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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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Audibles: Heavy Sun-Times Edition!

| June 4th, 2018

Quick Three

  • For those people, myself included, who think this anthem protest stuff doesn’t matter…we’re wrong. I spent Memorial Day weekend down the Jersey Shore in a somewhat conservative area. I wore a Bears hat one day. It was enough to spark several conversations and the anthem protest decision by the NFL was all anyone wanted to discuss. This decision by Goodell and the ownership has managed to do the impossible: it’s infuriated folks on both sides. And NFL fans should be prepared for this issue to absolutely dominate the coverage come September because it will become a major political talking point in the lead-up to the midterms.
  • The last time I thought the Bears had a chance to make the postseason was 2014 – the most embarrassing season in the history of the franchise. Coming off an entertaining 8-8 in Marc Trestman’s first year it just felt like the team had enough on offense to sneak their way into a wildcard spot. (Unlike many others, I never believed they could compete for a title with that defense.) They completely flamed out. But there’s a good chance I’m going to pick the Bears to make the postseason again this season. There’s only two things that I can see keeping this club from double-digit victories: injuries and Mitch Trubisky struggling. Can’t predict the former. Don’t expect the latter.
  • Don’t sleep on Adam Shaheen. Folks I talk to around the Bears say the kid has looked dynamic in these early practice days and Nagy/Helfrich are using him in ways the Fox/Loggains regime never considered. Quote from a Bears source: “With Burton there, the Bears won’t ask Shaheen to do much more than get open and catch touchdowns. And he’s going to do both a bunch.”

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Will Adam Shaheen Have a Role in the Matt Nagy Offense?

| May 9th, 2018

John Fox’s coaching staff was bashed for not getting the ball to rookie tight end Adam Shaheen enough, but that doesn’t figure on changing much under Matt Nagy. Shaheen played just over 24% of the snaps last year. That number should increase in 2018, provided he can beat out Dion Sims as the starting in-line tight end. But if the moves this team has recently made turn out the way they think, it’s hard to see Shaheen catching a lot of passes in 2018.

Trey Burton & Friends

He’s not much of a blocker, but the Bears signed Burton to be their top tight end. The Bears made him one of the highest-paid tight ends in the league. That’s not happening if they don’t expect him to play nearly every snap. 

Burton’s signing alone didn’t indicate a smaller role for Shaheen. The club also invested heavily at receiver by paying Allen Robinson star money, Taylor Gabriel starter money and trading a 2019 second rounder to draft Anthony Miller with the 51st pick. Not only did the Bears spend a high pick on Miller, but they reportedly tried to move back up into the end of the first round to draft Calvin Ridley.

Their aggressiveness at the position is a strong indication that they’re going to have three receivers on the field quite a bit. Not a surprise. In his time in Kansas City, Matt Nagy’s offenses rarely utilized the second tight end. Over the past five years, KC’s second tight end averaged just 5.6% of the team’s targets — 29 per season. This is about the same as the fourth wide receiver. The third receivers came in at 9.2%.

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Audibles: Jahns on Nagy Hiring, Tight End Stuff & Links!

| March 29th, 2018

Jahns on the Nagy Hiring

“AJ After Dark” wrote the best piece of Bears journalism since Wiederer’s piece on the Trubisky dinner in North Carolina. There were a dozen pieces of information in article worth noting but here is my favorite:

As the eight-seat jet descended, Phillips said it became the most frightening flight of his life. Pace said the plane was “thrashed.”

“At one point, I looked back, and Ted’s glasses flew off his head,” Pace said.

Said McCaskey: “What’s that Audie Murphy movie? ‘To Hell and Back’? ”

It was scary as hell.

“I was thinking to myself, ‘OK, if this thing goes down, it’s probably better that it’s on the descent because there is less fuel,’ ” Pace said.

“Ted was thinking, ‘Well, I can see the tree line, so this might be survivable.’

“George was thinking, ‘Oh, man, I should have laid out the full succession plan before we got on the flight.’ ”

They made it and were soon off to Foxborough, where Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was interviewed past midnight.

“As the plane is coming to a halt, Ted yells at me, ‘Ryan, this better be worth it!’ ” Pace said, laughing. “It was just insane.”

What do I find particularly interesting here?

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Audibles: Defensive Continuity, Campbell & the Trib, Gabriel Wants to Rollerblade…More!

| March 19th, 2018

We are calmly navigating Ryan Pace’s most important off-season. And while it’s impossible to know if any of these decisions are any good until September, it sure feels like he’s making the right calls.


Bears Defense Taking Final Step?

A few stats from 2017 regarding the Bears defense:

  • 10th in yardage
  • 9th in points
  • 7th against the pass
  • 11th against the run
  • Troy Aikman’s ranked them 10th in the league in his Efficiency Rating – a stat I tend to find accurate.

It would be hard to argue Vic Fangio’s unit was not one of the league’s ten best defenses last season. And now they are (a) returning all relevant members of their starting lineup, (b) returning the entire defensive coaching staff, with the exception of John Fox and (c) building an offense to relinquish pressure on this unit.

If the Bears find a way to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, they should be among the league’s best defenses. If the Bears develop a top pass rush, they could be the league’s best unit.


On the Trib’s Bears Coverage…

A few nights ago a fan on Twitter decided to ask Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune to be more like Adam Jahns and Adam Hoge. Well, asking one beat writer to be more like another beat writer is never going to be met with a wink and a smile.

Campbell works hard. I saw him slaving over his computer at the Billy Goat during the Tribune Sports Christmas party as Pro Bowl announcements were being made. And nobody with a brain cares about Pro Bowl announcements.

He also seems to be a genuinely good guy. We had a few on-line conversations when he first joined the beat, mostly about soccer, but those quickly evaporated for reasons I’ll never understand. (I assume David “Blue Moon” Haugh played a major role.) But if Campbell’s got any blood in his body, he’s competitive. He doesn’t want to be told he’s not as good as the primary competition at the Sun-Times.

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Tweets From the Legal Tampering Period

| March 14th, 2018

(Jake Roth – USA TODAY Sports)


The “legal tampering period” is another work of staggering genius by Roger Goodell. Instead of having an exciting start to the league year this afternoon, with six hours of team-changing moves, we now have this three-day, amorphous blob of leakage featuring the newest bullshit phrase “intend to”.

Nothing in the NFL improves under Uncle Rog but the television revenues. His contract extension proved nothing else matters to these owners.

Twitter is the place to be on days like yesterday, as the news comes flying in from every direction. (True story. I’m currently starting a theatre company and for some reason scheduled ALL my legal meetings for yesterday. Forgot to check the NFL calendar.) So here are the Tweets telling the story of the Bears newest signings.



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Data Entry: Outlining My Ideal Free Agency

| March 6th, 2018

The Combine just ended and NFL free agency is about to kick off. Teams and agents were already talking in Indianapolis, and the official legal tampering period starts next Monday.

With that in mind, I’m going to lay out both positions and players I think the Bears should target. I’ll explain my rationale for each, detail why they are a good fit, and try to provide a contract estimate. I’m not going to address smaller depth needs – backup QB, 3rd RB, etc. Just the main contracts that will take up most of the cap room.

Salary Cap

The Bears are currently projected to have around $80 million in cap space after accounting for their eventual draft picks, so they have plenty of money to work with. They could also clear up to another $15 million by cutting Dion Sims ($5.7 million), Markus Wheaton ($5 million), and Marcus Cooper ($4.5 million).

As we’ll see below, however, they have a number of significant needs to address, and that’s before you begin to consider extensions for in-house candidates like Eddie Goldman, Adrian Amos, and Cam Meredith, which GM Ryan Pace said at the Combine were being discussed.

The Bears have money to spend. But they can’t just throw it around willy-nilly because that money won’t go as far as many might casually think from looking at the large number.


Wide Receiver

I’ve already spent a lot of time talking about wide receiver this offseason, so this discussion is going to be short. I think the Bears should try to add two players, one to be a WR2 and one as a WR3. There are plenty of FA options available for both roles who fit their new offense well.

As I stated before, my ideal targets would be Marqise Lee as the WR2 and Albert Wilson as the WR3. Lee has proven to be reliable, while Wilson knows the offense, and seemingly has a strong relationship with Matt Nagy. Both are fits.

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