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Training Camp Diary: Addressing Three Fallacies When it Comes to Starting Justin Fields in LA

| August 11th, 2021


Fallacy #1. The Soft Landing Spot

Where did this premise come from?

“No, Jeff, you can’t start Justin Fields in the opener because the opener is against the Rams on the road. And the Rams are very good.”

It’s not the landing spot that is soft. It is this mode of thinking from fans and media. What kind of a message would that send to the kid? “Hey Justin, we think you’re ready to be our quarterback but we’re going to wait until the bad teams. We don’t think you’re ready for the good ones yet.”

Rookie quarterbacks struggle. Aaron Rodgers was a mechanical nightmare. John Elway tried to take a snap from his guard. Terry Bradshaw got benched. Troy Aikman went 0-11. Peyton Manning threw 28 picks. Josh Allen looked like he was destined for the CFL.

You’re not going to prevent a rookie quarterback from struggling by cherry-picking his opponents. The Lions are just as capable as the Rams of showing Fields a coverage disguise he hasn’t seen before. Rookie quarterbacks struggle. And that’s okay.


Fallacy #2. The Unhealthy Offensive Line

Deshaun Watson has been one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league the last three seasons. In those three seasons he was sacked 62, 44 and 49 times. He’s had one thousand-yard rusher. The only thing that’s made Houston’s rushing attack seem productive is Watson himself. His team mortgaged their entire future to attain…an offensive lineman.

Russell Wilson has been complaining about his offensive line, and rightfully so, for five years. Josh Allen is often running for his life (and making plays on the run) in Buffalo. They were two of the five best quarterbacks in the league last year.

Why?

Because they’re great. And the great ones produce. The great ones make the players around them better. And if the Bears are going to wait for their offensive line to be at full strength before handing the reins over to Fields, there’s no telling how long that wait might be. This is the NFL. People are injured constantly.

If Fields is the guy, make him the guy. Let him learn how to throw it away under pressure. Let him learn when to take off with his legs and when to sit in the pocket and absorb contact. Let him learn how to release the football quickly when the offensive line is struggling to stay healthy.

The Bears need to see the imperfections of this situation not as impediments to development, but as teaching tools.


Fallacy #3. The Veteran’s Summer Performance

Nothing Andy Dalton does this summer should have ANY influence on the team’s decision at quarterback.

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ATM: Improved Line Play Key to Bears Finish

| December 10th, 2019

The Chicago Bears will go only as far as Mitch Trubisky takes them, but they need the offensive line to hold up so they can see exactly what the quarterback can do.

The line play has ranged from awful to mediocre until the last two games when we’ve seen holes opening up. It certainly appears that the unit is beginning to come together, which will be important for both the immediate and longterm future of the club.

Trubisky earned all the headlines after his dynamic performance against Dallas, but lost in the shuffle was the dominant performance by the offensive line. They didn’t just get the better of one of the best defensive lines in the league. They bullied them in what was unquestionably the best performance the Bears blockers have had all year — and maybe in several seasons.

That was the second straight game in which the Bears controlled the line of scrimmage. Trubisky was hurried just six times and hit once on Thanksgiving, according to Pro-Football-Reference, as the Bears also gave their runners 40 yards before contact on 23 attempts. Compare that to a week earlier when Bears rushers had just 25 yards before contact on 26 attempts. (The advanced data for the Cowboys game won’t be available until Wednesday.)

The difference was seen in Trubisky too. While he wasn’t pressured that much against the Giants, it was enough to throw him off as he had 10 of what PFR deems to be bad throws, compared to just four against Detroit and four against Dallas.

The Green Bay Packers know how much pressure impacts Trubisky and they blitzed him 17 times in Week One. They got home a fair amount, sacking him five times, hitting him five more, and hurrying him seven times.

Trubisky was bad that game, but he didn’t have much of a chance to be good.

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ATM: Offensive Improvement Starts Up Front

| September 25th, 2019

One of the most important assessments Ryan Pace made this off-season was that the running backs – and not the offensive line – were to fault for the running game’s struggles in 2018. Through most of three quarters Monday night, he looked dead wrong.

Then one possession clinched the game and provided hope that the offensive line can regain the form it showed in 2018. The Bears had run for just 50 yards. Their defense was tired after forcing yet another turnover. They didn’t just need a score, they needed time.

The guys up front came through.

David Montgomery ran for eight yards on the first play. Four on the next. He looked bottled up on the third play, but was able to find a hole after a cutback for 25. After a pass for eight yards to keep the drive alive on a third-and-five play, the Bears were able to drive to the 20 to get inside the range of an injured Eddy Pineiro who clinched the game with a 38-yard field goal.


Not All Trubisky

While most of the negative attention early in the season has been focused on quarterback Mitch Trubisky, the offensive line had been arguably the worst part of the team through two weeks.

Coach Matt Nagy took a lot of heat for not calling more running plays in Week 1, but the Bears weren’t getting any push. The same was mostly true in Week 2, as the offense averaged 3.8 yards per carry outside of one explosive run.

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Bears Need Improved OL Play to Reach Potential

| July 6th, 2016

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The Bears have plenty of weapons at the skill positions and a terrific quarterback, but their offense won’t take a big step if their offensive line isn’t better than it was a year ago.

On paper, the Bears line should be significantly better. They lost Matt Slauson, but Kyle Long moving back to guard, combined with Cody Whitehair or Ted Larsen have to be better than Vlad Ducasse and whoever else they played last year. At his worst Bobby Massie was as good as Long was at tackle last year and, over the last 10 games last year, he was actually pretty good. Charles Leno Jr. and Hroniss Grasu should be better with experience.

But outside of Long, who should be expected to return to his stellar form at guard, there’s the possibility it all goes the other way.

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Why I’ve Got Questions About the Bears Offensive Line

| May 6th, 2016

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Forget about Matt Slauson being thrown into the dumpster behind A&P well-before his expiration date. That’s old news and I’ve promised those in the Twitterverse I’ll refrain from using the words “Matt” and “Slauson” in succession any longer. To play offensive football the way John Fox wishes it to be played, the Bears don’t need a mediocre offensive line. They need a good offensive line to be a playoff team and a great line to be a championship contender. Right now? They have more questions than answers.

Question 1. Is Charles Leno going to get better?

Leno was fine in 2015. Not good. Fine. The organization believes he can be the answer at left tackle but by no means is he a certainty to even finish the season protecting Jay Cutler’s blindside. Many of Leno’s struggles in 2015 were masked by Cutler’s ability to make things happen under duress. But how long will Cutler stay on the field if he’s constantly under duress?

Question 2. Is Cody Whitehair as good as I think he is?

If he is, the Bears have a two contract starter at guard. But he’s a rookie. And rookies, regardless of my opinion, are crap shoots.

Question 3. Who is playing center?

Is it Hroniss Grasu? Does Manny “Being Manny” Ramirez win the job from him in camp? Neither is going to be challenging for an All Pro spot anytime soon.

Also, if Ramirez wins the center job, is Grasu valuable anywhere else along the line? Can he sub in at guard?

Question 4. Can the right side of the line stay healthy?

The Bears right guard and tackle are one of the team’s strengths, especially in the run game. But what happens if one of them misses substantial time? The Bears have little depth to cover Long and Massie. (Don’t mention Ted Larsen to me with a straight face.)

It might be the team’s most important unit. And right now it contains the most unknowns.

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Where Should Bears Fans Focus During These Final Four Games?

| December 7th, 2015

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There are four games remaining. And while the playoff dreams have faded there is still plenty for Bears fans to watch over this final month of games.

Chase for .500

An argument could be made there’s no difference between finishing 6-10 or 8-8, if the result means missing out on the postseason. But that argument won’t be made here.

8-8 is something. It’s a valuable season. It’s a foundation on which to build a successful program. John Fox can walk into the offseason program and say, “We won eight last year. All we have to do is win two more and we are in the tournament.” And with their schedule including the NFC East and AFC South, two more wins can be expected.

Also, winning three more games than a year ago is substantial improvement (as if that weren’t evident already). Three games are nearly 19% of an NFL season. Fans should embrace The Quest For .500.

Solidifying the Offensive Line

Three of the final four games are outside in the cold. What does that mean? It’s time to find out if the Bears have the kind of offensive line that can boss an opponent in the run game. They showed signs of doing just that against San Francisco.

Four of the five linemen are projected starters in 2016. Only right guard, currently occupied by Patrick Omameh, is possibly up for grabs. Will be interesting to see how they develop as a group down the stretch.

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Position-By-Position at the Bye: Offensive Line

| October 29th, 2014

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The following is part of a series of position-by-position breakdowns at the halftime point of the 2014 season.

Here is what we expected from the offensive line coming into the 2014 season: Bushrod, Slauson, Garza, Long, Mills. The sturdiness and dependability of these five men in 2013 was a key to the club’s offensive resurgence. Yes, Mills was a weaker link but Trestman and Kromer protected him brilliantly with a combination of actual tight ends and Even Britton lined up as a de facto tight end.

It is hard to judge this group on eight games of odd configurations. Bushrod missed time and was replaced by a player (Ola) with no business playing left tackle in the NFL. Slauson will have a lost season and is, in my opinion, the Bears best offensive lineman. Garza missed a ton and while the transition to de la Puente felt seamless, the Bears certainly missed his comfort and leadership along the line. Mills has continued to struggle but injury has not allowed the Bears to provide the protection of a year ago.

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