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Across The Middle: Week One

| September 7th, 2016

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How can anyone be sure the Bears were right on both Robbie Gould and Josh Sitton?

Both players were released for the exact same reasons:

  • Age
  • Money
  • Declining skills

The Bears got an up-close look at it with Gould. S0 did the Packers with Sitton.

With Gould, the Bears must think his leg is either dead or going to die before long. There is some evidence to back that up since 9 of his 12 misses over the last three seasons have come after November 1st. Maybe his leg has gotten tired or maybe he isn’t able to cut through the cold wind as well.

But, if they were even considering cutting him, why didn’t they bring competition in? That lack of competition tell us this can’t be based on last season’s performance. Gould made nearly 85 percent of his kicks last year with 9 attempts coming from at least 50 yards away. By comparison, Baltimore’s Justin Tucker was under 83 percent with 10 attempts from 50 yards away. Gould missed the game-winner against San Francisco. Minnesota’s Blair Walsh missed a gimme in a playoff game. Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point that could’ve put the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

It happens. Teams in cold-weather cities need good kickers and they recognize the value in keeping them.

Ryan Pace said the Bears released Gould because they wanted Connor Barth. Simply a lie. The Bears could’ve had Barth after last season and let him compete with Gould but the truth is Barth hasn’t been anywhere near as good as Gould. I have enjoyed people noting their accuracy without noting where they’ve spent their careers. I have also enjoyed people pointing out how good Barth is from inside of 40 yards, which is really telling me he’s only useful if the Bears’ red zone offense sucks.

Barth missed almost half of his attempts from beyond 40 yards. He was so bad the Buccaneers spent a second round pick on a kicker instead of bringing him back. Remember the 50-yarder in the rain Gould missed that would’ve tied Washington? They couldn’t even consider attempting that with Barth.

The Bears are worse at kicker than they were last year. Maybe they would’ve been even if they had kept Gould, but the veteran at least deserved a shot.

That said, I was happy about the Sitton signing for the same reasons I don’t like the release of Gould. When you have the chance to get a proven stud, you do it and play him until he proves he isn’t a stud.

Sitton’s release may be more of a mystery than Gould’s. Kickers get released all the time but it’s very rare for a stud guard to become available at this point in the season. Add in the fact that cutting Sitton left a dent in the Packers’ locker room and, well, it just doesn’t add up.

Like Gould, Sitton has declined some (as Bob McGinn broke down) but he’s still one of the best in the league. Teams with athletic linebackers were able to take advantage of a relative lack of mobility — we saw Jon Anderson play the game of his life against the Packers on Thanksgiving — but Sitton still finished once he got his hands on the defender.

With Sitton and Long, the Bears have the best guard duo in the league. By midseason, they might have the best interior offensive line in the league. Their tackles should be able to push pass rushers outside every play and it won’t matter because Jay Cutler should be able to step up and deliver, a luxury he’s never had with the Bears.

Growth from White

Deciding which preseason game is the most meaningless is a toss-up, but it was nice seeing Kevin White have success in the fourth preseason game last week.

Preseason success doesn’t mean regular season success will follow but we saw growth, specifically on his 26-yard catch. That catch came on the same route combination we saw a week earlier when White rounded his route off and the ball fell incomplete. This time, he ran a flat route, the throw was on the mark and it was a big play.

All anybody can ask of White at this point is that he learns from his mistakes and keeps improving. This was a small step in the right direction.

Howard Needs Carries

Jordan Howard looks too good to not get some time with the starting offense.

Most of his yards have come playing with and against guys who aren’t on an NFL roster anymore, but he’s shown traits that are worth looking into. I liked Howard before the draft, but I didn’t realize how well he accelerates or how agile he is. I don’t know if he can succeed against starting defenses, but I want to find out and, my guess is, the Bears intend to.

Jacquizz Rodgers was nearly a lock, but that would’ve meant Howard would be inactive every week unless there was an injury because he doesn’t play special teams. The Bears used Rodgers’ roster spot with someone who will pick up the slack on special teams and allow Howard to get at least some carries.

On To Houston

There is a conventional thought that Houston is going to be better this year but, really, how can anyone know?

We don’t know what percentage J.J. Watt is but it’s a safe bet that it’s less than 100. If it’s significantly less than 100 percent, we’ll see a team with a significantly worse defense.

I have never seen Brock Osweiler play and thought he was a starting-caliber quarterback. DeAndre Hopkins is really good, but the rest of their receivers haven’t proven anything and their running game is a mystery.

The first four games of the season are always a crap shoot simply because we don’t know anything about these teams. The Bears can absolutely come out of Houston with a win.

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