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2021’s Ten Most Important Bears (Other Than Justin Fields)

| September 8th, 2021

The 2021 season probably won’t be one the Bears highlight, but it could be important for determining the future of the franchise. They have an odd mix of veterans and young players, all needing to prove themselves. They have key positions that didn’t have battles, but also don’t have sure things locked in.

We know Justin Fields is ultimately going to be the straw that stirs the drink, hopefully for the next two decades. But the Bears need to determine two things: (a) who will be surrounding Fields and (b) how will they make life easier for the quarterback.

With that, here are the ten most important Bears of 2021, other than Fields, of course.


10. Akiem Hicks

Hicks flashed greatness last year, then seemed to run out of gas.

His job was different last year without Eddie Goldman; teams were able to focus more on him in the running game. But then you’d see the spurt; he’d throw a guard three yards back and take out a running back in the backfield.

Hicks is in a contract year and the Bears have to know what he has left before deciding what to do.


9. Sam Mustipher

Mustipher was a legitimately good center last year and could be a building block going forward. The team didn’t consider replacing him. He needs to reward that confidence.


8. Darnell Mooney

If teams are going to take Allen Robinson away, Mooney needs to make them pay. The wide receiver needs to take a significant step in his sophomore season.

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Training Camp Diary: Notes, Reflections, Thoughts from Friday and Saturday’s Practices

| August 2nd, 2021


The following are thoughts on the practices Friday and Saturday, and just generally about the Bears to this point.

  • There have been multiple reports about the defense playing with a renewed sense of energy and that’s essential for this group. They certainly lost their swagger in the Chuck Pagano years. Sean Desai’s primary task is restoring it.
    • In the swagger department, Kevin Fishbain, in The Athletic, can tell you about “the takeaway bucket — a blue laundry bin that gets wheeled onto the field for a defensive player to dunk the ball in after he takes it away from the offense.” These things are goofy but players rally around them.
  • Bilal Nichols was arguably the breakout star of the 2020 Chicago Bears but he might be the actual star of this group of the end of 2021. The best part of this for Desai is Nichols’ emergence should allow them to keep Akiem Hicks on a pitch count for most of the season. (His recent foot issues are just another in a series of injuries common for a declining superstar.)
  • Sam Mustipher was asked what he did to put on weight this off-season. His answer? Lou Malnati’s. Sam Mustipher is a smart, smart man. (After the debacle of the last 18 months, Malnati’s will be rejoining DBB as a crucial partner this coming season. More details – and pizza giveaways – to come.)
  • From inside Halas Hall there is serious optimism regarding Kindle Vildor. When I asked what that optimism means I was simply told (via text): “They’re not going to get too excited until they see it on the field. But they’re seeing it in practice.” Corner is going to be a weakness for this group. But if their pass rush delivers as it should, this group may be competent enough to hold up.
  • The quarterback position has been a real strength in these early days. Andy Dalton has been the stable, veteran presence the Bears expected but he’s also had a ton of zip on the fastball. He’s smart enough to know that the only way he remains the starting quarterback is by playing Justin Fields onto the bench. Fields has all the talent in the world – everybody at these practices sees that – and his ascension is only a matter of time.
    • One Tweet from Brad Biggs stood out to me. Justin Fields to Jesse James is a thing that’s starting to happen more often for the #Bears.” In this offense, the tight ends are the QB’s best friends. Fields seems to be learning that quickly.
    • I would have been shocked if Fields out-performed Dalton as this early stage. None of Fields’ athleticism is displayed in these practice sessions. When the pads go on, and Fields is on the move, that’s when Dalton will have to up his game.
  • Cairo Santos has finally solidified the kicker position post-Robbie Gould. I don’t miss writing about kickers in July and August.

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Sam Mustipher Answers Big Question for Bears

| March 10th, 2021


The Chicago Bears seem to have answers on the interior of their offensive line, thanks to a former undrafted rookie. Both Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy went out of their way last week to compliment Sam Mustipher as being a calming presence on their offensive line and essential to the improvement they showed down the stretch.

“I can’t say enough about Sam Mustipher, we’re so lucky to have him,” Ryan Pace told Jeff Joniak and Tom Thayer last week. “His leadership, his intelligence, his ability to calm everybody down. It’s infectious. He’s the guy sprinting 20 yards down field, picking up the ball carrier, leading the whole group.”

In an interview with Dan Wiederer and Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Matt Nagy offered similar remarks.

“Things really got calm,” Nagy said about when Mustipher entered the lineup. “He proved to use that he is more than capable of being a starting center in the NFL. The number one thing he brings is leadership. He’s such a multiplier.”

That last line from Nagy is crucial.

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ATM: Bears Finding Answers During Playoff Push

| December 22nd, 2020

A month ago it looked like the Chicago Bears were heading towards a full-scale rebuild. But after two straight wins and a few quality offensive performances, the Bears might be finding they already have answers to some expected offseason questions.

The most significant answers are on the offensive side of the ball where Matt Nagy appears to have fixed what was wrong, even if that meant partially by stepping aside. It’s easy to say that Nagy giving up play calling was a negative on him, but fans should know better. The best Bears coach in recent history, Lovie Smith, had to convince his buddy Rod Marinelli to take defensive play calling away from him and we have seen numerous offensive geniuses – Sean Payton, Andy Reid come to mind – do the same for at least a short period of time.

While he isn’t calling the plays, Nagy still has oversight over the offense. It’s still his direction the team is following and his hires of Bill Lazor and Juan Castillo are suddenly looking fantastic. Lazor has found ways to consistently keep the offense simple for Mitch Trubisky and Castillo is getting standout play from undrafted free agents Sam Mustipher and Alex Bars, two players who certainly look as if they could compete for starting spots next year.



Mustipher has played at a high level since entering the lineup against the Saints on Nov. 1. An injury knocked him out the next few weeks, but he returned Nov. 29 and seems to have locked down the job. In his five starts, the Bears have averaged 7.8 yards per carry when they run behind him. In all other games they’ve averaged 3.9 yards per carry.

Theoretically, most would be fine with the Bears going into the 2021 season with Leno, Whitehair and Mustipher taking up three of the five spots while James Daniels and Alex Bars compete at right guard. While they’d surely like to bring in more young depth, what once looked to be a full rebuild of the offensive line could now be the team focusing on just the tackle positions.

With that, we’ve realized that David Montgomery is a legitimate stud when he has blocking. Suddenly, the Bears just might have a piece to build their offense around.

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