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The Bears Have a New Director For Their Young Star. Now They Begin Rehearsals.

| July 17th, 2018

This week the Bears report to Bourbonnais for training camp.

Yea, they do this every year; pack up their shit and invade the campus of Olivet Nazarene, a university that sounds like it should have Pontius Pilate as Athletic Director. Training camps used to be brutal, grueling tests of survival – a series of two-a-days in sweltering sun, with players completely cut off from their families and friends. Oh, and there used to be tackling. Tons o’ tackling. Way more tackling than not tackling.

Parcells, Walsh and Gibbs wore their teams out in the summer the way a good drill sergeant wears out recruits on Parris Island. They believed war was coming and the only way to properly prepare was to mirror those conditions. Players HATED it. Free agents would postpone signing contracts until the last possible minute if it meant missing a single day of camp.

Prior to the innovations of Bill Belichick, who introduced the idea that a game plan could be altered each week for that individual opponent, camp was when the entire system was installed. The great teams in NFL history were completely unsurprising before Belichick. Those coaches did what they did. If you beat it, you won.

Now training camp is simply part of the installation process. Practices are short. Contact is minimal. Time in the classroom is more important than time on the field (for the most part). And with starters seeing less and less preseason game action, teams won’t know if any of it is working until that first weekend in September when they print the scores in the morning paper.

But this training camp is pivotal for the Chicago Bears because it is hopefully about the establishment of the team’s leadership for the next decade at its two most essential gigs.

Coach. Quarterback.

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Audibles: Enthusiasm Grows, Cutler Stars, Gabriel Catches & More!

| July 13th, 2018

Three Thoughts on the Bears

  • Mentioned it on KFAN in Minnesota earlier in the week but I can’t remember this much enthusiasm and excitement around the Bears heading into a season. This might be the most I’ve seen since 2005 – the Year of the Blog – and that season’s optimism seemed to dwindle with Rex Grossman’s summer injury. (I wrote and produced my first play that year so it took me a month to get sad.) The Bears don’t believe they’re going to be 8-8 this season. They believe they’ll be playing football in January.
  • Had drinks with an NFL GM Monday afternoon and he summed up the Bears off-season perfectly: “They did everything right. But right in the spring isn’t always right in the fall.”
  • This is more anecdotal than anything else but the player other fans and media covering other teams keep bringing up to me is Anthony Miller. There’s a real buzz about him in league circles. I’d still keep expectations low for any rookie wide receiver entering a new offense with this many pass-catching options but many others are not, including Miller himself.

Jay Cutler: Television Star

What makes me laugh is that many of us knew Cutler’s personality was incredible. It just wasn’t a Peyton-Manning-endless-quarterback-cliches-that-talking-heads-love personality. He has no patience for morons and apparently this program is chock full of them. (I will never watch a single episode of it on TV. Ten second clips are just fine.)

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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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Who Could Be The 2018 Breakout Bears: Offense

| June 27th, 2018

The revamped and retooled Chicago Bears offense certainly has a fair amount of buzz surrounding it, but some of the “breakout” players just may be guys who were already on the roster. Yes, the team spent a lot of money and some prime draft assets on the offensive side of the ball and those players are largely expected to carry the load. But an entire offense can’t be built in one off-season. They’ll need some of last year’s players to step up. There certainly aren’t a lot of options to pick from, but the players and coaches the Bears added could help some of the returning talent take the next step.


Charles Leno Jr.

The hiring of Harry Hiestand created a lot of hype around a few different players, but the young left tackle may benefit more than anyone. Leno has already become a good starting tackle, steadily improving each year, and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue and even be accelerated under the tutelage of one of the sport’s best OL minds.

While he was a late round pick, Leno is a very talented player and less than a year older then Cody Whitehair. The superior coaching he is going to get from here on really could make him one of the ten best left tackles in the league. If that happens, you can expect the Bears to have one of the best offensive lines in the league.


Kevin White

I know, I know, you’re sick of Kevin White. But what if Ryan Pace was right when he made White the seventh overall pick in 2015?

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The Positional Quick 3: Quarterbacks

| June 7th, 2018

I’m traveling in Dingle, Ireland years ago and I’m exhausted. This was my first day ever in Europe and I couldn’t keep my eyes open at 4:30 in the afternoon. My uncle turns to me and says, “Have a quick three. You’ll be fine.” I drank three Guinness in the span of a half hour. Seven hours later I’m dancing to a shitty Irish house DJ with Jenny Pye, a local lass who dreamed of being an EMT in New York City.

I’m very tired of this 2018 off-season. And incredibly eager for the season to begin. So I’m taking the quick three approach to each position group as we head into the summer. Not grading the groups or anything. Just making some points.


Quarterbacks

  • Some fans seem to have lost sight of a basic fact: Mitch Trubisky’s development will be the story of the 2018 season. Yes, Wentz went from struggling to MVP candidate. Yes, Goff went from “he’s a bust” to “somebody start making his bust for Canton”. But we have to remember those kinds of leaps are not common in the NFL, especially at the QB position. Trubisky doesn’t need to be an All-Pro in his second season. But if he can put together a 60% completion, 3,200 yard, 25 touchdown, 10-15 interception campaign, the Bears are going to be in good shape moving forward.
  • If Chase Daniel were to see the end of his three-year contract with the Bears, he’d earn nearly $35 million in the NFL. Daniel has thrown 51 passes in the league. Anybody who says Daniel is a good back-up or a smart signing is just guessing. He knows the offense, sure. But if you think he can win games should Trubisky go down, you’re basing that on preseason and Missouri tape.
  • Tyler Bray is 26 years-old so he’s not the prototypical clipboard carrier. But when your starting quarterback is a kid who has only started 25 combined college/pro games, you’d don’t really need to be grooming a kid in the show position. (Bears haven’t shown much interest in bringing Sanchez back, either. Odd how you don’t need a coach as third-string QB when you have good coaches.)

Tomorrow: Running Backs

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Forget Patience, Bears Offense Should Be Good

| June 6th, 2018

[Editor’s Note: Here’s a companion piece to yesterday’s Data Entry.]

If Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky are what Ryan Pace thinks they are, there’s no reason to think the Bears offense won’t be good in 2018.

Nagy has stressed patience since he took over. And he should. His complete vision for the offense is going to take years to implement. But there’s no reason the team shouldn’t be able to score points this year. Generally speaking, teams with good quarterbacks and good coaches score points. Add the fact that the Bears are pretty good at every other offensive position and, there really isn’t a reason to think they won’t score.

And while the offense may take those precious years to implement in-full, Nagy knows as well as anyone that coaches don’t necessarily get the kind of time they’d like to see things to fruition. They have to get results, especially once the quarterback is in place.

We saw two great examples of this last year. The first and most obvious was NFL Coach of the Year Sean McVay, whose Rams led the league in scoring and were 10th in yardage. The other is Kyle Shanahan, whose 49ers struggled early before Jimmy Garoppolo took over and led them to an average of 28.8 points and nearly 410 yards per game — including a 15-point effort against the Bears.

(I could also point to Marc Trestman – who had the Bears second in points in his first year – but that would break our longstanding agreement to never discuss him again after what happened in 2014.)

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Roquan Smith To the Starting Lineup!

| May 31st, 2018


Three quick thoughts on this inevitable development:

  • There is a belief in some older-school league coaching circles that somehow young players benefit from starting as third-stringers and working their way into the starting lineup over the laborious period of training camp. When Parcells and Walsh were on the sideline, sure, I’d buy it. But now? Coaches are too limited in the amount of time they can put their hands on players. They get so little actual field time with their starters, never mind the rookies. The smart staffs recognize talent and insert that talent into the starting lineup immediately. Let the kids play themselves out of that spot.
  • This should have happened last season with Mitch Trubisky but the Fox coaching staff was gutless. Because they did not recognize the MASSIVE talent gap between their starter and third-stringer, they botched what could have been a terrific year of development for the kid. (It could be argued the Bears simply waited a year too long to follow the Eagles model.)
  • Am I getting excited about Matt Nagy? Yep. I’m trying not to, because most of this stuff doesn’t matter, but I just like everything happening around the 2018 Chicago Bears right now.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Enthusiasm, Pass Rush & Much More on the Gambling Front!

| May 21st, 2018

Some General Bears Thoughts

  • The first year of Trestman came with a lot of enthusiasm around the offense but nobody foresaw the defense plummeting to the bottom of the league. (There was also a segment of the fan base that refused to be excited about anything involving Jay Cutler.) This year there is just as much enthusiasm around the offense with an expected top-ten unit on the other side of the ball. There is real excitement around this club right now. They better win games.
  • When DBB started there were like two other Bears bloggers. Now there are about 100. And I honestly don’t follow or read what 99% of them do. But I’d love to see the out-and-out lying stop. Stop pretending you have sources. Stop pretending you’re “told” things. Stop linking the team every seemingly-available player in the league so you can get ten more clicks. It took ten years of me grinding before anybody associated with the Bears (or the league) would even answer an email. Sadly, the lying shit reflects poorly on this site because we got the fucking word “blog” in our title.
  • Nobody should underestimate how little this team has in the pass rush department. It will keep them from being a dominant defense. Leonard Floyd is their only reliable rusher on the roster and he’s (a) inconsistent and (b) averaging 11 games played over his first two seasons. What happens to this defense if Floyd misses five games in 2018?

Finley: Defense Believes in Offense

From his piece this week in the Sun-Times, profiling Prince Amukamara’s decision to return to the Bears:

“I want to win a championship, and having Mitch here, that’s always the start,” he said after the Bears’ second organized-team-activity practice Wednesday. “The quarterback’s always the start, and just having Mitch and seeing his improvement and his effort . . . I’m sure some people saw, but even when Mitch was the backup, Mitch was staying after practice and always working hard. And you love seeing that in a quarterback, especially a backup.

‘‘I’ve always just saw greatness in him ever since then. I think this year he gets to really show it.”

Amukamara isn’t alone. Receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, who signed this offseason, hope Trubisky can get them a “third contract, or help them get their first ring,” Amukamara said.

“I think if guys came here to win, then, yeah, the quarterback should definitely be the first thing that you look at,” he said.

NFL players want to do two things: make a lot of money and win. And the hierarchy of those two things is a player-by-player thing. For wide receivers choosing where to land in free agency, the quarterback can enable both. That’s why Robinson and Gabriel chose Chicago.

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Tweet: Trubisky at Rookie Camp

| May 14th, 2018

Two thoughts on this:

  • This might feel like a slight gesture but it’s not. For the rookies in this camp, many desperate to make ANY roster, seeing the starting quarterback out there inspires them. It shows them this is not only important to them but important to the entire franchise. And it makes them work that much harder.
  • It’s a brilliant move by Mitch as this becomes HIS team. Every rookie at this camp will notice him. Every rookie that moves along with the Bears will remember his presence. Leadership is important, especially at the quarterback position. This is leader stuff.

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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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