Quo Vadis Kevin White

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stock Up

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

Stock Down

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

Other Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did Someone Fail to Properly Coach Leonard Floyd?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Roquon Smith Will Never Get Back What He Has Lost

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

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

“How far behind is Smith?

“The answer can be only this:

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

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

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