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Bears Beat Redskins, Move to 2-1: Rapid Fire

| September 24th, 2019


It was the kind of game it should be. The Bears were the far better team and they won with relative ease. Here are some thoughts.

  • Mitch Trubisky was not great. But this game was a serious positive. A few bad throws. A few terrific moments. But overall he just seemed far more comfortable operating the offense.
  • David Montgomery has to get more carries moving forward. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry on 13 attempts last night. That’s ten too few. Montgomery wears down defenses. The offense will be at its best when it moves through the rookie.
  • Don’t think I’ve ever seen a more negligent offensive game plan than Washington’s. Had they not heard of Khalil Mack? Did he catch them off guard? Singling him with a tight end? Mack is the second best defensive player in the entire sport. And on nights like last night, he’s second to none.
  • Injuries starting to mount. Pineiro. Hicks. Gabriel. Nichols already on the shelf. The Bears are playing a huge divisional game, on a short week, potentially short-handed.
  • HaHa Clinton-Dix looked like Eddie Jackson.
  • Two weeks ago, Danny Tevathan looked like he was on the decline. Last night he looked like the best player on the field at times.
  • What the hell was up with all the offsides penalties? The Bears have a brilliant defense but they better be more disciplined against better opponents.
  • Cordarrelle Patterson wants to make plays. But does he have to take the ball out of the end zone on every kickoff?

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ATM: Bears Season Begins Now, and Nagy Needs to Trust Trubisky

| September 18th, 2019

After two wonky games to officially open the NFL season, we’re soon to find out who the 2019 Bears are. That will only happen, however, if the coach starts trusting the QB.

A 1-1 start to the season always seemed likely since – as was well documented throughout last week – nobody wins in Denver in Week 2. (Of course nobody predicted what actually took place down the stretch.) The demise of the team’s defense was greatly exaggerated. Reports of an offensive regression, however, don’t appear to have been aggressively predicted enough.

One of the biggest things to emerge from the win over Denver was Matt Nagy flat out not trusting his quarterback. The Bears had third downs and between two and three yards SIX times in the game and chose to run the ball on four of them. Do coaches who trust their quarterbacks take the ball out of their hands this often? I don’t think so.

It’s not uncommon for teams to run in those situations, but it is odd for them to insist on running it like the Bears did. After the game, Nagy said he intentionally had a conservative game plan in order to keep his defense rested, in the heat and high altitude. Perhaps that helped prevent the collapse until late in the fourth quarter but scoring points would’ve made any incoming collapse less significant.

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Three Mitch Trubisky Points Through Two Games

| September 17th, 2019

The Chicago Bears defense is already top five in the relevant categories and well on their way to being one of the league’s preeminent units in 2019.

The Chicago Bears offense isn’t.

And the quarterback is a big reason why.

Here are three points on the young quarterback’s struggles in the early going of this campaign.


He’s Not Using His Legs

Nobody wants to see Trubisky running the ball ten times a game and sustaining that punishment.

But he certainly has had plenty of opportunities to extend plays AND drives with his legs. Expanding his pocket buys time and allows the speed on the outside to find spaces in the defense. And on third and four, sometimes it’s fine to call your own number and move the chains.

Also, Trubisky always seemed to use his legs to get into the flow of a game. It pumped him up. It pumped his teammates up. It was street ball. I recommend he go back to that style and start having fun out there. It’s a game.


A Scout’s Take

Had a text conversation with a scout friend.

Me: What did you see with Trubisky?

Him: The game is not slowing down for him the way it should be. Bears better hope it does.

Me: Is it correctable quickly?

Him: If Nagy can’t correct it, no one can.

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2019 Season Preview Volume II: The Hopes

| August 29th, 2019

Yesterday, just the facts, ma’am. Today, the hopes. Our season preview continues by looking at six things – that if they happen – the Bears have a chance to be the best team in the league.


Hope 1. Mitch Trubisky will improve.

4,000 yards. 30+ touchdowns. 10-15 interceptions max. If Trubisky hits those numbers, he’s on the road to being one of the best in the game.


Hope 2. David Montgomery will be a very good running back.

The core of the Bears offense is their center and guards. Daniels, Whitehair and Long are angry, tough men.  Montgomery is a big back that is hell to bring down. If the rookie is as advertised, the Bears could have the game’s best closer.


Hope 3. Eddy Pineiro will solidify the kicker position.

Here’s what the Bears fan wants: a kicker they don’t worry about from 43 yards. You wanna miss a few 52 yarders? Fine. You wanna be 75% from 45-50? Fine. But just be iron clad from inside 45. Be a steady, reliable figure for the organization. And stay the fuck off morning television.


Hope 4. The Bears will get production from the tight end position.

Trey Burton disappointed in 2018 and then mysteriously no-showed the playoff game. Adam Shaheen is all gravy, no meat. Ben Braunecker is nothing special but he’ll certainly find himself playing meaningful snaps this season. The Bears have a lot of toys (Tarik Cohen, Cordarrelle Patterson) to move the football but they still need the tight end spot to produce.


Hope 5. Allen Robinson will stay healthy.

Robinson has shown flashes of being an elite wide receiver but he has 56 catches total over the last two seasons due to health reasons alone. If the Bears want their passing attack to be explosive, Robinson needs to be on the field.

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ATM: 2019’s Five Most Indispensable Bears

| August 26th, 2019

The Bears roster is interesting because it’s incredibly deep at positions like running back, wide receiver and defensive line, but have almost no depth at cornerback, tight end and offensive tackle. Perhaps a trade could be in the works, but it’s much more likely that what we see is what we get. So, here are five players the Bears can’t be without:

Roquan Smith

I thought about using Danny Trevathan here because Trevathan makes the defensive calls — an underrated aspect of any defense — but I have little doubt that Smith could take that over. Smith is so good, I think he’s going to be what Ryan Pace considers a multiplier (players who make those around them better) very soon.

I’ve highlighted issues with depth before so I don’t need to go into it too much. I will say that it was nice to see Joel Iyiegbuniwe making plays last week.


Kyle Fuller

The Bears survived much of two games without Fuller’s counterpart Prince Amukamara last year but Fuller is a different story.

Both of the team’s starting cornerbacks are good, but there were times when Prince looked a step slow and committed some silly penalties down the field. Still, Kevin Toliver II was a noticeable downgrade from him last year, so it would be even more significant should they lose their best corner.

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Andrew Luck’s Retirement Should Serve as a Warning for Mitch Trubisky

| August 25th, 2019

I did a mini pub crawl in my neighborhood of SunnyWood, Queens on Saturday. (SunnyWood is how I combine the neighborhoods of Sunnyside and Woodside.) It started at 2 PM and involved three blonde ladies, many Irish gents and a few too many Montauk Summer Ales. By 8 o’clock I was face down in a drool-soaked pillow, dreaming I was at a dinner party with the original Broadway cast of Jesus Christ Superstar.

I woke up hazily in the middle of the night to a phone with 13 texts. That’s too many. “Somebody died,” I thought. The texts read like an old school news wire.


Luck.

Luck done.

Whoa!! On the bottom line. Luck is retiring!

(And so on.)


Nobody will ever confuse me with someone who loves the NFL Draft and all the bullshit that now accompanies it. Millions upon millions of dollars piled into a weekend of guessing. But Andrew Luck looked to me, coming out of Stanford, to be the surest thing in my lifetime. He was big. He was tough. He was smart. He had a brilliant arm. He came from a solid football lineage. There simply wasn’t a flaw in the game or character. When he ended up in Indianapolis, I penciled them into the postseason yearly for the next decade plus.

Then he started getting hit.

A lot.

From day one.

Luck was sacked 41 times in his rookie season behind a terrible offensive line that intellectually over-matched GM Ryan Grigson refused to fix. After that 41-sack campaign, the Colts went with a front five the following season as bad as any in the league. Why? Because they knew Luck would still get them to 10+ wins. And he did.

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Causes for 2019 Concern: Volume II

| August 2nd, 2019

Now we return to the list of reasons the Bears might struggle to repeat 2018’s success.


IV. Cornerback Penalties

New nickelback Buster Skrine was flagged 7 times for 107 yards in 2018. Those numbers were 14th and 7th highest, respectively, among all defensive backs.

Prince Amukamara also has a knack for drawing flags; he drew 8 for 90 yards (8th and 13th among DBs) in 2018, and had 2 more get declined.

And 2018 wasn’t an outlier for either player. Skrine had 11 flags for 105 yards in 2017, while Amukamara had 7 for 99.

You can live with having one penalty-prone player in your secondary, but two is a bit more of a concern. All it takes is one big penalty in a key moment to swing a close game.


V. David Montgomery and/or Anthony Miller

I’m grouping these two together as relatively unproven young players who will be counted on for big roles in 2019. For Chicago’s offense to take the step forward that is needed to win a Super Bowl, Miller needs to supplant Taylor Gabriel as the WR2 and Montgomery needs to beat out Mike Davis as the starting RB. I think there are excellent reasons to be high on both Montgomery and Miller, but what happens if one or both of them aren’t ready?

Davis and Gabriel are both solid veterans who are capable role players, but neither is a guy who should be a main cog in a top-level offense. Miller and Montgomery are capable of doing just that, but they could hold the offense back if they fail to prove it in 2019.

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ATM: Bears Building Roster To Suit Trubisky’s Strengths

| May 14th, 2019

Too often building around a quarterback and building around a quarterback’s strengths are confused. When the Bears first acquired Jay Cutler, they thought deep threats were the best way to build around the strong-armed passer, without realizing throwing deep passes wasn’t necessarily his strength. The same is true for Mitch Trubisky who was one of the worst deep passers in the league last year, but one of the best on shorter completions.

The drafting of Riley Ridley was an example of the Bears trying to play to the strengths of their quarterback.

Ridley doesn’t have the speed to consistently blow by defenders, but he is considered an excellent route runner, which should help him get open on underneath passes. He also has a big frame to win the so-called 50/50 balls. Ridley adds to bigger targets that include Allen Robinson and Javon Wims as the Bears look to eat up the middle of the field while still being able to beat defenses over the top, on occasion.



Of quarterbacks with 50 or more attempts, Trubisky is ranked 27th with a passer rating of 61.9 on passes traveling 15 or more yards down the field, according to Pro-Football-Reference. He ranked slightly better than Blake Bortles and worse than quarterbacks like Josh Rosen, Case Keenum, Sam Darnold and Alex Smith.

But Trubisky was elite on short passes.

He had a passer rating of 107 on passes that traveled less than 15 yards in the air – fifth among quarterbacks with 50 or more attempts, behind only Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz and Patrick Mahomes.

Despite clearly being better on short passes, 22 percent of Trubisky’s attempts were 15 or more yards down the field. For comparison sake, the very best quarterback at throwing deep — Russell Wilson (131.8 rating) — had just about 21.5 percent of his passes travel that far. The second best — Drew Brees (125.5) — had just 17 percent of his passes go that far down the field. Heck, even the cannon-armed Patrick Mahomes came in with just 21.4 percent of his passes going 15 or more yards down the field.

So, what gives?

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