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ATM: Bears Have Fantasy Relevance

| August 29th, 2018

[Editor’s note: Yep, allowing a fantasy column.]

For the first time since fantasy football became truly popular, the Chicago Bears actually have some interesting players.

The Bears have had players who have been highly drafted before, but there was never any debate about them. You wanted Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett. It was pretty easy. This year there is actually a debate about which Bears to take and when.

Below is a short guide for how you should fill your fantasy roster with Bears:

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Camp Has Started. Let’s Grade Chicago’s Roster.

| July 24th, 2018

Let’s take an objective look at this Bears roster, grading each unit on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the worst in the NFL, 10 being the best in the NFL, and 5 being an average NFL grouping. I am going to try to avoid projecting too much for young players who have not yet proven it in the NFL, so some of these rankings might be a bit lower than expected.

Let’s get right down to it!


Quarterback: 3.5

Key players: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel

Roster depth: Tyler Bray

I have a feeling this rating will be higher by the end of the 2018 season, but right now I can’t go any higher than a 3.5 out of 10. Mitchell Trubisky got steadily better as his rookie season progressed, but he still didn’t play that great, and while people seem to love Chase Daniel as a backup, he’s only thrown 78 passes over 8 seasons in the NFL.


Running Back: 8

Key players: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen

Roster depth: Benny Cunningham, Michael Burton, Taquan Mizzell, Ryan Nall

Welcome to the best position group on the Bears’ roster. Jordan Howard has run for over 2400 yards the last 2 years, and Tarik Cohen is a perfect complement who can make explosive plays on limited touches. Howard’s struggles through the air are the only thing keeping this grade from being higher, but the duo should be very productive in 2018 if used correctly. The depth here is solid as well; Benny Cunningham is a good ST contributor and solid 3rd down back, and people seem to like UDFA Ryan Nall as a sleeper.

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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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Across The Middle: Don’t Sleep on Kevin White

| May 2nd, 2018

Understandably, fans don’t want to hear about how good Kevin White can be or how big an impact he can have. Not when he’s had so much trouble simply staying on the field. But while I don’t think anybody is still projecting White to be a star, it would be foolish to rule him out. The Bears clearly have a plan for White and how much of an impact he makes in 2018 will be up to him…and his fragile body.

Ryan Pace invested quite a bit in Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and second-round pick Anthony Miller. They are going to play. That doesn’t mean White isn’t. Matt Nagy’s offense has four wide receiver positions: X, Y, Z and Zebra.

Nagy has said Gabriel will be the Zebra and Miller will be the Z (playing in the slot). With every offense being slightly different, Robinson will either be the X or the Y. That leaves a “starting” position in this offense for White to earn in Bourbonnais.

And by all accounts, White looked exceptionally fast at the team’s minicamp two weeks ago. He showed deep speed last year as well, but they had Mike Glennon at quarterback so it didn’t really matter. If you watch the All-22 footage, you can see White regularly out-racing corners and threatening Atlanta’s defense deep. That’s exactly what the Bears are going to ask him to do, playing the same role Chris Conley did for Kansas City.

It is not unprecedented for Kansas City’s style of offense to use all four receiver positions. In 2016, the Chiefs had four guys on the outside get at least 50 targets and likely would’ve gotten close to that again in 2017 if Conley hadn’t gotten injured in the team’s fifth game. The opportunities will be there for White, if he earns them.

Of course, the Bears aren’t handing anything to White either.

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More Tweets From Free Agency, Week One

| March 16th, 2018

Here’s another compilation of Tweets, wrapping up the Bears’ flurry of free agency moves in the last four days and their press conference Thursday. I’ll have a full column Monday morning and Adam Jahns will join me on the podcast next week. 



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Tweets From the Legal Tampering Period

| March 14th, 2018

(Jake Roth – USA TODAY Sports)


The “legal tampering period” is another work of staggering genius by Roger Goodell. Instead of having an exciting start to the league year this afternoon, with six hours of team-changing moves, we now have this three-day, amorphous blob of leakage featuring the newest bullshit phrase “intend to”.

Nothing in the NFL improves under Uncle Rog but the television revenues. His contract extension proved nothing else matters to these owners.

Twitter is the place to be on days like yesterday, as the news comes flying in from every direction. (True story. I’m currently starting a theatre company and for some reason scheduled ALL my legal meetings for yesterday. Forgot to check the NFL calendar.) So here are the Tweets telling the story of the Bears newest signings.



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On the Cusp of Free Agency…

| March 12th, 2018

I like free agency week. It’s fun. It’s real. For the most part, unlike the draft, media and fans can accurately analyze what the acquisition of a certain player means for the acquiring club. (It also inevitably leads to NFL beat writers bitching at one another over “breaking news” and that’s ALWAYS fun.) Some thoughts for the Bears this week.


I. Don’t Go Nuts.

Yes, the fan base is hungry but free agency is almost never the time to feed them. Spend some money, sure, but spend wisely and spend young. Any long-term guaranteed cash should be invested in players who will be part of the team’s plans for the duration of Mitch Trubisky’s rookie contract.

Specifics

Don’t overpay for a Jimmy Graham or Trumaine Johnson, guys who will be well into their thirties when the Bears hope to be playing in the last game of the NFL season. The Bears are not the Eagles, trying to win another title. They are not even the Rams, who’ve been able to convince themselves they are on the precipice of a title despite a wildly misleading 2017. They need to be 8-8 or better in 2018. Then plug the final holes next off-season and go for it.


II. Make a Whitehair Decision.

The Bears have two elite interior offensive linemen. They severely hindered the development of Kyle Long by inanely moving him around the line due to a lack of a lack of sufficient talent on the roster. They are now in danger of doing the same to Cody Whitehair. Pick a position. If it’s center, fine. If it’s guard, fine. But make the decision now and approach free agency/draft accordingly.

Specifics

There’s been a lot of Zach Fulton talk surrounding the Bears and he’s a solid player. But what is he? A guard? A center? If the Bears are going to pay him substantial money, one would hope they’d have that question answered before they sign the first check.


III. Grab Two Receivers.

The Bears have two positions of dire need: wide receiver and pass rush. There are no edge rushers worth a damn on the market (and there rarely are). There are plenty of professional receivers available for purchase. Ryan Pace should not worry about whether a guy is a number one-type or a number two-type. He should simply add good, productive bodies to the room and then turn to the draft for getting to the quarterback.

Specifics

Allen Robinson will be 25 when the 2018 season begins. Albert Wilson will be 26. Are either elite receiving talents? No. But a wide receiving corps of Robinson, Wilson, Cam Meredith, Kendall Wright, Dontrelle Inman and anything from Kevin White is formidable. That’s a winning group at the position.


YOU MAY NOW LEGALLY TAMPER.

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Across The Middle: Alshon’s Inflated Contract Could Prohibit Bears From Attacking Receiver in FA

| February 7th, 2018

Whether they did it knowingly or not, by giving Alshon Jeffery a huge extension during the season, the Philadelphia Eagles made their success model next to impossible to duplicate.

The Eagles gave Jeffery the kind of contract the Bears would not, especially coming off his shaky-at-best 2016. AJ will average $13 million per season for the next 4 years, with a total guarantee of roughly $27 million. The Eagles are the champs so every move looks golden but what they actually did was inflate the wide receiver market by paying a premier contract to a non-premier player.

The Bears have come under constant criticism for not bringing Jeffery back but:

  • He hasn’t had 1,000 yards or 10 touchdowns in a season since 2014.
  • This year he caught less than half of his targets for the Eagles.
  • After the Patriots switched Stephon Gilmore on to Jeffery in the Super Bowl, he became a ghost. It looked like it would be easy to point to Sunday and say the Bears should’ve paid him, but that game is exactly why Ryan Pace didn’t. What happened to Jeffery doesn’t happen to number one receivers and now Jeffery is paid like one.

And other receivers will want to cash in.

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