- Colleen Kane at the Chicago Tribune reviews Pace’s responses to questions at the NFL Combine:
“Pace said defensive lineman Akiem Hicks didn’t need surgery on his injured elbow and the Bears ‘don’t have any concerns there.'”
Athletes hate getting surgery. The rehab is a long and arduous process and I think they’ll do almost anything to avoid it.
The problem is that they often say no to it when they really need it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen pro football players not get surgery for an issue only to have it continue to be a problem, resulting in them eventually getting it anyway. Months are wasted that could have been used trying to get back onto the field.
We can hope that wasn’t the case with Hicks. But fans should be holding their breath a bit until he plays for a few games and they can be sure he’s over the hump.
- Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times also reviews Pace’s comments at the combine.
“Pace and coach Matt Nagy have spent time this offseason trying to find ways to get receiver/special-teams ace Cordarrelle Patterson more involved on offense. That includes using him at running back more often. Patterson’s 7.62 yards per carry in his career are the most since the NFL/AFL merger for players with at least 100 rushes.”
You do start to wonder if the Bears aren’t preparing to use Patterson more at running back this year. Clearly they considered him to be more of a gadget player/special teams ace last year. His record as a receiver is limited.
After David Montgomery, the second running back capable of carrying a full load is Ryan Nall. Pace had nice things to say about Nall but the Bears may conclude that Patterson would be a better choice.
- Having said that, the Bears still love Montgomery and are talking about giving the ball more in 2020. Adam Jahns at The Athletic reports:
“(Montgomery’s) a very talented kid,” Nagy said. “I love his hunger. We talked last year about how much he learned each week in practice about what this long season was about. He can do a lot of different things. We know what his strengths are and what his weaknesses are. Could we have helped him last year by getting him the ball more? Yes, absolutely. It’s a part of the identity. What we are going to do is focus in No. 1 as a staff schematically how can we get better? And if we start with that, then we can worry about the players.”
One of the reasons Mongomery was drafted was because of his ability to catch passes. One wonder, therefore, why they didn’t pass him the ball more in 2019. Perhaps this year we’ll see more of him in this part of the offense.
- Meanwhile Tarik Cohen struggled this year. According to Finley, Pace didn’t have a good explanation:
“We all need to be better and I know Cohen will be motivated.”
The reference to motivation is interesting. Cohen seemed to be having a pretty good time celebrating his success last offseason. You wonder if he didn’t let up.
Having said that, I think its far more likely that the drop off at tight end hurt his production badly. Nagy almost certainly got Cohen the ball by putting safties and linebackers in a bind. They could either cover Trey Burton of Cohen. Last year they had only one guy to worry about.
- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune continues to wonder about the Bears future at quarterback:
“The deadline to pick up the fifth-year option isn’t until May 30, but the refusal to address [quarterback Mitch] Trubisky’s 2021 status while championing his cause for the coming season seems at least somewhat contradictory. How can we be certain Trubisky is the guy this year if you’d rather not say if he might be the guy next year?”
Clearly the Bears are being cautious about committing to doing this. Once you say you are going to do it, there’s no going back.
Still, the money isn’t guaranteed except for injury and all things considered Trubisky’s been pretty healthy. Consider that if he under-performs this year he almost certainly won’t start more than about 6 games before they put in whatever veteran back up they sign.
I’ve got a feeling the Bears are going to pick up the option. There are clearly things that they want to see Trubisky work on and they want to see progress.
Anyone remember last year when they were afraid he’d work too hard and they asked him to take it easy in the offseason? That’s apparently gone out the window.
In any case, they may just want to see what kind of progress he makes in the offseason and what new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo think of him before making the commitment.
- Biggs continues on the theme as he answers your questions:
“Is there any actual chance Mitch Trubisky isn’t the starter Week 1? I don’t think there is, but I feel like there needs to be. — @rawkhawkchicago
“Right now, Trubisky not only is the starter, he’s the only quarterback under contract for the 2020 season. Some are of the mindset that in the right situation the Bears will pull the plug on Trubisky and move on. I don’t know that there’s a potential ‘right situation’ this offseason, and that could be a pricey proposition as Trubisky’s cap number for 2020 is $9.2 million. You can’t rule anything out, but the more plausible scenario probably is general manager Ryan Pace doing his best to improve the talent around the quarterback position while hoping Trubisky makes a major step forward in his fourth season with a more modestly priced backup option on board. As much as I have considered the possibilities, I keep circling back to the idea that I don’t believe the Bears are ready to declare Trubisky a failure. They can talk about operating without egos all they want; I just don’t see them moving on before the season begins. I might be wrong, but that’s my evaluation three weeks before the start of the new league year.
I really don’t thin this is about ego. The Bears truly believe that Trubisky still has a chance to develop. But its also clear that they’re running out of patience and they aren’t going to be dumb about it.
I think Trubisky starts the season unless he looks really bad in training camp and during the preseason. But he would really, really have to look bad.
I’m looking for the Bears to sign a veteran to back up Trubisky and be ready to start somewhere about game 4 if he starts the season like he did last year. I’m also thinking that if there’s any quarterback they like anywhere in this draft, they’ll take him with the idea of developing him.
- Biggs continues:
“It’s an awkward time for Pace, and that’s understandable. The Bears fell to 8-8 in a season Nagy said felt worse than the club’s actual record. The Bears are short on resources. They have eight draft picks, but only two project to be in the first half of the draft. After cutting cornerback Prince Amukamara and wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, the Bears created $13.5 million in salary-cap space and two prominent roster needs. Still, they rank in the bottom third of the league in available cap room.”
Pace has a bit of a problem on his hands. He came from the Saints and he has chosen to run the organization on that model.
He has aggressively done everything he can to build a team that is ready to compete with the hope that Trubisky, who he constantly compares to Saints quarterback Drew Brees, will progress into a top 12 quarterback.
So he has chosen to go all in and he has spent his resources. As a result, like the Saints, the Bears are constantly short on them.
The problem is that Trubisky isn’t Brees and the team isn’t that good. So now they find themselves in need to improvement at multiple positions with little cap space and even fewer good draft picks.
The team has a challenge on its hands.
- Dan Durkin at The Athletic reviews video of new Bears tight end Demetrius Harris:
“Harris has four years of history with Bears coach Matt Nagy. He started his NFL career as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he played forward on the basketball team. The NBA wasn’t in the cards, but at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, he fit the athletic profile scouts seek at tight end. Then-Chiefs general manager John Dorsey gave him a shot and he’s hung around for six seasons now.”
I was really surprised at that size that Harris plays the Y position at tight end (lining up next to the tackle instead of split out like a wide receiver). Usually I think about tight ends who weigh in the 250-270 pound range when I think of players who are going to be called upon to block like linemen much of the time.
Adam Jahns, also at The Athletic, quotes Pace as he elaborates:
“It’s interesting his background coming in as a basketball player and then developing into more of what we see as like a ‘Y’ tight end,” Pace said. “He has a lot of strength as a blocker while normally these basketball players you see them excel more as a ‘U,’ athletic receiving tight end. Demetrius has strengths in the blocking aspect, so we think he’s still getting better. We think he can kind of flourish in the scheme that we have.”
It will be interesting to see how Harris overcomes the lack of leverage his body type can generate. He may have a definitely ceiling. Its possible that the Bears will choose to have him compete at the U position instead.
“Pace was never going to detail the Bears’ plans for free agency. But similar to other GMs, Pace will drop hints about his intentions.
“In this case, it became apparent that linebacker Danny Trevathan has a better chance of returning in 2020 than Nick Kwiatkoski. His answers about them were that different.
“Pace indicated that there would be a decent market for Kwiatkoski.
“’He took full advantage of his opportunities when he got them,’ he said. ‘You tip your hat to him. We talk about drafting and developing players. With him being a fourth-round pick, we’re proud of where he got to.'”
This certainly sounds about right. Trevathan will be the cheaper option coming off of an injury.
Usually you can figure the Bears to go with the younger player but, frankly, even almost 30 years old, he better than the 26 year old Kwitkowski. Kwitkowski has, in past years, had a habit of getting lost in coverage and he struggled to pick up receivers over the middle running shallow crosses.
New defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano did a good job of hiding Kwitkowski’s deficiencies. But I’m reasonably certain they’d rather stick with Trevathan for another contract.
- According to Jason Leiser at the Chicago Sun-Times the Bears are going to pursue free agent tight end Austin Hooper when free agency begins.
Dan Durkin at The Athletic did an in depth dive on Hooper and liked what he saw:
“What stood out to me most when scouting Hooper was how well he reads coverages. Once he’s into his route, he quickly diagnoses man or zone and adjusts accordingly to create throwing windows.”
“Another aspect that stands out about Hooper’s game is how strong his hands are. He consistently extends his arms, catches the ball away from his body and effortlessly plucks passes out of the air. He is not intimidated in contested situations and willingly works over the middle of the field. He caught 77.3 percent of the passes thrown his direction, which ranked seventh overall in the league and fifth among tight ends.
“From a blocking perspective, Hooper is a work in progress. He’s inconsistent at the point of attack and has to work on lowering his pad level. He tends to get too upright, negating his length and losing the leverage battle.”
This sounds like exactly the kind of aggressive manuever Pace might try to pull off.
Like every sensible person who follows the league, I hate to see the team dip into free agency to compensate for deficiencies created by poor draft picks (see Adam Shaheen). But the reason Hooper is hitting the market apparently has more to do with the Falcons limited cap space than with their evaluation of Hooper’s performance.
Like virtually all free agents who are any good, Hooper will be over-priced It looks like Hunter Henry will be franchised so that makes Hooper the only decent tight end on the market. He’s going to cash in and the Bears have limited cap space.
Biggs asks one of the bigger questions in my mind not having to do with the quarterback:
“In his two media sessions since the end of last season, Pace has been positive when asked about Leonard Floyd, making the point that the outside linebacker does some of the unheralded things worthy of attention from those in the know.
“That’s noteworthy, but does it mean the Bears will keep Floyd on the terms of the fifth-year option in his contract — $13.2 million?”
No, its not.
Floyd gets a lot of credit for being a good strong side linebacker in other areas but with Khalil Mackgetting triple teamed on the other side there’s no excuse for Floyd not having more sacks.
Floyd was drafted to rush the passer. If the Bears are going to settle for a linebacker who can’t do that, they can certainly find one in free agency or the draft that costs a lot less money.