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Three More Thoughts on Bears v. Packers, or No Podcast This Week

| September 7th, 2018

The podcast is not going to be a weekly occurrence this season. There will be around 8-10 episodes during the regular season, beginning next week with The Return of Adam Jahns. (I think Jahnsy and Ryan Pace are giggling on a seesaw in Niles right now.) In the meantime, some thoughts…


Thought #1

When Mike Pettine was working with Rex Ryan in New Jersey the team had a hellish time dealing with tight ends. (A lot of this was the result of over-blitzing to pressure the quarterback.) And while Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel have been recovering from/dealing with injuries this summer, Trey Burton and Mitch Trubisky have developed a rapport that’s going to drive defenses crazy. Pettine will empty the kitchen cabinets Sunday night and Trubisky will use his security blanket to move the chains. Big opener for Burton.


Thought #2

Brian Urlacher told Dan Patrick on Wednesday that under Lovie Smith the Bears once ran cover-2 against Aaron Rodgers on 46 of 47 plays in the second half. And won the game. (Sounds like a bit of a stretch but I’m not about to do the research.) Vic Fangio should be able to generate more than enough pass rush with his front. Why not go to some Cover-2 looks Sunday night and try to limit Rodgers’ ability to beat the defense over the top? These aren’t great pass catchers in Green Bay. If they have to make 10-12 plays to get into the end zone, against this Bears defense, they’ll make a mistake (or be forced into one) before they put seven on the board.


Thought #3

Cody Parkey had a so-so summer. While I’m told he’s been lights out in non-public practices, the team has some concern as to whether the Jupiter, Florida native (and I assume golfer because that’s what you do down there) is ready for the bright lights of Bears football. You can miss kicks in Miami. Nobody goes to those games. You miss kicks in Bears v. Packers, it gets noticed. Everyone in the organization will breathe a massive sigh of relief if Parkey posts a clean sheet Sunday night.

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Four Bold Predictions for the 2018 Chicago Bears: Prediction One

| August 30th, 2018

Skipping the 50 Bold Predictions column this year. Too much work for too little payoff. Instead this space will be focused on predictions for this vintage of the Chicago Bears over the coming days.


Prediction One

Trey Burton will break Martellus Bennett’s single-season catch record for a TE by catching 92 passes.


Why?

  • The Andy Reid / Doug Pederson / Matt Nagy offense is often referred to as tight end heavy but that’s also been due to a string of terrific tight ends coming through their systems. Burton has spent time in this system, Nagy knows what he’s getting and Mitch Trubisky will rely on the tight end heavily in his first year navigating a professional offense.
  • No player had excited this coaching staff more than Adam Shaheen. I’d been hearing glowing things about him since the spring and he was poised for a monster year, especially in the red zone. Shaheen’s absence – which I believe will be substantial – should provide even more opportunities for Burton.
  • Burton can block. He can block quite well. Which means he’ll stay in the game for short-yardage and goal line situations. It means he’ll not only stand up outside but he’ll also play off the tackle. More opportunities.

Season line: 92 catches, 1,118 yards, 7 touchdowns.

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ATM: Bears Have Fantasy Relevance

| August 29th, 2018

[Editor’s note: Yep, allowing a fantasy column.]

For the first time since fantasy football became truly popular, the Chicago Bears actually have some interesting players.

The Bears have had players who have been highly drafted before, but there was never any debate about them. You wanted Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett. It was pretty easy. This year there is actually a debate about which Bears to take and when.

Below is a short guide for how you should fill your fantasy roster with Bears:

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Three Thoughts on the Bears v. Chiefs Practice Game

| August 24th, 2018

Tomorrow the preseason ends. After the Bears leave Soldier Field all eyes point to Green Bay and the opener. A few thoughts.

  • There’s a laundry list of players that should see extremely limited duty tomorrow but why would the Bears put Kyle Long or Trey Burton out there for a single second? Both players looked in mid-season form against the Broncos and clearly don’t need “these crucial reps”. Long’s injury history would always dictate a cautious approach. Injuries behind Burton on the depth chart make his availability Week One even more essential. Give these boys the weekend off.
  • It will be somewhat interesting to see who the Bears start on the edges. Leonard Floyd certainly won’t play. Aaron Lynch is AWOL. The dearth of talent at one of the most important positions in the sport will be wildly on display early in this ball game, especially with Akiem Hicks surely not suiting up again until September 9th. Will the Bears have any capable pass rushers on the field tomorrow?
  • Never understood why teams don’t start their backup quarterback in this third practice game. How many opportunities do you have to give your backup experience with the starting OL/skill guys against an opponent’s top defensive unit? Mitch Trubisky entered the 2017 season a month into it and had no relationship with the guys catching his passes. Why not give Chase Daniel – who may be called upon to save a game or even a season – the opportunity to develop some of those relationships?

One day more. And then we finally start discussing real football.

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Notes on the Broncos Practice Game

| August 19th, 2018

Photo by Aaron Doster, USA TODAY Sports


  • This entire game comes down to the medical status of Adam Shaheen (pictured above) and Leonard Floyd. If Shaheen is significantly hurt, the Bears will be devastated. For weeks I’ve been writing and Tweeting about the big tight end because I’ve been told no player has more excited the coaching staff with his potential. If Floyd is significantly hurt, well, that Kahlil Mack stuff is about to get serious because the Bears are lightest on the edge.
  • Back when I used to play fantasy football (my running backs were Marshall Faulk and Shaun Alexander) a game like this would have changed my entire draft approach. Why? Because it’s clear Mitch Trubisky and Trey Burton have a thing going and last night’s practice game was an opportunity for them to play pitch-and-catch against an actual opponent.
  • Why give Jordan Howard nine carries in a practice game? The numbers are definitive. These star running backs have a limited number of carries/years in their bodies. They hit a career wall at thirty years old. I’d put Howard in an ice bath until after Labor Day.
  • The interior of the Bears offensive line got pushed around a bit. But these guys are impossible to evaluate without scheme being involved. (And I don’t think this is their best five but that’s another issue entirely.)
  • Both Isaac Yiadom & Kyle Fuller were called for the “lowering the head” penalty. In neither case was the call accurate. It was obvious during the Hall of Fame Game and it’s becoming more obvious as days go by. If the NFL doesn’t suspend this rule before the season opens and revisit it, they’re making a terrible mistake. The product has suffered terribly over the last few seasons because of decisions by the front office. This will continue that trend.

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Camp Has Started. Let’s Grade Chicago’s Roster.

| July 24th, 2018

Let’s take an objective look at this Bears roster, grading each unit on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the worst in the NFL, 10 being the best in the NFL, and 5 being an average NFL grouping. I am going to try to avoid projecting too much for young players who have not yet proven it in the NFL, so some of these rankings might be a bit lower than expected.

Let’s get right down to it!


Quarterback: 3.5

Key players: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel

Roster depth: Tyler Bray

I have a feeling this rating will be higher by the end of the 2018 season, but right now I can’t go any higher than a 3.5 out of 10. Mitchell Trubisky got steadily better as his rookie season progressed, but he still didn’t play that great, and while people seem to love Chase Daniel as a backup, he’s only thrown 78 passes over 8 seasons in the NFL.


Running Back: 8

Key players: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen

Roster depth: Benny Cunningham, Michael Burton, Taquan Mizzell, Ryan Nall

Welcome to the best position group on the Bears’ roster. Jordan Howard has run for over 2400 yards the last 2 years, and Tarik Cohen is a perfect complement who can make explosive plays on limited touches. Howard’s struggles through the air are the only thing keeping this grade from being higher, but the duo should be very productive in 2018 if used correctly. The depth here is solid as well; Benny Cunningham is a good ST contributor and solid 3rd down back, and people seem to like UDFA Ryan Nall as a sleeper.

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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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