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ATM: The Secret Needs

| February 18th, 2020

Quarterback

Right guard.

Tight end.

Those are the positions that will be talked about until they’re addressed. Cornerback, inside linebacker and safety are positions where the Bears have decisions to make. But those aren’t the only positions the Bears should look to address this offseason.

Here are a few positions that the Bears shouldn’t hesitate to upgrade if they have the opportunity this spring:


Wide Receiver

When the Bears used a fourth round pick on Riley Ridley it was treated as if they were adding to an embarrassment of riches. Less than a year later, it really feels like they need another player there.

Ridley barely played as a rookie, which seemed like it was just a matter of the Bears having too many good players at the position early on. But as Taylor Gabriel suffered two concussions and Anthony Miller/Javon Wims struggled to produce early,  Ridley wasn’t able to replace gain traction.

Gabriel seems likely to be a salary cap casualty, if he’s even able to play again. He’s a good player, but not a good fit for a quarterback with accuracy issues. Wims should’ve been a good fit, but still only caught 46.2 percent of the passes thrown his way, the worst rate on the team. He had a couple solid games, but averaged just three catches a game when he played more than 85 percent of the snaps and had just 10.3 yards per catch with nearly 20 percent of his season total coming on one 37-yard catch.

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ATM: No Easy Solution to Bears TE Problem

| February 11th, 2020


How should the Chicago Bears solve their tight end problem?

Sign Eric Ebron?

Draft Brycen Hopkins?

[Editor’s Note: Sometimes I think Andrew makes up players to trick me and I certainly didn’t think that name, with that spelling, was a real person. Turns out he is!]

Both?

In an ideal world the Bears would know that Trey Burton will be healthy at the start of the 2020 season, with a rookie being groomed to replace him. But the Bears offense is far from an ideal world and they have no idea if Burton will be available and have to plan as if he won’t be.

There isn’t much of a question as to what kind of player Burton is when he’s healthy, but if he can be healthy is anyone’s guess. In the season-ending presser, GM Ryan Pace indicated that he expects Burton to be good to go when the team goes into training camp next year, but they expected that last year too.  And, as Pace also indicated, they won’t leave it up to chance this time around.

Twelve months ago, most people thought the Bears had a backup option in case Burton wasn’t healthy in Adam Shaheen. Now we are certain Shaheen isn’t capable of filling that role and the Bears don’t have another capable option on their roster.

So, now what?

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ATM: Bears Need Defense to Buy Time

| February 5th, 2020

There are two lessons to be learned from the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl victory.

(1)A great quarterback is the ultimate trump card.

(2) Sometimes it takes a while to find that guy.

Kansas City’s start with Andy Reid was similar to Chicago’s with Matt Nagy. Both exceeded expectations with a playoff appearance in the first year then disappointed the next year. Through two seasons, Andy Reid was 20-12 with Kansas City, the same mark Nagy has with the Bears.

What followed for Kansas City was a number of seasons in which they were quasi-contenders with records of 11-5 and 12-4, thanks largely to their top-10 defense.

While Reid was trying to get whatever he could out of the offense, their defense ranked fifth, second, third and seventh in points allowed his first four years. They were also top 10 in yardage two of those seasons and top 10 in takeaways three times. Even in 2017, when KC’s defense dropped to 15th in scoring and 28th in yards allowed, they were seventh in takeaways and eighth in takeaways in 2018 as their offense exploded.

While much of the focus is on fixing the Bears offense, the reality is their defense is still the key to winning in 2020 and they must buy more time for the offense to get right.

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Super Bowl Preview: Mahomes is Ready to Take Over the NFL

| January 28th, 2020

Patrick Mahomes didn’t even have to sweat.

The 2019 version of the Chicago Bears defense was very good. Not as good as the team’s 2018 defense, but certainly among the better units in the league. They had, for the most part, shut Aaron Rodgers down a week before, but Mahomes was different.

The stat line wasn’t amazing. Mahomes completed 23-of-33 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for another score. It was as ho-hum as three-touchdown games get. But the numbers don’t tell the entire story.

The Bears defense didn’t play poorly.

It was among Khalil Mack’s better efforts, turning Kansas City’s offensive tackles inside out numerous times.

It didn’t matter.

Mahomes was able to step up, move to his right or his left and use different arm angles to deliver passes right on the money. Wide receivers that shouldn’t have been open were because Mahomes can make throws no other quarterback thinks about. Mahomes is just better than any quarterback we’ve ever seen.

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ATM: Signs Point to Bears Betting on Trubisky

| January 21st, 2020

John DeFilippo wouldn’t have signed on to be the Chicago Bears quarterbacks coach if he didn’t know who his pupil would be and he didn’t think he could get that player to play at a high level.

Flip wouldn’t have had trouble finding a different job than the one he ended up taking and, according to Adam Jahns on the Hoge & Jahns Podcast, he did have other options.

But he didn’t take them. He signed on to coach Mitch Trubisky and any other quarterback they might add.

There were two schools of thought when Flip was announced as the team’s new quarterbacks coach.

1. The Bears were beefing up their coaching staff as much as possible for Mitch Trubisky

2. The Bears were going to use the knowledge of Flip and new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor to judge possible additions to the position.

While fans debated which thought process was right, both are probably true to an extent. But it certainly seems as if the Bears want to make Trubisky work before they go to the next option.

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ATM: Titans Give Reason For Hope, If Pace Is Willing to Admit Mistake

| January 14th, 2020

Purgatory.

The team had just finished a season in which they finished third in their division, with the 27th-best scoring offense and third best defense. Against all odds, they had made the playoffs the year before, but they were stuck.

The young coach seemed like a great leader. The defensive coordinator had his unit set. The offensive play caller was dialing up winners. But they weren’t winning because the No. 2 overall pick quarterback simply could not execute the offense.

There were no easy answers.

Now that team is one win away from going to the Super Bowl.

Most of that probably sounds very familiar because the 2019 Tennessee Titans entered the season in the same spot as the 2020 Chicago Bears. But the Titans weren’t afraid to do exactly what the Bears have to do. They sat Marcus Mariota on the bench.

Through six games, the Titans were averaging 16.3 points and 307 yards per game, but they finished the season 10th in the league scoring 25.1 points 12th averaging 363 yards per game.

And the only major change they made was the quarterback.

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ATM: Adding Castillo, Shurmur Would Allow Nagy to Get Back to the Basics of the Offense

| January 9th, 2020


Perhaps the Chicago Bears offense failing to achieve the Version 2.0 Matt Nagy promised before the season was because he had too many people to teach.

Early in Nagy’s tenure, before the first training camp practice, he regularly brought up the fact that it wasn’t just the players who had to learn the offense, but the coaches. Now with Juan Castillo as his offensive line coach and (reportedly, by DBB) Pat Shurmur as the offensive coordinator, Nagy has filled his staff with some of this offense’s finest teachers.

Mark Helfrich and Harry Hiestand are probably very good coaches, but neither was well-versed in what’s commonly known as “The Andy Reid Philosophy”. More to the point, both were hired specifically to bring outside elements to the offense -Helfrich the RPO game and Hiestand the power running. Neither worked out.

For Nagy, the best thing to do was to get back to the offense, to the basics. Whether the team intends on running version 1.0, 2.0 or jumping to 3.0 next season, they now have an offensive coordinator and line coach who have proven track records in accomplishing whatever version is required.

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ATM: Make Teddy A Bear 

| December 31st, 2019

Debate all day if you’d like, but the problem the Chicago Bears have had offensively the last two seasons boils down to one position: quarterback.

It’s time to fix that and, at the very least, find a way to get consistency out of that position by signing Teddy Bridgewater.

The bottom line with Mitch Trubisky is that he either doesn’t have (a) the football intelligence or (b) the instincts to play the position. Whether it’s a dump off on fourth-and-long, taking bad sacks or — his favorite — refusing to throw the ball away, Trubisky didn’t get the job done in 2019 and there’s little reason to think he will in 2020.

Where Trubisky struggles, Bridgewater excels. He’s smart and decisive with the ball, delivering accurate passes on all levels — completing 47.8 percent of his passes beyond 15 yards, while Trubisky sat at 38.4. (While Bridgewater had a passer rating of 90.8 on deep passes, it would’ve been higher had Ted Ginn not dropped what ended up being an interception.) Meanwhile, six of Trubisky’s interceptions came on deep passes.

Bridgewater went through his early struggles in Minnesota, but even then he was better than Trubisky was last year. And there’s reason to think he is even better now after spending two years with Drew Brees and Sean Payton.

The idea that Bridgewater was just a cog in the Saints offense isn’t reality. The team had plenty of struggles around him, including dropping 8.6% of his pass attempts, a mark that would’ve led the league by a wide margin if he had enough attempts to qualify. He was also hurried, hit or sacked on 19.5% of his drop backs – not much different than the pressure Trubisky faced.

Yet, the Saints kept moving the ball and the more Bridgewater played, the better he was.

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ATM: Bears Offense Close to Breaking Out (If the Quarterback Stops Breaking Down)

| December 17th, 2019


Here is a story about two coaches, in identical circumstances.

Coach A has gone 4-20 and his pathetic offense averaged 19 points per game.

Coach B, however, has had a lot more success. His team has gone 17-5 and his offense has averaged nearly 31 points per game.

Coach B is clearly better than Coach A. Or, at least, he would be, if they weren’t the same person.

That is the story of Kyle Shanahan’s career with the 49ers when he’s had Jimmy Garoppolo and when he has not. Nobody is going to argue that Jimmy G. is a franchise quarterback or one of the best in the league. He’s solid. He’s consistent. He does his job.

The argument can be that every other quarterback Shanahan has had in San Francisco has been bad. It can also be argued that Shanahan’s offense is relatively simple and helps the quarterback out with the running game.

Those arguments are valid, but doesn’t change the simple fact that without adequate quarterback play, Shanahan doesn’t look like a genius and with it, he might be best play caller in the league. You can go throughout the young coach’s career and you’ll find that to be the case.  In fact, you can go through most coach’s careers and find that to be the case.

New flash: The quarterback really matters.

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ATM: Improved Line Play Key to Bears Finish

| December 10th, 2019

The Chicago Bears will go only as far as Mitch Trubisky takes them, but they need the offensive line to hold up so they can see exactly what the quarterback can do.

The line play has ranged from awful to mediocre until the last two games when we’ve seen holes opening up. It certainly appears that the unit is beginning to come together, which will be important for both the immediate and longterm future of the club.

Trubisky earned all the headlines after his dynamic performance against Dallas, but lost in the shuffle was the dominant performance by the offensive line. They didn’t just get the better of one of the best defensive lines in the league. They bullied them in what was unquestionably the best performance the Bears blockers have had all year — and maybe in several seasons.

That was the second straight game in which the Bears controlled the line of scrimmage. Trubisky was hurried just six times and hit once on Thanksgiving, according to Pro-Football-Reference, as the Bears also gave their runners 40 yards before contact on 23 attempts. Compare that to a week earlier when Bears rushers had just 25 yards before contact on 26 attempts. (The advanced data for the Cowboys game won’t be available until Wednesday.)

The difference was seen in Trubisky too. While he wasn’t pressured that much against the Giants, it was enough to throw him off as he had 10 of what PFR deems to be bad throws, compared to just four against Detroit and four against Dallas.

The Green Bay Packers know how much pressure impacts Trubisky and they blitzed him 17 times in Week One. They got home a fair amount, sacking him five times, hitting him five more, and hurrying him seven times.

Trubisky was bad that game, but he didn’t have much of a chance to be good.

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