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ATM: Offensive Improvement Starts Up Front

| September 25th, 2019

One of the most important assessments Ryan Pace made this off-season was that the running backs – and not the offensive line – were to fault for the running game’s struggles in 2018. Through most of three quarters Monday night, he looked dead wrong.

Then one possession clinched the game and provided hope that the offensive line can regain the form it showed in 2018. The Bears had run for just 50 yards. Their defense was tired after forcing yet another turnover. They didn’t just need a score, they needed time.

The guys up front came through.

David Montgomery ran for eight yards on the first play. Four on the next. He looked bottled up on the third play, but was able to find a hole after a cutback for 25. After a pass for eight yards to keep the drive alive on a third-and-five play, the Bears were able to drive to the 20 to get inside the range of an injured Eddy Pineiro who clinched the game with a 38-yard field goal.


Not All Trubisky

While most of the negative attention early in the season has been focused on quarterback Mitch Trubisky, the offensive line had been arguably the worst part of the team through two weeks.

Coach Matt Nagy took a lot of heat for not calling more running plays in Week 1, but the Bears weren’t getting any push. The same was mostly true in Week 2, as the offense averaged 3.8 yards per carry outside of one explosive run.

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ATM: Bears Season Begins Now, and Nagy Needs to Trust Trubisky

| September 18th, 2019

After two wonky games to officially open the NFL season, we’re soon to find out who the 2019 Bears are. That will only happen, however, if the coach starts trusting the QB.

A 1-1 start to the season always seemed likely since – as was well documented throughout last week – nobody wins in Denver in Week 2. (Of course nobody predicted what actually took place down the stretch.) The demise of the team’s defense was greatly exaggerated. Reports of an offensive regression, however, don’t appear to have been aggressively predicted enough.

One of the biggest things to emerge from the win over Denver was Matt Nagy flat out not trusting his quarterback. The Bears had third downs and between two and three yards SIX times in the game and chose to run the ball on four of them. Do coaches who trust their quarterbacks take the ball out of their hands this often? I don’t think so.

It’s not uncommon for teams to run in those situations, but it is odd for them to insist on running it like the Bears did. After the game, Nagy said he intentionally had a conservative game plan in order to keep his defense rested, in the heat and high altitude. Perhaps that helped prevent the collapse until late in the fourth quarter but scoring points would’ve made any incoming collapse less significant.

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ATM: Nagy Must Cure the “Bye Week Blues”

| September 10th, 2019


The more time the Chicago Bears have had to prepare for game day under Matt Nagy, the worse they’ve been.

Last Thursday’s loss dropped the Bears to 0-4 under Matt Nagy when they have had more than eight days to prepare for a game. That stretch dates back to last season’s opener when they fell to Packers 24-23. It also includes includes a post-bye week loss to a bad Miami team led by Brock Osweiler and a post-Thanksgiving loss to a bad New York Giants team.

The only real similarity in all of the losses was inconsistent and sloppy offensive play. While the defense let them down in all three losses last year — allowing more than 30 points twice — the offense wasn’t necessarily sharp either. “Not sharp” would be a generous assessment of last week’s performance.

Why the Bears tend to struggle in these situations is a bit of a mystery. It’s possible that Nagy over-thinks the games. That appeared to be the case Thursday when many of his scripted plays appeared to be designed to trick the defense. That worked a year ago when the Bears marched down the field on their first two possessions against the Packers. But this is a different Packers defense, with six new starters, and they didn’t fall for any of Nagy’s misdirection.

Could the Bears have benefited from preseason action? There is some evidence.. Of the five quarterbacks who didn’t throw a single pass in preseason, four struggled for at least a half. Trubisky and Rodgers were terrible. Jared Goff’s Rams got going offensively, but he struggled individually, finishing with a passer rating of just 69 in a 30-27 win over Carolina.

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ATM: Don’t Be Afraid To Love These Bears

| September 3rd, 2019

It’s natural for a Chicago Bears fan 35 years old or younger to approach this season with apprehension. Because we’ve been here before.

The 2018 Bears were the surprise worst-to-first team in the NFL before making an early exit in the playoffs. And every time that has happened the Bears have gone into the next season with sky-high expectations. Almost every time, they have let down. Just this century, the Bears went into the 2002, 2007, 2011 and 2014 seasons with high expectations, but failed to make the playoffs each time.

But there are plenty of reasons to believe this team won’t take us through the same hell as those much-anticipated teams of the past. Here’s why:

The Quarterbacks

Mitch Trubisky doesn’t have to be an elite quarterback. He’s still better than Jim Miller, Rex Grossman and, possibly, Jay Cutler.

Miller went 11-2 as the Bears starter in 2001 during a 13-3 season in which they had the best defense in the league and won a series of mid-season miracles. (They were subsequently trounced by Philly in the playoffs.)

But Miller was bad. That season he completed just 57.7 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, averaged just 5.8 yards per attempt with a passer rating of 74.9. He was in the bottom 10 pretty much across the board statistically. The next year Miller was actually better statistically, but he was still well below league average and managed to play in just eight games before his career ended.

Perhaps the biggest mistake any Bears team has made came in 2006 when Rex remained Lovie Smith’s quarterback through thick and thin. Grossman threw touchdowns at a high rate, but completed less than 55 percent of his passes, had one of the worst interception rates in the league and was bottom ten in passer rating.

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ATM: 2019’s Five Most Indispensable Bears

| August 26th, 2019

The Bears roster is interesting because it’s incredibly deep at positions like running back, wide receiver and defensive line, but have almost no depth at cornerback, tight end and offensive tackle. Perhaps a trade could be in the works, but it’s much more likely that what we see is what we get. So, here are five players the Bears can’t be without:

Roquan Smith

I thought about using Danny Trevathan here because Trevathan makes the defensive calls — an underrated aspect of any defense — but I have little doubt that Smith could take that over. Smith is so good, I think he’s going to be what Ryan Pace considers a multiplier (players who make those around them better) very soon.

I’ve highlighted issues with depth before so I don’t need to go into it too much. I will say that it was nice to see Joel Iyiegbuniwe making plays last week.


Kyle Fuller

The Bears survived much of two games without Fuller’s counterpart Prince Amukamara last year but Fuller is a different story.

Both of the team’s starting cornerbacks are good, but there were times when Prince looked a step slow and committed some silly penalties down the field. Still, Kevin Toliver II was a noticeable downgrade from him last year, so it would be even more significant should they lose their best corner.

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ATM: If Leonard Can’t, Roquan Can.

| August 21st, 2019

Much has been written about the Bears needing one Georgia product — Leonard Floyd — to break out and complement Khalil Mack in the pass rush department. But if that doesn’t happen, perhaps Roquan Smith can ease the pain. While nothing of actual substance can be gained by watching preseason games, seeing Roquan burst through the line faster than anybody could react for a sack two weeks ago was a nice reminder of what the second-year linebacker is capable of when he’s sent after the quarterback.

Floyd’s lack of pass rush has been disappointing. But his ability to drop back in coverage and move in space is extremely rare for players at his position. His exceptional coverage skills will allow new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano to do what he does best: design creative blitz packages. And Roquan has already proven to be exceptional at finding his way to the quarterback. Smith’s very first NFL play was a sack and he followed with four more, many looking similar to his sack in the preseason against Carolina.

Pagano never had a plethora of great pass rushers in Indianapolis, so he had to get creative. One year Jerrell Freeman had a career-high 5.5 sacks. The next year it was D’Qwell Jackson with four. Smith is a lot better than both of them and had five last year despite a coordinator who has been more conservative upfront than Pagano.

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ATM: Nick Kwiatkoski’s Limitations Leave Bears Lacking Depth Inside

| August 13th, 2019

The first two plays of Thursday’s preseason opener gave Bears fans the full Nick Kwiatkoski experience. On the first play, the fourth-year linebacker pushed an offensive lineman back as he made a tackle near the line of scrimmage.



On the second, he got lost in space and allowed a big gain off of a dump off. He later overran a screen pass for another big gain.



Those plays look all too familiar, as it was Kwiatkoski regularly burned in the loss to Green Bay in the 2018 opener. It took less than one full game for Kwiatkoski to lose his job to Smith, despite the then-rookie missing almost all of the preseason. Ten years ago, Kwiatkoski would’ve been a star, but his failures in coverage make him unplayable against good offenses.

Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith are both among the 20 or so best inside linebackers in the league, with the latter likely cementing himself inside the top five this season. But health has always been an issue with Trevathan and last Thursday’s preseason game showed that the Bears simply can’t be without the veteran.

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

| August 6th, 2019

As I got down to the top of this list, the one thing that really stood out to me was the quality here. The Bears have three players who are without question among the top two or three at their positions. In the three years I’ve done this list, I don’t know that they’ve ever even had one.

The Bears also have four all pros on this list and two other players who are 25 or younger and could easily be all pros this year.


10. Kyle Long, OG

He’s not young anymore but Long is still a mauler when he’s on the field. The Bears have only been able to get about half of their snaps with Long in recent seasons, but they’ve been significantly better when he has played.

9. Danny Trevathan, LB

One of the most underrated players on the Bears. Trevathan sets the tone with his leadership, while also flying around the field. Covers a lot of ground in the passing game and against the run.

8. Allen Robinson

According to the early camp reports, we didn’t see the real A-Rob last year. After an early season ankle injury, Robinson caught 40 passes for 612 yards in his final eight games. Expect to see more this year.

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

| August 5th, 2019

This is the meat of the rosters, players who should see the field quite a bit.


39. Nick Kwiatkoski, LB

Can really be a liability against the pass, but he has good instincts and is a solid special teams player. The Bears could live with him playing on first and second downs if needed.

38.  Jonathan Bullard, DL

Has never even approached his potential, but hasn’t been awful either. Holds his own and you occasionally see his burst but not consistent enough to play on a deep defensive line.

37. Chase Daniel, QB

Great for the locker room and he showed last year the Bears can win with him. He’s not capable of being a starter, but the Bears have had a lot of starting quarterbacks who were worse than Daniel.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Never a truer, sadder statement.]

36. Joel Iyiegbuniwe, LB

Played some special teams last year, but the hope is he can beat out Kwik this year. Didn’t have to play with much discipline in college so the NFL was a big jump. Now it’s time to see if he can play.

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Ranking the Entire Bears Roster: The Relevant Non-Starters (40-59)

| July 30th, 2019

The rankings continue. To read part one of this three-part exercise, CLICK HERE.

Some of these guys will be battling for the final few roster spots, but none — outside specialists — are competing for starting spots.

59. Tyler Bray

There really isn’t a lot to say about Bray. He knows the offense and is good for the QB room. He’s just not good on the field. He’ll get some playing time during preseason, but won’t make the roster.

58. Tanner Gentry, WR

The preseason hero of 2017 has made it on the team the last two years, but this is likely his last stand. Gentry has potential and should get another shot elsewhere should he fail to make the squad.

57. Dax Raymond, TE

The UDFA tight end who everybody seems to like. A good athlete who looks like a natural receiver. He just could make the final cut as the fourth tight end.

56. Cornelius Lucas, OT

Huge dude (6’9″, 328), who has played some in the league. Not an ideal third tackle, but he can play in a pinch.

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