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ATM: Bears Need to Keep Letting Trubisky Sling It

| September 19th, 2018

As NFL teams fight battle after battle each Sunday, it’s difficult to keep the war in mind. But Matt Nagy needs to keep thinking about it and let Mitch Trubisky throw the ball.

Some numbers…

  • Trubisky is currently on pace to throw 552 passes, which would’ve been 7th in the league last year.
  • He’s thrown at least 34 passes in both of the Bears games this season; games in which they were leading almost throughout.
  • He reached 34 passes just three times in 12 games last year, despite playing from behind much of the time.

While there’s little question that he’s been a weak link on the team, the Bears can’t take the ball out of his hands until they know he can’t get the job done.

One thing that has become painfully clear early in 2018 is that John Fox was correct in his evaluation that the team’s best chance for winning in 2017 was to limit the rookie quarterback’s exposure. Whether or not that hindered Trubisky’s development is debatable, but it left the Bears without any real indication of whether or not he could get the job done without any handcuffs. Now it’s up to Nagy to figure out if Trubisky can swim and the best way to do that is to throw him into the deep end.

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ATM: The Same Old Bears

| September 11th, 2018

On their way to revolutionizing the way football is played in Chicago and around the world, the Bears hit a speed bump when they actually had to play a game and it revealed that talk his cheap and this team certainly looks to be the same it has been for most of the last 25 years. The hype train spun out of control when the team added Khalil Mack — and he certainly showed why he was worth such hysteria — but lost in all the commotion was that the Bears actually had to put a product on the field and, when they did, it wasn’t good.

The expectation was that this was going to be a different Bears team. They had the talent and the coaching to beat the Packers. Add that Aaron Rodgers missed a chunk of the game as the Bears lead grew from 10 to 20 and it was surely a changing of the guard.

Except it wasn’t.

The loss couldn’t have been any more typical Bears. The offense scored on the first two possessions, then failed to make any adjustments. When is the last time the Bears had a coaching staff that was good at making adjustments? It appears that is a trend that will continue.

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ATM: Bears Need To Beat The Packers

| September 5th, 2018

The start of the regular season is usually the worst thing that can happen to the teams that win the offseason and the Bears can’t let that be the case as they open in Green Bay this Sunday.

It isn’t a stretch to say that losing to Green Bay has cost every coach the Bears have had since Mike Ditka their jobs. The likes of Dave Wannstedt, Dick Jauron, Lovie Smith, Marc Trestman and John Fox have compiled a 13-38 record against the Packers since 1993.

Smith was the toast of the town when he won six of his first eight meetings with the Packers. He then he lost nine of his last eleven. Outside of that four-year period in which Lovie had success, the Bears have gone 7-36 against the team to the north.  Trestman and Fox both scored prime time victories in Green Bay in their first seasons but it was all downhill after that.

The Packers aren’t just another team. They’re not viewed that way by most fans and they certainly aren’t viewed that way in the big offices at Halas Hall. If Matt Nagy is going to be separated from the poop platter that the team has had since Ditka, he has to beat the Packers.

He has to do it on Sunday.

He has to do it consistently.

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Establishing New Expectations for Khalil Mack & the 2018 Chicago Bears

| September 4th, 2018

I thought I was done writing about the Bears until the bye week, but then they went and traded for Khalil Mack. That warrants an article. I had written pretty clearly about my expectations for the 2018 Bears, expecting them to be better but end up around .500 and short of the playoffs. Adding a player of Mack’s caliber warrants a re-examination of that prediction.

In fact, I think that this trade makes it pretty likely the Bears will make the playoffs in 2018. Here’s why.


Non-Trubisky Upgrades

Let’s start by comparing the 2018 roster to the 2017 version, which went 5-11. I’m going to look at everything outside of Trubisky first, and then consider Trubisky in a moment.

Defense

On defense, the Bears return pretty much everybody who contributed, with a few exceptions:

  • DL Mitch Unrein has been replaced by 5th round pick Bilal Nichols. This is probably a minor downgrade for 2018, but the hope is that it will be offset by the growth of 3rd year defensive linemen Roy Robertson-Harris and Jonathan Bullard.
  • OLB Pernell McPhee has been replaced by Khalil Mack (Willie Young and Lamarr Houston are both gone too, but neither actually played much last year). You really can’t overstate how big of an upgrade this is.
  • ILB Christian Jones has been replaced by 8th overall pick Roquan Smith (Jerrell Freeman only played 1 game, so they didn’t really lose him). This should also be a substantial upgrade, as Smith was widely viewed as the best defender in the draft.

So the defense added two guys who should be high impact players and treaded water pretty much everywhere else. Thanks to Mack and Smith, this unit should be significantly improved from last year’s version, which was already solidly around the top ten in the league.

Offense

Now let’s look at offensive improvements (again, ignoring Trubisky). There was much more changeover on this side of the ball.

  • Guard Josh Sitton was replaced by 2nd round pick James Daniels. This is a downgrade for 2018, but the Bears hope it offsets by having Kyle Long back and looking like himself for the first time since 2015.
  • Tight end Zach Miller was replaced by Trey Burton. This is probably a wash, but Burton doesn’t have Miller’s history of being constantly injured.
  • The wide receiver upgrades really can’t be overstated. The Bears replaced a cast of scrubs who were all fighting for end-of-roster spots around the league this year with Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Anthony Miller. The Bears’ worst position group (and possibly the worst in the whole NFL) in 2017 now appears to be quite good.

Coaching

And now we move to the coaching staff, which returns virtually intact on defense but massively upgraded on offense. New head coach Matt Nagy brings with him the Andy Reid offense from Kansas City, modernizing what was possibly the worst offensive scheme in the NFL from 2017 with one that matches the Bears’ personnel quite well. Add in a quality offensive staff, highlighted by the outstanding Harry Heistand on the offensive line, and it’s fair to say the offense should be better coached than it has been in a while.

Health

Health is another key area where the Bears should be improved in 2018 (and already are from a comparable point in 2017). They were the 2nd most injured team in the league last year according to Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost, and the odds are they will be healthier than that this year. As I wrote in May, better health typically translates to better teams that win more games.

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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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Hall of Fame Game: A Running Diary

| August 3rd, 2018

What follows will be a stream of consciousness blog, written in real time as I watch the Hall of Fame Game. There will be no editing after the fact and, honestly, very little done while I’m writing. This is not an interesting sporting event. This is not a remotely interesting sporting event. So I’m trying to make it more fun.


7:50 ET

I’m going over to the game after watching ten minutes of Chris Matthews on MSNBC. I always wondered who Matthews reminded me of and it just fucking hit me. He’s Paul Sorvino’s Lips Manlis from the Dick Tracy movie. They even drool the same way.


7:52 ET

How did this become my life? There are people in bars, having fun, laughing together, fucking in bathroom stalls. I’m sitting on a couch with two cats. My girlfriend is getting on a plane for Israel. And I’m thinking, “Be fun to get a look at Kylie Fitts in pads.”


7:58 ET

Just turned on Yankees v. Red Sox and Boston has a guy named Jackie Bradley Junior. Which sounds exactly like the name I’d give a character in my fake novel, Murder at Stax Records.


8:00 ET

“Are you ready for some footballllllllllllllll?”

No. Kickoff is apparently not for another ten minutes.


8:03 ET

Ray Lewis just did his obnoxious dance and started revving up absolutely no one. If only he were this enthusiastic when police asked him what he knew about a homicide.


8:15 ET

First drive over. At no point during that drive did I even consider writing something. Chase Daniel threw a pick at the end of the drive. Even he didn’t seem to mind.


8:17 ET

Al Michaels quotes John Madden saying the busts in the Hall of Fame talk to each other at night.

Cris Collinsworth says, “Maybe the greatest line ever”. Really? That’s the greatest line ever? Ever??


8:19 ET

Instant replay should be outlawed in the preseason.

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