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ATM: 5 Reasons To Think Defense Will Still Be Great in ’19

| June 11th, 2019

All offseason we’ve heard about how the Chicago Bears defense is going to drop off in 2019. But there are plenty of reasons to think that won’t happen. Here are five.


#5. Great Defenses Tend to Stay at Least Really Good

Even if there is a drop off, it isn’t likely to be enough to thwart the Bears season.

Look back to 2012 and you’ll find Seattle ranking in the top five in DVOA for five consecutive seasons, including two first-place finishes, despite having three different defensive coordinators. They led the league in scoring defense four straight years before finishing third in 2016.

Then there’s Denver, which went from fourth in 2014 to first in 2015 and 2016 with two different defensive coordinators.

You know what both of those defenses had in common with the 2018/19 Bears? Really good players. If something were to happen where the Bears wouldn’t have really good players, maybe there would be a drop off, but there’s no reason to think that will be the case.


#4. They Might Have More Talent

My favorite tidbit that came from The Bears 100 celebration was the quotes of Josh Lucas, the team’s director of player personnel. Specifically, it was what Lucas said about new safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in comparison with the guy he replaced. From Mark Potash of the Sun-Times:

“The way Ha Ha fell to us was just complete icing on the cake,” Lucas said. “For Ha Ha to want to be a part of us, and sign the deal he signed … and we’re not saying this now because he’s here and Amos is in Green Bay. We have consistently graded Ha Ha as a better player than Amos for four years. For that to happen really solidified the pro side of it.”

There certainly is also reason to believe the team feels it upgraded with Buster Skrine over Bryce Callahan, especially considering the time Callahan tends to miss.

(And don’t think it’s just the Bears who don’t think Amos is all that great. The Broncos, now headed by former Bears Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell, chose to sign Kareem Jackson to play safety instead of Amos.)


#3. Chuck Has a Strong Rep

Using the failures of the Indianapolis Colts against Chuck Pagano is like using Wade Phillips’ multiple head-coaching failures against him. Some guys are just meant to coach defense and Pagano is one of them. This will be just Pagano’s second season as a defensive coordinator, but since the start of 2000, he has as many seasons coordinating the league’s top DVOA defense as Vic Fangio does.

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ATM: North Might Be Tighter, But Bears Are Still Best

| June 4th, 2019

There is little question that at least a couple of other teams in the NFC North are better than they were a year ago, but the Bears were so much better than the field it doesn’t seem likely the gap isn’t still significant. In addition to having four more wins than any other NFC North team last year, the Bears outscored their divisional opponents 153-109. That’s a differential of 44 points, meaning a +7.3 point average in divisional contests.

While the Lions and Packers made significant additions via free agency and, presumably, through the draft, they were so far behind the top two teams. The Lions were outscored by the other three teams 131-118, while the Packers were outscored 162-110. In fact, the Packers needed late field goals to avoid three double-digit losses and were handled by the Lions, twice.

Of course, the 2018 Bears were a great example of going worst-to-first, losing every divisional game in 2017, with most of them not being particularly close. But the Bears spent most of the 2017 season with a rookie quarterback and made more significant roster additions than any of the NFC North teams,

Here’s a quick look at the division.


Minnesota Vikings

Best Addition: Irv Smith Jr. The Vikings have some really good offensive players, but they reminded me of the 2014 Bears, who were basically playing 10-on-11 offensively without a decent second tight end or third receiver. Smith gives them another weapon, who should allow them to play big and run the ball.

Biggest Loss: Sheldon Richardson. Playing on a one-year deal, Richardson was second on the team with 20.5 combined quarterback hits and sacks last year.

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Lists, Lists and More Stupid Lists: An ATM Special Report

| May 29th, 2019

Last week we reached the part of the offseason where various media members began releasing lists ranking random NFL players, executives and pretty much anything else they can think of with the hope that it will create conversation amongst the fan bases.

While the number of lists released are too numerous to count, there were three that I found particularly interesting.


Bears Top 100

I’m not sure anybody alive is actually qualified to rank the 100 best players in the history of the Chicago Bears, but Dan Pompei and Don Pierson are as close as it gets.

I have nothing to add to players who retired before I was born and very little to say about the 1980s greats of whom I saw very little. But it still seems odd to me that Brian Urlacher wasn’t higher on the list.

Urlacher was a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection, whereas Richard Dent was really more of an afterthought and Jimbo Covert isn’t in at all — and doesn’t seem likely to get in. Yet both Dent and Covert ranked higher than Urlacher.

I’m cool with Devin Hester being second among the 2000s Bears, but Charles Tillman should’ve been ahead of Lance Briggs. Briggs was more recognized because he was Urlacher’s battery mate, but Tillman was the better player.

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ATM: Kerrith Whyte Could Be Sleeper of ’19 Draft Class.

| May 22nd, 2019

Matt Nagy’s eyes lit up when he described a play made by his rookie running back. “The quarterback looked at me and said ‘that’s a running back,’” Nagy said. “I said, ‘I know.’” The back wasn’t top pick David Montgomery. It was seventh-rounder Kerrith Whyte Jr. And he may be more ready to play now in the NFL than expected.

Most of the highlights of the seventh rounder are of him breaking long runs or kickoffs. But there was more to his game than that. “We did a lot of catching and route-running, stuff like that,” Whyte told the Bears team website.



“I think they’ll really like what he can do in the passing game, jet sweeps, motion, different stuff like that,” Whyte’s college coach and former NFL coach Lane Kiffin told 670 The Score. Whyte showed really good vision at times and, once he sees daylight, it’s over. You can see his 4.3-speed kick into gear and nobody can catch him.



While he wasn’t a starter in college at Florida Atlantic University, Whyte averaged 6.5 yards per carry (starting running back and third-round pick Devin Singletary averaged 5.2 yards per carry), rushing for 866 yards. He totaled 1,026 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns.

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ATM: Bears Building Roster To Suit Trubisky’s Strengths

| May 14th, 2019

Too often building around a quarterback and building around a quarterback’s strengths are confused. When the Bears first acquired Jay Cutler, they thought deep threats were the best way to build around the strong-armed passer, without realizing throwing deep passes wasn’t necessarily his strength. The same is true for Mitch Trubisky who was one of the worst deep passers in the league last year, but one of the best on shorter completions.

The drafting of Riley Ridley was an example of the Bears trying to play to the strengths of their quarterback.

Ridley doesn’t have the speed to consistently blow by defenders, but he is considered an excellent route runner, which should help him get open on underneath passes. He also has a big frame to win the so-called 50/50 balls. Ridley adds to bigger targets that include Allen Robinson and Javon Wims as the Bears look to eat up the middle of the field while still being able to beat defenses over the top, on occasion.



Of quarterbacks with 50 or more attempts, Trubisky is ranked 27th with a passer rating of 61.9 on passes traveling 15 or more yards down the field, according to Pro-Football-Reference. He ranked slightly better than Blake Bortles and worse than quarterbacks like Josh Rosen, Case Keenum, Sam Darnold and Alex Smith.

But Trubisky was elite on short passes.

He had a passer rating of 107 on passes that traveled less than 15 yards in the air – fifth among quarterbacks with 50 or more attempts, behind only Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz and Patrick Mahomes.

Despite clearly being better on short passes, 22 percent of Trubisky’s attempts were 15 or more yards down the field. For comparison sake, the very best quarterback at throwing deep — Russell Wilson (131.8 rating) — had just about 21.5 percent of his passes travel that far. The second best — Drew Brees (125.5) — had just 17 percent of his passes go that far down the field. Heck, even the cannon-armed Patrick Mahomes came in with just 21.4 percent of his passes going 15 or more yards down the field.

So, what gives?

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Debating the ‘Value’ Of David Montgomery

| May 7th, 2019

Shortly after the 2019 NFL Draft, the Ryan Pace detractors were at it again, claiming the Bears GM “wasted” a pick by trading up to grab Iowa State running back David Montgomery.

The attacks, made by noted Pace-hater Bill Barnwell (among others), are more about Pace’s selection philosophy than his actual selections. Writers often like to live in a dream world where draft picks are more valuable than actually having quality players. Oh, and none of those picks should be used on a running back!

GMs live in the real world. They realize they have to acquire good players and can’t sit back and wait for life to happen to them. That is part of the reason why Phil Emery is a scout for the Falcons, not GM of the Bears. Of course, we shouldn’t expect Barnwell to understand that.

The case of Montgomery was especially delicious to critics because a running back many of them liked more — Alabama’s Damien Harris — went with Chicago’s original pick, 87 overall, to the New England Patriots. Why move up 14 spots to draft a worse player? Well, it’s pretty simple really: they liked Montgomery more. A lot more.

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ATM: Top Picks Made With Super Bowl In Mind

| May 1st, 2019

In years past, Ryan Pace drafted relatively raw players like Jonathan Bullard, Adam Shaheen, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, James Daniels and, of course, Mitch Trubisky early. He seemed to prefer potential over immediate production. The 2019 Draft was a stark contrast. With their first two picks — and only two in the first five rounds — the Bears drafted RB David Montgomery and WR Riley Ridley, players who should be ready to make an impact right away. This is a team ready to compete for a Super Bowl and in order to achieve that goal they’ll need everybody on the roster ready to play.

Neither Montgomery nor Ridley were necessarily explosive game breakers in college and surely won’t be in the NFL — both struggled to break 4.6 in the 40-yard dash — but they’re polished players. They both seem to have a natural feel for the game that should help them make an impact right away.

There is no question that third-round pick Montgomery has the body and all-around skill set to play in the NFL. While he may lack the explosiveness of the league’s elite backs, at 5’10”, 220 pounds, the Iowa State product is built for the NFL punishment. And he showed polish as a receiver in college, with solid route-running and soft hands.



A year ago the Atlanta Falcons draft Calvin Ridley to replace Taylor Gabriel, a free agent signing with your Chicago Bears. Now, somewhat ironically, the Bears may have drafted Calvin’s brother to do the same. Ridley likely won’t replace Gabriel as a rookie, but he shouldn’t have a problem winning the fourth receiver job and could move into a starting role sooner than later. (Anthony Miller should replace Gabriel in the Zebra role by 2020.)

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ATM: Don’t Let The Bears Surprise You

| April 23rd, 2019

If there’s one thing Ryan Pace has done consistently during his time with the Bears it’s draft with the big picture in mind, often surprising fans with his selections.

It’s also been clear that Pace doesn’t always see the team’s needs the same way as fans and media members do.

• In 2015, Pace used the seventh pick on Kevin White after signing Eddie Royal to a big contract and already having Alshon Jeffery onboard. Later in that draft he took Jeremy Langford with Matt Forte coming off of a career year.

• In 2016, Pace traded up for Leonard Floyd despite having Pernell McPhee, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young. Later he took Cody Whitehair, a move that led to the release of fan-favorite Matt Slauson. He then drafted Nick Kwiatkoski despite having just signed Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman.

• In 2017, Pace took Mitch Trubisky shortly after signing Mike Glennon, grabbed Adam Shahen after signing Dion Sims and took Tarik Cohen after Jordan Howard’s breakout rookie season.

• In 2018, Pace drafted Roquan Smith despite still having Trevathan and Kwiatkowski, then grabbed yet another inside linebacker, Joel Iyiegbuniwe. He later traded up to take Anthony Miller after signing Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel then took Javon Wims in the seventh round.

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ATM: Placement of Cowboys, Saints Games Could Be Crucial

| April 16th, 2019

The strength of the teams on the schedule is always hard to predict. But if the teams are as good — or close to as good — as most expect, the placement of three home games could ultimately be important for the Bears.

While “Bear weather” is kind of a silly term, there is truth to the fact that a lot of warm weather teams just don’t handle the cold and windy weather that tends to hit Chicago late in the season. At least part of the reason the Bears were able to thoroughly handle the Rams last year is because they didn’t want to be there. And who could forget the Josh McCown game against the Cowboys in 2013 or Michael Vick desperate to be ANYWHERE else in mid-aughts?

This year, three of the Bears five non-division home games are against warm weather teams: the LA Chargers, New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys. The last two could significantly impact playoff seeding.

Drew Brees’ struggles in cold weather have been well-chronicled and there’s no real reason to think that won’t continue as he ages. Shoulder issues early in his career impacted his arm strength and sometimes he struggles in just a brisk wind. That game won’t even have to be in prime time to impact Brees, as long as it isn’t in September. The splits will tell you that Phil Rivers and Dak Prescott actually play well in cold weather, but those don’t define cold adequately. Prescott has thrown nine touchdowns and zero interceptions in sub-40 degree weather over the last two years while Rivers has a career record of 8-4.

But who in Chicago considers 40 degrees to be cold? That would be a wonderful November or December night in this part of the country. Take warm weather players — not just quarterbacks — and put them in wind chills below zero and they’re going to struggle just to breath, much less play football.

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Across The Middle: Bears Receiver Depth Should Be A Concern

| April 9th, 2019

The Bears seem to like their wide receivers right now, but that shouldn’t stop them from looking hard at the position in the draft later this month.

The top three of Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller and Taylor Gabriel appear to be set, but there are a bunch of question marks after that, for both 2019 and the future. Assuming Robinson is better another year removed from knee surgery and Miller takes a step as second-year receivers tend to do, the team’s top three receivers are really quite good. Unless, of course, someone were to get injured, which tends to happen in the NFL.

Both Robinson and Miller missed some time last year and the result was Josh Bellamy playing 321 snaps and Kevin White getting an additional 170. While White’s snaps and position are going to be easily replaced by free agent signee Cordarrelle Patterson, fans shouldn’t underestimate the loss of Bellamy.

Ideally, Bellamy would be replaced by Javon Wims, but Wims is anything but proven.

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