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Week Three: Bears at Cardinals Game Preview

| September 20th, 2018

Weird part of this Denny Green video is he wasn’t wrong. The Cardinals absolutely dominated the Bears in this game, offensively and defensively. It took some of the flukiest developments ever for this result to happen. How fluky? The game actually has its own Wikipedia page.


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears this Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

To paraphrase the great Lou Brown from Major League, the Bears won Monday night. If they win this Sunday that’s called a winning streak. And they’re the heaviest favorite they have been on the road since probably the mid-2000s. I just don’t see any way this group loses this game.


Game Haiku

Hitting Sam Bradford

Will lead to the dink and dunk

And Glendale glory!


Why the Bears Will Win?

  • Run Game. Arizona is allowing over 136 yards a game on the ground and Matt Nagy acknowledged this week the Bears need to give the ball to their workhorse back more. (Yes, I’m going to make this a primary bullet point every single week because I truly believe this coaching staff will wake up and realize Jordan Howard is their best offensive player AT SOME POINT. Oh, and once the power game starts working you’ll see a different, more comfortable Mitch Trubisky.)
  • Arizona is averaging 114 yards passing through two games. Yes, that’s an actual statistic. 114. That’s 26 yards less than Buffalo and the Bills started Nate Peterman – the worst statistical QB in the history of the league – for one of their two games. The Arizona QB rating through two games? 55.6. Touchdowns? Zero. This is one awful passing attack.
  • Third-Down Conversions. The Bears are tenth in the league, converting more than 40% of their third-down opportunities. (They’ve already significantly improved on this stat from a year ago.) Arizona is dead last in that stat, somehow managing to only convert 20%. Arizona is also mind-bogglingly allowing opponents to convert their third downs half the time, exactly 50%. The Bears should have little problem staying on the field on offense / getting off the field on defense.
  • Road Game? Is there any doubt there will be more Bears fans than Cardinals fans in University of Phoenix Stadium? Hell, they just opened a Lou Malnati’s in Scottsdale! This could become a demoralizing affair for the home side.

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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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A Dominant Defense: Bears Beat Seahawks on Monday Night Football

| September 18th, 2018

The offense is a work-in-progress. The defense is the most exciting unit the Bears have fielded since 2006. The Bears evened their season record at 1-1 and quieted some of their Week One demons. Here’s a rapid fire recap of Monday night’s events.

  • Here’s how I’d summarize Mitch Trubisky’s evening: he’s not there yet. He’s not fully comfortable in the offense. He’s not processing his progressions quickly or trusting his protection. He’s also missing a few touch passes down the field. (Basically throwing straight heat.) But these are the trials and tribulations of a young quarterback, especially one that has seen his system flipped on its head from year one to year two.

  • But there are so many promising moments that it’s not hard to be optimistic about his development. The sideline floater to Cohen under duress:


  • The rolling left dart to Miller for a touchdown:

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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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Notes on the Broncos Practice Game

| August 19th, 2018

Photo by Aaron Doster, USA TODAY Sports


  • This entire game comes down to the medical status of Adam Shaheen (pictured above) and Leonard Floyd. If Shaheen is significantly hurt, the Bears will be devastated. For weeks I’ve been writing and Tweeting about the big tight end because I’ve been told no player has more excited the coaching staff with his potential. If Floyd is significantly hurt, well, that Kahlil Mack stuff is about to get serious because the Bears are lightest on the edge.
  • Back when I used to play fantasy football (my running backs were Marshall Faulk and Shaun Alexander) a game like this would have changed my entire draft approach. Why? Because it’s clear Mitch Trubisky and Trey Burton have a thing going and last night’s practice game was an opportunity for them to play pitch-and-catch against an actual opponent.
  • Why give Jordan Howard nine carries in a practice game? The numbers are definitive. These star running backs have a limited number of carries/years in their bodies. They hit a career wall at thirty years old. I’d put Howard in an ice bath until after Labor Day.
  • The interior of the Bears offensive line got pushed around a bit. But these guys are impossible to evaluate without scheme being involved. (And I don’t think this is their best five but that’s another issue entirely.)
  • Both Isaac Yiadom & Kyle Fuller were called for the “lowering the head” penalty. In neither case was the call accurate. It was obvious during the Hall of Fame Game and it’s becoming more obvious as days go by. If the NFL doesn’t suspend this rule before the season opens and revisit it, they’re making a terrible mistake. The product has suffered terribly over the last few seasons because of decisions by the front office. This will continue that trend.

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Audibles: Players to Watch Tomorrow Night, Tweet of the Week, Song of the Summer & More!

| August 17th, 2018

Players to Watch Tomorrow Night

  • Mitch Trubisky. Don’t get hurt, Mitch. The rest of tomorrow night has no meaning for you. Don’t. Get. Hurt. Because every shot you took against Cincinnati – several to the head – made me scream.
  • Daniel Brown. Yes, Brown is fighting for a roster spot. And I think he deserves one. I’ll take it a step further and say I think Brown could be a productive, starting tight end on 2/3 of the teams in the league. Even if he doesn’t contribute for the Bears in 2018 I hope he puts together a preseason tape worthy of a roster spot somewhere else.
  • John Timu. Honestly, Timu is a fine option as a fourth inside linebacker. But I’m not sure he’s put a worse product on tape than he did in the practice game vs. Cincinnati. He looked slow at both the point of attack and in space. Quite frankly he didn’t look like be belonged on an NFL field and he’s not shown that in his previous, actual game action. Think he could use a decent outing. (Also don’t think it matters much. He’s a special teamer in 2018.)

Tweet of the Week


Dannehy Recall

Something Andrew wrote Wednesday cracked me up in editing:

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.

Dannehy’s point is astute. You’d think this situation would create, well, a situation. But here’s the truth. Roquan is going to start on opening night. And the Bears won’t try to sell anything. But even without the sales pitch, the fans will buy, buy, BUY the importance of training camp. And I’ll be having the same debates next summer I had this one.

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Getting Real: 3 Things Bears Must Do to Keep Fans Optimistic in 2018

| July 31st, 2018

Here at DBB, we’ve been high on optimism for the Bears’ 2018 season pretty much since Matt Nagy was hired back in January, and we’re not the only ones. Both local and national media are feeling the enthusiasm and energy emanating from Halas Hall, and with good reason!

We’ve laid out all those reasons why we should all be psyched about the direction the Bears are heading in previous, and I fully stand by those predictions. At the same time, I’m not the hardcore Pollyanna that I’ve likely come across as in my last few articles. There’s a limit to my enthusiasm, and there are some actual markers of change the Bears are going to have to hit this season for me to continue to do things like  compare Trubisky to Roger Federer and Serena Williams.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but I’ve laid out three things the Chicago Bears MUST do to justify continued optimism into the 2019 season. This isn’t a dream scenario list. This is a bare minimum list for me to not sink into a pit of deep, deep despair.

For the purposes of this list I’m not factoring in the possibility of serious injury to top players. Not because it couldn’t happen, but because a) it’s morbid b) it’s largely out of the team’s control and, c) it would cause me to have a very different perspective on the season moving forward.


First.

They have to finish at least .500.

Football is a rare sport in that literally every game matters. You look at baseball, basketball, or hockey and it’s absurd to think that one game would change the way fans view an entire season. But football teams don’t play 162 games in a season, they play 16, and there’s a significant difference between a team going 7-9 and 8-8. Even if that’s only in perspective.

The last time the Bears had a a winning season was 2012. In 2013 they went 8-8 and, well, we all know how things have gone since then. The Bears don’t have the easiest of schedules – of course that’s not always the most straightforward metric to measure a month before a season actually begins. Still, I’m sick of rooting for a losing team. The Bears absolutely have enough talent to earn as many wins as losses.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Tru’s Team, Shaheen Excites, LongJahns & More!

| July 27th, 2018

Three Quick Player Thoughts

  • Adam Shaheen. He’s not getting a ton of attention from those circling the barren wasteland of Bourbonnais but I’m told by highly reliable folks Matt Nagy is as enamored with the potential of Shaheen as any other offensive player on the roster. The young TE had an almost-impossible transition from Nowheresville, Ohio to the NFL last season and it made harder by an offensive coaching staff uninterested in aiding that transition for a raw rookie. This staff sees big play potential from their big tight end. Immediately.
  • Mitch Trubisky. His early camp results? Up and down. Throwing too many picks but displaying all the explosiveness and ability that made him the second pick. It’ll be very interesting to see how much of this new offense Nagy rolls out in the preseason, especially with Green Bay in primetime to open the campaign. But the most important thing happening to Tru this summer is simply being allowed to BE the damn quarterback and make the important mistakes.
  • Kevin Toliver & Kylie Fitts. The Bears are a very strange roster right now, with a ton of potential up and down it. But these two players, both off to impressive starts, have the ability to elevate an already good to elite level if they make a significant impact in 2018.

It’s Cold. Put On Your LongJahns.

In Adam the Legend’s camp takeaways column, there was a passage that caught my eye:

From Allen Robinson to Marlon Brown at receiver and from Trey Burton to Colin Thompson at tight end, every skill player has gotten a chance to play with Trubisky or backup Chase Daniel. Running back Tarik Cohen has even caught passes from third-stringer Tyler Bray in camp.

At some point, the constant rotations will end. Robinson, Burton, Cohen and other starters will settle in for more advanced work with Trubisky.

But those rotations are part of the learning process for all players right now. Nagy wants it that way. Kevin White seemingly has benefitted from it. He has been targeted plenty throughout camp by Trubisky and Daniel.

“Right now, there’s zero game-planning going into this thing,” Nagy said. “It’s, ‘Everybody learn everything,’ and then what we do as evaluators and coaches is we see who does what well.

“There might be somebody that runs a route really well but can’t run another route to save his life, so we don’t do that. We put those guys in the right spots, and then we try to time it up with the quarterbacks.”

Hallelujah. Too often new coaches come to an organization with their pre-designed cargo pants and try to fit players into the pockets. They acquire a player who can do X, a player who can do Y, a player who can do Z. Matt Nagy and Mark Helfrich, along with Ryan Pace, went out this offseason and acquired a ton of offensive talent. Guys who can do a ton of different things. Now they’re allowing that talent to show them what works and what doesn’t. Rather ingenious if you ask me.

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