- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune points out that rookie Brock Vereen played 16 snaps as a nickel back last Sunday after cornerback Charles Tillman was lost to injury. I’d no idea that Vereen, normally a safety, was spending any time at this position and I’m reasonably sure he didn’t play there during the season. I was wondering if this wasn’t a new “secret” grouping that the Bears had in mind to show off Vereen’s versatility. But apparently not as Vereen addressed the issue after the game:
“‘Before I went out there I was able to get five, maybe seven minutes with Coach (Jon) Hoke and some of the vets and they prepped me with everything,’ Vereen said. ‘They were the only reason I was comfortable out there. Coach Hoke went over everything in a matter of maybe five minutes. That is what comes on the job and that is what you have got to do. It was fun.’
“Imagine that. The entire work of week delivered in five minutes. In seriousness, it was a real issue. The Bears needed someone in the nickel. Two plays after Tillman was injured, the defense remained in the base package on third-and-11 with three linebackers and Colin Kaepernick hit Stevie Johnson for a 20-yard gain.”
- Biggs also points out that the 49ers only rushed five men twice all game. I think this is, or at least once was, a reasonable plan for Cutler. You could imagine a team planning too drop everyone into coverage and waiting for him to make a mistake.
- Biggs also mentions that tight end Matthew Mulligan missed some blocks. Mulligan hasn’t been performing well and you have to wonder if the Bears aren’t eventually going to have to bring back tackle Ebon Britton as an extra lineman.
- Biggs quotes Brandon Marshall after the game as he addresses the play of rookie Kyle Fuller:
“Going back to my rookie year, (former Broncos outside linebacker) Elvis Dumervil came to me after one of our training camp practices and said, ‘Man, Champ Bailey is in there watching you in one-on-ones,’ because I beat him pretty bad. He was basically studying, and for Kyle Fuller I had to do that this training camp. I had to go in there in the Weber Center and just watch what he was doing because he surprised us. I told him it’s not about starting, it’s not about making the Pro Bowl; for him, he needs to have Hall of Fame on his brain because that kid can play.”
Biggs also quotes a scout that he talked to before the third preseason game agains the Browns, who drafted cornerback Justin Gilbert ninth overall:
“‘The Bears got the better cornerback,’ the scout said. ‘The Gilbert kid is more athletic but the Bears got a better football player. This Fuller kid is a football player and he’ll show it.'”
Marshall has been known to exaggerate on occasion but its hard to argue after the last game that Fuller can, indeed, play. Let’s hope he can do it consistently.
- Biggs also addresses the slew of penalty flags thrown during the game:
“‘That’s something the NFL is going to have to correct,’ 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks said. ‘They called about 16 or 17 penalties on us today (actually 18) and I think they called 11 (16) on them. That’s way too many penalties for a football game.'”
Maybe. But an awful lot of those penalties looked deserved to me. I think the Bears and the 49ers both have to take some personal responsibility and clean it up. That was an ugly game and the first half in particular really seemed to drag on way too long.
- After an outstanding game the week before against the Saints, Falcons wide receiver Devin Hester had one catch for two yards Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Via Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Also from Potash, former Bear and current Buffalo Bills cornerback Corey Graham had 10 tackles and three pass breakups against the Dolphins. Graham also had a good game against the Bears the week before.
One Final Thought
Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times asks which are the true Bears, the team from week one or from week two?
I’m afraid that the answer is easy: it’s both. Truth be told the two weeks really weren’t that different. The Bears made plenty of mistakes and committed way too many penalties both weeks. They did make some nice plays to get more turnovers on defense against the 49ers but had Frank Gore‘s 54 yard touchdown run stood, the story might have been a lot different Monday, both about the game in general and about the run defense in particular.
The difference is that the 49ers simply gave the Bears a great deal of help last week and the Bills didn’t the week before. What’s the same is that the Bears had best clean it up and continue to get better week-to-week. Because as much as I enjoyed the comeback, I haven’t seen what I consider to be a playoff-worthy performance yet.
Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune reads my mind on the problems that the Bears have had defending the run:
“Dating to last season, we’ve heard coach Marc Trestman, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and various players refer to problems stopping the run as ‘correctable.’ Yet those familiar issues—missed run fits, overlapped run fits, poor tackling—surfaced against the Bills.”
I have, for the most part, stood by Tucker. But the time is coming when these issues do indeed become corrected or I, and probably Trestman with me, am going to have to conclude that he can’t correct them. Far too often what Tucker appears to be teaching apparently isn’t being translated on to the field. Ultimately that’s where its at when it comes to coaching.
Campbell thinks that the Bears may use Matt Forte to run the ball more this Sunday:
“The 49ers, this weekend’s opponent, surrendered 118 yards on 22 carries in Week 1 to Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray.
“‘The Cowboys did a nice job (on a) variety of runs,’ Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. ‘They ran outside zone plays. They ran an abundance of formations. They changed the formation, they motioned, they shifted, and the outside zone was good for them in that game. DeMarco Murray made some guys miss … and made some plays on his own.'”
Hub Arkush at the Chicago Sun-Times sees eye-to-eye with me on the Bears game Sunday:
“The Bears don’t match up well with the Niners on either side of the ball and they have the extra challenge of the high San Fran will be on opening their new stadium. This one hurts a bit as the Bears get whipped.”
This is an awful matchup for the Bears at their most vulnerable time. They’re facing exactly the kind of powerful defense with a lot of strength up front that gave them trouble last year. They probably wouldn’t have beaten the 49ers even with Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. Without them this is going to be hard to watch.
Former Bears and current WSCR radio host Patrick Mannelly on what it feels like to be behind the mic after a Bears loss. Via Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune
“‘I really want to experience a win from this side,’ Mannelly said. ‘Because then I want to get on the show and hear from everybody how great the Bears are and how they beat a Super Bowl favorite and how Jay’s the greatest quarterback ever.
“‘That’s what I can’t wait for.'”
Mannelly might be waiting a while for that. The calls come after the losses, not after the wins in the same way that the networks never broadcast good news. Its human nature. I don’t understand it but it is.
But thinking that the fans aren’t happy because there aren’t as many calls would be a mistake. Many if not most fans watch the game, win or lose, because they’re football fans. But they still want to see them win. Hopefully Mannelly will realize that they’re pleased. Just not as vocal.
Kromer on the difference in the offense without Jeffery and Marshall. From Campbell:
“‘Obviously, there are times when you feel like an Alshon Jeffery or Brandon Marshall is a mismatch against certain people, and so you’re moving them around to try to get them the ball. When they’re not in there, you may be just calling more plays in general to beat coverages or defenses, as opposed to having a primary receiver that you’re trying to get it to.'”
Not exactly quarterback Jay Cutler‘s strength. He’s got quite a challenge ahead of him.
Rick Telander isn’t always my cup of tea and I frequently do no more than scan his columns. But some times he just nails it.
Ditto Steve Rosenbloom.
One Final Thought
Wiederer quotes linebacker Lance Briggs:
“While the veteran linebacker said the outside criticism ‘doesn’t bother me at all,’ he does have added motivation. ‘This week,’ he declared, ‘is about proving people wrong.'”
No one would love to see that more than I would. If this team has any shot at all of beating the 49ers, they’re going to need him. That and a lot of help from the 49ers, themselves.
- Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Bears linebacker Lance Briggs:
“Asked on his Comcast television show about a radio report he was out partying until 4 a.m. Saturday, linebacker Lance Briggs said that ‘what I do on my off time is my business — it’s my business.'”
That’s not a denial.
- Adam L. Jahns and Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times make some good points in this video:
One thing. If you are depending upon quarterback Jay Cutler to “lead you to victory”, your trust is misplaced. I think its now well established that he might perform well but he won’t lead. If the Bears are paying him to do that then they’re fools.
- Hub Arkush at the Chicago Sun-Times gave what I thought were some fair grades after reviewing the tape of last week’s game:
“The linebackers earned a C-minus. Jon Bostic was the best of the bunch against the run. It was particularly interesting to see how many times Shea McClellin arrived at the pile in time to look down at it just after the whistle blew.”
Briggs and D. J. Williams weren’t mentioned…
One Final Thought
Potash asks Bears head coach Marc Trestman if the Bears will ever just run up the middle more on 3rd and one:
“‘You look at the third-and-one reel that we looked at during the course of the season and teams do throw the football in those situations.’
“That they do. But the numbers show that nobody does it as much as the Bears. On average, NFL teams rushed 66.7 percent of the time on third-and-one in the 2013 season. The Bears rushed 46.2 percent of the time. But whether the Bears run or pass on third-and-one — or third-and-short for that matter — one thing remains the same. They need to get better at it.”
The Bears are a finesse team. They’re never going to have the fire power up front to just out muscle people because that’s just not what they’re designed to do. That’s what makes the 49ers such a terrible match up for them this week. Its OK if you, as a finesse team, have answers for teams that do out muscle everyone. Unfortunately the Bears don’t and it frequently shows. It did last week. It will this week.
- Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times didn’t exactly come out and say it. But the messages was clear in the headline: “Bears’ defensive miscues felt like a mistake to the heart“:
“It was running back Fred Jackson’s 38-yard run to the Bears’ 1 in overtime that proved to be the final dagger of the disappointing day.”
That and the failure of the offense to do anything with the ball when they had it in overtime.
The coaching staff spent much of the offseason talking about how the team had to get tougher and show some “saltiness”. What they were talking about were winning games like this. Obviously the message didn’t get through.
- Given that the city is two-thirds Cub fans, I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that 80% of you have already given up on postseason hopes for the Bears according to a Chicago Tribune pole. The players aren’t the only ones who need to get tough in this town.
One Final Thought
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reviews the film from Sunday:
“Cutler never should have thrown for Holmes on first down [on the series in over time] because Nickell Robey had him covered closely one-on-one deep down the left sideline. Alshon Jeffery, who was out with a hamstring pull, might have been able to make a circus catch if he were running the route. But it was low percentage with Holmes and a departure from what the Bears talked about all offseason — checking the ball down when a play isn’t there.”
One of Cutler’s many problems is that he feels so much like he has to make a play in situations like this that he forces the ball where he shouldn’t, resulting in big plays for the other team. As Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times put it:
“He’s 31. He isn’t changing, folks. You’re stuck with him, all of him — the powerful throws, the mind-blowing interceptions. Enjoy.”
But that’s not really the worst thing that you can say about Biggs’s comment. What’s really bad is what it says about Cutler’s main limitation, that he only seems capable of throwing to big receivers who can, as he put it, “go up and get it”. He treated Holmes like Jeffery all game on Sunday rather than adjusting his thinking based upon Holmes’s abilities . That’s not new (Devin Hester gained 99 yards on five receptions Sunday). But the fact that it persists leads you to believe that Cutler, now in his thirties, will never learn to do anything else.
I like the Bears situation at the number three and four wide receiver spots better than most of the media. But they aren’t ever going to fit in to Alshon Jeffery’s role. The Bears are in serious, serious trouble if either Jeffery or Brandon Marshall lose any significant time this year – or ever as long as Cutler is the quarterback. You could argue that more than any other single factor, with the possible exception of the turnovers, Jeffery’s absence led to the loss on Sunday.
- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:
“Why was Kelvin Hayden re-signed and not offensive line depth given the current situation? Did Phil Emery explain the thought process behind this? — @BDGDEB from Twitter
“Good question. One area I thought the team might go with the roster spot after Marquess Wilson was shifted to IR with the designation to return was on the line. The other area I thought about was special teams. Emery has not publicly weighed in on the move. Perhaps the Bears want insurance in the event Kyle Fuller’s ankle injury crops up again.”
Offensive tackle/guard Ebon Britton might be brought back after the first game. If they bring him back before that, they owe him a year’s salary. If they bring him back after that its week-to-week.
- Quarterback Jay Cutler at the end of a very long article focusing on the dynamics in the quarterbacks room and on some philosophical points in regards to the scheme by Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:
“A lot of this stuff has worked for one year. We don’t really know if it works. Everybody in the media wants to say that we have all the answers. We don’t have all the answers. We’ve done it for one year. And really for probably eight or nine games. A half-season. So we’ve still got a lot of things to figure out.”
Yes, I think they might have some challenges left. Certainly getting things right in the quarterback room is a good place to start and taking care of protection issues with the offensive line is a good thing to stress up front. But if I had to pick one major challenge that the Bears offense has on its plate its executing as a unit.
The two biggest factors for success in the NFL are health and execution (i.e. 11 guys all doing their jobs correctly with no penalties and no mistakes). I saw very little of the latter during the preseason. Trestman, Cutler and company may well find themselves growing in a new direction as they focus their attentions in this direction in the coming year – executing plays that not just Cutler is comfortable with but that everyone is comfortable with and executing them correctly as back up personnel trot in and out of the starting line up.
Things went pretty smoothly last year but that is very uncommon. The odds are good that the offensive personnel are going to face considerably more adversity this year. How they handle that will define them.
- Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune makes a good point:
“Running game will gauge right away whether the Bears’ defense has improved. Athletic quarterback EJ Manuel and shifty running backs [C.J. Spiller] and Fred Jackson will test the Bears’ discipline and tackling with some zone-read runs. ‘Guys like Spiller and Jackson, they’re so quick to be able to just — when you get out of your gap one second — they can jump, stop, cut and be right back in your gap full speed in no time,’ end Jared Allen said. ‘It’s just going to be disciplined football.'”
This was a problem last year. We’ll see if anyone learned anything, especially the linebackers, pretty quick.
One Final Thought
Wiederer along with Campbell makes some good points in this video about the Lance Briggs problem early in the week. Briggs is obviously a child, handling the situation like a 16 year old girl trying to put one over on the doting old father, asking for a “personal day” knowing full well that Bears head coach Marc Trestman would trust him not to ask for it unless it was something on the order of a family problem.
Not any more. The guess here is that Trestman learned something of a lesson about who he could trust.
Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times reports that the Bears will be naming captains game-to-game this year. Briggs was one last year when they were naming them for the season. It will be interesting to see how often he’s a captain this year.
- Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Jay Cutler when asked about his 86 rating on Madden 15:
“You guys are bored.”
- Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com asks :
- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune ranks the Bears 10th in the debut of his NFL Power Rankings. It sounds a tad high to me as I see a tough schedule and 8-8 or 9-7 written all over this team. But I can’t hardly blame anyone for being a tad optimistic this early and its not an unreasonable ranking. And if you are strong at the line of scrimmage, anything can happen. That’s where it all starts.
He doesn’t have much respect for the potentially improved Vikings and Lions, ranking both in the 20s. We’ll have to wait and see on them but I’d be willing to bet at least one of those teams exceeds expectations. The Vikings might not have enough talent to be really good but there’s a whole lot to like about what’s going on up there.
- Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times says that Lance Briggs skipping practice to open a restaurant isn’t a big problem. But that didn’t stop him from telling it like it is:
“While teammates like Corey Wootton and Tim Jennings have sacrificed their comfort zone for the team — Wootton playing inside last season in a contract year; Jennings, a two-time Pro Bowl cornerback, playing nickel this season to ease rookie Kyle Fuller into the NFL — Briggs refused to move to the middle whenever Brian Urlacher was injured. He preferred the comfort of a position tailor-made for his skills in a defense tailor-made for his skills.
“Lance is very much into Lance.”
You have to take Briggs for who he is and this excerpt pretty much nails it. The problem is that the Bears lack leadership on the defensive side of the ball and it looked to me like the team was looking to Briggs to fill the void both last year and this year. This episode shows how misguided that notion is. Briggs will be ready to play on Sunday but setting an example for others to make sure that they are ready to play takes a backseat to his own issues or, more probably, simply never crosses his mind as being his responsibility.
- Potash continues:
“The Bears haven’t announced starting safeties for Sunday’s opener against the Bills, but at this point, does it really matter? Ryan Mundy, Danny McCray, Chris Conte and rookie Brock Vereen are all in the same boat at this point – competent players who will make plays in a good defense and not make plays in a bad one.”
My read on this is that the competition at safety isn’t over. The Bears know what Conte can do but didn’t get a good look at him in the preseason. So the bet here is that both McCray and Conte see time at free safety early in the season until someone grabs the job by the testicles and takes it. Its hard to say what Vereen’s status is at this point but it seems evident that the team thinks he needs development.
“[Bills head coach Doug] Marrone can’t be too thrilled about the situation. Tension seems to be rising within the operation. On Tuesday, Marrone had an animated discussion at practice with Russ Brandon and [general manager Doug] Whaley. According to media on the scene, some harsh words were uttered and Marrone threw his arms in the air.
“Someone should be angry. The Bills had a chance to address the backup QB situation. Chad Henne, Matt Cassel and Shaun Hill were available, not to mention [Ryan Fitz[patrick]. So was Tarvaris Jackson, who is good enough to be No. 2 for the Super Bowl champion Seahawks but couldn’t get on the field in Buffalo.”
Sounds like Palmer landed in a happy place. I suppose its not a surprise that he has since been released.
- I couldn’t care less about Michael Sam‘s personal life one way or another as long as he stays on the field and I have paid little attention to the story surrounding him. But Dallas is perfect for him. Its a defense that requires quick, penetrating linemen and Rod Marinelli will get everything possible out of him. He couldn’t have landed in a better spot.
One Final Thought
Drew Magary at Deadspin tells us why the Bears suck (Don’t worry. All the other teams suck, too.)
“Your coach: Marc Trestman, who has turned out to be pretty good! Sure, the defense is abominable, but look at all those deep passes that are actually completed! NICE. Trestman’s emergence as a sound football mind means we can now move on to the part where the Bears nickel-and-dime him at every turn, until he finally gives up and walks away.
Drew’s living about 20 years in the past. But it’s still pretty funny.
With the final preseason game upon us, I thought it might be interesting to take a look and see if I could come up with a list of 22 final cuts to get the roster down to 53. Here’s a possibility:
- Taylor Boggs
- Robert Turner
- Demontre Hurst
- Al Louis-Jean
- C.J. Wilson
- Marcus Trice
- Tracy Robertson
- Brandon Dunn
- Lee Pegues
- M.D. Jennings
- Ryan Groy
- DeDe Lattimore
- Jerry Franklin
- Cornelius Washington
- Dennis Roland
- Jeron Mastrud
- Dale Moss
- Armanti Edwards
- Michael Sprulock
- Josh Bellamy
- Jordan Lynch
- Senorise Perry or Chris Williams
A few things to note:
- The list assumes that Perry or Williams will win the kick return job. A big assumption. Both could be cut in favor of one of the other guys on the list.
- This would keep quarterback David Fales on the roster. The Bears may well opt to expose him to waivers and try to put him on the practice squad.
- Christian Jones makes the roster here. I’m assuming that this decision was made when Jordan Senn was released.
- The Bears could very well opt to put Marquess Wilson on IR and try to bring him back at mid-season. That would open up a spot for one of the above guys, maybe Bellamy depending upon how special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis feels about him.
- On a related note, we still don’t have a good idea who the core special teams guys are going to be. It’s possible that one of these guys is high on DeCamillis’s list and will make it on that basis.
- If you are feeling queasy about losing one of the above, bear in mind that 10 of these guys will probably make the practice squad. That would include the local favorite Lynch.
- Defensive end Willie Young explains the catch 22 when it comes to generating a disciplined pass rush to keep a quarterback like Russell Wilson in the pocket while generating sufficient pressure. Via Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:
“‘It’s like, what am I supposed to do?’ Young said. ‘Just sit here and pitty-pat with this tackle and get hung up on the block and let him just sit there in the pocket? Then I’ll come back to the sideline and hear that we’re not getting pressure on the quarterback.'”
There’s no doubt that its a delicate balance. But teams do it all over the league. In Wilson’s case, its fairly obvious that the priority was to keep him in there and generate what pressure you can. Most of us understand the issue.
- It was good to see some Bears return to practice this week. Ebon Britton needed to get back on the field. Although Kelvin Hayden didn’t exactly look great Friday night it might be too little too late for Isaiah Frey. I’ve got to believe that he’s on the bubble. Time is running out on Chris Williams, too. From Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune.
- Brandon Marshall gets a little love from ESPN as he becomes a major part of their .
- Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times makes a good point:
“[Quarterback David] Fales’ odds of making the final roster might have increased. If the Bears had hoped for him to join their practice squad, they likely wouldn’t provide other interested teams with four quarters of game film.”
Of course that still depends upon how well he plays. Probably the Bears aren’t going to let what other teams might think stand in the way of their own evaluation. So I would say that the fact that Fales will play the whole game is more of an indication of the Bears willingness to keep him on the roster by allowing him the opportunity to play his way on to it.
- Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times comments on the Bears special teams:
“Thanks to the luxury of having [Devin] Hester in his prime, longtime coordinator Dave Toub usually had the Bears’ special teams ranked among the best in the NFL. Even when Hester wasn’t at his best, the Bears still found a way to return kicks and to cover them.”
No doubt Hester was nice to have, especially at his peak. But let’s not overestimate his importance. Those units were a lot more than Hester. I don’t care how many guys you were shuffling in and out to take a look at, there’s no excuse for the Bears special teams to be as bad as they’ve been. For all of the hand-wringing over the defense, this is where the real point of greatest concern lies.
One Final Thought
Speaking of hand-wringing over the defense, I’ve read and listened to a number of media members who have repeatedly referred to this defense as “old and slow” and most have said the defense looks like last year’s disaster. This column from Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times is typical.
Let’s get one thing straight. What we saw on Friday did not look like last year’s defense. We saw all kinds of penetration and all kinds of pressure from the defensive line. That alone is a huge difference.
The Bears were victimized by a good, talented offense that was playing at their best. They hit them on a good night. Even given that, I’m disappointed that they didn’t show better but I understand what they were up against and I’ve a feeling it would have been a different story with a little more development, a little more game planning and with a little more time together as a unit later in the season. They wouldn’t have won. But it would have gone better.
I’m not saying the current version of the Bears defense is going to remind us of the ’85 Bears. But lets cut them a little slack. They’re definitively better than last year. It not going to be great. But its not going to be bad, either, and I think if we just relax and keep things in perspective that we’re all going to enjoy watching them.