Betting the Under at 6.5 Wins for the Bears? I Wouldn’t. And Other Points of View.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions. And mine.

    In a column last week, you quoted [Bears haed coach] Matt Eberflus as saying it “creates more gaps in the running game when you have that lead back in there.” I wasn’t sure exactly what this meant. Why does having the extra player “create more gaps”? Don’t the players have to cover the same number of gaps regardless? Can you explain? — Tom S., Chicago

    Let’s say, for example, the Bears run power or lead through the C gap. With a fullback on the field, the offense is getting an extra player to the second level and it creates another gap because now the defense needs two linebackers (or one and a safety) attacking the back. One has to hammer the back and the other has to spill the play. In essence, the fullback creates leverage advantages for the offense and a plus-one number through the gap leading to the second level. I hope that makes sense.

    It does.

    I thought about this and after a while I think I figured out exactly what Eberflus was talking about in terms of the scheme.

    If you have three blockers on the right side of the offensive line (center, guard, tackle) you have three gaps, one to the right of each player (A, B, C). If you throw an extra blocker in the hole in the form of a full back, you have an extra gap.

    Probably should’ve waited a day or two and thought about that one before writing it in.

  • The Dolphins traded former Bear Adam Shaheen to the Texans for a sixth round pick. Via Charean Williams at profootballtalk.com.
  • One thing you immediately notice about the Dolphins if you follow them over any length of time is that they have a gift for getting value for players that are going to make the roster. This is just the latest in a long line of such transactions.

    The Bears in contrast rarely get what fans think are good value for their players when they need to trade them. I’m not quite sure why but it could be that they simply don’t do a good enough job of selling them.

    In any case it’s an area that I think we would all like to see improved.

  • Adam Jahns at The Atheletic passess on information about linebacker Roquan Smith‘s trade request.
  • Smith shared some harsh words about the Bears front office in his statement. The NFL Network reported that there are de-escalators included in the Bears’ offer.

    “The deal sent to me is one that would be bad for myself, and for the entire LB market if I signed it,” Smith said. “I’ve been trying to get something done that’s fair since April, but their focus has been on trying to take advantage of me.”

    There are a few things that struck me about this situation. First, they’re letting Smith get away with negotiating through the media. That was absolutely forbidden by former GM Ryan Pace who was following the lead of the GMs before him. When an agent tried to leak information to the media like this, Pace shut him down. Literally. As far as anyone can tell, he didn’t even talk to Allen Robinson‘s agent for months after he pulled such a stunt.

    Poles handled this situation completely differently. He immediately called a press conference in answer to Smith’s public comments.

    I’ve always liked the way that Bears handled these negotiations because I always thought that negotiating through the media was a bad thing. It will be interesting to see if this was a one time exception for a player who is negotiating his contract without an agent or if this is a new way of doing things in the front office. And I won’t be the only one watching. Agents throughout the league are probably very interested in this situation.

    In any case, media commentary has very generally not really matched up to reality in this negotiation. Most media members find it much easier to criticize a large, almost faceless organization than a player that they would like to talk to every day. Personal relationships get in the way, as well.

    The truth is that this trade request is a non-issue unless someone blows the Bears away with an offer. The Bears have all of the leveage here.

    Smith’s ultimate option is to hold out until week 10 of the season when he would need to come back for his contract to toll for another year. That would mean giving up between 2/3 and 3/4 of his salary. I can’t imagine he’d do that. Not only that but in a year where the Bears aren’t really expected to compete for anything significant, how much would it really matter if Smith did sit out?

    In addition, if a deal doesn’t get done before the season starts and Smith comes back and plays, which is a virtual certainty, then the Bears can franchise tag him in 2023.

    The fact that Smith doens’t have an agent and is negotiating his own contract is really a problem here. First, as Jahns points out, Smith is undoubtedly hearing the Bears tell him things that he doesn’t want to hear. Their job is to negotiate his contract number down. That means being critical. When you do that to an agent, he serves as a buffer between the organization and the player. Without an agent, there is no buffer and negative things end up having to be said directly to him. That can not only affect the player emotionally, it could even translate to doubt on the field. No team wants to be faced with this situation.

    Even more, there is the practical matter of just how much of th epractical business of negotiating that Smith can do himself. We don’t know this but let’s say that the offer from the Bears with the de-escalators was an initial offer. Has Smith submitted a counter-offer? Is he even capable of doing that? If not, what does he expect? That the Bears will just negotiate with themsleves?

    This whole thing is a little bit of a mess. But, prersonally, I don’t lay that at the Bears door.

  • Colleen Kane at the Chicago Tribune quotes offensive coordinator Luke Getsy on the way that he’s training the offensive players to execute his scheme.
  • “This is a process, right? And we stress every single day that we’re a process-driven team, and our unit is the same way,” Getsy said. “And it’s all about making sure we get better every single day. Whether the focus is on getting better at our protection adjustments or our hot adjustments or throwing hot routes — whatever that adjustment is or whatever that emphasis of the day is, we just have to make sure we’re getting better at it.

    I really liked this quote.

    Football coaches are, when you break it down, teachers. And the best way to teach broad subjects is to break them down into their components and teach each component one at a time. Each one builds one upon another.

    It sounds to me like that’s what Getsy he is doing. One day on protection adjustments. One day on throwing hot routes. Another day on another part of the offense.

    It isn’t just a question of watching film seeing problems and then plugging holes every single day. If we’re all lucky, they’ll eventually get to that point. But for right now it’s about building the offense one block at a time. It’s nice to know that the coaches realize that.

  • Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times talks about the Bears affinity for Equanimeous St. Brown.
  • Eberflus talked up Equanimeous St. Brown after a strong practice Wednesday, but it’s near-impossible to get excited about someone with 16 catches over the past three seasons. It’s still baffling that the Bears, so desperate for offensive playmakers, wouldn’t commit to [wide receiver Allen] Robinson under the Ryan Pace regime. The smartest offensive mind in the NFL, Sean McVay, had no trouble with the Super Bowl champion Rams giving him a three-year, $46.5 million deal.

    It’s not really baffling. It’s fairly obvious that Pace didn’t see the dominant athleticism in Alan Robinson that he wanted in a number one wide receiver. He almost certainly also thought that wide receiver was a very replaceable position and that he could rapidly rebuild it with other players.

    That doesn’t mean he was right. But given his history with the Bears and the facts of the matter, it wasn’t terribly surprising that he thought paying Robinson would be overpaying.

One Final Thought

Finley analyzes what he seen from the Bears thus far.

The Bears win total is 6.5 — over or under?

Under. They’re not better than the Packers, 49ers, Bills, Eagles, Patriots, Cowboys, Dolphins or Vikings. That’s 10 losses right there — and they can’t run the table against the rest of their slate.

This win total in Vegas has intrigued me since it was first set. It does seem a little bit high. But it’s likely that the bookies are counting on fans pounding the under.

If we don’t think the Bears are very good in Chicago, imagine what fans in other cities think.

I’m not much of a gambler but I know one thing. Never bet against the bookies. If it looks like the bookies are trying to get you to pound the under, there’s usually a good reason for that. Something tells me that nationally and locally, people are underestimating the influence of a new coaching staff in Chicago.

I don’t usually gamble. But if I did, I’d bet the over here.

What Will the New Offensive Scheme Look Like? And Other Points of View.

  • Kevin Fishbain and Adam Jahns at The Athletic give their report from the first padded practice.
  • Running back David Montgomery has embraced the potential of playing on special teams this season.

    “Funny thing about David the other day, he was taking a couple reps on the special teams and his reps were over and he said, ‘Hey, can I get on the scout team since my reps are over? Can I get on the scout team and give these guys a look?’” special teams coordinator Richard Hightower Said. “That just speaks to (GM) Ryan Poles and (coach) Matt Eberflus about the culture that these guys are creating.”

    But it probably says more about Montgomery, who remains the Bears’ lead back but also is in the final year of his contract. The special teams work is new for him. He has to learn it. Montgomery said it was as simple as seeing his name on the depth chart and going to the special teams drills.

    “Wherever they need me, I’m going to be ready to be there,” he said. “I’ve never played special teams before. But I’m always down and excited to learn so I can be better.”

    I liked hearing this. I’ve always wondered why they don’t put more starting players from offense and defense on special teams. They are, supposedly, generally speaking your best players.

    Coaches constantly claim that special teams are as important as the offence and the defense on the team. But if that were true, I always thought that you would see more starting players on the third phase. I understand that it increases the possibility that these players will get hurt. But, if your words are good and special teams are as important as the two other phases, that shouldn’t really be a factor.

  • Fishbain and Jahns also shared some observations from Friday’s practice.
  • Wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown proved a reliable target for Fields on Friday in the red zone, high-pointing a couple of passes for touchdowns.

    Usually I read these short blurbs about some play in camp and just pass them over. Observations like this early in camp with guys not playing in pads don’t really mean much to me.

But I have high hopes about St. Brown. He’s got size, he’s got speed, he’s got everything that you need. He wasn’t the best of receivers with the Packers but quarterback Aaron Rodgers knew St. Brown as a rookie. That’s a little bit like being 50 years old but having your mother look at you and still see you like you’re 16.

Offense coordinator Luke Getsy seems to agree that there might be something there. Via Dan Wiederer and Colleen Kane at the Chicago Tribune.

Getsy said St. Brown’s best football is ahead of him after watching him mature last season after initially not making the Packers roster out of training camp.

“I saw a transformation of a guy turn into a pro, and his mentality, the toughness and the way he attacked every day, I was just super impressed with how he handled that,” Getsy said. “I always liked EQ and thought he was good player and then I saw him go through that adversity and the way he handled all that stuff, that’s what these guys are all leaning on. That leadership and that experience that he went through, that’s super for us.”

St. Brown might be capable of doing more than he showed with the Packers. The Bears might be catching him on the rise where if they give him an opportunity to show what he can do, he could be a very good player for them. As far as I can tell he certainly has the tools.

  • Speaking of Getsy, Jahns talks about what the scheme he will run might look like.
  • Coming from the Packers, Getsy is an extension of the Kyle Shanahan/Sean McVay coaching tree and offense. One scout suggested that the Bears could run a version of the Titans offense.

    Packers coach Matt LaFleur was Tennessee’s offensive coordinator in 2018. Since that season, the Titans have ranked ninth, 10th, second and first in rushing attempts. And with it could come a heavy dose of play-action passes. According to data from Pro Football Reference, Tennessee ranked first, second and 12th in play-action passing yards over the past three seasons.

    “All of the new coaches, they’ve been great,” [QB Justin] Fields said. “They’re great teachers. So (I’m) just learning something new every day. Building on what we have already as our foundation is just going to make us better as a team.”

    I would be extremely happy to see the Bears run the kind of offense that the Titans have run. It’s an offense that seemed to get the most out of the players on the team year after year.

    Play action pass is and has always been the heart of most NFL offenses for decades and decades now. The Bears to me seem to be set up to effectively run a system where the run game is the base and you pass off of it. The Chicago weather and the quality of their running backs and many other factors seem to point in that direction.

    Former head coach Matt Nagy seemed to come to that conclusion last year. It’s seemed that he tried to make the adjustment to run more of a play action offense in response to suggestions from the players and perhaps some of his coaches. However neither he nor his staff really knew what they were doing or how to teach the system. Nagys background was in Kansas City which is more of an open, pass first offense.

    The coaching staff this year seems to be cut from a different cloth. Their experience and ability to teach a play action based offense bodes well for the transition to that kind of a scheme. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do.

  • Kane on center Doug Kramer, who has replaced Lucas Patrick as the starting center in the lineup due to injury.
  • Kramer, who is 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, noted he has been labeled as undersized for his position for years but still made 48 starts at center over five seasons at Illinois. He said having that much experience gives him confidence but also noted the huge amount of work he has to do — starting with the mental side — to catch up to NFL veterans.

    I’m worried about the fact that Kramer is undersized. Whenever I hear the words “learn leverage“ that’s usually what that means.

    It looks to me like the Bears are not going to rely much on power football. That will help Kramer here. But nevertheless, even as they execute an outside zone blocking scheme, Kramer will be someone to keep an eye on if he continues to be the starter at the position.

  • Fishbain and Jahns quotes wide receiver and N’Keal Harry.
  • “This is a golden opportunity for all of us,” Harry said. “It’s just who’s going to grab it? For me to capitalize off this … I just have to show how dominant I am, and I just need to be that big, strong wide receiver.”

    Word is that Harry came out of Arizona State after having physically dominated the defensive backs in the Pac-10. However he was unable to do the same with the defense of backs on the pro level and was unable to learn the subtleties involved in the position that would have allowed him to use the traits that he has to beat them in the pro game.

    It’s hard to imagine that the Bears will get more out of Harry than the Patriots did. But perhaps the change in scenery will allow Henry to get more out of his physical traits in the NFL. The Patriots run a really complex technical system. Some good wide receivers have failed to pick it up. Chad Johnson, for instance, seemed to have trouble simply learning the playbook.

    It’s possible that Harry just needs a fresh start in a new system where things are a little bit simpler and where he can just play in lack and asthma points out and let his physical traits come through more while thinking less.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune thinks that Riley Reiff is the Bears new starting left tackle.
  • Reiff’s one-year contract calls for a base salary of $3 million, and he will earn an additional $4.5 million if he plays only 10% of snaps and the offense improves in any one of six key offensive categories. Details of the categories are unknown, but the offense was so bad last season, the Bears obviously are planning to pay the additional money and aren’t going to make $7.5 million a layup for a player they expect to be a backup. Reiff can earn another $2.5 million tied to playing time and has a $2 million playoff bonus as well, so it’s easy to envision him as the starting left tackle.

    Biggs has a point and usually you can’t go wrong following the money. And it’s worth noting that Fishbain agrees with him. In fact Fishbain also thinks that Kevin Schofield will be the new starting right guard.

    But I have my doubts. Reiff has never been a very good tackle in the league. The Lions teams and Vikings teams that he played on were generally considered to be among the worst in the league and Reiff’s position was always targeted as on eneeding an upgrade, primarily because of his run blocking. I would’ve never put him anywhere above the bottom third of the week and I don’t even think it’s a borderline call. It’s not like he can’t be beaten out.

    The Bears invested resources in the draft to try to find younger players to take these positions. They weren’t high draft picks but it was an investment. I still believe that the Bears will be disappointed if both Reiff and Schofield are starting in September. Certainly in November. There can be a little doubt whether you think the odds are decent or not but the best possible scenario for the Bears would be for the younger players to work out and beat out these veterans.

    Could Chicago Have Kept the Bears? The Mayor’s Abrasiveness Has Not Helped. And Other Points of View.

    • Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot unveils plans to put a dome on top of Soldier Field in an effort to keep the Bears from moving to the suburbs.

      ‘The mayor said the cost of the project and the option would depend on who the stadium’s “anchor tenant” but suggested the city might be willing to move forward with a dome for another team, noting there are other cities that host more than one NFL team.’

      ‘Asked if the Bears would entertain her plans, Lightfoot said the team would be “foolish” not to consider staying in Chicago at Soldier Field. She and other speakers contended it would be cheaper for the team to stay at Soldier Field than to build a venue elsewhere and stressed the importance for the team to offer and for fans to have an experience that extends beyond the game itself.’

      ‘Lightfoot’s initial response to the NFL team’s interest in building a stadium in Arlington Heights was to call it “noise” and urge the Bears to focus on “being relevant past October.” Since then, Lightfoot has floated the possibility of building a costly dome over Soldier Field and appointed a task force to examine the Museum Campus that’s home to the stadium.’

      From the very first the mayor showed that she didn’t really understand how the NFL works and exactly what kind of danger she was in of losing the team. Her comment above about the possibility of the NFL allowing a second team into Chicago continues to illustrate how naïve she is about how the NFL operates. There is no way the NFL will put another team in Chicago to compete with a loyal, league-friendly Bears organization. They allowed two teams into Los Angeles but that was a unique situation where there were no teams in the city to begin with. This is an entirely different kettle of fish.

      Ultimately the Bears are going to make this move because they need to own their own stadium and they need the revenue that comes from that. Having said that, the mayor’s confrontational style, as illustrated by the statements above also almost certainly helped harden the Bears stance as the they tried to negotiate improvements to Soldier Field over the few years before finally giving up and signing a purchase agreement for a great deal of land in Arlington Heights.

      Its possible that the state could block the move. All you need to do is look at the barriers which were put in front of Rams owner Stan Kroenke as he built SoFi stadium in Ingelwood, CA. But Koenke eventually got the deal done and I’m guessing that the Bears will, too.

      Given the advantages that owning their own stadium and all of that land around it brings, it is hard to say if the mayor could have done anything to stop the Bears from leaving. But the whole situation is emblematic of a large issue where the person running the city government thinks she can run it through abrasive confrontation and intimidation.

    • Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic has thoughts about every player reporting to Bears training camp.
    • Nathan Peterman: The outcry over the Peterman signing was wild — someone has to be the third-string QB for practice and the preseason, and with the focus on Justin Fields’ development, it wasn’t going to be a rookie.’

      This irritates me. Why couldn’t it be a rookie?

      I understand that they have to concentrate on developing Fields. And I understand that there are only so many reps to go around. But if you aren’t developing your next quarterback with that third or fourth spot on the roster, you are doing your due diligence.

      There have to be ways to create opportunities to develop young quarterbacks on the roster where you are continuing to concentrate on getting the starter ready to go. It takes creativity, I’m sure. But if you need more coaches, you hire them. If you need to put them on a separate field with back up wide receivers you do it. If you have to work them out before or after practice, do it. Even if you have to create a fourth spot and put that quarterback on the practice squad, in my view, you always need to be developing somebody other than the starter.

    • The Bears have signed guard Michael Scofield according to the Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune.

      Many wonder if Schofield will become a Bears new right guard. And that certainly is a good possibility as undersized Sam Mustipher has been the default option in the position since off-season workouts began.

      Although Schofield certainly is a viable option along with multiple late round draft picks at the Bears made, it’s possible Schofield is seen as a replacement for Dakota Dozier who is currently on IR and he was reportedly was nothing but a veteran backup during the off-season.

      We will find out quickly as training camp starts where is Schofield fits in on the field.

    • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun Times addresses the issue of health for the 2022 Bears.

      6b. You can’t discount the importance of luck and timing in the success of any NFL general manager or coach. [Former GM Ryan] Pace’s tenure got off to a bad start in 2015 when his first-round pick, wide receiver Kevin White, started his first training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list with a shin injury he suffered in OTAs and ended up missing the entire season.

      Every year, it seemed, the Bears would open camp missing a key player: Pernell McPhee (PUP) in 2016 and 2017; Roquan Smith’s holdout in 2018; Eddie Goldman’s opt-out in 2020; and Tarik Cohen (PUP) and second-round draft pick Teven Jenkins (back surgery/injured reserve) last season.

      Team health is a very underrated factor when it comes to determining whether a team is going to have a winning season or not. But injuries happen all over the NFL every week. The key isn’t simply to avoid injuries. It’s to overcome them in the same way that good sports teams overcoming adversity in all aspects of the game.

      Neither the Bears nor any NFL team can afford to use injuries as an excuse to lose. None of the injuries above were so bad that it could be said that they were a very significant reason for the reason why any of those teams failed to achieve.

      The Bears could be exceptionally healthy this year. I don’t know of any significant injuries that were reported during the off-season. And that’s a good thing. But no matter how their injury rock luck runs, it shouldn’t affect expectations to a great degree. It is always attitude and fortitude that ultimately win in the NFL adn good teams dont’ let injuries stop them.

    • Potash also addresses is the Robert Quinn situation.

      Unless the Bears become a surprise playoff contender in 2022 — stranger things have happened in the NFL — the Bears are better without Quinn than with him. They’re clearly in rebuild mode after Ryan Poles cleared the roster of the most veteran players he inherited from Ryan Pace. And Quinn would take away snaps from developing players — perhaps intriguing rookie Dominique Robinson. And he might help them win games that drop them in the draft order.

      I’m going to mildly disagree here. The top priority for 2022 is not to earn a top 10 pick in the draft. The top priority is to develop the young players on the roster. And you’re not training them to learn how to lose.

      The Bears don’t have to go to 17-0 and that’s not what the goal is here. But you definitely are not going to make much progress training players whule getting your brians beat in and going 0-17. The Bears definitely want to win some games this year. And without Quinn they will win very, very few. They need a pass rush. Assuming that the Bears get the 2021 version and not the 2020 version, Quinn brings that.

    Brisker’s Hold Out Would Hurt Everyone, Including His Agents. And Other Points of View.

    • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune addresses Jaquuan Brisker‘s potential hold out from training camp.
    • In the big picture for both the safety and the organization, the contract squabble figures to be a minor speed bump. But four years ago, first-round pick Roquan Smith’s camp holdout wasn’t figured to be a major deal in mid-to-late July. The linebacker, though, went on to miss more than four weeks of camp and 15 practices as a rookie, which slowed his emergence.

      It’s worth noting that Smith has since fired the agents that advised him to hold out four years ago. He still hasn’t hired an agent despite the fact that he’s due to negotiate a contract extension with the team. The guess here is that he was burned so badly by the experience that he’s having trouble finding someone that he trusts to represent him.

      We don’t know what the specifics of the situation is here. Biggs suggests that it’s the amount of guaranteed money. This shouldn’t really be a big problem. Brisker is slotted in between players that have already signed contracts and it shouldn’t be hard to figure out where the middle ground is.

      Brisker is potentially setting himself up to end in the same situation that Smith was in. It’s one where everyone involved, including his representatives, could be hurt in the end over something small that probably didn’t matter long-term.

    • Biggs also addresses is the reasons why the national media are so down on the Bears.

      The Bears won only six games in 2021 while ranking 27th in points per game. Offensive woes are nothing new for the team. The front office and coaching staff were overhauled, but new GM Ryan Poles inherited an old roster with salary-cap issues and no first-round draft pick. He also traded the team’s marquee star in pass rusher Khalil Mack. Without any splashy additions in free agency and no top pick to create national buzz, it’s no wonder observers from afar are skeptical. The only thing the Bears have not done is publicly declare they are in the beginning stages of a rebuild with a clear focus on resetting the cap situation and getting younger. With fair questions about the cast around Justin Fields, both on the line and at wide receiver, many doubt the Bears are in position to compete in 2022. What should be factored into the equation is the schedule appears easier than it was a year ago and new coach Matt Eberflus should get maximum effort from players looking to prove themselves as options for the future. Locker rooms often rally around the idea their team is the underdog and isn’t afforded ample respect. Maybe the Bears can tap into that at points during the season. Training camp gives them the opportunity to work toward proving the national sentiment wrong.

      It’s hard to figure out how people think of the Bears nationally. Whenever I try to figure out what the reality of the situation is in this respect, I usually look at the odds in Las Vegas. But even the odds tell a confusing story.

      On the one hand in terms of the spread for individual games, the Bears are not favored in a single one all season. If you go by that the prediction is 0-17. On the other hand the over under for Bears wins this season is 6.5. That sounds about right to me.

      Consider that the Bears actually only won six games last year with a roster that I think anyone would consider to be more talented than the current one with players like Allen Robinson and Khalil Mack still on the team. I think that there are many reasons for this and Biggs mentions a few of them. First the schedule is definitively easier. Second you can expect the Bears to get a bit of a bump from having a first year head coach. Eberflus has no history with most of the players on this roster and the players are bound to be quite a bit less comfortable. They will all concentrate just a little bit more and play a little bit harder, especially at the beginning of the year.

      However, if you ask me, a good part of this has to do with the fact that Matt Nagy just wasn’t a very good head coach last year. Over and over again he asked other people, including the players, to provide him with solutions for the teams problems rather than providing those solutions himself. It was an attitude that proves he was open to doing anything to get better but also proves that he was in over his head not prepared to lead the team.

      I think the reason the Bears are favored to win the same number of games as they were last year is because at least the people in Las Vegas consider Eberflus to be an upgrade at head coach. The situation says volumes about how bad things actually were last year.

    • Josh Alper at profootballtalk.com passes on the information that former Bear Eddie Goldman, who recently signed with the Falcons, has retired rather than face another training camp.
    • I got the distinct impression after the Covid pandemic that Goldman had really lost his desire to play. He didn’t seem to have the same desire on the field as he had previously and it showed in his performance.

      If he doesn’t want to play anymore, more power to him. But he had a lot of talent and he will be missed. He did good things and he could’ve eventually done better.

    • Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray signed a five-year contract extension worth $230 million with $105 million fully guaranteed. Via Albert Breer at si.com.
    • People talk about teams without a QB as being in quarterback hell. But I think the Cardinals were also in a different kind of quarterback hell. If they didn’t pay Murray, where does their next quarterback come from? They don’t have much of a chance to win a Super Bowl with him but I don’t think they really had much of a choice. Without him they have no chance.

      You can do it with an Alex Smith. But almost everything has to go exactly right. It’s problematic. I’d almost rather go with someone who is not as talented as Murray but who cost much, much, much less. At least you can invest in all of the other positions around him. This might be the worst of all possible spots to be in.

      Maybe the Titans with Ryan Tannehill is the ideal spot to be in if you don’t have a superstar quarterback. They certainly did a great job of maximizing what he brings.

    How Bad is “Bad”? And Other Points of View.

    • Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic makes his roster predictions.

      Quarterback (2)

      Justin Fields, Trevor Siemian

      Who will be the practice-squad quarterback?

      The Bears don’t have a good enough roster to keep a third quarterback. Nathan Peterman will help them get through
      camp and the preseason, and it might be nice to have a veteran to work with some of the third-team players. Peterman could be on the practice squad, and it appears — for this season at least — the Bears won’t have
      a rookie or younger quarterback to develop behind the first two.

      Considering Siemian’s experience, if Fields takes the step the Bears are hoping for, they’ll have a solid duo, but it’s important to have a
      third quarterback on the practice squad who knows the scheme, in case of emergency.

    I’m disappointed that Peterman is the third option at quarterback on the roster. As I’ve made clear in previous posts, I think the Bears should always be doing everything they can to develop new young talent
    at the quarterback position. I realize that a young practice squad quarterback is a long shot to develop into anything significant. But that’s all the more reason to evaluate as many as possible in a search
    fro one to develop.

    The only thing that I can figure is that the Bears want to
    concentrate completely on developing Fields. I understand that. But I see no reason why efforts should be restricted to Fields alone. If necessary, the Bears could hire an extra coach to work with a potential
    practice squad quarterback.

    Once again, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Bears are not going
    to do enough to find talent at the quarterback position. It’s all or nothing with Fields and they aren’t even looking for anyone else. If Fields is in year four and he doesn’t work out, Poles will be in the
    same position that former GM Ryan Pace was. Desperate to find somebody at the position because he didn’t even look for anyone else.

    Hopefully the Bears are planning on churning through a series of
    young quarterbacks with tryouts as the year progresses in their continued search fro talent at the position.

    Running back (5) David Montgomery, Khalil
    Herbert
    , Darrynton Evans, Trestan
    Ebner
    , Khari Blasingame (fullback)

    Will the Bears keep five in the backfield?

    The Bears claimed Evans off waivers from the Titans in March, signaling he’s someone the front office identified as being a good fit for the backfield and special teams. As a draft pick, Ebner also comes
    with some cachet, and his pass-catching skills stood out in minicamp. He could also factor into the return competition.

    Blasingame seems to be a lock as the fullback, and as long as Evans and Ebner are contributing on special teams, the Bears might go heavy in the backfield and lighter at tight end.

    The only thing I will say here is that if the Bears choose to keep a full back in Blasingame then I hope that, unlike many previous regimes, they find a way to use him regularly. Too many times in the past the
    Bears have decided to keep a full back that turned out to be wasted roster space. If they have a defined role for a full back and they’re going to play him, then by all means they should keep one. Otherwise
    another tight end would be a better choice.

    • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions.

      With spots open at linebacker, right guard and defensive tackle, and salary cap space, do the Bears make more free-agent moves before camp?— @pilcher2700

      Who are they going to sign? With 32 teams having 90-man rosters right now, it’s not as if there are a bunch of guys on the street that look like Week 1 starters once they have a contract and a uniform. Yes, I expect this roster to be constantly evolving and that could mean players added because of injuries or other reasons. No, I don’t envision the Bears in 2022 adding a difference maker off the street right now. Maybe they get a player or two that can fit their system during roster cuts but it’s not as if the Bears are just biding their time waiting to pounce on potential free agents. Most of the moves at this point in the calendar are for camp depth.

      Given the hole at right guard, is the possibility of starting Braxton Jones at left tackle more about getting the best five O-linemen on the field and maybe means Larry Borom or Teven Jenkins plays guard? — @jtbcubs

      I see where you are going here but I don’t think you make a decision at left tackle, of all positions, because of a question you have at right guard. Left tackle is the premier position on the offensive line and you can make a case right guard is at the bottom of the list. I say this because some coaches really value an athletic player at left guard, making it more of a priority than the right guard position.

      Yes, the Bears need to find their five best linemen and get them on the field. They’ve yet to look at Borom or Jenkins at guard this spring, at least as far as I saw. Could that change on Day 1 of minicamp? Sure.
      Some I talked to when the Bears drafted Jenkins last year thought he might be best playing inside. But I don’t think you put a rookie fifth-round pick at left tackle unless you believe he’s your best option at that position, no matter what else you have going on along the line. Questions at left tackle trump questions at right guard. Maybe Jones excels when pads going on next month.

    I realize that the Bears have had only non-contact practices so far. And I also realize that there’s only so much that you can evaluate in terms of offensive lineman when there’s no contact. But there are things
    that you can evaluate and what evidence there is seems to indicate that the Bears are not sold on Jenkins.

    He was a second round pick last year and if you’re going to take an offensive lineman and move him to the second team to make room for Jones to give him a look, you wouldn’t think that the highest draft pick on
    the line would be the guy that you would move down.

    True, the drills are non-contact but there are things that you can evaluate. You can evaluate movement skills physically but, perhaps more important at this time of year, you can evaluate coachability. This
    situation may well be a measure of how many mistakes Jenkins has been making in practice and that is, in fact, a good part of what offensive line play is about. As much as any position on the field it is about
    execution, consistency and technique. It is entirely possible that Ryan Poles scouted Jenkins last year and perhaps they weren’t sold on him then either.

    Furthermore, I agree that the Bears are highly unlikely to sign anybody at any position who is likely to be very good. But from my perspective the Bears have to do something about offensive right
    guard.

    Sam Mustipher has been starting at the position and he is simply too
    small for the position and is really more built to be a center. My understanding is that he’s gained weight in the off-season but my understanding is that it wasn’t enough. They have to have their eye open
    for some sort of a veteran to plug into that role. Either that or they are hoping that Zac Thomas will be ready early in training camp or be planning to move a tackle like Teven
    Jenkins
    to guard. A veteran may very well not be very good. Even if there is a really good veteran on the street to be signed, those guys are waiting for an opportunity with either a winning team or a huge
    contract. Nevertheless, I think that they have to consider signing someone.

    • Biggs continues:

      I feel the Bears are getting dumped on nationally and picked to be worse than the Jacksonville Jaguars. I believe Matt Eberflus will get them playing hard and Justin Fields can win
      more games than people think. Cincinnati Bengals-type season? — @dpeak1313

      The Bengals reached the Super Bowl last season. I do not believe the Bears are going to enjoy a similar resurgence in 2022 and ultimately be crowned NFC champions. There’s a heck of a lot of space in the middle, though, between being worse than Jacksonville and being as good as Cincinnati was in 2021. I agree Eberflus likely will get the team playing hard and that can create the kind of energy needed in the building to power through some rough spots in the schedule. The coaching staff has been really positive about Fields this spring and he has nowhere to go but up.

      I understand Bears fans, at least a good portion of them, are tired of hearing that this may be a season full of growing pains. From a national perspective, why would there be a different quick take on the team? They won six games last season. Statistically, Fields struggled as much as about any rookie quarterback has in the last decade. Some marquee defensive players departed and there are significant questions about an offensive line that struggled last season. The only additions to the O-line have been center Lucas Patrick, signed to a two-year, $8 million contract, and a quartet of Day 3 draft picks. If Fields takes some steps forward this season, the Bears can be competitive nearly every week and be close into the fourth quarter. Then, it’s about making plays.

    I also keep hearing nationally that Bears fans are going to have to get used to the idea that they are going to be bad this year. But I really think the answer to this question depends on your definition of “bad”.

    If you think that they’re only going to win two games. I would say that’s highly unlikely. It is true that the roster has lost a lot of talent but I think we can reasonably expect that the talent that they have will execute better than last year.

    I’m sure the players liked Matt Nagy as much as I did but he wasn’t ready to be a head coach and its unlikely that he was getting the most out of the players. Indications are that Eberflus will
    do a better job of that. Defensively he has shown himself to be a very good coach. And I like the direction that the offense is headed in. The Bears definitely need to incorporate a better running game and more play
    action passing. It sounds like they are on their way to doing that.

    Its true that last year’s six win team had more veteran talent on paper. But the over-under for wins in Las Vegas is still 6 1/2. I’d say with an easier schedule and the bump that you get in player performance with a first year head coach that six or seven wins is not unrealistic. If that’s what you call “bad“. Then yes they are going to have a bad year. But if it’s overall first round pick miserable, I’m going to be surprised.

    Extending Roquan Smith’s Contract Would Only Make Sense

    Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic answers your questions.

    Roquan Smith has really grown into the defense’s leader, but can we justify spending the going rate ($20M/season) on an inside linebacker? Are we better off putting that money on offense to support Fields and take the comp pick? — Brian L.

    I don’t think it has to be an either/or situation considering the Bears’ healthy cap situation heading into the 2023 season and beyond. If the new front office deems Smith worthy of a top-of-the-market deal for an inside linebacker, like Darius Leonard received ($19.7 million per year), it shouldn’t preclude them from making aggressive moves next offseason at wide receiver, offensive tackle, etc.

    Smith is only 25, is a leader for this team, seems to love Chicago, and has been one of the best players at his position in football. We could even see more impact plays from him in the new scheme. In a vacuum, he’s the type of player an organization wants to keep around.

    It bothers me that the minute the Bears find a good, young player, fans immediately want to let him go to save money and get a “compensatory pick“.

    The Bears have plenty of cap space next off-season and the best way to use that space by far is the sign their own when they have players that are worthy of it. The idea is that you reward your own players, something that fosters loyalty in the player and a positive attitude throughout the team as other players know that the team will take care of them.The more you do that the less you have to dip into free agency and take a chance on other teams rejects. This is the way that franchises that compete year in and year out do it.

    Roquan Smith was a first round draft pick and is performing like one. The idea that even a third round compensatory pick and cap space saved that the Bears don’t need will compensate for his loss is not a sound one. Something similar same could be said for many other young players that we can all hope that the Bears will have that will be worthy of an extension.

    The NFL Draft Quarterback Odds Are Odd

    Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com informs us about where the quarterbacks may be selected in the upcoming NFL draft.

    “[Malik Willis] is the favorite to be the first quarterback selected, with current odds at -145. [Kenny] Pickett is at +135. Next comes Desmond Ridder at +1000, Matt Corral at +1800, and Sam Howell at +5000.

    “Here’s where it gets intriguing. Even though Willis is the favorite to be the first quarterback drafted, Pickett has better odds to be selected at one specific position in the top 20.”

    “At No. 6, Pickett is a +175 favorite to be the selection. Willis stands at +400. Thus, while the oddsmakers at PointsBet generally regard Willis as being viewed as more desirable, they think Carolina prefers Pickett to Willis.”

    “At No. 20, where the Steelers pick, Willis is the favorite at +500. Pickett is just behind Willis, at +600.”

    This was really interesting.

    Although Willis is the favorite to be the first quarterback selected, it looks to me like Pickett is the favorite amongst the teams that need quarterbacks.

    A couple of thoughts:

    1. Recent rumors have it that the Steelers are really interested in Ridder at #20. Ridder is also seen as the Seahawks’ favorite. They pick at #9. So either these are smoke screens or both teams may be hoping to take Ridder in the second round.
    2. These odds might suggest the possibility that a team will trade up to take Willis. It could be the Saints as the odds are a little better that Willis will go to them than Picket. The other possibility is that a team no one is thinking of will surprise the league by trading up on Thursday night to get Willis. Perhaps its my Bears-centric point of view but this draft looks in many ways like the 2018 draft when Kansas City and Houston surprised everyone by trading up to get the undervalued Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.

    Although the Bears don’t have a pick on Thursday night, this whole thing should still be interesting to watch.

    The Bears Need to Better Use David Montgomery in Their Offense This Year

    Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune talks about David Montgomery‘s potential role in the new Bears offense.

    The Bears thought Montgomery was more suited for the inside zone and run-pass option scheme [former HC Matt] Nagy desired, and they billed him as a better fit in the passing game. The biggest difference between Montgomery and Aaron Jones — the featured running back for the Packers, for whom [OC Luke] Getsy worked the last three seasons — is that Jones is more dynamic in the passing game.

    But Montgomery’s vision and patience should lead to ample success in the outside zone scheme the Bears will lean on heavily in the ground game, with second-year running back Khalil Herbert surely playing a role as well.

    I think there are a couple of things that are worth noting here.

    1. Although Montgomery is not as dynamic as Jones, it is worth noting that the Bears said that one of the reasons that they drafted Montgomery was because they believed that he had some ability to expand their passing game. They obviously thought that he could catch passes out of the backfield though they rarely used him that way in games. Perhaps Getsy will find that Montgomery has more talent in this area than expected and will use him in a way that the previous coaching staff for some reason did not.
    2. The Bears absolutely, positively must do a better job of running the ball this year. The key to success for them is going to always be the play action pass while playing outdoors in Chicago. I’ll give Nagy credit for recognizing this last year and doing his best to set the offense up to succeed in this manner. Unfortunately I’m not sure that he or his staff knew how to coach the running game well enough to make it work and that was part of his downfall.

    In any case, hopefully the new staff will be better be able to execute a vision for the offense and for Montgomery that better fits his skill set this year.

    The Current Draft Will Tell Us A Lot About What Kind of Organization the Bears Have Become

    Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions.

    Is there a position no one is talking about that the Bears could go to with their first pick in the NFL draft? — Greg W., Warrenville

    You probably can rule a few spots out with the two second-round picks — and maybe even the third-round selection — on Day 2 of the draft. The Bears seem unlikely to target a quarterback, running back, tight end (it’s not a great group this year) or inside linebacker with those picks.

    Everything else — wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, pass rusher, cornerback and safety — can be considered a legitimate need. That means general manager Ryan Poles can remain true to his board and have a lot of possibilities when it comes to the highest-graded available player(s) when he’s on the clock. Maybe will provide a little flexibility to trade down. One thing I have wondered of late: If the strength of this draft is in the depth — Rounds 2 through 4 or so — will other teams be less inclined to want to trade up?

    It’s an interesting question.

    My gut feeling is that the answer is “No“. One of the things that bugged me about former Bears GM Ryan Pace the most was his tendency to fall in love with players and, as a result, aggressively trade up for them. Many, perhaps most, of the best GMs in the NFL will tell you that they try to never do this. Too often in the end the guys you fall in love with turns out to have had almost the same chance to fail or succeed as the guys that you could have had if you stayed put. I’m convinced that was true of many of the players that Pace simply couldn’t do without and it cost the Bears a lot of draft capital. See “Anthony Miller” as the poster boy.

    So it depends upon the team. I always said that Pace was the type of GM that other GMs take advantage of. Well, there are a lot of other GMs out there who are exactly the same. It is my sincere hope that GM Ryan Poles turns out to be one of those smart GMs that makes hay at their expense. If he is, there should still be plenty of opportunity to take advantage of the aggressive nature of other GMs, regardless of the talent that you think is available.

    Bottom line, I think there are plenty of general managers out there who will identify players that they think should’ve gone in the first round and who will try to trade up in the second to get that player before he disappears off the board regardless of the other “second round talent” that remains available. For Bears fans, probably the most interesting aspect of this draft will be seeing if Poles can use that and turn it into badly needed picks because it will tell us an awful lot, not just about the present, but about our future as well.

    Why Did the Bears Let James Daniels and Bilal Nichols Enter Free Agency?

    Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions.

    “While going through another rebuild is very disappointing, I appreciate your insight into the process. One thing I can’t understand is Ryan Poles not re-signing more of the team’s own free agents, several of whom the rest of the league appears to be really excited about. I get that it is a two-way street and that a player such as Allen Robinson probably wanted a new start elsewhere. What I don’t understand is James Daniels and Bilal Nichols who seemed to meet the criteria for the future being young, affordable and with upside. Is this a case of them also wanting a new start or a case of Poles just clearing out the old management’s players? — Scott S.”

    “By my count, 18 players that finished last season with the Bears have signed elsewhere in free agency. They have re-signed two players that were unrestricted free agents (defensive back DeAndre Houston-Carson and long snapper Patrick Scales) and also brought back three exclusive-rights free agents (tight end Jesper Horsted and offensive linemen Sam Mustipher and Lachavious Simmons).”

    “I imagine you would probably feel a little differently about free agency had Poles signed a big name wide receiver or offensive lineman to mitigate the losses of Robinson (Los Angeles Rams) and Daniels (Pittsburgh Steelers) in free agency. It’s possible the team didn’t believe Nichols was an ideal fit for a 40 front. He headed to Las Vegas in free agency and the team has made some moves to shore up the front by signing Al-Quadin Muhammad and Justin Jones.

    “What we are looking at is a large group of players signed to short-term contracts, many of them for only one season, and the hope is that a handful emerge as more than just bridge players and can be starters that the Bears can build around. Certainly it will not be the case for most of them, but between wide receiver Byron Pringle, linebacker Nicholas Morrow, offensive lineman Lucas Patrick as well as Muhammad and Jones, I would expect a couple to emerge as solid contributors.

    “You’re going to see a lot of turnover next offseason with such a high number of players on one-year contracts. When the Bears kick off the 2023 season, the roster will look dramatically different than it did at the end of 2021. That is the goal and how the young players improve between now and then will go a long way toward determining how good the team is at that point.”

    I identify with the questioner‘s feelings on this issue. I have an online friend how is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan who, after they signed Daniels, asked me “what the Bears have against resigning 24-year-old promising offensive lineman“.

    There are a couple of reasons that I think may have led the Bears to let Daniels and Nichols leave as free agents. The first is a question of scheme. The Bears are changing the defense of scheme to a four-man front and, as Biggs points out, it could be that the Bears didn’t think that Nichols would fit that sort of a defensive front. Personally, I think he probably would’ve made a reasonably good nose guard in a four-man front but I’m not as qualified to make that judgment as the Bears coaches.

    Similarly, it has been well publicized that the Bears are changing to an outside zone scheme. They have expressed a desire to acquire more mobile and athletic office of lineman. Again, I would’ve thought Daniels might have fit that sort of a profile. But evidently the coaches do not agree.

    The second reason why these players may not have been resigned is because of the cap space that they may have occupied. In particular, many general managers do not like the idea of sinking inordinate amounts of money into one particular position. They would rather spread the money out. Former general manager Jerry Angelo was a fan of this philosophy. It could well be that the Bears figured that they already had enough money spent on the interior of the offensive line because of Cody Whitehair‘s contract. The choice very well may have been between resigning Daniels or keeping Whitehair and the Bers made their choice. If that is the case, I’d say they made the right decision. Whitehair is is probably the better player.

    In any case it will be interesting to see how these players work out with their new teams and whether the Bears may end up regretting letting a couple of young players get away.