Quick Game Comments: Bears at Dolphins 10/14/18

Defense

  1. The Dolphins came out running at the Bears right up the middle. They had moderate success early and probably planned to wear the Bears defense out over time. It may have worked as the Bears looked a little tired in the heat in the second half. The Dolphins upped the tempo in the third quarter to take advantage. Under the circumstances, you had to like the Dolphins chances at home in over time.
  2. The Bears were flat on defense and there was some pretty bad tacking out there from start to finish. It resulted in some very big plays including a Dolphins game tying touchdown by Albert Wilson late in the fourth quarter. In particular, Kyle Fuller really needs to start wrapping guys up.
  3. The touchdown to Wilson came on another of those shallow crossing routes that the Bears seem to be so susceptible to.
  4. The Dolphins gave Ja’Wuan James plenty of tight end help and they did a pretty good job of containing Khalil Mack.
  5. The Bears struggled to generate a pass rush. Eventually they started playing more games up front and blitzing. They got a bit more on Oswieler in the second half after that.
  6. Roquan Smith had a good job tracking Kenyan Drake around the field. Drake is a pretty good pass catcher out of the backfield.
  7. The Dolphins evidently liked their tight ends matched up against safety Adrian Amos. They went to them a number of times and had some success doing it.
  8. One of the things the Patriots did a good job of against the Dolphins was chip their smaller receivers off of the line of scrimmage, especially Danny Amendola in the slot. Surprisingly the Bears decided not to do that and the Dolphins receivers frequently ran free through the defensive backfield.
  9. Two Dolphins possessions in the read zone in the third quarter resulted in field goals both times with the Dolphins struggling in the red zone. If you are a Dolphins fan those have to be touchdowns.

Offense

  1. The Dolphins came out with 8 in the box, basically daring the Bears to pass.
  2. Mitch Trubisky was erratic despite having time to throw. He threw two uncatchable balls in the first possession.
  3. Rahad Jones had a very good game. He was pretty much everywhere.
  4. The Dolphins evidently had some pretty good coverage on the back end. Trubisky had all day to throw but he struggled finding open receivers.
  5. As I feared, this was the Trubisky that we saw against Arizona. The Dolphins played a heavy dose of man coverage and Trubisky had a very difficult time finding his receivers and looked confused. If he doesn’t have a very well defined read, he’s got a problem. The Dolphins didn’t blitz much but when they did, he reacted poorly. In fairness, he looked better in the second half but he’s got a long way to go.
  6. The Bears offensive line did a pretty good job but there were breakdowns in protection on obvious passing downs that need to not happen.
  7. The Bears continue to target Taylor Gabriel on the deep passing game rather than Allen Robinson. Robinson is taller and is better going up to get the 50:50 balls but the Bears believe that Gabriel is fast enough to out run the cornerbacks in the league. I haven’t seen that much in the games, though. In fairness Gabriel caught two long passes but he was well covered. I’m not a believer, yet.
  8. The Bears finally caught the Dolphins in a stunt on the third touchdown by Tarik Cohen. This was a testament to continuing to run the ball despite limited success. The Patriots pulled off some similar big runs against the Dolphins two weeks ago but it takes discipline to pull it off.
  9. Another monster game for Tarik Cohen. He’s a terrible mismatch with any linebacker. By the end of the game the entire Dolphins linebacking corp and a safety were all following him around the field.

Miscellaneous

  1. Brian Custer, Greg Jennings and Doug Gotlieb were your announcers and didn’t impress me much. There wasn’t much in the way of unique insight and they did teach the audience much of anything.
  2. Jason Sanders hit a solid 60 yard field goal in mid-third quarter that looked like it would have been good from 60. The Bears missed 53 yard field goal in overtime Jason Sanders made his and that was the difference.
  3. The Bears had a delay of game late in the first quarter. That killed a drive in which the Bears went for it on fourth own and didn’t get it.The Dolphins had a pass interference and a defensive holding call in the same series, giving he Bears a first down both times.Minkah Fitzpatrick had a damaging pass interference early in the second half. I’m not really that surprised. He tends to be pretty physical in coverage. The Bears converted it into a touchdown.

    Frank Gore got shaken up on what should have been a helmet to helmet call. That was a bad miss in terms of player safety.

    The Bears had a couple illegal formation calls that were irritating. Apparently they had a receiver that wasn’t lining up on the end of the line. They need to clean that up.

    Bad pass interference call on Trey Burton on what would have been the fourth Bears touchdown. Burton barely touched Kiko Alonzo on what looked like a legitimate NFL play. It was followed by an interception in the end zone and eventually it turned into a Dolphins touchdown with a two point conversion. That’s a 15 point swing.

  4. Albert Wilson dropped one early. Amendola had a drop early in the second half. Other than that, I don’t think they factored into the game much.
  5. Jordan Howard lost a devastating fumble late in the second half on the goal line that likely cost the Bears 7 points. Brock Osweiler returned the favor by throwing an interception near the Bears goal line shortly afterwards with less than a minute left in the half. Kyle Fuller had a bad Osweiler interception early in the second half. The Bears converted it into a touchdown on a pass to Allen Robinson on the next play.Of course the crowning turnover was the Tarik Cohen fumble with less than two minute left at mid field.  Until Kenyan Drake fumbled on the goal line in over time.Too many turnovers on both sides today.
  6. If I see one more “9-1-1” commercial I’m going to puke. Cops, firemen, doctors! Everything you need to be a hit! If you’re about 70 years old.
  7. If you are a Dolphins fan, the continuing lack of discipline has to be worrying. They shot themselves in the foot a lot today and they were working a small, dink and dunk game plan where they really couldn’t afford set backs. Both teams had too many penalties. Third and nine late in the fourth quarter and you have a broken coverage. If you are the Dolphins, that really hurts.
  8. I didn’t love the decision by the Bears to run the ball three straight times into the center of the line in over time to settle for a fifty-three field goal.  I know that both teams were giving the ball away in key moments at the drop of a hat but if its me, I trust my guys and stay aggressive to make that a better shot if possible.  I wasn’t surprised that Cody Parkey missed it.
  9. The Bears looked flat coming off of the bye, especially on defense. On the other side, the Dolphins looked like they were pretty high for this one, evidently seeing it as a winable game. Sometimes teams pull together in the face of adversity and with Ryan Tannehill out, the may have been the case here.The Bears were a step slow all over the field. The Dolphins have some speed which, of course, didn’t help. The heat probably didn’t help either. Eventually the Bears defense wore down and it was over.
Posted in Chicago Bears, Game Comments, Miami Dolphins | Leave a comment

Quick Game Comments: Buccaneers at Bears 9/30/18

Offense

  1. Good job by Mitch Trubisky finding a wide open Trey Burton on the opening drive. Once again, we see the Bears trying to keep Trubisky comfortable by putting him in shot gun and letting him run, which he did effectively.
  2. Having said that, Trubisky was erratic again, throwing even easy passes that were just way off. He missed a pass to an open Taylor Gabriel in the second quarter that Gabriel couldn’t have caught if he was 9 feet tall.
  3. And he was leaving the pocket early under pressure, again. He ran right into a sack by Jason Pierre-Paul early in the first quarter.
  4. The play calling was very run heavy early against what looked like some light fronts. Evidently the Bucs didn’t’ think the Bears could run on them but it looked like they were doing just fine.
  5. Having said that, Trubisky got good protection today. Nice work at the line of scrimmage. I was really surprised that the Bucs didn’t blitz more given what Arizona did last week but I guess that’s just not what they do.
  6. Trubisky’s fade route to Allen Robinson was just fine in the first quarter. Contrast with last week…
  7. Kudos to Tarik Cohen, who had pretty good game. I’m always skeptical about how effective these little quick guys are going to be. The numbers often don’t seem to match the hype. But the Bears put him to good use today and he looked like a mismatch all over the field.
  8. It was curious how the Bears kept putting James Daniels in and out at left guard. I’m not entirely sure if it was systematic or if Eric Kush was hurt and just trying to get back in.
  9. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen receivers this open around here. The Bucs didn’t help with some broken coverages but that wasn’t all of it. This is a real, big boy offense.
  10. Credit Kevin White. He was all over the field with some good blocks today. It doesn’t sound like much but that’s what good teams do.

Defense

  1. The Bears looked like they were playing a lot of two deep safety looks in order to limit big plays.
  2. Nice play by the Bucs dragging a receiver across the field in front of the linebackers and holding them in coverage while DeSean Jackson suck across behind them.
  3. Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t particularly accurate early in the game as he was consistently high on his passes.
  4. I really don’t think anyone should leave an offensive tackle alone on Khalil Mack. It’s just not fair.

Miscellaneous

  1. Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman and Shannon Spake were your announcers. I thought these guys did a pretty good job. Spielman was pretty quick with insightful comments on replay immediately after big plays, giving you a good idea of what happened. He seems to be pretty knowledgeable and he can communicate it. I like him.
  2. Nice work by Tarik Cohen alertly jumping on a ball that hit DeAndre Houston-Carson in the back on a punt in the first quarter.
  3. Mike Evans had a bad drop early in the game.
  4. The Buccaneers were hit with a few bad penalties early including a number of offsides penalties. Maybe Trubisky is getting better at the hard count.
  5. Akiem Hicks getting tossed from the game, even in a blow out, that’s not good. I’m surprised. A suspension would be extremely bad. As their best defensive lineman, they need him.
  6. Eddie Jackson with a nice interception near the end of the first half saved at least three points. In fairness to Fitzgerald, it was 3rd and 19 and at 35-3, you don’t settle for a field goal. Danny Trevathan had an interception on a ball tipped by Mack with the Bucs driving at the beginning of the second half.
  7. So prepare for a week of national commentators telling you about how great the Bears are. Don’t fall for it. They had a good day and the Bucs had a very bad day. They aren’t there, yet.
Posted in Chicago Bears, Game Comments, Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Leave a comment

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Cardinals 9/23/18

Defense

  1. First play. Cardinals match up Larry Fitzgerald on a linebacker for a complete pass to start their work down the field. The Cardinals were to do it again and again just as the Packers did in the Bears first game. The Bears linebackers consistently did not picked up receivers dragging over the middle late and even when they did, it was a mismatch. Apparently defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has decided that these sorts of passes are the kind he’s willing to give up. It would burn him badly on the Cardinals first touchdown as they started Ricky Seals-Jones on the drag route, only to jerk him out of it the other way. No one picked him up.
  2. Khalil Mack had a huge sack to take Arizona out of field goal range near the end of the first half.

Offense

  1. The Bears initial game plan was apparently to run to keep the Cardinals from blitzing. In a way it worked as they did run for 5 yards per carry in the first half. But it didn’t stop the blitz and on 3rd down and 7 or 8, the Cardinals confused Mitch Trubisky and did serious damage with some big blitzes. They also did a good job of disguising them, lining up at the line of scrimmage, then bailing out.
  2. Cody Parkey missed a field goal that was longer than it should have been after Trubisky took a sack on an all out blitz and lost 15 yards.
  3. On a related note, message to Mitch Trubisky: THROW. THE. BALL. AWAY.
  4. The Bears are rolling Trubisky out more and he’s in the shot gun more as well. Good job by the Bears there. He’s obviously more comfortable on the run and in the shot gun.
  5. The Bears took some shots with Taylor Gabriel, apparently believing that he is going to simply out run the defense. It didn’t work as the Cardinals covered him like a glove. They’d be better off taking their shots with Allen Robinson, a bigger receiver who can bring down a 50-50 ball.
  6. Trubisky was erratic as usual with a lot of throws that were way off target. He missed a touchdown to Robinson as he threw behind him on the play. Later he threw a fade to Robinson in the end zone and the ball was nowhere near him. Trubisky had a tough time hooking up with Robinson and they looked out of sync.

Miscellaneous

  1. Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth and Jennifer Hale were average at best. For instance, no one could initially say what happened or who blew the coverage on the Cardinals first touchdown. Not only that but I’m not so sure Schlereth was right when he said that Danny Trevathan blew the coverage. I doubt that Trevathan is supposed to pick Ricky Seals-Jones up on that play unless he continues across the field.
  2. Cody Parkey missed a 46 yard field goal. He was kicking the ball off through the end zone.
  3. Drops weren’t a major issue.
  4. Eric Kush had a couple of damaging penalties: a chop block and a false start.The Cardinals did everything they could to hand the Bears a touchdown near the end of the first half with two roughing the passer penalties: one on Marcus Golden and one on Robert Nkemdiche. But the Bears just couldn’t accept the gift as Dion Sims took them out of a set of downs starting with first and four with an illegal shift. The settled for a field goal.Haason Reddick had a bad offside penalty that kept a Bear drive alive. It resulted in a field goal and put the Bears within 1 point of the Cardinals.
  5. Trubisky gave up the ball on a strip sack.I gotta be honest. Tre Boston picks off a deflected pass on the Bears 30 with a minute and a half left and at that point you know its not your day.Eddie Jackson had a nice pick on a less than stellar throw from Sam Bradford. Sherrick McManis had a nice interception in the third quarter that gave the Bears the ball in Arizona territory. Mack caused a huge fumble early in the fourth quarter with the Cardinals looking like they were set up to get a big field goal at that point.  And, of course, the two game sealing interceptions were huge.
  6. I thought the Bears were thoroughly out coached in the first half, just as they were in Green Bay in week 1. The men on the Arizona defense were beating the Bears to their spots. The offense was beating the Bears linebackers in mismatches in coverage like a drum. I also thought calling time out with 4:30 left to line up for the field goal was poor clock management.
  7. Good time to bring Josh Rosen in. With the Bears in a prevent defense, the passese were likely to be reasonably short and open.
  8. Kudos to Bears fans for making a lot of noise in enemy territory.
  9. This was a good win for the Bears. After a miserable start the defense came on and pulled this game out while the offense continued to plug away. At some point, the Bears are going to hae to figure out how to handle teams that know how to blitz. Trubisky seems to be too easily confused and unable to read the defense and this won’t be the last they see of this by far. But for now, I guess they should just enjoy the come from behind victory.
Posted in Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Game Comments | Leave a comment

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Packers 9/8/18

Defense

  1. Khalil Mack looked like the real deal as he applied good pressure on Aaron Rogers. It looked like the Bears tried to use him primarily in passing situations in the nickle defense. This made good sense as it allowed him to rush the passer as a defensive end without worrying too much about linebacker responsibilities.
  2. Rogers seemed a little jittery to start the game. The timing with his receivers appeared to be off.
  3. Aaron Lynch looked rusty as he got a lot of playing time at outside linebacker in the 3-4. He doesn’t look real fast and he looked like he was having trouble getting off of blocks.
  4. The Bears were pretty good on third down in the first half (the Packers were only 2 of 8). They were managing to get off the Packers off the field with some consistency. Some Packer penalties helped.
  5. It looked like the Bears were playing a lot more press man coverage out there. It could be that having more confidence in the pass rush affected that.
  6. The Packers got a linebacker matched up on a wide receiver time after time in the first half. They made a lot of yardage on it.
  7. Roy Robertson-Harris had a great game. The improvement for him from last season is dramatic. They should give him Mack’s interception.
  8. The Packers came out from half time and decided that the best way to handle the Bears pass rush was to start getting the ball out fast. Good move. The offensive line did a better job of protecting Rogers, too.
  9. Rogers came out sharp in the second half. You almost think that having a bad knee keeping him in the pocket and forcing him to throw on time instead of getting out and improvising may have helped him and the Green Bay offense.
  10. The Packers were running pick plays over and over again. They were pretty effective.
  11. Leonard Floyd did not make much of an impact with the club on his hand.

Offense

  1. The Bears came right out with Michael Burton at fullback the first play. There has been speculation that they might use the fullback a lot this year. Looks like that might be true.
  2. Also notable was the fact that the Bears started out giving the ball allot to Tarik Cohen. An obvious effort to make sure he got involved.
  3. Taylor Gabriel also got a lot of play on the first drive after we barely saw him in the preseason. Interestingly, both he and Cohen almost disappeared after the first quarter.
  4. Two time outs in the first quarter. Even though the Bears executed pretty well, its obvious that they didn’t quite have it all together. You can’t complain too much given how they moved the ball but they’ll want to start better in that particular aspect next week.
  5. Jordan Howard never looks like he is running all that well. His specialty was the outside zone run and Green Bay did a good job of stopping that. He did OK but he didn’t look comfortable.
  6. Cody Whitehair had a rough game with Kenny Clark lined up over the top of him.
  7. The Packers started to get pressure on Mitch Trubisky in the second quarter. The Bears tried to run the ball more but otherwise they didn’t do much to slow it down. They responded after half time with some timely screen plays. They also ran a lot more misdirection against that kind of aggressive defense.
  8. The Packers started to blitz in the third quarter.
  9. It was obvious that Trubisky was having a hard time finding open receivers from the second quarter on. Either he has to get more aggressive with his throws or they’ve got to get more open.
  10. Trubisky is still too inconsistent with his accuracy.  He’s better.  But he’s still throwing the occasional ball that is just too far off.

Miscellaneous

  1. Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michelle Tafoya did their usual great job. For my money, Collinsworth is the best in the business.
  2. Special teams were not notable. We saw none of Cody Parkey’s preseason struggles.
  3. The Packers got off to a rough start as far as penalties go. Some poorly timed calls killed a couple drives in the first half. Possibly just some first game slop. Kyle Long had a damaging holding penalty in the second quarter.
  4. There weren’t many drops which is unusual for both of these teams.
  5. Khalil Mack flat out took the ball away from Deshone Kizer on a third and goal. Mack also had a pick six after Robertson-Harris generated some pressure.
  6. This was a good start to the season for the Bears. Other than being a bit too aggressive in coverage, I think the defense will be fine. The offense looks to me like its a work in progress. After a fast start they stalled against an aggressive Green Bay defense. The one thing that Green Bay does offensively that the Bears didn’t was they owned the middle of the field. The Bears offensive will have arrived when they can do that. It will be interesting to see how they develop over the course of the first half of the season.
Posted in Chicago Bears, Game Comments, Green Bay Packers | 1 Comment

Buyer Beware

Buyer Beware

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“I’m a bit worried about the way that the Bears are building their team. Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton, Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan as free agents. Now Khalil Mack at a free-agent price plus two first-round picks (minus a couple of one-round upgrades). Didn’t the Redskins show a long time ago that this isn’t the way to build a team? It seems to me like sustained success requires sustained excellence in all areas over a long period of time, not a lot of free-agent signings to cover up previous failures. Am I wrong? — Tom S., Chicago

“Those are legitimate points you make, but the counter is that the Bears were in desperate need to improve at wide receiver and the skill positions and they view Burton as an essential piece to Matt Nagy’s offense. In Mack, the Bears have acquired one of the truly elite edge rushers in the NFL and, considering they would have been unlikely to land a player of a similar impact with the draft picks they unloaded in the deal, it certainly makes sense. I fully understand what you’re saying about the Redskins, and after them the “Dream Team” Eagles were a disaster. But the Jaguars returned to prominence last year with some heavy spending in free agency. There’s no question the Bears have used free agency to cover for some mistakes in the draft, but no one is perfect in the draft and this will be a really competitive team if the quarterback they drafted turns into the player the Bears believe Mitch Trubisky will be.”

I hated to write in with this question because I feel like such a kill joy. Everyone sees good things for this team and I’ll say up front that I, too, am excited to see what happens. But I can’t help feeling uneasy.  This blog is tends to be a long posts that address issues that bother me because when something bothers me, I have to get it out and write about it.  This entry will be no different.

A lot of people will claim that the players that the Bears signed are “different” from those players that the Redskins and Eagles signed. But these players aren’t as different as you might think. The core of the Bears team is made up of free agent signings (and I count Mack as one) that they were willing to sink significant resources into that other teams that knew them better weren’t. They then out bid 30 other teams for his services. Another way of saying “they won” is by saying “they were willing to overpay more”.

Yes, each individual player was his own situation and maybe it will work. I know nothing bad about Robinson or Burton or Gabriel or Mack as people. But the major reason why these things generally don’t work is still there. Even if you cut Mack out of the equation, every free agent the Bears signed this year fits the “buyer beware” label for one reason or another.

I know no one agrees with this now and I totally understand why. It all looks so good on paper. But I still say that history isn’t on the Bears side and I can’t shake the feeling that if they win something by building their team this way, they will have beaten the odds.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins | Leave a comment

Quo Vadis Kevin White

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“With Kevin White playing deep into the last game and not participating on special teams, how tenuous is his roster position? Would cutting him send a more valuable message? — @maestermagoo

“I found it incongruous that White was held out of the preseason opener against the Ravens with the core players and starters and then got heavy use into the third quarter last week in Denver. He logged 43 snaps against the Broncos, more than any other wide receiver. I thought White needed to be on the field in the Hall of Fame Game because he has missed so much time and could, of course, benefit from the reps… I think White will make the 53-man roster because the Bears would like some return from general manager Ryan Pace’s first draft pick. But I can’t imagine him getting a ton of playing time if the players ahead of him on the depth chart are healthy.

“What has been the consensus about Kevin White? He hasn’t looked great even when playing against backups. Is he a lock to make it even with Javon Wims showing flashes? — @matt22880192”

“I doubt Wims wins a job over White at this point, but you never know. Let’s focus on the receivers the Bears are going to be counting on.”

There are a couple points to be made here, I think.

I like what I see with Wims but let’s not get carried away here. He’s a big receiver but he’s not all that fast. One observer I talked to characterized him as “lumbering”. That’s an exaggeration but relatively speaking it’s not a huge one.

White is a size-speed guy with a lot more physical talent than Wims, even after multiple injuries. He’s ahead of Wins on the depth chart and he’s likely to stay there.

How much playing time White sees is going to be something interesting to watch this season. I noted that quarterback Mitch Trubisky went out of his way to target him against the Bengals and I think the Bears would love to see him develop a connection with White. Having a reasonably fast and tall bookend to Allen Robinson could put defenses in a bind if White proved healthy and effective. He’ll see a lot of single coverage.

On the other hand, head coach Matt Nagy has to find enough balls to go around for a lot of players. It’s already evident that this will be a tight end heavy offense and that Trey Burton will get his share of targets along with whoever plays the other tight end position. Robinson and Taylor Gabriel will get their share of targets and Anthony Miller has emerged as well. It also evident that they’d like to use Tarik Cohen more assuming he can learn to play effectively in all of the positions that they have put him in.

The offense has a lot of options. No one is very sure where White will fit in right now.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals | Leave a comment

Stock Up, Stock Down After the Dolphins Pre-Season Loss to the Panthers

Stock Up

  • Ryan Tannehill looked very sharp in just short of 2 quarters worth of work. He was 14 of 17 for 100 yards as he dropped back, read the field and delivered the ball reasonably accurately to the open receiver. He showed no ill effects coming off of a torn ACL in 2017 and his passer rating for the night was a solid 91.2. Tannehill wasn’t asked to do much in that the Dolphins stuck to the short passing game. But there were virtually no negatives when looking at what he did and his performance was encouraging.
  • Robert Quinn, acquired in the offseason from Los Angeles for a fourth round pick made Executive Vice-President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum and General Manager Chris Greer look good as he showed both quickness and power while rushing off of the edge. Quinn hasn’t been dominant for a couple years but certainly looked like he will be a handful for any offensive tackle in the league one-on-one if he keeps playing like he did against the Panthers. Overall the Dolphins pass rush was solid and Quinn was a big part of the effort.
  • Xavien Howard got an interception on a pass where Panther’s quarterback Cam Newton evidently didn’t see him lurking on the left side of the defense. He returned the ball 34 yards. Howard also contributed to a rash of Dolphins penalties by committing a pass interference so his night wasn’t perfect. But his coverage was tight and he looked like he’s going to be the kind of asset the Dolphins thought he could be when they drafted him in the second round in 2016.
  • Daniel Kilgore. The offensive line on the whole didn’t have a great night but Kilgore was solid in the middle. He was particularly effective blocking in the running game and held his own in pass protection. He did have one minor breakdown on a screen pass near the end of the first half but it was a difficult block with the defensive tackle making a good read after shading to the play side of the center. Miami’s situation at right guard and both tackles can be a bit unsteady at times. Kilgore’s presence could help stabilize the situation.

Stock Down

  • Raekwon McMillan is effectively a rookie and though he was improved over his debut performance last week, he still looks like one as he was vary inconsistent on the night. McMillan shows excellent range and he frequently makes good, quick reads that get him in position to make plays from sideline to sideline. You can see why the Dolphins liked him when they drafted him in the second round in 2017 before an injury derailed his season. But he had trouble taking on and getting off of blocks and was solidly sealed out of the hole on a Christian McCaffrey 71 yard touchdown run in the first quarter. It also appeared that he failed to pick up tight end Ian Thomas in coverage on a 27 yard touchdown pass near the end of the first half.
  • David Fales had a bad night as he competes with Brock Osweiler for the back up quarterback job. Osweiler (10 of 13 passing for 68 yards) wasn’t great by any stretch and could improve his ball placement. But it was nothing compared to Fales’s struggles with accuracy. Fales was only 1 of 6 for 1 yard. He was high and in front of an open Francis Owusu on a pass in the fourth quarter, then immediately followed it up by throwing behind Drew Morgan for an interception. It was just one game but it was a bad look for Fales.
  • Dolphins defensive tackles. Akeem Spence, a free agent pick up from Detroit, got blocked completely out of the play on McCaffrey’s touchdown. The problems weren’t an isolated to Spence. Vincent Taylor and Cameron Malveaux didn’t do a very good job of taking advantage of the absence of William Hayes (hamstring) as they were getting pushed around like children’s toys. For the most part all of the defensive tackles as a whole were mauled at the line of scrimmage. This was bad news for the Dolphins run defense. The Panthers ran the ball 31 times for 226 yards including 10 times for 113 yards in the first half when the Dolphins starters were playing most of the time.
  • Dolphins team discipline. The Dolphins were on 3 of 12 on third downs and this was largely (though not entirely) due to some bad penalties. It’s only the second preseason game and sloppy performances aren’t uncommon. But the Dolphins were one of the most penalized teams in the league last year and what makes this game disturbing is that the team has been working on resolving the issue in camp. Whatever they are doing isn’t having an apparent effect. The Dolphins had 8 penalties for 69 yards on the night including 4 for 46 yards in the first half. Howard had his pass interference, right guard Jesse Davis and left tackle Laremy Tunsil both had holding calls and there was a delay of game at the Carolina 9 yard line. This needs to get cleaned up.

Other Observations

  • There was no apparent advantage gained either way in the kicker competition. Dolphins seventh round pick Jason Sanders kicked three field goals from 42, 28 and 32 yards. But undrafted free agent Greg Joseph had the long of the night with his 54 yard field goal in the second quarter.
  • The Panthers starters spent the first half playing off coverage and the Dolphins went predominantly to the short passing game in response. Tannehill averaged only 5.9 yards per pass and didn’t throw the ball deep. They’re going to have to execute very well and very consistently in the passing game if this translates to the regular season.
  • The Dolphins showed a surprising amount of their blitz packages. Most defenses keep their schemes bland during the preseason (as Carolina did) but the Dolphins brought guys from everywhere. This was notable only in that it wasn’t particularly effective. Cam Newton got the ball out quickly and though the Dolphins did do a good job of generating pressure on him, it didn’t come from the blitz. If this is going to be a big part of the Dolphins defensive game plan this year it needs to get better.
Posted in Miami Dolphins | Leave a comment

James Daniels Is Probably Not Going to Be a Starter. For Now.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune says that if the Bears are going to make second round James Daniels the starting center, they need to do it now.

It also will be the exhibition game in which the starters get the most action, likely playing into the third quarter. So if Daniels is ready, or if the coaches believe he’s close to ready, the time to promote him is now so he can get some work with quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

It’s sure to be a topic of discussion, whether or not the Bears want to hear it, especially after a shotgun snap from Cody Whitehair went through Trubisky’s hands and led to a safety in the first quarter. That snap, however, was fine, and the quarterback admitted afterward he should have caught it.

It is entirely possible that Daniels is the center of the future for the Bears.  But I doubt that they are thinking about starting him right now.  Not yet.

Whitehair has had the occasional bad snap dating back to when he was a rookie and took over the position but otherwise he’s been an excellent center.

When it comes to the offensive line, the ultimate goal is to get your best five guys on the field in some capacity. Biggs didn’t say it outright but surely in the back of his head he’s wondering, as I am, whether the Bears are sure that Eric Kush is one of those guys.

The Bears have said that they like Kush and up until now, their actions have backed that up as he has been the unquestioned starter at left guard since camp opened. But last night the Bears gave a series in the first quarter to Earl Watford, opening the door to the hint of the possibility that they are at least thinking about other possibilities at the position. It’s worth noting, however, that Kush went right back in on the next series.

The Bears drafted Daniels, a very good college center, in the second round. They made it clear when they did so that they were hoping he would compete at left guard.  This was logical in that its easier to learn to play guard in the NFL and breaking him in there, then moving him to center, where other responsibilities like making the line calls become important, later on.

In order to play guard, though, he was going to have to gain weight. The 6-foot-4 Daniels is listed on the Bears website at 295 pounds, which would be small for an NFL guard. Daniels says that he weighs 310 but many would dispute that looking at him. Daniels is only 20 years old and he can certainly grow into his frame, especially after an offseason in the weight room. But for now the Bears have evidently concluded that he’s a center. He has performed well in the last two preseason games there with the second string.

The guess here is that the Bears don’t want Daniels starting this year. They’ve put him in as the back up center to allow him to learn behind Whitehair and that they have concluded that there are other answers at starting left guard. Daniel’s time is probably going to come next year and his future could be either at center or guard with Whitehair manning the position Daniels doesn’t occupy.

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Did Someone Fail to Properly Coach Leonard Floyd?

Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune explains Leonard Floyd‘s further evolution this season:

“[Floyd] recently dug into his game video archive.

“I … wanted to go back and grab something that I did consistently,” he explained.

Floyd’s search took him back three seasons to his decorated career at Georgia. Between all the snaps on which he dropped into coverage, Floyd recognized he had pass-rush success using an inside move, not just an outside speed rush.

 

Ummm… shouldn’t his coaches have noticed that a long time ago?

Floyd had some notable success with the move in his brief playing time in the Aug. 9 exhibition game against the Bengals.

Brandon Staley is the Bears outside linebackers coach but its well known that Vic Fangio likes to coach them himself.  Fangio, however, has a lot on his plate as the defensive coordinator and its fair to say he can’t devote all of his attention to coaching the players at this one position.

Either way, you’d think someone on the coaching long before this would have looked at the  video and said “Hey, he’s always moving to the outside”.  Instead, its something Floyd had to figure out himself by going back to look at college tape when, presumably, someone taught him how to be a more complete rusher, at least in terms of this particular aspect of his game.

It looks to me like somebody may have dropped the ball here.

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Roquon Smith Will Never Get Back What He Has Lost

Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune on the consequences of Roquon Smith’s holdout:

“[A]fter missing all of Bourbonnais and two practice games, the question becomes this:

“How far behind is Smith?

“The answer can be only this:

“It depends on how quick a study he is and how fit he is to withstand the rigors of NFL practices.”

No amount of study will get back what Smith has lost. Most of playing middle linebacker is quickly reading the play and reacting. Just determining whether its a run or a pass is a huge issue that must be resolved from the look of the play and seeing way the it develops. The decisions are made in much less than a second.

It helps to have good instincts but those instincts are all based upon recognition. That recognition only comes through repetition and experience. The loss of almost a month of those reps is something Smith will never get back. And no matter how good he is this year the fact will remain that he could have been better for having had them.

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