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ATM: Bears Need Roquan Smith On the Field Right Now

| August 15th, 2018

The Bears will need Roquan Smith against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

Finally the camp-long nightmare has come to an end. The eighth overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft has signed his contract with the Bears after a nearly 30-day holdout. Missing nearly all of training camp would typically be enough to rule out a rookie from making an impact in Week One, but don’t be surprised if that’s not the case on the evening of September 9th. While the situation has been far from ideal, a player of Smith’s caliber and skill set should still figure into the Bears’ immediate plans.

Rodgers’ ability to move and make pinpoint throws in the middle of the field make having an athletic inside linebacker a must. It’s why Rodgers calls Brian Urlacher the best defender he ever faced, it’s why Smith was the pick and it’s why they double-dipped taking Joel Iyiegubuniwe in the fourth round.

The plan was for Smith to start Week One. That should still be in play but it’s hard to see the team giving the rookie the nod over Nick Kwiatkoski after the third-year linebacker has, by most accounts, played well in camp. It was to the point that the Bears didn’t even play Kwiatkoski in the first preseason game and he saw very limited action in the second. A bigger issue is that they can’t sell the first few weeks of camp as actually being important if a guy who has never played in the NFL doesn’t need them to be ready to face Rodgers.

Regardless of how well he has played in practice, Kwiatkoski has significant flaws. While many have pointed to his training camp interceptions, anyone who has spent too much time watching camp clips on Twitter has also seen several times in which the Bears got the better of Kwiatkoski. They’ve attacked him in practice, just as opposing teams did in games last year. The Bears actually took him off the field on passing downs in favor of Christian Jones late in the season. Maybe Kwiatkoski has improved in coverage, but it’s unlikely he’s going to cease being a liability there and Roquan figures to be among the elite coverage backers in the entire league.

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ATM: Javon Wims & the Annual Romance With Camp Receivers

| August 8th, 2018

[Administrative Note: This is not the first time DBB has ventured down this road, with one of our most famous columns being the aptly-titled “The Joe Anderson Boner”. It’s a nice read to set the stage for today’s piece from Andrew.]


“He’s special.”

                                                      -Some guy on Twitter, re: Javon Wims

I could hardly believe it when someone on Twitter sent those words to @DaBearsBlog about any player during the fourth quarter of the Hall of Fame game. But there it was. And Javon Wims, in that moment, became a camp darling. Some proclaimed Wims a seventh-round steal. Others actually said they’d rather have him than Kevin White, now and for the foreseeable future. Adam Hoge and Adam Jahns praised Wims on their weekly podcast and openly wondered if White should make the team.

Let’s rewind a bit.

• First of all, Wims dropped to the seventh round for a reason. I took a look at the ten receivers who were drafted before him and only two had fewer collegiate receptions and none posted worse athletic scores. He was praised as the leading receiver on one of the best teams in the nation but he only caught 47 passes.

• Secondly, he wasn’t having a good camp. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying to you or they don’t know what they’re watching. Don’t believe me? According to Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times, wide receivers coach Mike Furrey said Wims had “struggled for a couple weeks.”

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ATM: White and Miller Could Make Bears Attack Very Different

| August 1st, 2018

Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy have tried to build the 2018 Chicago Bears offense to be like those Nagy’s mentor Andy Reid had success with in the past. But they may have stumbled into something very different and entirely more fascinating. If Kevin White and Anthony Miller are both able to continue to play at the level they have in the early days of training camp, the Bears won’t have a choice but to put both on the field. That could change the entire offense.

While generally thought of as an offense that spreads the ball around, that hasn’t really been the case. In five years, Reid’s Chiefs have averaged:

  • 19.6% of their targets to the top receiver
  • 18% to the pass-catching tight end
  • 16.9% to running backs

Those numbers mostly held up with Doug Pederson in Philadelphia. His Eagles averaged:

  • 20.5% of their targets to the top receiver
  • 18.6% to the pass-catching tight end
  • 15% to running backs

Where it gets interesting, however, is when you look at the other positions. There you will find very little consistency.

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Ranking the Entire Bears Roster: Top of the Heap (1-10)

| July 26th, 2018

As I got down this list and into the top ten, it struck me that the only player Ryan Pace isn’t responsible for bringing in is Kyle Long. Not only has Pace turned nearly the entire roster over, but he’s brought in almost all of their best players in a short amount of time. And what’s different this year is that some of their best players are actually among the best in the league.

The list.

10. Eddie Jackson, S

This is largely a bet on upside. Had he not gotten injured in his final season at Alabama, Jackson would’ve been drafted a lot higher than he was. He has shown the ability to find the ball early in his NFL career and I’m guessing that he’s only going to get better.

9. Roquan Smith, LB

A bit high before he’s had an official NFL practice? Maybe. But Smith is the perfect linebacker for today’s game: fast, heady and packs a punch.

8. Leonard Floyd, Edge

Floyd has shown the ability to dominate when he’s on his game. We just haven’t seen enough of that. I have a hunch that he’s going to breakout this year.

7. Kyle Long, OG

It’s been a few years since Long has actually played at an elite level, but he says he’s ready to go and healthier than he’s been in a long time. If he stays healthy, there’s no reason to think he won’t be great again.

6. Danny Trevathan, LB

It was lost in a little bit of controversy but Trevathan had a great year last year. He isn’t great in any one area, but does a lot of things at a very high level.

5. Tarik Cohen, RB

One of the most explosive players in the NFL, Cohen is playing in an offense that should really play to his strengths. Don’t be shocked if he tallies close to 2,000 all-purpose yards.

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Ranking the Entire Bears Roster: Key Contributors (11-39)

| July 25th, 2018

Here are players I expect to play quite a bit on offense, defense and/or special teams:

39. Kylie Fitts, Edge

Very athletic player who the Bears think can help them off the edge immediately. Needs to develop pass rush moves, but sky is the limit.

38. Marcus Cooper, CB

Okay early last season, but showed a complete lack of focus when forced to play off bench.

37. Bilal Nichols, DT

Rookie from Delaware who should fill in as a backup immediately. Can play all three positions along the defensive line.

36. Benny Cunningham, RB

Cunningham is great on screens and is a really good special teams player. I’d like to see him get more kick returns this year so Tarik Cohen can be more involved in the offense.

35. Joel Iyiegbuniwe, LB

Should be a starter in a year or two. Special teams standout right away. (I’m pretty sure I spelled his last name right.)

34. Roy Robertson-Harris, DL

A make-or-break year for RRH. Has great length and showed flashes last year. Didn’t hold up well against the run, but could be a decent pass rusher.

33. Deon Bush, S

Showed flashes as a rookie, but was MIA last year. Drew praise in offseason workouts and has reportedly had a good camp so far. (Four days.)

32. Nick Kwiatkoski, LB

Had made some big plays as a blitzer and has good instincts against the run. Seems to get lost in coverage, which is why the Bears spent a top 10 pick on his replacement.

31. Aaron Lynch, Edge

Got lost in San Francisco, but has decent potential as a second edge rusher, opposite Lenny Floyd.

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Ranking the Entire Bears Roster: Bottom of the Fifty-Three (40-59)

| July 19th, 2018

Most of the guys battling at the bottom of the roster either played for the Bears or another team in recent seasons. They have talent and have stuck in the league for a reason. Outside of the specialists, however, none are ideal starters.

59. Jonathan Anderson, LB

It’s kind of weird that the team lists Anderson as an outside linebacker. Was a college safety who has played inside up to this point in his career. Solid special teamer.

58. Marlon Brown, WR

The Bears love their Georgia guys. Brown is 6’4” — listed at 6’5” for some reason — but hasn’t been able to find a job in the NFL. He caught 49 passes as a rookie with the Ravens in 2013, but hasn’t caught a pass since 2015.

57. Cre’von LeBlanc, CB

LeBlanc can do some good things, but his shortcomings have hurt the Bears too many times the last two years.

56. John Timu, ILB

Ten years ago, Timu would’ve been a stud. He has great size and instincts, but his lack of speed and athleticism has killed him in pass defense.

55. Kasim Edebali, ILB

28-year-old who spent most of his career with the Saints. Had five sacks in 2015, but hasn’t done much since. Played for the Broncos and Lions last year, appearing in 13 games with one tackle.

54. Hroniss Grasu, C

Might be Ryan Pace’s worst draft pick. No single player more negatively affected the Bears run offense last year.

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Ranking The Entire Bears Roster: The Long and Longish Shots (60-90)

| July 18th, 2018

The Bears report to training camp this week with a large number of guys you probably don’t need to know.

This is my third year ranking the entire roster and the bottom of the roster is as much of a guess as it’s ever been. There are very few known names, as the team brings in a great many high-upside UDFAs to replace roster spots formerly used for vets like Rueben Randle and Taylor Boggs. What that tells me is that the Bears are more confident in who their final 53 is going to be so they’re more willing to take risks.

It’s entirely possible that one of the guys listed below becomes a player at some point, even if it isn’t this year. It’s also possible — and far more likely — they’ll be out of the league by this time next year.

Because I know you don’t want to research every player, I went ahead and did it for you. You’re welcome.

90. Colin Thompson, TE

Second-year player from Temple couldn’t break five seconds in the 40 coming out. How many tight ends who are that slow succeed?

89. Josh Woods, LB

Listed as a linebacker, Woods weighed just 211 pounds at his Maryland Pro Day and ran the 40 in 4.66. He earned a trip to camp after trying out after the draft, but this is likely as far as he’ll get.

88. Jeremi Hall, OG

Kind of an interesting signing for an offensive line that values athleticism. The Bears list Hall at 340 pounds, but he weighed in at 307 in March and really isn’t a good athlete.

87. Brandon Greene, OG

Second-year player from Alabama. Lengthy (6’5″, 295 pounds) and not very athletic. How’s that for a breakdown?

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The Most Important Bears: Offense

| July 11th, 2018

Unlike the defense, the Bears offense is going to feature a bunch of new players expected to fill big roles. Nearly half of the club’s Week 17 starters are being replaced, some by high-profile acquisitions. But it’s the returning soldiers who figure to be essential to the team’s success this coming season.

Before getting into the list, the name you won’t see here is Tarik Cohen. Cohen is a very talented player and one they’re sure to use 12-to-15 times a game. He’s going to make big plays but the offense isn’t going to be dependent on his skill set. The guys you will see on this list are guys who are going to be more crucial to the functionality of the offense.


5. Jordan Howard

Johnathan Wood did a great job breaking down the Bears running back duo a couple of weeks ago and two of the biggest takeaways were:

  • Kansas City ran between the tackles a lot more than the Bears did last year.
  • Howard was terrific running between the tackles.

There is a general thought the Bears are going to be more pass-oriented in 2018 and that may very well be true. But they’re also going to have to run the ball effectively. Historically, Andy Reid’s offenses have always struggled when they failed to move the ball on the ground.

The other issue is that the Bears don’t have a true backup for Howard. Cohen is a different kind of player and not one they really want carrying the ball 20 times a game. Benny Cunningham has carried the ball a total of 30 times the last two seasons.

It’s been popular to say Howard is overrated, but before he came into the lineup in 2016, the Bears couldn’t run the ball and there’s no real reason to think they could without him two years later.


4. Trey Burton

Making a player with just 63 career catches one of the five highest-paid tight ends in the league doesn’t make much sense unless the team knows they need his skill set. Matt Nagy made it known the Bears absolutely needed a player like Burton. Now that they have him, they absolutely need him to be good.

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The Most Important Bears: Defense

| July 3rd, 2018


Returning most of their defensive roster, the common thought is the Bears are going to take a big step up next year. That’s only true if their key players stay on the field and improve.

As badly as the Bears were hurt by injury last season, they managed to keep most of their key defensive players on the field. They had injuries to players like Quintin Demps and Jerrell Freeman, but those are two positions at which they proved to have great depth.

Three of their four starters in the secondary played at least 80% of snaps, the fourth was Adrian Amos, who played every snap in eight games. Their best defensive lineman played 85% of snaps. Their best linebacker came in at 67.4%.

The biggest injury loss last year came when Leonard Floyd went down, but they were fortunate it happened toward the end of their schedule when they played several horrendous teams.

A repeat of last year’s success is far from a guarantee, but it’s also possible they take a huge step up. In any event, these five players just might be the most crucial:


5. Bryce Callahan

In the modern NFL, the slot corner is basically a starter. Callahan played just under 50% of the team’s snaps and they missed him when he wasn’t out there.

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Who Could Be The 2018 Breakout Bears: Offense

| June 27th, 2018

The revamped and retooled Chicago Bears offense certainly has a fair amount of buzz surrounding it, but some of the “breakout” players just may be guys who were already on the roster. Yes, the team spent a lot of money and some prime draft assets on the offensive side of the ball and those players are largely expected to carry the load. But an entire offense can’t be built in one off-season. They’ll need some of last year’s players to step up. There certainly aren’t a lot of options to pick from, but the players and coaches the Bears added could help some of the returning talent take the next step.


Charles Leno Jr.

The hiring of Harry Hiestand created a lot of hype around a few different players, but the young left tackle may benefit more than anyone. Leno has already become a good starting tackle, steadily improving each year, and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue and even be accelerated under the tutelage of one of the sport’s best OL minds.

While he was a late round pick, Leno is a very talented player and less than a year older then Cody Whitehair. The superior coaching he is going to get from here on really could make him one of the ten best left tackles in the league. If that happens, you can expect the Bears to have one of the best offensive lines in the league.


Kevin White

I know, I know, you’re sick of Kevin White. But what if Ryan Pace was right when he made White the seventh overall pick in 2015?

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