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Across The Middle — Week 14

| December 7th, 2016

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The Bears have a 26-year-old quarterback who is playing well but it shouldn’t change any of their offseason plans.

I’ve been as impressed with Matt Barkley as anyone but if the Bears like a quarterback enough to take him in the top five — thus grading him as a franchise quarterback — they shouldn’t let Barkley change their plans.

After seeing Barkley continually complete passes deep down the field to the likes of Deonte Thompson, Cam Meredith and Josh Bellamy in a blizzard, I won’t rule anything out for these last four games. He could very well be the latest star quarterback who was just waiting for his shot. And if he is, he’ll keep his job. If he isn’t, the Bears should have another talented young quarterback waiting in the wings.

The Bears passed on Aaron Rodgers and didn’t try to sign Drew Brees as a free agent because they had Rex Grossman.  They passed on Russell Wilson and Derek Carr because they had Jay Cutler. You can bet the Chargers don’t regret taking Eli Manning — who was later traded for Phillip Rivers — instead of Sean Taylor, Kellen Winslow or Roy Williams solely because they had Drew Brees in 2004. There’s a reason the winningest franchise of this era keeps taking quarterbacks high, even though they have Tom Brady.

If Ryan Pace is on the clock this April with a quarterback who he has graded as a franchise quarterback, he simply has to take him. If Barkley ends up being a star, that’s just a bonus.

The Disconnect

Maybe I’m reading too much into some pretty basic comments but it seems there is a disconnect between the coaching staff and the front office.

I didn’t put much stock into the report that John Fox’s job was in jeopardy a few weeks ago. But when Fox says a third round pick didn’t play because of “ability” it makes me wonder if he hated the pick. Surely he could’ve just said it was for football reasons or used some other coachspeak he has mastered.

This isn’t the first time Fox has said something that has made my ears perk up. Earlier this season Fox was asked why “they” liked Barkley and he responded by saying it was the scouting department who liked him. After two games, which should’ve been two wins, neither Fox nor Dowell Loggains have been willing to say Barkley has been anything better than “solid.”

Maybe it’s nothing. But maybe there is a disconnect and Fox isn’t so safe after all.

Missing Gase

While feeding my son on Tuesday morning, Mike Florio and the stat guy he has on his show on were going through the worst teams in the league before one of them wondered if the reason for the Bears decline from last year was the loss of Adam Gase.

Gase has the Dolphins at 7-5 this season and they seem to be on the right track. While many are proclaiming him the next great coach, I just don’t buy the Bears are missing him.

Gase did some good things with the Bears, but the notion that he’s the missing link doesn’t quite add up. He deserves credit for the Dolphins’ success this year, but they’re 25th in yardage and 22nd in points. His forte is offense and the Dolphins aren’t winning because of their offense. Maybe the Bears would be better with him but if he’s struggling to score points with a mostly-healthy Dolphins offense, how would he do with this banged up Bears unit?

The Bears health is mostly the same as it was last year — a sign of a bigger issue — but Gase got exceptional play from Jay Cutler as they finished 21st in yardage and 23rd in points. Take Cutler out of the lineup last year and the Bears don’t score at all.

That’s what Loggains has been dealing with this year.

Charting The Bears

• Goldman and Hicks are a problem. Guys who weigh 330 pounds just shouldn’t be able to move the way they do. Neither was supposed to be able to get pressure on the quarterback, but they combined for five disruptions on Sunday.

• The fact that the Bears generated as much pass rush as they did is a great sign. Maybe the 49ers’ offensive line stinks, but they were playing in the snow with limited opportunities and still got pressure on 13 attempts, a crazy number considering the 49ers only managed to get 15 passes off.

• Considering the conditions, Barkley was insanely accurate. I had him down for four inaccurate passes, despite having to throw threw the snow with a wet ball. The ball didn’t have a lot of mustard on it but neither did Aaron Rodgers’ passes in Green Bay on Sunday.

Bring On The Lions

When the season began, I tossed my hands up and said I had no idea what to make of the Lions. I still don’t know. But…they just might be good.

Much has been made of Detroit’s offense with Jim Bob Cooter and Matthew Stafford, but their defense has been better. They’re 11th in scoring and 15th in yardage despite starting the season slowly. They haven’t allowed more than 20 points since mid-October.

Stafford has been pretty good too. He’s been inarguably the best quarterback in the NFC North since the start of last year, but the bone-headed mistakes still happen.

The Bears have a shot Sunday for many of the same reasons they beat Detroit last time. As long as they tackle well, they should be able to keep Detroit’s offense in check. The Lions don’t run the ball at all and rely mostly on short passes to work their way down the field.

The Bears didn’t just win that game, they dominated. The Lions managed just 263 yards, while the Bears topped 400 with Brian Hoyer at quarterback. This is the first big test for Matt Barkley. The Titans and 49ers defenses stink, but if Barkley has a good game against Detroit it will be impossible to deny the fact that he just might be good.

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