Position-by-Position at the Bye: Linebackers & Secondary

| October 30th, 2014

NFL: Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons

The following is part of a series of position-by-position breakdowns at the halftime point of the 2014 season.

Shea McClellin had a breakout game and broke his hand in practice the following week.

Jon Bostic had a breakout game and his back decided it had enough.

Darryl Sharpton had a breakout game and has been relegated to situational defense since for some reason.

Lance Briggs can’t stay on the field. D.J. Williams is a useful if unspectacular player in the middle. Khaseem Greene struggles as the Bears can’t find a position for him and the sample size is far too small to evaluate Christian Jones.

The unit as a whole deserves credit for helping to improve last year’s porous run defense and some blame for their struggles in coverage. But when a team has found themselves starting their fourth, fifth and sixth linebackers in a game how fair an evaluation can one actually provide?

Grade: Incomplete

Note: The Bears won’t do this but they should go full youth movement at the position over the second half of the season. Sit D.J. Williams. Sit Lance Briggs. Find out what you have in a combination of Sharpton, Bostic, Jones. Move McClellin around and see where, if anywhere, he can be most productive. Bears have eight games to learn what they have at linebacker for the next several years. To misuse that time would be a terrible mistake.

Keep reading to learn how bad the secondary has been!


Kyle Fuller was a special draft pick. I really believe that. As Scott Wright of NFL Draft Countdown told me on this week’s podcast (posting soon) rookie corners are exceptionally fun to watch because they are going to receive opportunities to make plays. Fuller makes plays. He hasn’t been perfect, no rookie corner ever will be, but his ability keep elite receivers in front of him and take the football away are instinctual abilities that can’t be taught. Fuller is going to be a defensive anchor for this organization for years to come.

Then there’s the rest of them…

…and they are awful.

Tim Jennings has not been bad in 2014 but he’s yet to make a significant play. He’s just sorta been over there covering guys. But the Bears have needed more than that from a corner they’re paying nearly $6 million to anchor the secondary. When Fuller has not been on the field, opposing quarterbacks have just left Jennings alone and exploited the band of misfits the Bears are marching onto the field.

Those corners…nope. Hurst, Louis-Jean, Vereen, Frey and on and on and on. The Bears knew their depth would be an issue if they lost a starting corner and the injury to Peanut Tillman crippled the position. No, Tillman was not off to a great start but his presence is still significant and he has a history of shaking the ball loose when the Bears need it most. If Tillman were healthy it would be Jennings lining up in the slot on elite tight ends and slot receivers. If you don’t think that would have made a significant difference you’re lost.

The Bears started the season without a good safety on the roster. They continue to not have a good safety on the roster. None of the poor safety play has surprised me because I expected this group to be the worst in the NFL. Nothing over the final eight games will alter the premise that the Bears need to spend the 2015 offseason improving the talent level of this group.

Grade: D

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  • Bears-4-Ever

    First? hmmm slow day. I agree with the grades.

  • EnderWiggin

    Slow down, Blogfather!

  • CanadaBear

    I must have missed CD’s breakout game when I went to the bathroom. He’s had a few (accent on few) impact plays. He’s never played a great game. When I watch other teams, their LB’s are flying around the field making plays, getting sacks, stuffing runs for losses. When I’m watching the Beloved they are flying past the ball carrier, not getting sacks, not stuffing runs for losses or much of anything. Just trailing plays and making tackles 8-10 yds downfield. The DB’s were set up to fail by PE and they have. Almost every adult Bears fan knew there was a good chance Peanut would go down. Same with Conte except none of us care if he’s on the field. Mundy is a backup safety at best. Really poor roster building for the back 7.

    • DocNitty(BallsStillOrnamental)

      Well, to be fair, you’re an old guy Canada and sometimes those bathroom breaks can take a while.

      • Cormonster

        Fifty hours and thirty minutes until the Mule-o-ween Mule Young show for FreakFest in Madison Should be awesome. I’ll be Rockin’ in the Free World with my brother, two cousins, and about 14 other friends who are going to the show. One friend is even flying in from Maine for the show.

        • CanadaBear

          Hopefully there will be some naughty nurses in the crowd. Show sounds like it would be a blast!

      • AlbertInTucson

        “Personal foul. Unnecessary roughness!” (Low Blow).

        • Huge Bear’s Penis

          don’t worry he probably doesn’t even know he got insulted. he probably got dementia. just wandering around lost like CD in coverage.

  • beninnorcal

    We have linbacker’s?

  • beninnorcal

    I know he slowed at the end but this team sure misses 54. That’s who needs replacing. He took away the middle of the field. In his younger years he could’ve taken a player like Gronk out of the equation.

  • Trac

    I give the linebackers an F. Historically on the Bears, it’s been the LB’S that have provided the leadership for our defense and this year they have failed miserably on the field in their play as well as their leadership. I don’t see how Jeff can call for our starters to ride pine the second half of the season without giving them an F.

    • DocNitty(BallsStillOrnamental)

      I’ve wanted to do this in class a few times, but is it possible to give the linebackers a G?

      • Trac


  • I’ve got a pass defense breakdown looking at the zones of the field next week. It’s ugly all over.
    Funny thing is I first set the graphics up 2 weeks ago, then just updated the data this week. They weren’t bad 2 weeks ago. Last 2 weeks have been BRUTAL

  • I could not agree more with Jeff about the youth movement at LB this year.
    I have a hunch the LBs for next year should be Bostic at WILL, Jones at SAM, and somebody not currently on the roster at MIKE. Would like to see the 2 at the spots I think they’re best for to see how they look.

  • Also couldn’t agree more about Fuller as a D anchor, and that’s REALLY important.
    Biggest thing the Bears need is young, impact players to build around on D. I said before the draft they needed 1-2 out of this draft and another 1-2 in 2015.
    Fuller is one. Can one of the DTs be another?

  • Finally, shameless self promotion alert. This is related to the QB grades from a couple days ago, plus some talks we’ve been having on here about Cutler.

    I broke down film of all of his interceptions and assigned blame for the turnover. Trying to see what needs to be fixed going forward. Some interesting stuff came out:


  • DocNitty(BallsStillOrnamental)

    I was thinking about this yesterday. What is it about Jay Cutler that gets under everybody’s skin so much? He’s not as sucky as many many quarterbacks. After thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that he’s a perfect caricature of the Chicago Bears ownership.

    Jay has all the talent in the world. McCaskey’s have all the fans support and money they need to be successful. But Jay doesn’t get the most out of that talent. Just like the McCaskey’s not getting the most of their resources.

    Jay seems apathetic all the time, like he doesn’t care. We don’t see the owners faces that often, but judging by their lack of decisive change at key moments, we’re left to believe that the owners don’t really care either.

    For every great play Jay makes, he makes a terrible one too. The McCaskey’s (mostly under Halas) have stuck gold on more players than any other organization. They have the most hall of famers. But from the mid-sixties on, they have failed to surround that talent with other talent. Hence, for every great player the bears draft, they draft 7 lousy ones. For every great coach, they have several lousy ones. The inconsistency is maddening.

    Jay plays at an average level most of the time. Sometimes slighlty better sometimes worse. But I think most people would agree, he’s a mid-level QB. His winning record is also avg to slightly above avg. The McCaskey’s do just enough to keep a somewhat competitive team on the field, but never really enough to have a great team on the field. Their record is usually right around 500. We rarely see the 2-14 Bears, and we rarely see the 14-2 Bears. Generally average.

    So the parallels are there. Bears fans are renowned for defending the beloved. We gripe amongst ourselves about the McCaskey’s but we hate when non-bears fans pile on. We’ve tried to defend Jay to outsiders, but are generally okay with bitching about him privately.

    That’s why it’s so maddening. We want to love him (them) but he (they) keep underachieving year after year. We have the resources to be great, just as Jay does. That’s why it’s so maddening that they’re not.

    The End.

    • johnnywad

      Lots of good stuff here Doc with the analogy. But let me ask you this…..Isn’t the team you’ve described a pretty ordinary NFL team? There are few consistently good franchises and I would argue they are nearly exclusively driven by great quarterbacking. The whole league is built on parity. That’s why the Championship is so damn elusive and special. I think you’ve described more than half the teams in the league. The Bears are pretty ordinary most of the time, but never the Jags or the Patriots. I feel they should have won the Bowl in 06 had Lovie decided to let Thomas Jones do his thing in the second half. I also think they would have won the NFC Championship and Super Bowl had Jay not injured his knee. They’re just that close to having one of the more dominant last 8 years in modern football. But an offensively challenged coach and a strained MCL leave us feeling as we do today. I guess that’s football.

      • DocNitty(BallsStillOrnamental)

        I suppose but, think of the Raiders. Yes, they have sucked royally for the last 12 years. But they’ll go through 5 head coaches a season if they have to to get it right. I’m not suggesting we do that, but it’s clear that Al Davis (and Junior) really cared about winning. I could say the same for other teams as well. I don’t and have never got that vibe from the McCaskey’s. But we sure as hell got that vibe from Halas. Many of the mediocre teams have great owners and great resources but strike out swinging (Jerry Jones). Many have owners that seem to really care but don’t have the resources (Chiefs come to mind). But our ownership has the resources and no apparent desire. And that, I argue, is more maddening than simply failing. Or more maddening than watching a small market team stay mediocre. It’s like, if the Yankees put together teams like the Mariners. There’s some excuse for the mariners. There’s no excuse for the Yankees. Just like there should not be an excuse for Jay nor for the McCaskey’s. It’s failure of the worst kind. Failure by apathy.

      • BerwynBomber

        We would have beat the Cheese if Jay had stayed healthy??? Hah! You’ve seen Cutty’s stats and record against them, I assume. Moreover, he wasn’t playing well that first half anyway. Nothing makes me believe he would have helped us in that game. In fact, that was probably the best game Hanie had his entire career — not that that is saying a ton. Still I don’t think Cutty helps a damn bit there.
        The Thomas Jones thing I find a little more convincing but remember even there it wasn’t just Benson coughing the ball up. Grossman did too. And he would have still been in there, Jones or no Jones.
        Anyway, I don’t know if there is much point in partaking in imaginary history in regard to memorable big game losses. They are what they are. And the stories have long since been written.

        • johnnywad

          I think you misunderstand my point about the 06 Super Bowl. I meant keep feeding the ball to Jones rather than having Rex slinging it all over the field in a monsoon. Jones was having a great game and Lovie abandoned the run when it was still a 1 score game. I contend they win that game if you put it in Jones’ hands.

          With regard to the 2010 NFC Championship game, you can’t believe that Jay Cutler doesn’t net you one more score than Caleb Hanie in any half of football against any team. I just refuse to believe that. And it isn’t Cutler against the Packers. Its the Bears against the Packers. Jay has played very well in games against he Pack in which they lost. Last year comes to mind. Its a team win or loss, its not like baseball and pitchers. Jay could have rolled out a 130 rating against the Pack a few weeks back, and they still would have lost. Each game is a separate trial and that game was no different. I also believe that game was for the title. I felt very strongly that either would have beaten the Steelers.

    • Trac

      I concur. The only issue I have with this is that the McCaskeys can change their approach, not so sure Jay can.

    • BillW

      One good sign though small, is Georgie calling out the Bears and defending the fans for booing. Surprised it’s not getting any attention in the Tribune – SunTimes has it as does PFT.

      But I like your thinking regarding owners that at least are going down swinging (Jerry Jones and the Davis’s) as opposed to simply seemingly ignoring the issue. I don’t want George getting hands-on all of a sudden – but I like hearing him say the fans deserve better. Sounds like he is putting Emery on down on notice.

    • Scott W.

      Kinda the Cliff notes of GP’s post last thread with the Forbes piece.
      Nice post Doc.

  • BillW

    So let’s think about this –
    What if at the end of the season (assuming it’s about a 6-10 or 7-9 record) Emery essentially indicated they are in rebuilding mode?

    1. Do we as fans feel OK with Emery leading this?

    2. Do we as fans feel OK with Trestman given the chance with a restocked roster?

    By restocked I mean we acquire the QB of the future sometime before 2015 with the intention that he sits until we get out of Cutler’s deal. And we gradually (or suddenly) get rid of the aging FAs that aren’t working out.

    I’m not sure about Trestman, but I’m OK with Emery.

    Tucker and JoeD I’m afraid have to go

    Funny thing, Trestman is such a nice guy I wouldn’t be completely shocked if he agreed to stay on as an OC for another HC. The guy is smart – no question. So smart that I think he knows he’s over his head.

    • I agree with everything you said but the last paragraph. Don’t think that would ever work, and don’t think Trestman believes he’s in over his head.

      Couldn’t agree more with this: “I’m not sure about Trestman, but I’m OK with Emery. Tucker and JoeD I’m afraid have to go.”

    • DaBearsBlog

      No chance of a rebuild. Their offensive talent is here, signed and going to be the same group next year barring a change or two along the offensive line.

      Expect the Bears to restock the secondary next year and add some edge rush. But the idea of a rebuild isn’t happening. There was a rebuild. It started two years ago.

      • SC Dave

        Agreed. Need to ditch the remnants of Lovie (I expect both Briggs and Nut to be gone) and move forward.

      • really a big help will just be some of the young defenders growing up and coming into their own. The D has a lot of young talent that looks like it could be good, but they’re not there yet.

        Will some of them get there by next year?

        • Huge Bear’s Penis

          Need better coaching and schemes to highlight there abilities.

    • SC Dave

      I’m good with another year for trestman and emery. On Tucker, let’s see how the young guys improve over the rest of the season.

  • “But when a team has found themselves starting their fourth, fifth and sixth linebackers in a game how fair an evaluation can one actually provide?”
    They actually had options 5, 6, and 7 against Atlanta. Top 4 (Bostic, Briggs, McClellin, Williams) were all out.

    Sad thing is that game was probably their best LB performance of the year.

  • AlbertInTucson

    Said it before but I think Briggs has checked out, mentally, as a Bear.
    He’s already moved on, psychologically.
    The Bears should too.

  • Cormonster

    The Saints got a raw deal having to play Sunday Night and turn around and play a Thursday game on the road.

    • SC Dave

      Fuck those bounty hunters. I hope the Panthers kick their asses.

      • BerwynBomber

        Ah, “bounty hunters”. One of the many ridiculous charges and absurd punishments by our Dictator-in-Chief Roger Goodell. Fuck Goodell.

        • SC Dave

          They did it, not Goodell, and fuck them at least as long as any remain in that organization

          • BerwynBomber

            You liking your own comments again?

    • wreckinball

      Agree what a raw deal

  • BerwynBomber

    Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more Louis-Jean in a limited sort of way. I thought he showed flashes of competency in the Pats game. The one PI call on him was a borderline good play. Brady of course took him to school but that is to be expected against a young kid at the bottom of the depth chart.

    • I love his potential, but don’t think he’s ready yet.

      I think he and Fuller could eventually be what the Bears want. They both fit the long, lanky mold of big, physical CBs who can excel in press man, which is what I want Chicago to run (and think they’re trying to go to).

  • BerwynBomber

    Agree about Fuller (a superb pick by PE) and that Tiny Tim has slipped just a little. Still, I’m fine with Jennings. Face it, some of his semi-gaudy stats from a couple/few years back were due to the talent surrounding him. Plus, I’ve seen him in pretty tight coverage this year. If he gets beat, it usually not horribly and most teams will live with that from one of their corners, especially once your start talking zone and 2-man. Overall, because of Fuller’s emergence, we are still in good shape at starting CB for the next year or two but Jennings will warrant watching as he ages

  • SC Dave

    The NFL so sucks QB clit. It is shameful.

    Scandalous. I can barely watch any more.

  • wreckinball

    Kudos to fuller but the grade is F

  • wreckinball

    Briggs has definitely checked out . The open gap in the middle of the D is due to a loss of Urlacher. We need another one

  • BerwynBomber

    A killer drive by the Saints. Barring a miracle, that’s a wrap.

    • wreckinball


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