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ATM: Does Foles Trade Put Nagy on the Hot Seat?

| March 31st, 2020

When the Chicago Bears traded for Nick Foles, they finally acquired a quarterback who can run their offense. Now, we should get answers about the man coaching it.

Because Foles knows exactly how this offense is supposed to operate.

Prior to the 2019 season, his last 18 games had come with either Andy Reid or Doug Pedersen calling the shots. In the 14 games in which he threw more than 15 passes, he completed nearly 68 percent of them for 3,661 yards, 24 touchdowns, 9 interceptions and a passer rating of 97.2.

Those aren’t regular season MVP numbers, but with the Bears defense, they’d get the job done.

(And it shouldn’t be forgotten that five of those games came in the playoffs, including two against what were considered to be the league’s top defenses in those given seasons.)

Much has been said and written about what Foles did in Philadelphia, but it sure appears as if the Chiefs debated a quarterback change a year earlier. When Alex Smith was injured, Foles came in and threw two touchdowns off the bench to lead the team to a win. Reid wasted no time in naming Foles the starter for the following week and Foles put together an efficient outing for another win. The Chiefs ultimately stuck with their starter, however, as Smith returned and led them to the playoffs again.

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ATM: Don’t Sleep on Jimmy Graham Signing

| March 24th, 2020

Although the Chicago Bears signing Jimmy Graham was largely seen as one of the strangest free agent signings of the early period, don’t be surprised if he makes a big impact. Too many are judging the big tight end on his raw stat line in 2019, without looking at context. Even more people are using lazy narratives. Yes, Graham’s statistics were down. The 38 catches and 447 yards he had in 2019 were both the second-lowest totals of his career. But Graham’s decreased production was more about a lack of opportunity.

Outside of maybe quarterback, no position was more impacted by the scheme change the Packers underwent last year than tight end. TEs have certainly had success in the style of offense Matt LaFleur runs but they’re also asked to block more. If there is one knock on Graham that has followed him his whole career it’s that he’s a horrendous blocker. As a result, he went from playing 74 percent of the snaps in 2018 to 58 percent in 2019. Blocking tight end Marcedes Lewis saw an increase from 18 percent to 45.

Graham caught 63.3 percent of the passes thrown his way in 2019, which is in line with his career average, as was his 11.8 yards per catch.

The narrative that has been spun is that Graham can no longer run.  While he’s certainly not as fast as he was when the New Orleans Saints essentially used him as a wide receiver, he can still get down the field. According to Sharp Football, the Packers had 12 explosive plays from the tight end position, accomplishing them at the eighth-best rate in the league (the Bears were 32nd with one explosive play from the tight end position). Of those 12, Graham had nine and had the ninth-best rate at the position.

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ATM: Bears Picked the Right Linebacker

| March 17th, 2020

It was a simple play.

On third-and-four, Dallas had running back Jamize Olawale sneak out of the backfield. He was open for a first down, very possibly a touchdown. Dak Prescott threw it but Olawale never looked. The play almost worked because Nick Kwiatkoski was late in coverage.

Andy Reid saw that play.

The Chiefs offensive guru ran something very similar two weeks later. On third-and-eight he swung a pass out to Damien Williams. Kwiatkoski late again. Touchdown.

As well as Kwiatkoski played last year, he was always going to have a fatal flaw and good offensive coaches were always going to attack him. That’s why Ryan Pace and the Chicago Bears made the right call in keeping Danny Trevathan instead.

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ATM: Bears 2020 Quarterback Power Rankings

| March 10th, 2020

With the off-season set to begin, and the Chicago Bears seeking veteran competition, here is a ranking of the realistic options. For the sake of this argument, we’re assuming Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Dak Prescott, Cam Newton and Phil Rivers get starting gigs elsewhere.


1. Derek Carr, Raiders

Likely price: 2020 second round pick, three years of $20 million cap hits.

Carr is the best option. It isn’t even close.

While the Raiders haven’t won a lot of games in Carr’s time as the quarterback, they have regularly been in the top half of the league in passing yardage and touchdowns. Carr isn’t Patrick Mahomes, but he’s a good quarterback who may only become available because Jon Gruden’s favorite quarterback is always the one he doesn’t have on the roster.

The Raiders will likely only trade Carr if they’re able to sign someone to replace him.


2. Nick Foles, Jaguars

Likely price: cap hits of $16-$22 million for three years.

There are three very huge selling points with Foles.

  • We know he can win a Super Bowl.
  • He knows the offense and the coaches.
  • Trading for him might bring an asset back.

There is a general thought that if the Jaguars want to trade Foles, they’re going to have to sweeten the pot with a day two draft pick. The downside, of course, is that he’s going to get paid like a starter for at least one year with $12.5 million dead cap after 2020, should the team move on.

Foles’ other big downside is that he has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. He’s definitely better suited to be a high-end backup than a 16-game starter. If he wins the job, could the Bears be confident turning back to Trubisky should Foles be injured?

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ATM: Is Ryan Pace’s Former Crush Marcus Mariota the Right Target?

| March 3rd, 2020

Ryan Pace’s first draft quarterback crush could be the guy who saves his job.

The young GM had been on the job for just a few months and the rumor mill was swirling. The thought was that he wanted to package Jay Cutler with the seventh overall pick for the second pick and the chance to select Marcus Mariota. When asked about the possible trade, Pace didn’t say much. He also didn’t deny it.

The Titans balked and took Mariota. The Bears stayed at seven, took Kevin White and stuck with Cutler for two more years. It’s safe to say they might both have been worse off than if they had just done the deal.

On the surface Mariota doesn’t seem like much of an upgrade over Trubisky.

  • Mariota has a career passer rating of 89.6, averaging 7.5 yards per attempt and throws touchdowns on 4.4 percent of his attempts.
  • Trubisky’s rating sits at 85.8 with 6.7 yards per attempt and a touchdown percentage of 3.8.
  • The Titans have gone 29-32 in Mariota’s starts and their offense exploded in 2019 after he was benched and another former first round disappointment Ryan Tannehill led them to the AFC Championship game.
  • The Bears have gone 23-18 with Trubisky.

But the raw numbers don’t really tell the story of Mariota. Or Trubisky, for that matter.

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ATM: Bears Need Speed

| February 26th, 2020

[Editor’s Note: Andrew and Data have taken on the same subject this week by pure coincidence. Today, Andrew looks at this problem facing the Bears from 30,000 feet. Tomorrow, Data dives deep.]


With the release of Taylor Gabriel last week, the Chicago Bears need to be searching for speed at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week.

The only true receiver on this roster (Cordarrelle Patterson is not a true receiver) who ran the 40 faster than 4.5 seconds is Anthony Miller. His times ranged from the mid-4.4s to low-4.5s at his pro day. Otherwise, the team has Allen Robinson, who ran a 4.6, Javon Wims in the low-to-mid 4.5s and Riley Ridley at close to a 4.6. The successful versions of the offense the Bears are trying to run have always had speed as a crucial component. The Bears don’t have it.

When the Kansas City Chiefs thought they might be without Tyreek Hill (4.29) for at least a part of 2020, they invested a high pick in Mecole Hardman (4.33). Recognizing a general lack of speed, the Philadelphia Eagles traded for DeSean Jackson last year and saw their offense struggle when he was injured.

When the Eagles won the Super Bowl two years ago, they had Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery: three guys who ran sub-4.5 40 times. The Bears have none.

Speed isn’t everything when it comes to receivers, but it certainly has proven to be an important part of Matt Nagy’s offense. It isn’t just about stretching the field and hitting deep passes, the Bears averaged 0.45 more yards per running play when Gabriel was on the field last year.

The 2020 NFL draft is generally thought to be a good place to find whatever kind of receiver a team needs. Some speedsters to keep in mind are Penn St.’s KJ Hamler and Jalen Reagor of TCU, although more names could surface after they blaze the track later this week.

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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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