To Re-Sign or Not to Re-Sign? That is the Question.


Mike Mulligan
at the Chicago Tribune speculates about Alshon Jeffery‘s future with the team:

“Franchise tags won’t be set until the 2016 salary cap is set in March, but Corry, writing for CBSSports.com, recently predicted it will grow about 7.5 percent to $154 million. With big-money deals for Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas added to increases for Julio Jones and A.J. Green and Calvin Johnson‘s top-dollar deal, the franchise number for a wide receiver is projected to jump from $12.8 million to just over $14.5 million.

“The number will be the richest at any NFL position other than quarterback (projected $19.75 million) and defensive end ($15.5 million).

“Is Jeffery worth that kind of money? “

Aishon_jeffreyYes, he probably is.

The real problem with Jeffery is that he’s been injured so often this season. Worse, he’s been out with exactly the kind of soft tissue injury that head coach John Fox mentioned as the major issue with Jeffery after he was hired in the off-season.

But the truth is that franchising Jeffery for a year minimizes the risk. Sure, the Bears will try to sign him at their price, which will take the injury risk into account. But even if Jeffery refuses and decides to try to prove to the Bears that he can, indeed, remain healthy, its only a one year contract with a rebuilding team that will have plenty of cap room to absorb the hit. Over the next off-season, I would expect the Bears to talk a lot to Jeffery about how to manage these injuries. If he responds, he’s going to see his pay day with the Bears. If he doesn’t, he’ll see it elsewhere. But probably not until 2017.

The real problem that the Bears will face in the off-season isn’t what to do with Jeffery. Its what to do with cornerback Tracy Porter. Porter has been healthy this year but has a brutal history of injuries as documented by Dan Wiederer, also at the Chicago Tribune:

“Through the summer, the biggest thing Porter seemed to have a knack for was getting hurt and bouncing around. When he signed with the Bears on June 8, shortly after being released by the Redskins, Porter joined his fifth team in five seasons.

“His resume came loaded with red flags, most notably the durability concerns of a player who had missed 23 games the previous three years.

“A mysterious seizure episode in Denver had been a culprit in the 10 games he missed in 2012. Last season, hamstring and shoulder injuries sidelined Porter for 13 games with the Redskins.

“Then, on Aug. 11, in the third week of Bears training camp, Porter tweaked a hamstring. He doesn’t remember how.”

Porter is a problem. He’s currently the Bears’ best corner but he’s 29 years old and, though he probably has some good years left, that’s not young for a cornerback. Will this be the year he breaks out and never looks back? Or will this be the exception to the rule, one of the few where he remained healthy? It’s a critical question because if he continues to play the way he has, he could demand a reasonably large amount of money on the open market.

What you do with Porter, of course, depends on the situation. If he’s healthy the rest of the year and he’s willing to be reasonable, maybe you give him a two year contract with most or all of the guaranteed money in the first year and see how it goes. If he’s going to require top dollar, though, you have to let him go. There’s little reason to roll the dice on a player in Porter’s situation when you are still at least a couple years from making a deep playoff run. Whether they sign Porter or not, the Bears will undoubtedly continue to look for younger cornerbacks in the draft. And that, not taking risks on free agents like Porter, has to be their primary focus.

Quick Comments on the Monday Night Games

Eagles  – Falcons:

  • Sam Bradford didn’t look sharp early. Too many missed passes and miscommunications. This was exacerbated by the job the Falcons did stopping the run. Eagles head coach Chip Kelley gave up on it and decided to lean on Bradford’s arm. It wasn’t a good decision. The Eagles had 8 yards rushing, 117 yards passing and an INT while only scoring three points at half time. Despite running the ball better, the Eagles stuck with the pass in the second half. They had more success in the second half but still lost this game in large part because they the refused to run the ball more.
  • The Eagles had a lot of trouble getting pressure on Matt Ryan and that exposed their biggest apparent weakness. That secondary’s not good.
  • Speaking of Ryan, he was very lucky that he didn’t give this game away.  Two interceptions that really should have been five.  He’ll want to clean that up.  He won’t get away with it often.
  • The Falcons were running the ball surprisingly well and they did a good job of setting up the play action pass.
  • I heard all off season about how the Falcons were quietly building that defense up.  I didn’t get it, myself, until tonight.  They’re far better than I thought.  They’re much faster and much better at the line of scrimmage.  I was damned impressed.

Vikings – 49ers

I was doing a podcast and could only occasionally glance at this game.  I went to bed not long after that.  But I do have some thoughts on what I saw.

The biggest knock on the Vikings going into the season was their offensive line. They did nothing that I saw during this game to ease anyone’s mind. The 49ers harassed QB Teddy Bridgewater and limited running back Adrian Peterson to 14 yards on 4 carries in the first half. The Vikings have been touted as a playoff team. They’re going to have to do better if that’s going to be the case.

Brief Impressions: 2015 NFL Draft

  1. Did someone tell the ESPN crew that there was no smiling allowed on the set? I’ve never seen a more somber first round telecast in my life.
  2. There seems to be a belief around the league that second overall pick Marcus Mariota might have been an owners pick. The Titans aren’t supposed to be for sale but the general belief appears to be that they are. There’s a theory that interim president Steve Underwood put pressure on the Titans front office to draft Mariota in order to make the franchise more valuable.
  3. I’m not surprised that the Redskins decided that they didn’t want to draft the consensus best player in the draft, Leonard Williams. But I am surprised that they couldn’t find a way to trade pack. Brandon Scherff adds to an offensive line that general manager Scot McCloughan evidently wants to make tougher as they look to become the kind of ground and pound running team that the Cowboys were last year. But I’m having a hard time believing there was no market for that pick. Scherff has short arms and isn’t considered to be a great offensive line prospect, especially if he’s going to be put at right tackle. The Redskins should have been able to pick up Scherff or another lineman later in the round.
  4. The Browns pick of Cameron Erving at 19 overall as a guard appeared to be a puzzler. Erving was generally considered to be a potential Pro Bowl center but his performance at tackle when he played the position was not considered to be good and he doesn’t necessarily project as a guard long-term. But a look at current center Alex Mack‘s contract clarifies things. His contract is player voidable in 2016 and apparently, like so many other people associated with the Browns organization, he intends to get out as soon as he can.
  5. On the other hand, I’m still having a hard time figuring out the Andrus Peat pick by the Saints. Terron Armstead seems to be a lock at left tackle. Right tackle Zach Strief is entering his 10th season with the Saints. I suppose he could be the future at that spot but I don’t see an immediate need there. The other positions along the offensive line seem to be similarly set. All I can assume is that Peat was the best available on their board and they took him.
  6. I love the Bears’ apparent free agent signing of Shane Carden. Many will remember that I put up a post on Carden questioning why he was considered only a low round prospect. Now we’ll find out first hand how full of it I am.
  7. I thought it was funny that ESPN‘s Ben Goessling‘s opinion of the Vikings draft so closely mirrored my own of the Bears’ saying, “This draft could be tough to judge for several years thanks to the number of talented, yet unrefined, players the Vikings took.”
  8. Many were surprised by the fall of so many pass rushers so far in the draft. I was not. I thought all of the pass rushers after Dante Fowler were being over-rated by the media in large part because, well, they were pass rushers. The only one I thought was worth a top ten pick other than Fowler was Randy Gregory and he blew his chance with off the field issues. It says here that Shane Ray and Vic Beasley, who went right after the Bears pick at number eight to Atlanta, both have bust written all over them. Bud Dupree might be an average starter by the time he’s developed.
  9. Speaking of pass rushers, its going to be interesting to see how things pan out for Fowler in Jacksonville. Fowler thinks he’s going to be the Leo linebacker (the primary pass rusher) but that doesn’t seem to fit his skills as he would be more suited to the Otto role (strong side linebacker who turns into a pass rusher on obvious passing downs). How he develops there may largely depend upon whether they choose the correct way to use him.
  10. One big loser in the draft appears to be former Bears prospect Matt Blanchard. The Packers drafted developmental prospect Brett Hundley. Scott Tolzien is currently entrenched as the back up. Unless Blanchard shows a great deal of potential or the Packers aren’t as committed to Tolzien as they appear to be, Blanchard would seem to be the odd man out.
  11. There’s a big part of me that likes the Rams’ first round pick of Todd Gurley. He’s the kind of runner that will fit in well in St. Louis and there’s no doubt that the Rams are planning to beat the rest of the NFC West by further overpowering it’s best teams. That means a big time running game and with the selection of Gurley followed by two offensive tackles, they may have added the personnel to do it.

    The problem is that head coach Jeff Fisher is under some pressure in St. Louis to start winning now after a string of seasons in which the team has under-performed. And with Gurley coming off of a very bad ACL injury, he might not be ready to contribute right away. Despite good reports on the condition of the knee, Gurley won’t be ready to practice until halfway through training camp, losing valuable reps to learn things like pass protection. Even worse, players with knee injuries have a bad habit of not getting all the way back to where the were before until the second year after the injury. You have to wonder if the Rams wouldn’t have been better off selecting Melvin Gordon, who is very close to Gurley in terms of how the experts had them ranked and who I actually liked better than Gurley anyway.

Drafting Pass Rush Is a Priority. But at What Price?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune puts up his mock draft. Here are his top 10 picks:

1. Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

2. Titans: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

3. Jaguars: Dante Fowler, DE, Florida

4. Raiders: Leonard Williams, DT, USC

5. Redskins: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson

6. Jets: Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska

7. Bears: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

8. Falcons: Bud Dupree, DE, Kentucky

9. Giants: Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa

10. Rams: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

It’s an interesting grouping if only because it breaks down into tiers which reflect Biggs’s priorities by position: quarterback is the first at one and two because that’s the most important, then pass rushers at three, five and six, and finally the other positions at three of the last four spots.

This is fine in that it almost certainly reflects the thoughts of virtually all fans, and I would dare say all NFL general managers as well. But the problem is that Biggs takes it too far.

Though he’s certainly not worthy of the two spot, I get the Marcus Mariota pick and it may well happen, though I’m guessing that if it does, its not likely to be the Titans picking there. However, prioritizing Dante Fowler over Leonard Williams, the best prospect in the draft, isn’t what I would call good thinking. In fairness to Biggs, he’s not the only media expert who believes Fowler will go first. But though Fowler’s a great prospect, Williams is the consensus best player in the draft and as close to a sure thing as you can get – he’s almost certainly going to be a dominant defensive lineman. He’s the smart pick.

But those two decisions aren’t nearly as surprising as taking Vic Beasley and Randy Gregory, both very risky prospects (for the top ten) over Amari Cooper, the most solid wide receiver prospect in the draft. Mel Kiper and Todd McShay recently did a live mock draft on ESPN and Beasley didn’t even make the first round.

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I, personally, like Gregory a lot but three failed drug tests, including one at the Combine, makes you wonder if he’s not an addictive personality headed for trouble.

Bud Dupree, Brandon Scherff and Kevin White all have their risks as well but of the three, Dupree is the riskiest. Brandon Scherff is at worst an outstanding NFL guard. White is a one year wonder but he (arguably) has more dominant physical skills. Based upon the mock drafts I’ve seen almost no one would take Dupree over White.

This mock highlights the conflicts that must run through every general manager’s head as they prepare for the draft. We’re all familiar with the idea of drafting the best available and how that often conflicts with drafting for need. Biggs has written many times that drafting the best available player regardless of need is a fallacy in the NFL – and I absolutely believe him. But this mock draft might take it too far. As important as pass rush is in the NFL, teams can’t afford to miss in the top ten picks. You can still draft for need but focusing on one position, admittedly a very important one, regardless of the grade on talent for the individual prospects sounds to me like it’s asking for trouble. Here’s hoping that the Bears don’t force a pick in order to fill a position in such a manner.

Skipping Bayless and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Phil Thompson at the Chicago Tribune notes that there were no Bears evident at Jimmy Clausen‘s wedding. His Twitter background image is one of himself in a Carolina Panther’s uniform.

    Slow news day.

  • Nate Atkins at chicagofootball.com . Smith’s situation is reminiscent of what happened to current Bear Lamarr Houston. He succeeded as a 3-4 five technique, in his case for the Texans, then signed on with Oakland to be a 4-3 defensive tackle. Like Houston, Atkins struggled with the transition. Also like Houston, he might be a good bet to bounce back in the defensive scheme that he is best suited for. This sounds like good thinking to me – and like something Bears general manager Ryan Pace might very well do.
  • Kevin Fishbain, Hub and Arthur Arkush debate the best and worst free agent signings by the Bears for chicagofootball.com. I’m going to go ahead and agree with Hub that Mason Foster was probably their best signing. There are too many question marks at inside linebacker and they needed someone they could depend on there. Id say dependable is Foster’s floor.

    A mildly disturbing trend that runs throughout this article is the subtle suggestion that the Bears are consistently overpaying for players like Eddie Royal and Alan Ball. These suggestions tend to be a lot more than subtle in the national media where I’ve heard the Royal signing openly ridiculed. These won’t be spectacular errors if they don’t work out but I’d rather see that money spent a bit more wisely.

  • Arthur Arkush evaluates wide receiver prospect Kevin White. I’m starting to become a little wary of White. He relies heavily on his physical ability to beat defenders. That might be OK but what happens when he gets to the NFL and finds out he can’t dominate every corner like he did in college. More and more I agree with scouts that the much more savvy Amari Cooper is the safer pick.

Elsewhere

  • NFL analyst Rodney Harrison isn’t a believer in the Jets. Via Dan Hanzus at nfl.com:

    “‘The Jets are, all of a sudden, on a high thinking they’re going to win a championship,’ Harrison said on NBC Sports Radio, per ESPN. ‘You’re not going to win a championship, you’re not even going to make the playoffs, because you don’t have a quarterback. If you go into the season and you’re expecting Geno Smith to improve, it’s not going to happen. He might get a little better, but when times get tough, when adversity hits, guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to fold just like the last couple years.'”

    Sound familiar Bears fans?

  • Kevin Patra at nfl.com says that the punishment of the Atlanta Falcons for pumping crowd noise into the Georgia Dome has come down. The NFL fined the Falcons $350,000, took away their fifth-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, and suspended team president Rich McKay will also be suspended for at least three months from the Competition Committee beginning April 1.

    I think the Falcons are being made an example, here. I’m virtually certain that they’re nowhere near the only team in the NFL to do this. When the Rams were in the same division with the Saints the players talked about the noise being so loud on their bench in the Super Dome that they had to turn the speakers on the sideline around just to hear themselves talk.

  • Bucky Brooks at nfl.com has quarterback Marcus Mariota falling to the Chargers at 17. It’s not impossible. But it’s going to be tough for the Saints who are probably starting to plan for a future without Drew Brees, to pass on him at 13.

    Mariota’s a risky pick for most teams, though. He could easily fall pretty far. The other thing to consider is that’s easy trade up range for the Eagles, who are sitting at 20. Mariota played under head coach Chip Kelly at Oregon and Kelly has called him the best player in the draft.

  • Mary Kay Cabot at cleveland.com thinks that the Browns will try to move up to take Mariota, as well. That sounds like exactly the kind of thing owner Jimmy Haslam might push for.
  • Matt Vensil at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune says that 6-9, 351 lb offensive tackle Babatunde Aiyegbusi, who signed with the Minnesota Vikings after flying over from Poland to try out is now experiencing the items commonly found in an American diet including tacos, pink lemonade, chicken wings and waffle fries. What’s the over-under on his weight by the time training camp starts?

One Final Thought

I really don’t care that a student trashed Cam Newton in his elementary school paper. But the comparison to former Chicago Tribune and current ESPN lazy blow hard Skip Bayless by profootballtalk.com‘s Darin Gantt is right on target:

“And actually, he’s better than Bayless, because there’s at least an intellectual honesty to the kid’s claims.”

Skip-Bayless

I think I’d get more out of it if I switched on the TV and found the 10 year old yelling at me.

No, They’re Not Kidding. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • The Bears re-signed Dante Rosario. Rosario’s value is really on special teams and the Bears probably still need to find a tight end who can block the run. From Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune.
  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com points out that Bears head coach John Fox likes a runningback by committee. That leads him to speculate that the Bears might take a running back with their second round pick. That would fit in well with this ESPN report that Georgia’s Todd Gurley had an “extended conversation” with Bears southeast area scout Sam Summerville at his pro day.
  • Former Bears Director of College Scouting Greg Gabriel at the National Football Postthinks the Bears will trade back in the draft. He also thinks the Vikings will fill their need at guard and Detroit will fill their need at defensive tackle. Bud Dupree has that kind of look that would land him in Green Bay ahead of any decline from Julius Peppers.
  • Gabriel also writes for WSCR in Chicago. He does a very good job of breaking down the type players Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio used in the 3-4 defense that San Francisco played. It involved smaller, penetrating linemen rather than the big bodied 2 gappers that teams like Baltimore use. They also had smallish, speedy linebackers and tall corners. Whether these were the players Fangio preferred of this was a case of making the best of the players you are given is unknown. What scheme Fangio will use here is a matter of debate but if you think he’ll try to play the same scheme in Chicago that he did in San Francisco, these are the types of players to expect the Bears to collect.

Elsewhere

  • Matt Vensel at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune dreams that the Falcons, Giants and Rams are all going to over-draft offensive linemen to allow Amari Cooper to fall to them. I think it far more likely that they’ll have their choice of those linemen and, in fact, they could do a lot worse than Brandon Scherff. He’d do a wonderful job of solidifying their left guard spot, vacated by the release of Charlie Johnson.
  • The Vikings biggest need may be a starting cornerback opposite Xavier Rhodes so its no surprise that Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer were watching Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes rather closely at his pro day. He’s probably a slam dunk pick for them in the first round. Via Ben Goessling at ESPN.
  • Mel Kiper “re-drafts” the 2009 prospects for ESPN. You don’t think the draft is a crap shoot? Out of the 32 new “first round picks” not one was drafted in the original top nine. Michael Crabtree was the highest original pick to make the list at 10 and two of the players in the new round originally went undrafted.
  • Kyle Meinke at mlive.com acknowledges that Detroit has taken a step back n free agency, largely due to losses at defensive tackle. However he believes that the team may make up for it, not by signing more talent, but by continuing to develop the talent that they have.He’s got a point. Good organizations are the ones that not only draft talent but coach it up to get the most out of it. This may be the most overlooked aspect of Green Bay’s success and its one that the Bears are going to have to emulate as well if they want to get younger and more competitive at the same time.
  • Rex Ryan plans to have the Bills practice largely on two fields in camp, a change from Doug Marrone who ran 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills on one field. The idea is to maximize reps for the quarterbacks who are competing to start, EJ Manuel, Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor.Both the Bills and the Jets are planning on challenging the old saying that, “If you have two quarterbacks competing to be the starter you don’t have one.”
  • How does an owner solve a problem where he signed a player who abuses women to a huge contract? He trots out his daughter and sells her for the sake of public relations. From David Moore at the Dallas Morning News.
  • Defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson has been signed by the Jets according to Rich Cimini at espn.com. In retrospect I’m kind of wondering why the Bears weren’t interested here.
  • Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com thinks the value of having a veteran combine is minimal. I’m going to mildly disagree. Having a standard medical on these veterans can be pretty valuable and some teams may be holding off on working out and talking to some of these veterans until they get a solid handle on it.
  • Regular readers know that I have a man-crush on Teddy Bridgewater. Those who don’t want to read anymore about it can stop now. Because Bridgewater gets it as he addresses his rookie season via Brian Murphy at the Pioneer Press:

    “‘I wasn’t impressed,’ he told the Pioneer Press this week.

    “‘Yes, we did some good things as a team,’ he continued, ‘but we could have been much better finishing games. That’s what separates championship teams and determining whether you’re playing games in January or watching games in January.'”

  • The Chargers and the Raiders propose a shared stadium for Carson, CA and suddenly Rams owner Stan Kroenke is presenting detailed plans at the NFL owner’s meetings for his Inglewood stadium with offices for two teams… Things are getting even more interesting in Los Angeles.
  • Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com is surprised that it took nearly a week for Chris Borland to conclude that he should voluntarily give back a portion of his signing bonus. I’m not the lest bit surprised. The NFLPA can’t be happy to see anyone give back signing bonus to teams under any circumstances and this decision might further undermine the case that any players brings to keep his bonus in the future.
  • And in the former Bear, LOL department:

One Final Thought

Kyle Samec at the Cowboys Nation Blog says that Greg Hardy makes the Cowboys “a legit threat, whether people like it or not”. Is that to the opponents or just their women?

Not a Good Sign and Other Points of View

Bears

  • I’ll be attending the game Sunday so whatever Game Comments there will be, if any will be brief. Sorry. Its tough to take notes under those circumstances. Maybe some day someone will give me credentials for the press box. 🙂

  • Hub Arkush at the Chicago Sun-Times notes that Lamarr Houston was missing in action again last Sunday. This is becoming something of a concern.

    I thought it was also notable that at a time when most media members were handing out kudos to Michael Ola for his work substituting in for various members of the offensive line due to injury, Arkush said that Ola “struggled at times” last week. Arkush tends to be more critical than most but if you buy into the evaluation, Ola may not ever be more than a back up.

  • Another point from Arkush that will rub some fans the wrong way:

    “The rush was great once the jail break started at the end of the game, but for 60 minutes, the Bears were a B-/C+.”

    I must agree. The sacks at the end of the game made the effort look better than it actually was and the performance of the defensive line has been generally exaggerated. But to give credit where credit is due, I thought I saw more consistent pressure through all four quarters than I’ve seen all season. Its just that not all of it resulted in sacks.

  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune asks safety Ryan Mundy about the fine associated with his helmet-to-helmet hit on Falcons wide receiver Roddy White last Sunday:

    “What could Mundy have done differently on the play?

    “‘Nothing,’ he said Wednesday.”

    Wrong answer. Mundy came in shoulder first, as he should. But he came in too high and clearly hit White’s helmet with his. A couple inches lower and the hit would have been clean.

    Mundy is like many other defensive backs around the league that apparently just can’t get the message into their brains no matter how often the league tells them. You have to lower your target. That’s what he should have done differently.

  • Former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb is slipping into bitter old man mode again.

  • Arkush thinks that the key to the game today may be the play of the Dolphins linebackers.

One Final Thought

Every single Chicago Sun-Times “expert” picked the Bears on Sunday over the Dolphins. Same for the Tribune and at ESPN. Kiss of death.

Something for Everyone and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Amongst the less than stellar performances for the Bears on Sunday against the Falcons, that of right tackle Jordan Mills stood out. Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune elaborates:

    “The starting right tackle committed a false start before the game’s first play from scrimmage, a harbinger of his struggles throughout the game. He was beaten for a sack and was penalized three times for 15 yards — twice for false starts and once for an illegal formation. Jonathan Massaquoi beat Mills around the edge for a sack of Cutler on the Bears’ second series. Two plays later, linebacker Paul Worrilow beat Mills to set the edge against a [Alshon] Jeffery end-around. Defensive end Kroy Biermann beat Mills late in the first half, forcing Cutler to step into a sack by cornerback Robert McClain.”

    In fairness to Mills, I’m wondering if some of his struggles are due to the fact that left tackle Michael Ola, who was subbing in for the injured Jermon Bushrod, was getting the majority of the help. Though I haven’t gone back to look, the guess here is that Ola got the most help from a chipping Martellus Bennett or Matt Forte, something that may have been more prone to happen on Mills’s side with Bushrod healthy.

  • One of the things that stood out Sunday was the nice play of the “backups” who were on the field due to injuries to the starters. I thought this quote from linebacker Darryl Sharpton was to the point. Via Kevin Fishbain at chicagofootball.com:

    “‘[The coaches] do such a great job giving everybody the confidence – they don’t treat anybody like a ‘backup’ or a secondary-kind of player – everybody gets treated with a great level of respect. That’s one thing I love about this organization.'”

    No doubt the coaches are concentrating hard on training the non-starters this year after last year’s disaster when injured starters went down and the replacements couldn’t handle the load. Its apparently working.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune quotes cornerback Tim Jennings on the play of nickel back Demontre Hurst:

    “‘That was a great job by Hurst,’ Jennings said. ‘He prepared great all week and he was where he needed to be. He had an opportunity to make a play and with hard work that is what happens.

    “‘It’s definitely him. It’s his job. As long as he continues to prepare each and every week and make the plays he is supposed to make, it is his to take.'”

    It’s hard to watch defensive backs on television but to my eye Hurst did a pretty good job. It’s obvious that Jennings wasn’t comfortable with the move to nickel before the injury to Charles Tillman forced him outside. Unless his play falls off for some reason its very possible that Hurst might be a permanent fixture at the position from here on out.

  • Biggs also had this nugget:

    “Demontre Hurst wasn’t the only inexperienced defensive back pressed into action. Al Louis-Jean, the undrafted rookie from Boston College who was promoted from the practice squad this past week, got four snaps when Tim Jennings was briefly shaken up.”

    This isn’t quite the minor point that it might seem to be. Louis-Jean is a tall, athletic cornerback who is exactly the type that the Bears are looking for. He couldn’t possibly have made less of an impression on the Bears coaching staff during the preseason than he did on me. I think he, too, might have a future with the team.

  • One of Biggs’s 10 thoughts after the Bears victory Sunday:

    “The best quote I got that I didn’t find a place to use after the game came from left guard Matt Slauson. ‘To have second-half swagger back was really great.’ The Bears can call it swagger when they responded with two touchdown drives after the Falcons had tied things up.”

    The key part of this was, “after the Falcons had tied things up”. The Bears defense has been a sieve at the beginning of the second half. I’m not sure what’s going on but they need to work harder to keep the ground that they are being handed in the first half. I thought the Bears offense had to work way to hard to rebuild the game from the rubble that was left midway through the third quarter. The defense has to tighten things up coming out of half time.

  • Here’s an encouraging statistic that flew under the radar. Via Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times:

  • “According to Pro Football Focus, they had three missed tackles against the Falcons. That’s the fewest they’ve had this season. They had 14 against the New York Jets.”

Elsewhere

  • Biggs quotes an anonymous scout on suspended Georgia linebacker Todd Gurley:

    “First round and I don’t give a crap about the kid signing autographs.”

    One Final Thought

    Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times assesses the state of the Bears:

    “The Bears are in that murky who-knows category. I see a 3-3 team that will be up and down the rest of the year. Many of you see a defensive line finally coming together, an offense that can amass a lot of yards and maybe, just maybe, a playoff team. Let’s agree to disagree.

    “I see a Cutler who no doubt will revert back to his maddening form. You see a Cutler who is evolving into the precise quarterback he was against the Falcons. Let’s agree you’re wrong.

    “The best thing the Bears have going for them is that there are a lot of teams that look like them. They’re somewhere in the middle, not bad but not great, either. The league has given them reason to believe.”

    There’s a lot to be said in favor of the above. But let me start by disagreeing about Cutler. I think we’re going to see the version that you saw last Sunday for the rest of the year. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll see some turnovers late in games where the Bears are behind and with Cutler trying to make a play. But other than that, I think we’re going to see what we saw a great deal of last year and last week. I think Cutler is much smarter than that and I think he has bought in on head coach Marc Trestman. He’s going to take care of the ball.

    Having said that, I generally agree (and have repeatedly said since the preseason) that what we’re looking at is an 8-8 team. I have two very simple things to watch that will cover everyone who doesn’t agree:

    1. For those who are more pessimistic, keep an eye on the turnovers. If Cutler does revert to previous versions of himself and the interceptions and/or fumbles lost increase, the Bears are doomed to a losing record. Even if the defense starts to create more turnovers, themselves, I don’t think it can make up for the offense handing it back over nor do I think the defense is the type that’s going to be able to hold a decent offense consistently on a short field. I don’t see this happening and I don’t think the offensive turnovers are going to be intolerably high from here on out but, hey, you never know.

    2. For those who are hoping for better, watch the penalties. The Bears are committing them at a rate that they simply can’t afford. Teams have their number and you can expect everyone from here on out to try to force them to take the underneath stuff, to execute and to work their way down the field. You can’t do that if you are committing penalties. The guess here is that they’re going to continue to do it simply because it’s been a problem for weeks now and if they could have solved it, they would have by now. This lack of discipline seems to be a part of the character of the team that isn’t likely to be coached out of them at this point. But, again, perhaps I’m wrong and I’m underestimating them.

    We shall see. It’s going to be very interesting to see. If that’s not why you are watching, you shouldn’t be watching.

    Game Comments: Bears at Falcons 10/12/14

    Offense

    1. The Bears have had a lot of trouble with zone defenses, especially the cover two. But to my great surprise the Falcons came out in man defense. They were only playing zone on third down. Personally I thought it was idiotic but it didn’t burn them through the first quarter. Eventually it did as Brandon Marshall caught one deep midway through the second quarter to set up a touchdown. The Falcons eventually ran more zone later but failed to completely stop the Bears from throwing deep as previous opponents have done.
    2. It’s interesting that at a time when most offenses are picking up the pace, the Bears have been consistently running the play clock down to the last 5 seconds.
    3. Atlanta was well prepared for that end around to Alshon Jeffery that the Bears like to run.
    4. Having said that I thought the Bears ran the ball better today than they have in some time. Probably an effect of the presence of both Roberto Garza and Matt Slaughson along with a weaker than usual Atlanta defense.
    5. I also liked the way that the Bears attacked the edges of the Atlanta defense. They took the underneath stuff as they have been doing and hoped to execute better than they have been.
    6. Jordan Mills had a miserable day committing penalties and missing blocks.
    7. Good to see Josh Morgan get involved in the offense with a touchdown.
    8. Was I the only one remembering the Bears last time threatening to score at the end of a half with no timeouts left? Good teams need to turn that into a touchdown but at least they came away with the three points this time.
    9. I thought that Jay Cutler showed good mobility today. It’s a shame he had to show it so often. The pass protection left something to be desired as the Falcons generated plenty of pressure.
    10. The Bears have got to work on the screen plays. Atlanta had them read all the way all day.

    Defense

    1. The Falcons came out obviously thinking they could run the ball down the Bears injured linebacking corp’s throats. They didn’t have a great deal of success early but it did set up the play action pass.
    2. The Bears obviously decided that pressuring the Atlanta offensive line was the thing to do. They brought an extra man frequently relative to previous games. It worked as the Bears got plenty of pressure.
    3. Once again the Bears had a tough time when the opponent went no huddle as the Falcons started picking up yardage in huge chunks in the second quarter. Fortunately they weren’t finishing at the time.
    4. Having said that I do think the defense played reasonably fast. There was obvious high effort out there.
    5. Like Carolina last week, I thought the Falcons had a miserable time on third down, constantly shooting themselves in the foot throughout the first half. They had an egregious number of dropped balls. Like last week the Bears defense broke down in the third quarter letting the Falcons convert on third down almost at will.
    6. Perfect call on the third quarter Atlanta touchdown as the Falcons caught the Bears in a blitz with a great screen play.
    7. The pass rush really showed up once the Bears got 14 points ahead as they could tee off and simply go after Matt Ryan.
    8. Stephen Paea had a big game. Chris Conte just can’t stay healthy.

    Miscellaneous

    1. Justin Kutcher was fine. So was David Diehl who performed much like last week. Diehl missed the fact that Paul Worrilow was called for a personal foul for hitting Jay Cutler helmet-to-helmet and failed to recognize that Kutcher had the right of it but I won’t beat him up over that. Diehl is OK, just nothing special. He hit all of the major points and did a solid job.
    2. The coverage teams limited Devin Hester but I bet I’m not the only one wishing that the kick return team would just take a knee in the end zone and take the ball at the twenty. The missed extra point was uncharacteristic but any more of these kicking failures will become disturbing.
    3. The Falcons dropped so many balls they should be ashamed of themselves. The Bears had some balls you could argue could have been caught but generally they would have been tough. Martellus Bennett had a bad drop to stop a drive in the first quarter.
    4. Far, far too many penalties in this game and the Bears continued to try to shoot themselves in the foot over and over. There was a false start Mills on very first play. That wasn’t a good sign for him or the team.
    5. I was happy to see Jay Cutler throwing the ball away more. He took better care of the ball today. Turnovers were limited on both sides until Demontre Hurst’s interception in the fourth quarter.
    6. I had to smile as the Bears defense cranked up the Bears fans in Atlanta to make more noise. Hopefully Lamarr Houston will remember the experience before he takes to Twitter again.
    7. I’m happy with what I saw in terms of improvement from the Bears compared to last week in this win. Not as much as I’d like but definite progress. Although they are still killing themselves with penalties they did a better job of overcoming the deficits that they caused today with big third down plays. And, most important, they took better care of the ball.

    One Step Back, Two Steps Forward and Other Points of View

    Bears

    “The Bears that got [former head coach] Lovie Smith fired won 10 games. Would fans – and the organization – view anything less in 2013 as a disappointment? Would missing the playoffs again be more acceptable if noticeable offensive strides are made under Trestman, but a defense facing turnover at certain spots (while generating fewer turnovers) can’t match what it did this year? That would’ve been difficult even if Smith, Rod Marinelli, and that staff remained intact. “

    My own answer is “No, it would not be a disappointment if the Bears took a step back” and not because I expect less out of the defense. The truth is the Bears didn’t beat anyone who I thought was really good when they played them. Certainly they showed themselves to be definitively inferior when they played the top teams in the league, including Green Bay, San Francisco and, to an extent, Seattle. A good part of that was and is lack of talent and I don’t consider a quick turnaround to be likely.

    Bottom line, it all depends on the circumstances. A lesser record with definitive progress where the Bears play better against the better teams in the league would be more acceptable than a soft 10-6 where its evident that the team was never going to progress into the top echelon of the league.

    • Here’s a little positivity from an Audible in Pro Football Weekly:

    “Marc Trestman is a natural for [general manager] Phil Emery. Phil will appreciate guys who are really intelligent, organized and prepared and very careful with what they say — that is Trestman. He already has a relationship with Jay Cutler. There are a lot of positives about the hire.”

    “[Rich] Gannon’s first two Oakland seasons with Trestman were the two most accurate of his career. His two with Trestman in Minnesota were decidedly pedestrian despite having Anthony Carter and Cris Carter as his receivers.

    “[Steve] Young’s two seasons with Trestman were very good but neither were as good as the 1994 season before Trestman or 1997 after Trestman. Bernie Kosar had a Pro Bowl 1987 with Cleveland but 1988 was right about Kosar’s career averages for passer rating, completion percentage, etc. as he lost some time to injuries.”

    • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune thinks Michigan quarterback turned wide receiver/punt returner Denard Robinson is an intriguing prospect:

    “With offenses becoming more dynamic, it’s all about finding ways to utilize athletic players in space, and that’s what makes Robinson intriguing. Take a player with his skill set and turn him loose.”

    “The Bears are keeping Tucker off limits to the media at the Senior Bowl, but word is he will keep the status quo with virtually all facets of the defense. Even though Tucker has experience in both a three- and four-man fronts, he is not expected to make any radical changes in Chicago.

    “In fact, a source said he even is retaining Lovie Smith’s terminology, meaning he will have to adjust more than his players.”

    There’s a lot of good information in this article. It recommended reading.

    Elsewhere

    • As many Bears fans will testify, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton isn’t the only guy who deserves the criticism leveled at him in this Audible from Pro Football Weekly:

    “(San Francisco QB) Colin Kaepernick can run faster than any quarterback in the league. He is faster than RG3 [Robert Griffin III] running the ball down the field, and he is a whole lot stronger and more physical. He can take a hit and pop back up. I really liked him when he was coming out. He is a leader. That was the difference between him and Cam Newton. Cam is a frontrunner who is good when things are good. When it’s (bad), he’s part of the reason and will make it worse.”

    • There are probably a whole lot of Bear fans out there who will agree with this Audible as well:

    “You know what I don’t get. There are a lot of smart people around this league. I’m surprised they have not figured it out yet. If you want to have success, why not go get a guy who has done it already and is willing to do what it takes. Why not pay a guy like (Falcons GM) Thomas Dimitroff or (Niners GM) Trent Baalke a little extra money to be your president. It’s happened with a lot of coaches — Mike Holmgren and Bill Parcells. Teams will pay these head coaches $6 (million) or $7 million. Why not go pluck the guys who have done the best job stacking rosters and building the culture in the locker room and finding the right talent? They have proven they can run the ship. You can put a plan in place to delegate authority on the other side of the building. If you can find the right coach and find the right quarterback, you have a chance every year. If I’m an owner looking for someone to run my franchise, I’m looking for the guy who has proven he can fill those roles with the right people. That’s the key to this whole thing.”

    “Matt Ryan did not get any further with Tony Gonzalez, Julio Jones and Roddy White than Jay Cutler did with Earl Bennett, Devin Hester and Johnny Knox. When you are guilty of an interception and unforced fumble within 20 minutes of a Super Bowl, it’s not about ‘weapons;’ it’s about the plays you make or don’t make when it matters…”

    • I’ve been as critical as anyone can be of Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. But I totally agree with him here as he argues against changing his defensive scheme. The Lions defense could have done better, no doubt, but the wide 9 alignment they the problem. This fascination with the 3-4 defense by fans and media puzzles me, especially in a situation like this one where more discipline and better play within the existing scheme is so obviously what’s needed. Via Michael David Smith at profootballtalk.com.
    • Let’s just say that the NFL Coaches Association might a problem with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. Florio quotes NFLCA executive director David Cornwell as he apparently goes on the rampage in response to some implied criticism from Smith:

    “‘DeMaurice Smith is the best thing that has happened to NFL owners since they became NFL owners,’ Cornwell said in a statement provided to PFT.

    “‘De controlled both the NFLPA and the NFL Coaches Association from 2009 to 2012. During this period, De threw 3 generations of NFL players under the bus in exchange for a photo op with Roger Goodell and Robert Kraft; threw the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys under the bus to conceal from NFL players the truth about the declining salary cap; and, De threw NFL coaches under the bus when he: (1) sat silently as NFL teams unilaterally changed coaches’ retirement benefits; (2) filed an unauthorized legal brief under the NFLCA’s name during the NFL lockout; (3) kicked the NFLCA out of the NFLPA’s offices for challenging the filing of the brief, and he rolled the bus over NFL coaches when he snatched $308,000 in coaches’ dues money and sued the NFLCA because NFL coaches understandably want competent representation.

    “‘I intend to address all of the issues that confront all NFL coaches and clean up the mess that De left behind. While I do, perhaps De will answer these questions: When you controlled the NFLCA, did you fight for uniform retirement and health benefits that will follow NFL coaches from team-to-team? Why does the salary cap continue to decline while League revenues and team values continue to increase? If you stand by the CBA that you negotiated, why do you shift money from other player benefits to the salary cap to create the illusion that the salary cap is flat or slightly rising?'”

    • Patriots head coach Bill Belichick takes finding unknown players and maximizing their talent to a whole new level. From The Onion.

     

    One Final Thought

    Want to see something sick? According to footballsfuture.com 28 teams needed to find offensive line help in the 2012 off-season. That’s not counting teams that were looking for depth. Know how many offensive linemen are in Scouts Inc.‘s top 32 prospects this year? Four.

    Not many scouting services have released lists of team needs yet this year but as they roll out over the next month or two the bet here is that, if anything, there will be more teams on that list of line needy teams not less. With that in mind, Pompei takes a look at the likely first and second round offensive tackles here. Mullin adds this encouraging thought:

    “The Bears added a highly regarded Central Michigan lineman in the 2007 draft but it was defensive end Dan Bazuin, not Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley, who went to the 49ers three picks before the Bears chose Greg Olsen. The Bears, coming off a Super Bowl appearance with an offensive line four-fifths free agents, picked Bazuin 62nd overall before Marshal Yanda went to Baltimore 86th and tackle Jermon Bushrod went to New Orleans 125th.”

    “[S]econd-guessing is easy, and Jerry Angelo conceded that finding offensive linemen was not a strength of his regime. If anything, the bigger point is that the likes of Yanda and Bushrod, both Pro Bowl selections, were taken in mid rounds of drafts.”