Quick Game Comments: Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys

Defense

  1. Cowboys came out in 11 personnel and that seemed to be their base most of the time.  They often stacked almost everyone inside at the line of scrimmage.  The Bears played 8 in the box to defend it but got hurt for big chunks of yardage in the passing game, especially on play action.
  2. Adrian Amos had a heck of a (clean) shot on Cole Beasley in the first quarter.  Harold Jones-Quartey also hit some people pretty hard.  Bears fans had to like the look of that.  The defense needs more of it.
  3. I’d like to say that the Bears once again had trouble getting off the field on 3rd and 4th down.  But the truth of the matter is that there were a lot of drives where they simply never got to third down.  That’s how badly they were getting beaten.
  4. I don’t think the Bears are going to get far putting guys like Leonard Floyd in single coverage on Jason Witten.  I’m like most people in that I don’t know what the answer to Witten is but that ain’t it.
  5. Ezekiel Elliot looks like the rookie of the year to me.  He’s eventually going to rack up a lot of yardage behind that offensive line.
  6. The Bears front seven really got dominated in the running game.  There was no penetration by anyone to stop Elliott and the linebackers were really getting sucked up in the play action passing game.  The Cowboys ran for 5.6 yards per carry in the first half when the game still mattered.
  7. I think the Bears missed nose tackle Eddie Goldman a great deal.  Will Sutton got pushed about quite a bit in his place.
  8. Anyone else getting tired of cornerbacks like Jacoby Glenn trailing wide receivers by two yards after getting beaten off the line of scrimmage?  Me, too.
  9. The Cowboys really picked on those younger cornerbacks.  They hardly threw at Tracy Porter, though he did give up a touchdown to Dez Bryant in the fourth quarter.
  10. Leonard Floyd continues to look active out there but he’s not having much of an impact.
  11. First Cowboy punt of the game?  It came with 5:00 left in the third quarter.

Offense

  1. The Bears also came out in 11 personnel.  The Cowboys played 6 in the box.  So they obviously didn’t respect the Bears running game much.  For the most part they were right not to.
  2. Brian Hoyer certainly does have a quick release.  But if he was throwing with anticipation, I didn’t see it.  His accuracy was OK.  He overthrew Cameron Meredith on a potential big play late in the game.
  3. I don’t know if Jordan Howard is just that much better or what but things seem to happen when he comes into the game.
  4. Also note that the Bears are rotating running backs within a series now instead of giving the running backs all of the downs in one possession, as they did last year.  Interesting that Dowell Loggains chose to change this.
  5. I swear it’s like the Cowboys knew the Bears plays at times.  Defensive players literally ran to where offensive players were going and beat them to the spot.  Is Loggains’ offense that predictable?  It appears to be so.
  6. Hoyer appeared to finally find Zach Miller late in the first half after the Cowboys defense loosened up the coverage with a big lead.  The needs to happen more.
  7. Cody Whitehair looked fine.  Kevin White looks like he might be getting better to my eye.  I liked that Hoyer kept going to him late in the game.
  8. The Cowboys did a pretty good job of limiting Eddie Royal after two good games to start the season.
  9. I thought the offensive line did a decent job of giving Hoyer time against a reputedly weak Cowboys defensive line.
  10. The time of possession at halftime:  Cowboys – 21:47, Bears – 8:13.  First downs:  Cowboys 19, Bears 4.  And I’m honestly surprised the Bears had that many.

Miscellaneous

  1. Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, and Michele Tafoya were your announcers.  Collinsworth is usually the best color man in the game but this game was so bad it even made him ordinary.
  2. Had to like the fact that John Fox apparently learned his lesson last game.  After not challenging a crucial spot then, he challenged one in the first quarter of this game and won it.  He did the same thing late in the game and won again.  Generally speaking I didn’t think that penalties hurt the Bears that badly as such things go.  A hands to the face penalty by Charles Leno spoiled a great catch and run by Kevin White in the first quarter.  It also stopped the first Bears possession cold.  Willie Young got called for a roughing the passer in the fourth quarter but there was no call on Jason Witten who literally pulled his helmet off and had it left in his hand as Young got by him.
  3. Special teams were fine.  Dan Bailey missed a kick for the Cowboys in the third quarter that kept the Bears within two touchdowns of the lead.  The Bears went with  a surprise onside kick in the second quarter.  It didn’t work.  The Bears were offside and had to re-kick.  It was typical of the night in general.
  4. The Bears didn’t drop the ball that much and the Cowboys didn’t drop it at all.  Jeremy Langford had a big drop on the first quarter on third down.  That killed a possession.  It hard to say if the events were connected but we started seeing a lot of Jordan Howard shortly after that.  White had a drop of a nearly perfect deep pass in the fourth quarter.
  5. There weren’t many turnovers in this game either way.  Glenn had a nice strip at the beginning of the second half that resulted in a turnover.  Cameron Meredith gave up a fumble in Bears territory late in the third quarter.  Brian Hoyer turned the ball over trying to make a play late.  That effectively ended the game.
  6. For those of you who were forced to watch this travesty, the Bears are also on in prime time for two consecutive weeks next month.  Enjoy.
Posted in Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Game Comments | Leave a comment

Quick Game Comments: Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears

Offense

  • The Bears came out in 11 personnel.  The Eagles played them a straight up 4-3 with 7 in the box.
  • It didn’t take long for the Bears to give up a sack.  Logan Paulsen was left one-on-one with Malcom Jenkins on a blitz and Jenkins ran by him like a traffic cone.  Paulson didn’t even see him until he was five steps into the backfield.  The Bears had their share of trouble protecting Cutler even before this game got out of hand.  He saw a lot of pressure in his face and, at least early, unlike last week, it wasn’t usually because he was holding the ball too long.  The line struggled.
  • They also struggled to run the ball.  Eagles players were shedding blocks to get to Jeremy Langford before he could gain much yardage.  People will say that Langford needs to start gaining some yards on his own and he should.  But he generally didn’t have much chance tonight.
  • Bears have reportedly been working on screen pass.  My advice is that they work hard on it.  [head shake] Man.
  • Interesting to see a Paul Lasike sighting.  Logan Paulsen’s poor night at tight end may have had something to do with that.  If Lasike can do more than block the full back brings an interesting aspect to the offense.
  • I think the Bears may have simplified things for Kevin White this week.  He seems to have been playing faster and maybe thinking less.  Giving him the ball on a sweep around end was also a good way to use his athleticism without making things too complicated.
  • Eddie Royal is performing the way I think we all thought he would last year.  He seems healthy and when that’s the case, he’s the second best receiver on the team by far.
  • I’d like to say that Brian Hoyer actually put played Cutler in the fourth quarter after Cutler left the game.  But the Eagles had a big lead and he was working against soft coverage.  So I think we’ll all have to with hold judgment.

Defense

  • The Bears came out playing man coverage but they were playing extremely soft in coverage.  Quarterback Carson Wentz took advantage, throwing underneath of pretty good yardage. It seems evident that they wanted to take advantage of the Bears defensive backs.  They threw the ball only once in their first 7 plays by my count and ran only twice on their first drive.
  • It certainly looks dot me like the Eagles doubt about the ability of the Bears defensive backs to stay with their receiver was well founded.  Jacoby Glenn and Bryce Callahan both struggled to stay with receivers deep and were frequently beaten even on passes that weren’t complete.
  • The ball was coming out quick and pass rushers had very little chance to get to Wentz.  Nevertheless even when given the opportunity they struggled to get pressure on Wentz unless they were blitzing, especially in the first half.  Interestingly they threw some line stunts at the Eagles and these seemed to have some positive effect.
  • To Wentz’s credit, he seems to handle the blitz better than the veteran Jay Cutler, who has struggled to spot late blitzers all preseason and into the season.
  • Wentz looks like everything he’s cracked up to be.  He has good arm strength and reasonable accuracy.  But what sticks out to me is how smart he plays for a rookie.  Only four rookie quarterbacks since 1970 have won their first two starts to begin a season. Three of those four players helped their teams qualify for the playoffs, including Joe Flacco of Baltimore (2008) and Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets (2009), who led their respective clubs to the AFC Championship Game as rookies.  Philly fans must be walking on sunshine right now.
  • One problem I have with Wentz – he cries to the referees more than even Tom Brady does.  Give us all a break, young man.
  • Give the Bears defense credit.  They struggled to stop the pass but they did a decent job against the run allowing only 3.1 yards per carry.
  • Really like how fast those Bears inside linebackers play, especially Jerrell Freeman.  After a miserable year last year its nice to see some good linebacker play in Chicago again.  Generally speaking the defense does play hard.
  • The Eagles were 3 for 3 on fourth down.  You’d like to see the bears stiffen a little more on those plays.

Miscellaneous

  • Connor Barth missed a 31 yard field goal late in the first quarter.  This really hurt a young team who needed some points early after a decent drive.  John Fox and Ryan Pace staked a lot on their personal knowledge of Barth when releasing Robbie Gould despite a spotty history.  Kicks like that aren’t going to make people in Chicago anymore inclined to trust their words over his actions, past and present.  That Eddie Royal punt return for a touchdown may have been the best return I’ve ever seen from a Bear.  The little leap at the beginning to avoid the initial tackler was nifty.  It was a pleasure to watch.  On the other side, the Eagles can’t be happy  to allow such a return with a big lead.  Big plays like that are the one single thing you don’t want to allow to happen in that situation.
  • The Bears had 7 penalties for 60 yards.  that’s just too much.  They need to clean that up.
  • The Bears lost the turnover battle with three to the Eagles zero.
    • The first Jay Cutler fumble was inexcusable.  That kind of poor ball security by a veteran quarterback on the run is deplorable.  The lineman didn’t really even have to knock the ball out of his arms.
    • The interception in the third quarter deep in Bear territory was almost as bad and was far more costly.  The game was still winnable at this point.  But this was a back breaker.  Of course, if that didn’t put things out of hand, the Langford fumble in the fourth quarter did.
  • It’s mighty tough to win a football game when you are giving the ball away like the Bears did Monday night.  It also a lot tougher for a young team to lose, not because of rookie mistakes, but because the veterans let them down.  Watching Jay Cutler start the season like this, particularly the way he turned the ball over in this game, its hard not to wonder if the Bears haven’t been irreparably damaged by the loss of former offensive coordinator Adam Gase.  In any case, that ship has sailed.  There was some good play by some of the Bears tonight.  Enough to give me some hope.  But it’s apparent that the Bears have a lot to clean up before they can put it all together to win some football games.
Posted in Chicago Bears, Game Comments, Philadelphia Eagles | Leave a comment

Dowell Loggains Probably Shouldn’t Read This. And Other Points of View.

  • Two articles about new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains here and here.  Not one word, not even one question, about how he managed to get an entire organization fired (with himself coming first) when he pushed the owner to draft Johnny Manziel against the wishes of both the coaching staff and the front office.

Fluffy, feel good nonsense.

  • And then there is the fascinating comment in Patrick Finley’s article for the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday morning?

“The Bears and Texans took back-to-back timeouts after the play with 13 seconds left in the first half. [Alshon] Jeffery, having seen the way the Texans’ safeties were rolling toward him, walked into the huddle and told Jay Cutler what was going to happen on the next play: the safety would shade to help cover him, and Eddie Royal would be open down the seam for a 19-yard touchdown.”

I also took note of this early in the first half, thinking that Kevin White might have a big game because of it.

I noticed it.  And Jeffery noticed it.  So I have one question:  Where was Loggains?  Why wasn’t he in Cutler’s ear telling him what was going to happen?  Isn’t that his job?

“They made some adjustments,” Jeffery said. “We have to make adjustments. We gotta do better.”

Good luck with that.

“The sacks and quarterback hits were the result of a really good defense and an offensive line that hasn’t had a chance to come together. But you have to wonder if Cutler would’ve been sacked five times and hit 13 times if offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains was calling plays the way Adam Gase did last year. Cutler was sacked as many as five times only twice in 2015, and the most he was hit in a game was eight times. The Bears went through a four-game stretch in which Cutler was hit only 11 times and on average in 2015, the Bears gave up 4.9 quarterback hits per game.”

The answer is “no”.  No way Cutler takes that kind of a beating last year.

Adam Gase called plays where Cutler’s responsibility was to get rid of the ball fast, taking the pressure off of the offensive line.  He also frequently made sure that the tackles had tight end help in pass protection, especially Charles Leno on the left.  That disappeared to Miami yesterday as well.

“The Bears can’t afford for Cutler to treat White the way he treated Devin Hester.”

Yeah, that wasn’t good.  Cutler was caught on camera painting at White, indicating that White had made the mistake on the route that led to an interception.  But even after the game, White obviously wasn’t sure that was really the case.

“I’m not sure,” White said. “We just got to go back and watch film. [It’s] not being on the same page. We’ll figure it out and correct it for next week.”

In fairness, Cutler softened up his comments after the game.  Nevertheless I found head coach John Fox’s reaction on Tuesday to be disappointing:

“I can’t expect people not to show emotion,” Fox said. “I don’t think any of that’s intentional. They’re just all competitors. They want good things to happen and when bad things happen, there’s probably an element of frustration with a lot of people.”

Perhaps.  But Cutler’s attempt to not assign blame after the game was empty given that he couldn’t keep himself from doing it on the field.  He’s got to control himself better than that.

Bottom line, Pompei is right.  I remember the exact same situations popping up with Devin Hester and I remember Cutler’s reaction being exactly the same.  And it was evident from Hester’s comments after he left that he didn’t take kindly to it.

 


After bashing Dowell Loggains for most of this post, maybe the bookies know something I don’t.  We shall see.

  • Biggs also points out that general manager Ryan Pace probably needs a Jimmy Garoppolo tracker.  The Patriots are likely to get multiple first round picks in a trade if he performs the next three games like he did on Sunday.

I’ve done everything but get down on my knees and beg Pace to draft a quarterback in the first three rounds for the last two drafts.  I’m going to do it again.

I’ve heard a lot of nonsense about not reaching for a quarterback and how Pace was justified in not paying the price to get one.  Well, tell that to the Patriots.  The invested a second round pick in a quarterback they didn’t need and spent a few years developing him.  It’s now paying off, just as it did when the Packers drafted Aaron Rogers when they didn’t need him.

Bottom line, the value for the player and the position is set by the market.  If you are consistently evaluating players below that value, you are the one who is undervaluing the position because you are the one who refuses to play the going rate.

Ryan, please, draft a damned quarterback.  And then draft another one.  And then draft another one. And do it and do it and do it again.  I’m begging you.  It’s an investment that ultimately will pay off five fold (at least) if you do it right.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Texans 9/11/16

Offense

  1. Bears came out in three wide and tried to mix it up.  They had 20 runs Vs. 20 passes with six minutes left in the game they started playing from behind.  The Texans played it mostly straight up with seven in the box and did a decent job of holding them, particularly in the second half when they prevented the Bears from putting anything together at all.
  2. What a first half for Alshon Jeffery.  Four catches for 105 yards in the first half alone.  Unfortunately the Texans quickly figured out that he was the offense and stymied him in the second half.  Nevertheless, this could be the first step in a great, contract season.
  3. Jay Cutler (16/29 216 yds) also had  some really nice throws but my heavens, he holds the ball a long time.  I know he’s trying to make plays but when the Texans are bringing the house you can’t stand back there forever and not expect to get killed.  The receivers were probably having a tough time getting open but it doesn’t help that he’s also not throwing with anticipation like he did last year.  In fairness, he threw some bullets in some big spots just as he always does.  But he’s regressed since Adam Gase left, perhaps yet another sign that he’s losing confidence in the team and the coaching (*cough* Dowell Loggains *cough*).
  4. The Texans didn’t blitz or stunt much but it still worries me that when they did, it worked pretty well.  This is a carryover from the preseason where they also struggled with these things.  Cutler definitely saw some pressure, especially in the second half and specially late in the second half when the whole stadium knew they had to pass. As noted, it was a lot worse when Cutler held the ball trying to make a play.
  5. Jadaveon Clowney had a good game today.  The Bears left their offensive linemen without much help pass blocking for much of the game and both Clowney and Whitney Mercilus got good pressure.  Credit the Bears offensive line for doing a good job on J.J. Watt, though.
  6. I also thought the line did a decent job of run blocking at times.  Unlike in the passing game, it looked like the Bears were helping out Bobbie Massie by giving him help from tight end Logan Paulsen.   The Bears ran mostly to the right.
  7. Cody Whitehair’s inexperience showed on a snap where he didn’t get the ball up to Cutler on a quarterback sneak.  Cutler never had a chance to get the first down fourth and less than one.  This was a case where rookie play cost them.  You have to wonder if they wouldn’t have been better giving Whitehair a game or two to get adapted to the position as suggested here.
  8. But what stuck out the most to me about the running game was the way that running backs Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey did a good job of finding daylight and running to it.  Both showed some good vision today.
  9. Kevin White was up and down.  He apparently went the wrong way on a Cutler interception.  He also had a false start, something that should never happen to a wide receiver.

Defense

  1. From the first snap this was a contest between the Houston running game and the Bears trying to stop it with seven in the box.  Overall the defense didn’t play badly but generally speaking I thought the Texans got the best of them on the ground as they dominated the line of scrimmage.  In fairness, to my eye they did better stopping the run in the second half.
  2. The Texans did all that blocking with a shaky offensive line, making the Bears performance a bit more disappointing.  Right tackle Derek Newton has been fighting a hamstring problem and Left tackle Dwayne Brown has a torn quad and was replaced by Chris Clark.  Center Greg Mancz is a back up as well.   It helps that Lamarr Miller was running well.
  3. Mitch Unrein was sliding inside on passing downs.  Leonard Floyd was also seeing time in the defensive rotation along with Cornelius Washington.  Floyd held his own but didn’t get much pressure.
  4. Generally speaking I thought the defensive backs did a surprisingly good job.  They played the Texans mano-a-mano in man coverage most of the game.  Tracy Porter did about as well as you can do on an island with Deandre Hopkins.  Notably Adrian Amos was around the ball a lot.  That’s a change from last year where Amos rarely shows dup on camera when the ball was sin the air.
  5. Brock Osweiler was up and down (22/35 231yds).  He looks accurate enough but his decision making was questionable at times.  He also stares down receivers.
  6. There wasn’t much pressure on Osweiler in the first half but I thought the Bears did better after half time.
  7. One other thing that stuck out about the Texans.  They seem to be pretty decent at getting themselves into third and manageable.  That puts plenty of pressure on a defense.

Miscellaneous

  1. I thought Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis and Peter Schrager were adequate.  Davis didn’t add much insight to the broadcast but Brennaman is one of the best in the business.
  2. Both teams had more penalties than I’m sure they’d like with some sloppy first game play (Bears: 4 for 30 yards, Texans: 6 for 69 yards).  More than the usual number of calls were questionable but it wasn’t the cleanest game on either side.  The Texan’s offensive line was jumpy early with a false start by Derek Newton and a holding penalty by Chris Clark on the same series.  Hopkins had a very damaging pass interference call in the end zone that basically resulted in the Texans settling for a field goal in the first half. Zach Miller had a pass interference call that cost the Bears about 25 yards on a nice screen pass near the ned of the first half.  Fortunately they overcame it to score anyway.
  3. Drops weren’t a huge part of this game but I note that Houston’s Will Fuller had a terrible one that probably cost the Texans a touchdown near the end of the first half.  That was his MO coming out of college.  Alshon Jeffery had a big drop that killed a drive late in the third quarter.  DeAndre Hopkins dropped a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
  4. I thought special teams were OK on both sides.  The Bears are going to have to do a better job of blocking on punts and kickoffs.  Eddie Royal had a good return in the first half.  He won’t be the speediest guy but he’ll do, I’m betting.  Notably both teams ran a lot of balls out of the end zone despite a rule change bringing touchbacks out to the 25 yard line.
  5. Turnovers were, of course, huge.  The Bears took advantage of a Tracy Porter interception to get a touchdown in the first quarter.  Kevin White showed his inexperience as he apparently went the wrong way on a route resulting in an interception.
  6. As expected, the Bears offense hung the defense out to dry as the Texans dominated time of possession (23:41 Vs. 36:09).  The number of drives was identical (12 a piece not counting the final kneel down) and so were the yards per play (4.8 Vs. 4.9).  The difference?  The Bears flat out couldn’t execute and put together a drive, especially in the second half once the Texans took Jeffery away.
  7. I’d say this was a game where the Bears youth and inexperience showed on some big plays.  Cody Whitehair held his own generally but the bad snap on the quarterback sneak in the first half cost the Bears.  Kevin White cost them an interception on a poorly run route.  These may be things that we’re going to have to live with for a while.Other than that, things were pretty much went as expected.  I had hoped that the defense might have been a little better but that was nothing compared to the poor performance by an offense that couldn’t seem to put it together in the preseason and now can’t seem to put it together in the regular season.
Posted in Chicago Bears, Game Comments, Houston Texans | Leave a comment

The Problems with Signing a Josh Sitton. And Other Points of View.

•  Kicker Robbie Gould, who was released last week by the Bears in favor of former Broncos/Saints//[name your team here] kicker Conner Barth is a great guy.  If you don’t believe it, just ask him.

Gould, who never met a camera he didn’t like or a reporter he didn’t think he could feed a comment to, couldn’t wait to run to the media last week, less than 24 hours after being let go, to tell everyone how much he loves the team that rejected him.

I’m sure many fans, perhaps the majority of fans, couldn’t wait to eat this stuff up.  But personally I find the whole thing to be hypocritical and just a little insulting to my intelligence.  I’d much rather see a player handle situations like this with quiet dignity where they eventually show the fans what they think at the appropriate time rather than going so far out of their way to shovel them crap as quickly as possible.

• I find it to be really interesting that (apparently) Cody Whitehair will be starting at center on Sunday.

Ted Larsen was listed at number one on the depth chart and that makes some sense to me.  Larsen has been snapping the ball more than any other center over the last month and, frankly, Whitehair looked pretty shaky in his only playing time at center in the second preseason game.  There is also the fact that Hronis Grasu is still waiting in the wings and he, also, is slated as a center.  By moving Whitehair there, Grasu will effectively become a third round pick who because a back up center – a high price to pay for such a position.

Having said that, it’s not that I disagree in that Whitehair might be the future.  You do want him to develop and getting playing time is the best way to do that.  But I thought under the circumstances that they might want to start Larsen for a week or two while Whitehair got his feet under him with some time in practice with new Bears coach, seven-time all pro center, Kevin Mawae.

The Bears think that center might be Whitehair’s best position in part because he’s athletic and can get to the second level to block in the run game.  But you wonder how much that’s going to help him with the massive Vince Wilfork on his nose as he’s snapping the ball all game against the Texans.

Apparently they’ve decided to throw him into the pool and tell him to sink or swim.  It might be the most interesting subplot in Sunday’s game.

• Speaking of new players along the offensive line, I was very surprised when the Bears got as aggressive as they did in their efforts to sign guard Josh Sitton.

There are a few reasons for that.

First, though the Bears said they gave Sitton a physical and it was all good, rumor has it that it’s not all good.

“We went through all that yesterday and it was a thorough process,” general manager Ryan Pace said. “Obviously we wouldn’t have signed him if there were major concerns. So we felt OK about it.”

Sitton has a bad back and, physical or not, the fact is that he’s been frequently held out of practice to rest it.  Sitton lost weight in the offseason at least partially to help avoid further problems.  The bet here is that it was a desperate attempt that had only a limited effect.  In the end, actions speak louder than words and history tells us that it’s gong to be an issue.

Compounding this problem is the second issue.  The Bears gave a good sized three year deal to a 30 year old lineman.  Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune quotes an NFC pro personnel man on this issue:

“It’s probably a good move based on their lack of depth. But he’s 30 and you hate to invest big money into aging players a la Jared Allen.”

And there they are.  The magic words.  “Jared” “Allen”.  I love Allen and I liked the signing at the time.  But there’s no getting around the fact that the Bears misjudged the situation when they let Julius Peppers go to sign him.

The last issue may or may not be significant with the Bears.  Stilton wasn’t afraid to criticize coaches in Green Bay and it caused some friction with head coach Mike McCarthy, one of the best in the game.

For instance, after McCarthy thought Sitton criticized the offensive play calling, he had this to say:

“Well, first of all, Josh Sitton needs to play guard, and that’s where he’ll play this week, he’ll play left guard.”

“[H]ow you go into games with a direction and which direction the game takes you, it happens usually every time you line up and play the game of football. So it’s my job to call the plays, and it’s the players’ job to run the plays.”

Translation:  “Shut up and do your job and I’ll do mine.”

Personally, I can’t see why a young, rebuilding team would be signing 30 year old veteran free agents anyway.  I thought the Bears were in the process of drafting and developing, not adding a few pieces to put them over the top.

It’s one thing to sign young guys like Danny Trevathon  and Jerrell Freeman.  Those are younger players who will be as much a part of the future as Eddie Goldman will.  But Sitton is different.  Pro Bowler or not, he’s occupying a spot that where the Bers need to be developing the future, not playing to win now.

Bottom line, no one knows Sitton better than the Packers, a good organization that isn’t in the habit of making mistakes.  And the Packers let him go.  If the Bears get three years out of Sitton, making him a part of a team that will, the Bears hope, be pretty good by then, I’d say they will be darned lucky.

• Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times can’t get over the performance of the offense in the third preseason game against the Chiefs:

“I can’t shake the memory of the offense’s ineptness against the Chiefs. Every instinct and 30 years of covering the league tell me to ignore the preseason, but I saw huge issues in that game. If new Bear Josh Sitton can play two offensive line spots at once, maybe [Jay] Cutler has a chance of duplicating last season, his best as a Bear. Sitton is big, but he’s not that big.”

I can only say that I agree.  My problem with the Bears performance was that the issues weren’t all on one or two spots.  They were everywhere, which to me often means that the problem is with the coaching rather than with the players, themselves.

As Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune suggests, the offense may gel over time.  But I’m not holding my breath.  My gut feeling is that the Bears are going to miss Adam Gase more than they could have imagined as they exchange him for Dowell Loggains, who has yet to show that he’s even competent.  We’ll wait and see.

• On the other hand, I have great news for Bears fans hoping for a victory over the Texans.  Every single Chicago Tribune expert picked the Texans.

So basically the Bears are a lock to win.

Posted in Chicago Bears | Leave a comment

Report: Former Packer, Pro Bowl Guard Josh Sitton Visiting Bears

Well, that didn’t take long.  Josh Sitton wasn’t on the street 24 hours before reports surfaced that he was visiting the rival Bears.

This would be nice turnabout for the Bears, who have often released players such as defensive end Julius Peppers only to see the Packers burn the team by turning around and signing them quickly to reasonable contracts.

Most reports are assuming that Sitton would play left guard, moving rookie Cody Whitehair to center.  But Whitehair struggled in his only game at center during the preseason whereas he’s been solid at guard.  Sitton has worked out with the Packers at center in practice and he’s said that he would be comfortable playing the position if needed.  The Bears would be far better one the whole keeping Whitehair developing at guard and replacing Ted Larsen, who is really a backup quality lineman.

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Path to Bears Improvement Lies in Playing Faster on Defense

As disastrous as the third preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs was for the Bears, it is important to note that it wasn’t all bad.  In particular, I have done my best to point out that the defense wasn’t nearly as bad as it appears.

A good part of the reason why Kansas City moved the ball so well was that they flat out executed almost as efficiently as it could be done.  They simply played a great game offensively.  Short, quick passes are hard to stop when that’s the case and all you can do is be patient and wait for a mistake.  Former Bears head coach Lovie Smith made a living doing that in Chicago with a passive cover-2 defense that worked reasonably well for as long as he was here.  But if teams like the Chiefs refuse to make mistakes, look out.  You are going to have a problem as a defense almost no matter who you are.

The second factor that needs to be accounted for is that the offense completely hung the defense out to dry.  They held the ball for only 8 minutes in the first half, leaving the starting defense in a state of exhaustion by half time.

A look at the game showed me one Bears defensive iimprovement that is a very, very positive development.  They are playing much faster than they did last year and, as a result, they appeared to be much more aggressive.  Defensive tackle Will Sutton agrees.

“We’ve got a couple more guys who are more familiar with the scheme this year, including myself and [linebacker Lamarr] Houston, who obviously got off to a slow start last year.

“But we do have a lot more guys in position who are more familiar with the defensive scheme. So it allows you to fill a bit faster, a little more confidence.”

Everyone in the Bears front seven was faster to the ball than we saw last year, especially in defense of the run.  And where that  happens, good things will follow.

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The “Jay Face” Makes a Frequent Early Appearance. And Other Points of View.

  • Let’s start off with something that I can be positive about.  If you call this positive:  I don’t think the defense was as bad as everyone thinks.

Kansas City’s offense is of the death by 1000 cuts type where they dink and dunk you to distraction.  The only thing that you can do is be patient and wait for them to make a mistake.  If they don’t make a mistake…  well, then you hope you can stop them when it becomes a short field.  For the most part, that’s what the defense did until they got worn down to a nub.  A difference in time of possession in the first half of 22:00 to 8:00 will do that.

The run defense was “OK” as the Bears allowed 4.4 yards per carry in the first half but, again, they were worn to a nub by the end.  Linebackers were playing down hill and looked fine in coverage.

I thought the pass rush was fine and despite the fact that Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith was getting rid of the ball quickly, they managed to hit him hard on occasion.

Cornerback is a problem but we knew that.  The injury to Tracy Porter won’t helpKyle Fuller was already out after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. None of the other cornerbacks the Bears used against the Chiefs has ever played in an NFL game: Jacoby Glenn, Deiondre’ Hall, Kevin Peterson and Taveze Calhoun, De’Vante Bausby and Joel Ross.

Bottom line, I agree with the coaching staff that the Bears defense needed to play a little tighter.  But I thought they were playing fast to the ball and being patient and I didn’t have much problem with them.

  • Unfortunately, no surprise, the “OK” label cannot be given to the offense.  There were no first half turnovers and the Bears only had 3 first half penalties so I can’t say that they were shooting themselves in the foot.  The best explanation I have of what happened is simply failure to execute.

The offensive line wasn’t bad and, in fact, Charles Leno and Cody Whitehair were quite solid.  Young Cornelius Edison, thrown into the breach at center, held his own.  His head was on a swivel and he looked like he was more than aware of what was going on.  Ted Larsen had more than his share of struggles with his second position change in as many games but I expect the veteran will settle down once he settles into one position.

The running backs played to their talent level.  The tight ends were a non-factor but we’re all used to that by now.

Perhaps most disappointing were the two drops by Alshon Jeffery, the drop by Kevin White to go with a couple of poor pass routes and some poor throws and inconsistency from Jay Cutler.  These things didn’t seem to happen much last year.  Is it a coincidence that the Bears have a new wide receivers coach, a new quarterback coach and a new offensive coordinator?  On a related note, it’s a bit worrisome that the offense hasn’t been consistently ready to play that may also be a sign of some bad offensive coaching (see below).

But the good news is that this is all correctable.  For instance, there won’t be many games once the season starts where Jeffery drops two passes no matter who the coach is.  The players simply need to concentrate more on what they’re doing.  Its the preseason and you can hope that they’ll do that once the meaningful games start.

  • Fifth round running back Jordan Howard has been getting a fair bit of attention from certain segments of the media lately.  Howard was drafted as a power running back and its seems that, though he’s being envisioned as a being a force near the goal line, some segments think he’s exhibiting the ability to do more than that.

“I didn’t realize he was that quick,” running backs coach Stan Drayton said earlier this month. “I’m excited about that.”

We still have a long way to go before we know whether Howard exceeds his draft status but, based upon what I’ve seen, I’m less enthusiastic about him than most seem to be.  He’s exhibited none of the vaunted power that we’ve been told he has in any of the preseason games and at 6-0, 222-pounds he’s not as big as I’d like for such a role.  For instance, Jerome Bettis was 255 pounds.  Admittedly, Bettis is a pretty high standard to hold anyone to but you get the point.

Howard could be showing a lot more in practice and if so, we can hope that it will be showing up in games soon.  But until then, he looks like just another guy to me and this all feels an awful lot like preseason fluff.

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times gave us some focal points for the game Saturday against the Chiefs and this one caught my eye.

“Negative plays

“Unless Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White turn the offense into an NFL revelation, the Bears figure to have little margin-for-error on offense. Penalties and sacks have stunted the Bears’ offense throughout the Cutler era. In a current state of flux, the Bears need to stay clean to give themselves the best chance for growth.”

This is all true.  However, last year one thing the Bears offense did an uncommonly good job of, for them, is digging themselves out of such holes on third down.  It’s early but Adam Gase, now the head coach of the Dolphins, seems to be continuing to get themes out of his team on third down.  The Dolphins converted 5 of 9 in the first half on Thursday.

In addition to avoiding negative plays, the ability to continue to overcome them when they happen might be at least as important under new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains.

  • Speaking of Loggains, John Mullin at CSN Chicago did a marvelous job of describing the potential for rocky relations between him and Jay Cutler in this article.

Cutler has a history of losing faith in his coordinators and when that happens, his performance usually starts to collapse the minute anything goes wrong in a game.

As Mullin points out, Loggains is far less accomplished than some of the other coordinators that have gone down in flames with the Bears with Cutler at quarterback.  Meanwhile Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune wasn’t out right critical after Saturday’s poor offensive showing.  But it’s telling that he did pull out a quote from running back Chris Johnson in 2009 as he discussed the Bears offensive struggles:

“A lot of the plays when the offensive coordinator [Loggains] was calling them, they were predictable,” Johnson told ESPN. “Everybody could tell what was coming.”

If it was just predictable play calling, I’d have to give Loggains a break in the preseason as everything stays vanilla.  But the bigger fear that he’s simply a poor coordinator is much more deep and disturbing.

For instance, it was only one play but it is very bothersome that the delayed blitz continues to work against the Bears quarterbacks, who seem to be helpless when its thrown their way.  Having it happen repeatedly the first preseason game, that’s annoying.  Having it still happen in the third game?  Is it because they don’t know what to do or there’s nothing built into the play to allow the quarterbacks to handle it?  Either way there’s no excuse for it.

The deep fear is that the Loggains offense will remain “uncoordinated” where players continue to make mistake after mistake and never seem to quite be on the same page ala former coordinator John Shoop.

Regardless, Adam Gase is the only offensive coordinator that Cutler ever seemed to click with and he only did that for one season.   Gase didn’t have to deal with that second season when things often got rougher between Cutler and his coaches.

The adjustments made between preseason game 1 and game 2 were a good start.  The offense looked better in the Patriots game than it did against Denver in the first game in a disastrous 22-0 loss.  There was a lot involved in that (the Patriots chose to play the game extremely vanilla) but some adjustment by the coaching staff was certainly a part of it.  Unfortunately the game against the Chiefs was a huge step back.

But this is just the preseason.  Will Loggains be able to make the proper adjustments during the season?  Gase had a reputation amongst the players for calling the right plays at the right time that was laudable.

“When I’m in the huddle…and we get a play call,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said of Gase, “there’s never a time where we look at each other and think, ‘Oh [darn].’”

Will Loggains be able to keep his head in the eye of the storm and continue that?

This is a relationship that we can keep an eye on throughout the entire season but its unlikely that the relationship between Cutler and Loggains would really deteriorate until late in the year.  Cutler probably wouldn’t lose respect for Loggains immediately.  It will take time and a series of trials in meaningful games where the help that he thinks is needed doesn’t come.  And with a young team that promises to lose as much as it wins, those trials should be plentiful.  If that loss of faith happens, Loggains’ vocal personality and bluster would only make the poor relationship  worse.

Bottom line, we’d better all hope that Loggains is more Adam Gase than Mike Tice.  Long time Cutler observers could not have failed to notice that there was a lot of “Jay face” out there on Saturday.  If that continues and he loses confidence in Loggains, we could be looking at another tire fire as the season winds down.

  • Next up is the Cleveland Browns who got spanked by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-13 Friday night.

The Browns defense has been awful this preseason and this third game was no better as they gave up 20 points in Tampa Bay’s first four possessions.  Bear in mind that Tamp Bay isn’t bad but they aren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut, either.  The Browns ranked No. 27 in yards allowed, No. 29 in points permitted a year ago.

Defensive coordinator Ray Horton likes to blitz and use tricky formations.  He may well continue to do that even with the back ups playing on Thursday.  The Bears offense has not handled such things well and it will be interesting to see if the players are prepared for it.

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Being Human

I don’t usually laugh at fan questions.  At least not too hard.  After all, all of us are created less that perfect and we make mistakes.  But having said that, I had to sadly chuckle just a little as Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answered this question:

Jay Cutler makes a lot of good throws but he doesn’t seem capable of fully utilizing small, quick receivers such as Daniel Braverman. Cutler seems to hold the ball too long and isn’t nearly as accurate with quick, short throws as someone like Tom Brady. Cutler either doesn’t make the throw, throws too late or too high or has his passes swatted down. I’m not saying Braverman is the next Wes Welker, but with Cutler we’ll never know. Is that fair? — Mike M., Chicago

“To my knowledge, Braverman hasn’t been running routes with Cutler at quarterback in the preseason. So Cutler isn’t guilty of not utilizing the seventh-round pick from Western Michigan. Cutler did a nice job of getting slot receiver Marc Mariani involved during the second half of last season when Eddie Royal was sidelined. Nineteen of Mariani’s 22 receptions went for a first down. That’s pretty good production.”

So it’s come to this.  Bears fans want to believe so badly that Daniel Braverman, the “little engine that could” with the prototypical heart but without the prototypical size, is the real deal that they’re actually blaming Jay Cutler rather than acknowledging the fact that Braverman may just not be that good.

In fairness, it wasn’t that long ago that I, too, was criticizing Cutler for not being able to throw to undersized receivers.  And I may not be done yet.  But, as Biggs points out, Cutler shut fans and media up last year working with a variety of back up wide receivers as the position was devastated by injuries.  We’ll see if that kind of effectiveness continues with Dowell Loggains now the offensive coordinator.

I know everyone wants to see the Daniel Braverman’s of the world succeed.  We’re all underdogs in this world and we all want to believe that we can overcome deficiencies that, through no fault of our own, we’ve simply been born with.  Sometimes superior effort and hard work can allow you to do that.  But sometimes you have to face the reality that it often just doesn’t happen that way.

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Talking the Doubters Off the Ledge. And Other Points of View.

The Bears have completed their second preseason game and are moving o to their third, and most important (if any of them are important_ contest.  Here are ten thoughts on the team as they enter the most crucial stage of their offseason.

Hroniss Grasu’s season-ending injury — and the subpar play of the offensive line in the preseason opener — put the light back on Pace’s decision to release Slauson, who replaced Grasu and Will Montgomery at center on two occasions last season. They would have had the replacement for Grasu right there.

“Maybe they would and maybe they wouldn’t. Slauson was everything you’d want in a teammate with the Bears, a respected leader on and off the field. But Slauson didn’t grade out as well with the new regime as he did with the old. Even without Grasu, they Bears are confident they can grow better with [Cody] Whitehair at guard and Ted Larsen at center.”

It’s worth emphasizing that it wasn’t the the Bears didn’t think Slauson was good.  Anyone could see that he was.   It was that they were looking for more athleticism at the position because it better fit the blocking scheme that they want to run.  Last year the Bears mixed schemes in an effort to adjust to the players that they have.  You can’t, after all, do everything in one year.  This year, they wanted to get the players they needed to do what they want to ideally do.

It’s all part of the rebuilding process and though this may turn out to be a particularly trying step down that road, in the end the Bears believe that it will be worth it.

“I’ve already written off the season. Will they draft in the top 5 in 2017? — @jgboom23

“Don’t know that I am going to be able to talk you off the ledge here, but that’s putting a lot of stock in the preseason opener. I don’t think the Bears are ready to be playoff challengers this season, but stranger things have happened. You’ve got to keep in mind that teams that own the No. 5 pick in the draft are generally coming off really bad seasons. Since 2010, the team with the fifth pick has had either four or five wins and that’s a bad, bad season.”

Good grief, its a little early to be giving up completely.  I totally agree with Biggs that the defense should be improved, though there are significant concerns about the defensive backfield.  At minimum they could be fun to watch with a much improved front seven.

Let’s not forget that. Along with the rest of the NFC North, the Bears have one of the easiest schedules in the league based upon last year’s performances.  If they come out of this year with less than the 6 wins they had last year, I’ll be pretty surprised.

“Why did the offensive line look so terrible on Thursday? Is it the weakest position group on the team? — @KleinTime69

“I don’t think the offensive line is going to be the weakest position on the Bears. In fact, with some good health, I think the O-line could turn into one of the better units on the team by the end of the season.”

Could not agree more with this.  Assuming Ted Larsen gets his feet under him this could be a better than average offensive line, particularly compared to those around the rest of the NFC North.

However, I think the words “with some good health” need to be emphasized.  We haven’t seen Mike Adams or Amini Silatolu yet but what I’ve seen of the rest of the back up offensive linemen has not impressed me.  A rash of injuries at any position along the line could mean bad things for the offense this year.

  • Speaking of the offensive line, I was struck by a comment that  Kyle Long made about J’Marcus Webb when they were in training camp in Long’s rookie year, 2013.  Long was making mistakes and wasn’t correcting them and he hadn’t learned the playbook as well as he needed to.

“J’Marcus was just like, ‘You’re never going to be able to play if you don’t learn this,'” Kyle said. “He was laughing. J’Marcus and I are buddies. But he was telling a rookie, ‘Hey, you’re the first-round pick. If you don’t learn this, heads are going to roll.’ Whether that’s your quarterback or the head coach or the GM or the running back.”

Webb didn’t do much while he was here.  But this was probably the biggest contribution he could have possibly made to the team.

  • We heard plenty of questions from fans about the possibility that Daniel Braverman would replace Eddie Royal as the slot receiver this year as the hype around Braverman was built.  Braverman is an under-sized seventh round pick with speed that tends to light it up in non-contact practices and develop into “little engine who could”-type fan favorites.

But like so many of these types of players before him, Braverman disappeared once the lights came on and the contact began.  Despite Royal’s absence in the concussion protocol and having many chances to show what he could do in the first two pre-season games, Braverman has practically disappeared.

Eleven Bears have more receiving yards and the team has a glut at the slot receiver position.  Far from competing to start, it looks to me like Braverman may be in danger of not making the roster at all.  He will have one more pre-season game, the fourth, to show what he can do.  He’ll be worth watching closely.

  • Biggs had an interesting note about the Bears personnel groupings Thursday night.  The Bears ran nearly half of their plays out of a double tight end personnel grouping.  Biggs notes that the Bears ran only 198 plays total out of that grouping last year.

This grouping will undoubtedly help the running game and I’m sure that’s its primary purpose.  Biggs also notes that they had 4 snaps (15% of the total) with a fullback on the field.  But there’s a reason why Adam Gase rarely used it last year.  The Bears didn’t, and don’t now, have two good tight ends on the entire roster.  Zach Miller can catch a pass when healthy but he’s it.

There’s a new sheriff in town in Dowell Loggains.  But you have to wonder if this isn’t a sign that he’s going to do what he prefers over what the roster tells him to do.  The days of playing to the team’s strengths may be over.

It was unlike Bennett, who  always likes to entertain, and it was notable that former Bears linebacker Shea McClellin wasn’t available to the media all week either.  So, perhaps, it not too surprising that after Rich Campbell from the Chicago Tribune called Bennett’s refusal to meet with the media a “weak move” in this video, that Doug Kyed from NESN.com, who better knows how the Patriots do business, suggested that it might be a “team issue”.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick hates distractions and one way to be absolutely sure nothing distracted the team and the players from football last week would be to refuse to allow the former Bears players to comment.  Chicago fans wouldn’t have been surprised if Bennett, in particular, would have created some complications had he been allowed.

“It wasn’t the offensive line. While Kyle Long played well and is clearly more comfortable back at right guard than he ever was at tackle, Charles Leno, Cody Whitehair, Ted Larsen and Bobby Massie all struggled at times, and Larsen in particular looks like he may be a bit over-matched at center.”

I always try to read Hub’s comments because I think he’s willing to say thing that other people won’t.  But having said that, sometimes I wonder if he’s watching the same game I am.

The offensive line was much better against the Patriots across the board, particularly at center where Larsen appears to be settling in.  I think sometimes people get the impression that an offensive line is struggling when they’re zone blocking because its not generally the kind of mauling style where you get lots of push off of the line of scrimmage.  But generally speaking, I thought the Bears got push when they needed it, especially in the first quarter.

I’m not saying there weren’t hiccups.  There were and I’m particularly keeping an eye on Massie in pass protection. I also don’t think that the line hasn’t gelled into a coherent unit that is working together effectively, yet.  But their performance in the first half, like that of the offense in general, was at least average overall.

To my eye, center Ted Larsen played much better in the game Thursday night against the Patriots.  Its evident to me that Larsen really does have a feel for zone blocking and he does seem to be able to use an opponent’s momentum against him to open up holes.

Similarly, I thought back up Cornelius Edison also played better.  He needs to.  The competition behind him is likely to be fierce with the addition of former Colts Khaled Holmes.  Holmes is a former fourth round pick and the Colts had high hopes for him as a starter before finally giving up and letting him go.

This is not a trivial dilemma for the Bears.  Whoever wins the job is going to be one injury away from starting.  And injuries always happen in the NFL.  With the edge in experience, the tie should go to Holmes.  So Edison needs to take advantage of every snap he can get to show his potential.

  • Next week’s opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs, is an interesting group.  The starters  took It to the Rams and their vaunted front seven on Saturday night on the first drive and though they struggled a bit more after that, they still managed to produce 17 point under quarterback Alex Smith before he ceded the ball to Nick Foles.   The Kansas City offensive line could provide an interesting test for the Bears front seven which the team believes has improved greatly.

Speaking of Foles, although his two possessions produced only 3 points, the team moved the ball while he was in the game.  Foles is in need of rehabilitation after a disastrous stint with the Rams and it should be interesting to find out if his old mentor with the Eagles, Andy Reid, can pull it off as the head coach of the Chiefs.

The Chiefs receivers, Jeremy Maclin and Chris Conley, should also present an interesting challenge for the young Bears defensive backs.  Maclin is no surprise but the 6’3” 205 lb Conley, drafted in the 3rd round in 2015, also flashed with 3 receptions for 66 yards.  Travis Kelce is also showing himself to be one of the best in the game and the Bears should find out fairly quickly if they’ve solved the issues they’ve had their first two preseason games covering the tight end.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Points of View | 1 Comment