A.J. Green Gets His, Will Alshon Jeffery Be Far Behind?

The Cincinnati Enquirer is reporting that the Bengals and wide receiver A.J. Green have joined the wide receiver contract extension party by agreeing to a four-year extension.

Fellow receivers Dez Bryant, Julio Jones and Demayrius Thomas, all recently signed five year contracts in the neighborhood of $70 million over five years. However Green will get more money per year and more up front than all of them. Green signed a four-year extension worth $60 million.

The extension-mania that has hit the league makes me wonder when Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, whose contract is up after this season, will get his. The Bears front office is understandably being cautious with Jeffery, who has a bad habit of getting hurt and who hasn’t shown the new regime anything on the field, yet. But Green’s contract might serve as a model for the team and Jeffery’s representatives to follow.

According to profootballtalk.com a key negotiating point was the Bengals not guaranteeing money past the first year, making the duration of the deal key to Green’s representatives, settling on a four-year deal, not five. A similar structure might decrease the team’s risk in extending Jeffery to the point that it might become feasible to do a deal sooner rather than later, something I’d recommend they do rather than letting Jeffery hit the open market. The franchise tag will also remain a very viable possibility for Jeffery unless someone else emerges this season who will be a candidate for it.

Preseason Guessing Game Continues as Bears Injury report is Released

The Bears Friday pregame injury report is out and and its interesting. Despite practicing all week, Alshon Jeffery (calf), Eddie Royal (hip) and Marquess Wilson (hamstring) were all classified as “questionable” (i.e. 50-50) for the game. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen (head) and defensive tackle Eddie Goldman (head) were both probable.

Most of the media think that Fox’s attitude towards giving anything away to the opposition is paranoid. I’m not so sure but whether it is or not, he’s certainly sticking with it, trying (probably in vain) to keep the Packers guessing as to who will play. I’m wondering if classifying Goldman and Clausen as “probable” is due to the fact that he’s purposely waiting to have them cleared via the concussion protocol. Doing it sooner might have forced him to take them off of the report.

Offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod (back) is also probable. Both outside linebacker Sam Acho (illness) and cornerback Tracy Porter (hamstring) are out.

Steelers Look Like Season-Long Disappointment Waiting to Happen

Gene Collier at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette regales his readers with a description of how the Steelers covered (or more accurately failed to cover) Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski last night.

“There were any number of reasons to expect a burst of [Patriots quarterback Tom] Brady virtuosity Thursday night, not the least of which was the presence on the Steelers sideline of Shamarko Thomas and Cortez Allen, the two defenders most urgently charged with solidifying a suspected secondary this season.

“That neither could earn a starting assignment in the opener sent a bad moon rising over [Steelers head coach Mike] Tomlin’s team, a dark karma it only exacerbated by the curious way in which it attempted to cover monster tight end Gronkowski, perhaps best described as running after him helplessly as he cruised toward the end zone.

“Gronkowski scored three touchdowns and fellow Patriots tight end Scott Chandler a fourth. Not even by putting Thomas and Robert Golden on the field at the same time in dime coverage could new defensive coordinator Keith Butler spin any combination of coverage that could be deemed, uh, coverage.”

I know a lot of media experts are high on the Steelers this year and they’re considered to be a Super Bowl contender based upon their offensive potential. But that offense shot itself in the foot far too often last night with a turnover and a team total of 8 penalties for 77 yards against a mediocre Patriots defense.  Two missed field goals didn’t help.  I saw nothing from the Steelers offense to convince me that they’re going to be able to make up for what looks to me like a well-below average defense of their own.

There have been rumblings about dissatisfaction with Tomlin in Pittsburgh. They’re a franchise that’s known for its stability when it comes to head coaches but I’m already starting to wonder if he won’t be in trouble by December.

Discipline the Key to Hanging with the Packers

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune reviews the state of the Packers:

“The Packers had their struggles stopping the run last season. A midseason shift to move Clay Matthews to inside linebacker helped. But in the playoffs, Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray ran for 123 yards and a touchdown. The next week Seahawks back Marshawn Lynch posted 157 rushing yards on 25 carries.”

“The Packers remain ordinary up front. And while Matthews is a dynamic player, he’s not a classic inside linebacker who will be an enforcer against the run.”

I would totally agree. Look for the Bears to try to control the game and keep Aaron Rogers off the field by running the ball. However, if they’re going to do that successfully, they’d better play with discipline, something they have not shown themsleves capable of doing in years, including the preseason this year. Penalties will kill any ball control game plan quickly.  Turnovers will kill any game plan of any type even quicker.

Still, we can hope that the Bears will remain competitive. Head coach John Fox had a message of hope that rings true this offseason:

“It’s back to people. I tell guys, ‘I’m not spending eight hours a day with [jerks]. And I don’t expect you to, either.’ When those come up, I’m runnin’ them out. Because it’s people. If you have all oars in the water and don’t have ‘anchors,’ you’ve got a chance – I don’t care what your talent level is.”

Bears fans are hoping he’s right.

Should Being a Big Ten Running Back be a Red Flag in the Draft?

Tom Krasovic at the San Diego Union-Tribune is concerned about Melvin Gordon in light of fellow Wisconsin alumnus Montee Ball‘s profesional struggles.

“Do Wisconsin running backs peak in college? Should frontline Big Ten running backs come with a warning label? Is it wise to invest premium draft picks in a running back?”

I think Krasovic’s concerns are much ado about nothing. But I will say that I’m surprised that Gordon struggled so much in the preseason. I honestly thought he was the top runningback in the 2015 draft (ahead of Todd Gurley). Gordon still has time for the light to come on but my evaluation isn’t looking good right now.

Evaluating the Evaluations

Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com asks some good questions:

“[H]ow is it possible the team got to the final cut date a week before its opener and had no one qualified to play the right tackle spot? How is possibly no one able to give them solid minutes at right guard if they answer the tackle problem by moving their best guard?”

Like Hub, I’m also troubled by the way that the wide receiver position was handled.

I like this coaching staff a lot. I’ve even suggested that they’re the best Bears staff I’ve seen in my lifetime.  But I’m not nearly as sold on the Bears front office.  There’s something wrong when, even assuming that the Bears hadn’t lost first round pick Kevin White, you can’t find a better fifth (now fourth) receiver than Marquess Wilson.  And how bad must Vlad Ducasse be at guard if the Bears felt compelled to practically beg either Charles Leno or Jordan Mills to win the job at right tackle for the entirety of training camp first?

There were definitely some problems with player evaluation in this first year of general manager Ryan Pace’s reign.  Something tells me we’re going to be asking questions like those above for some time to come.

Why Didn’t Mason Foster Stick on the Bears Roster?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

Biggs: “I don’t know that I’ve seen as much outcry over the release of a player in many seasons as I have with [Mason] Foster. Good guy. Decent player for the Bucs who seemed to tail off the last year or so in Tampa. A little undersized. Doesn’t run great. Foster didn’t have much going on in free agency so I’m puzzled as to the public consternation over his release.”

I’m not saying that the Bears should have kept Foster but I believe I can clear this up for Brad. Pick any preseason game and I think anyone will tell you that Foster did more in that one game than Shea McClellin and Christian Jones showed combined in all of the games they played in total.  Against back ups, its true. But still, he looked more like a playmaker than anyone else playing on the inside on a team that desperately needs them.

The guess here is that Foster didn’t stick because the coaching staff saw more upside in McClellin and Jones and were projecting each to be better than Foster by year’s end.

Just What Makes a “Casual” Bears Fan?

I was somewhat affronted by this remark from Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune as he reviews the state of the Bears offense:

“Over three seasons as a Bear, [BrandonMarshall‘s production — 279 catches, 3,524 yards, 31 touchdowns — made him an obvious favorite for casual fans who tuned in to games and witnessed a physical, athletic playmaker whose on-field determination made him a clear go-to target. Those numbers will be hard to replace.”

“Despite the composed, enthusiastic and introspective cloak Marshall wears on TV, his behind-the-scenes moodiness and high-maintenance nature often proved exhausting for teammates and coaches. All that is for New York to sort out now.”

I consider myself a bit more than a “casual fan”. But I loved what Marshall did for the Bears. I would rather suggest that Wiederer and reporters like him not wait until guys like Marshall leave town before making statements like the one above. The only thing I heard before that was that Marshall let loose with a locker room tirade at the team that I felt at the time was well-deserved.

In the mean time, I think defining anyone who actually isn’t in the locker room to witness Marshall’s unreported “high maintenance nature” as a casual fan might be a bit unfair.