- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune speculates about the future of running back Le’Veon Bell, who is being released by the New York Jets after an unproductive year and a half with the team:
“With Bell now a free agent, some have linked him as an option for the Bears, but they already have a veteran in the building to kick the tires on. They signed Lamar Miller to the practice squad last week and got a look at him for the first time Wednesday at practice.
“Miller missed last season with a torn ACL in his left knee and was briefly with the New England Patriots in August, starting on the physically unable to perform list before being released shortly after he was activated. The Bears had yet to see how Miller looks because they only held walk-throughs last week in preparation for the Thursday victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”
Bears running backs coach Charles London said he was looking forward to seeing Miller get out there in practice this week.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing him run around out there tomorrow, test the knee, get some confidence in it. If Lamar’s healthy, he’s an explosive player. … He’s got a really diverse skill set in the run game, protection, the pass (game). So I look forward to seeing him go out there and competing.”
I have my doubts about Lamar Miller and I doubt that he’s going to be a reason why the Bears wouldn’t pursue Bell. Miller might have plenty left in the tank but torn ACLs take a lot of time to heal. I’m sure he’s ready to get back onto the field but it is doubtful that he’ll have his old explosiveness back until another year has passed.
As far a Bell is concerned, he obviously didn’t think he was being used properly by the Jets. Head coach Adam Gase reportedly never wanted Bell but former general manager Mike Maccagnan signed him anyway. The player and coach never meshed and Bell privately frequently criticized Gase’s game plans in general and his use of Bell in particular. His dissatisfaction finally became public last weekend and he was released as a result.
Though Biggs expressed doubt, the Bears could try to sign Bell. They could use him and they wouldn’t inherit huge Bell’s contract, as they would have had they traded for him. But why would Bell come to Chicago? He’d be sharing snaps with current primary back David Montgomery and the indications are that the Bears offensive line is only a little better than the Jets when it comes to run blocking against good defensive fronts. The Bears certainly couldn’t offer him much money while simultaneously trying to get receiver Allen Robinson signed to a long-term deal.
I don’t see it. But general manager Ryan Pace has surprised me before.
- Biggs answers your questions:
“Do you think it will take a win against the Rams in a couple weeks before national media start believing the Bears are legit? — @boodz22
“I would imagine a road win over the Rams, who also are 4-1, would give the Bears more cachet. That’s assuming they get their third road victory of the season Sunday at Carolina. The Panthers have won three consecutive games but aren’t getting a lot of attention with running back Christian McCaffrey on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain and coach Matt Rhule in his first season taking over a rebuilding project. I don’t think folks can clamor too much about how the Bears are perceived when you consider narrow wins over the Lions, Falcons and Giants in the first three games. Those are struggling teams that took the Bears to the wire. A win over Tom Brady and the Buccaneers helps, but the ongoing struggles of the offense make it tough for the Bears to get a ton of consideration nationally when you see scoring surging all over the place. The Rams are a good team and will provide a good test for the Bears that ought to give us an idea of where they stack up with the midpoint of the season approaching.”
I think the Bears are getting the respect they deserve nationally as a team that is probably near the middle of the pack or just below that.
The problem, if there is one, is that people pay more attention to offense and when they see a really bad one, it can give them the impression that a team is worse than it actually is. Throw in the fact that defensive teams which compete in low scoring games are more likely to see close, one score victories that come down to the last possession and you get the impression that they are just barely scraping by. Which, to an extent, they are. Such teams are always more reliant upon random breaks going both ways over the course of a game because they can’t score enough points to create separation and overcome them.
- Biggs answers another one:
“Was last Thursday’s performance by Khalil Mack against the Buccaneers a sign that he’s over whatever was physically ailing him with his knee early in the offseason? Seems to me like he was back to his dominant self. — Billy P., Oakbrook Terrace”
“What we do know is Mack was dominant with two sacks against the Buccaneers and a third that was wiped out by a penalty. What we also know is he at least has some type of knee issue the team is working to manage throughout the course of the season.”
I was glad to see Mack have a good game against the Buccaneers last week. But I would caution against any great increase in optimism about his season based upon it.
Mack’s health is certainly a factor but I think there’s far more to his performance than that. To my eye, Mack saw a fair number of snaps against Bucs right tackle Tristan Wirfs singled up on an island. No Bears divisional rival would ever let that happen in anything close to a passing situation.
Mack’s success is directly related to what Akiem Hicks does inside and what Robert Quinn does on the other side of the line. If either or both is a dominant pass rusher who is disrupting the game, it could force teams to occasionally shift their attention away from Mack and allow him to get more opportunities. Otherwise Mack will continue to see double and triple teams against teams who know the Bears better and who are likely to give Mack the respect he deserves.