNETT

53 catches, 439 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Everyone has heard the talk and Ryan Pace’s silence all-but cemented the fact that Bennett has worn out his welcome in the Bears locker room. Pace and Fox are trying to establish a culture and Bennett clearly does not fit within that culture.

You know what? I don’t care.

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Across The Middle With Andrew Dannehy

| December 16th, 2015

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  • Once again, I’m not upset with the fact that the Bears lost, but how they lost. The Redskins have talent, probably as much or more than the Bears, but they were coming off of a short week and they can’t win on the road. Meanwhile, the Bears were coming off a disappointing loss and questions about why they can’t win at home. You’d think the Bears would be motivated, right? Nope. They came out flat again. Six flat quarters against the 49ers and Redskins very well could’ve cost them a spot in the playoffs. That isn’t acceptable. They looked like a Trestman-coached team for six straight quarters before turning it around in the second half.
  • In defense of the coaching staff, I don’t think they’re particularly worried about wins and losses right now. They’ve been coaching for the future for about 10 weeks.
  • My guess on the Kevin White situation: The Bears players and coaches fully expected him to be available, but Ryan Pace made the call.

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