Lots of Combine Talk. And Other Points of View.

“Pace said defensive lineman Akiem Hicks didn’t need surgery on his injured elbow and the Bears ‘don’t have any concerns there.'”

I do.

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.

“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.

“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 MitchTrubisky’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.

“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. 
 

“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 Athleticquotes 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.

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.

Trubisky, Trubisky, Trubisky. And Other Points of View.

  • Colleen Kane at the Chicago Tribune on what Bears leadership had to say about quarterback Mitch Trubisky:

    [General Manager Ryan] Pace saw the inconsistencies this season as Trubisky completed 63.2% of his passes for 3,138 yards, 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. But said he believes the potential for Trubisky’s development is still “wide open,” noting there were times when the quarterback responded well to adverse game situations.

    “You see moments this year (where you say), ’Aha, there it is,’” Pace said. “And then we see the inconsistencies and the dips. We need to figure out why that’s happening and work hard to solve that. And that’s part of what this offseason is about.”

    A year ago someone who knows more about such things than I do told me that Trubisky didn’t have it. The major reason was that his footwork was atrocious. I agreed. Nearly every time Trubisky makes an inaccurate throw, it can be traced to obvious problems with this footwork. It’s the primary source of his inconsistent play.

    But I told my friend that, unlike him, I thought this poor footwork could be coached out of him. Now, at the end of Trubisky’s third year in the league, I’m starting to understand his point of view.

    This seems like the kind of thing that can and should be coached. But apparently its not that easy. Trubisky continues to have poor footwork, most obvious is his tendency to throw off of his back foot when there’s no pressure around him. Head coach Matt Nagy obviously recognizes the problem:

    Physically, Nagy is stressing Trubisky’s footwork in the pocket, an issue he said they discussed Monday night.

    “(He needs) a little bit more trust where he’s not drifting out (of the pocket),” Nagy said. “There were times throughout this year where (it’s) focusing on trusting the center of that pocket, pushing forward, and now he’s a running threat.

    There was a point at the very beginning of his career when Trubisky was better about all of this. Anyone remember his very first preseason game? It seems a long time ago when, for one week, he took the league by storm and everyone was wondering if great things were ahead.

    In any case, Nagy needs to get back to the fundamentals with Trubisky. Much talk has been generated about Trubisky’s lack of ability to see the field but next year, instead of pushing Trubisky ahead in the offense, he needs to step back and concentrate on the fundamentals. If Trubisky isn’t solid there, nothing else will matter.

  • Kane continues with another quote from Nagy:

    “The other thing with this offense is it’s all about timing. So routes are matched with the footwork of the quarterback, and so mastering the footwork mechanics of knowing, ‘Is a guy pressed? Is it off? Etc.’ That’s huge.”

    Yes, this is another thing I’ve wondered about.

    Coaches constantly talk about how plays work in practice but when it comes to doing it in the game, it all falls apart. I’m sure at least part of this has to do with the timing of the play. Its one thing to do it in practice when you can run the play under ideal conditions with little contact. Its another altogether to do it when someone is trying to disrupt the receiver’s route. The Bears have generally done a poor job of this. It will be interesting to see if they can improve in the area.

  • Again, from the Kane article:

    Beyond the decision-making, Nagy wants Trubisky to be “a master at understanding coverages.” He said Trubisky is not far off but needs to focus on studying defenses in the offseason.

    “These defensive coordinators, they have different ways of showing different coverages, and they’re good at it,” Nagy said. “(Let’s) understand how defenses are going to try to trick you, and let’s not get tricked. If we do that, we slow the game down and we get other parts of this offense fixed, which I know we can and that’s our job.”

    This is a tip of the hat to Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine among others. Pettine turned Trubisky inside out with confusing coverages that change at the snap of the ball the very first game of the year. Many knew there was big trouble ahead after that game. Arguably Trubisky never recovered mentally.

  • Kane also reports that the Bears are open to drafting a quarterback to develop along side Trubisky:

    “I do think that drafting a quarterback, developing quarterbacks, that’s important for the franchise,” Pace said. “You’ve seen teams do that to their advantage, to flip them for draft picks. It’s something we talk about it. It just hasn’t been something that’s lined up in recent drafts. It doesn’t mean that it’s something we still don’t believe in and something that can’t happen.”

    Yeah, yeah. How often have we heard that, not just from Pace, but from every general manager for the last 20 years? I’ll believe it when I see it.

  • The Bears also fired 3 assistants Tuesday. Via Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune:

    The team informed offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride and special teams assistant Brock Olivo they will not return next season.

    News of the changes surfaced two hours after a news conference in which Nagy provided no specifics in response to a question about potential staff changes.

    “It’s our job and it’s my job to make sure the reflection process is done the right way,” Nagy said as he sat next to general manager Ryan Pace. “Regardless of the timeline, we want to make sure that they are the right decisions.”

    I had a problem with Helfrich’s hire from the beginning. Its not that Helfrich really did anything wrong. Nagy runs the offense. It’s just that Nagy is a very young coach who still has limited experience in the league. It was and still is imperative that he have someone around that he can lean on to give him advice when adversity hits, as it did all too frequently this year. In theory Senior Offensive Assistant Brad Childress, who is a former head coach and a long time NFL offensive assistant, fills that role. But if Childress is around the team much, I’ve seen little evidence of it.

    Helfrich was also focused on improving the running game, which was a miserable failure this year.

    Having mostly a college background, Helfrich’s natural tendency would be to run from the shot gun. Personally, I think it would be better if they got Trubisky under center more often. Running backs get a better, running start towards the line of scrimmage and running plays develop more quickly when you do this. It may not be a coincidence that we saw more of that the last game with the Vikings.

    The firing of Hiestand is also significant. Like Gilbride, he coached a position that under-performed this year. He was the Bears offensive line coach from 2005-09 but coached college ball after that. Former players raved about Hiestand’s ability to teach blocking techniques but at the time of his hiring I wondered why, if he was such a good coach, he didn’t have a job in the NFL after leaving the Bears.

    We will find out soon how much the under-performance along the offensive line was lack of talent. Unlike tight end, there won’t be a lot of change on the line with right guard probably being the only likely position where a significant upgrade might take place.

    Both tackles and the center are under contract and being paid and left guard James Daniels was a second round draft pick who will be given every opportunity to succeed. Indeed, Daniels lack of development may have been a major reason for Hiestand’s firing.

  • Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times had an interesting take on all of this:

    The bottom line, though — this being the Bears — is that we’re stuck with everybody. That was the message Tuesday.

    Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, he of the three sacks in 2019?

    ‘‘We’re happy with Leonard,’’ Pace said.

    Unproductive tight end Adam Shaheen, whom Pace took in the second round in 2017?

    ‘‘When he’s played, we’ve liked what we’ve seen,’’ he said.

    Running back Tarik Cohen, who went from 10.2 yards per reception last season to 5.8 yards this season?

    ‘‘He is a dynamic player in so many areas — in the run game, in the pass game, in the return game,’’ Pace said.

    And Trubisky, whom Pace chose over [Chiefs quarterback Patrick] Mahomes? Have I already mentioned that he chose Trubisky over Mahomes?

    ‘‘Mitch is our starter,’’ Pace said.

    Team president Ted Phillips said Mahomes is an ‘‘anomaly.’’ That, in a nutshell, is the Bears. Good teams hire good talent evaluators who find the anomalies. The Bears found Trubisky.

    All good points. But here’s the deal. With limited cap space and few draft picks, who are the Bears supposed to replace these guys with?

    Pace is committed to roll with these guys and the path to improvement isn’t going to be replacing them. Next year, the Bears are simply going to have to get better performances from their “so called good players”.

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Vikings 12-29-2019

Defense

  1. The Vikings came out concentrating on the run with Sean Mannion starting at QB for Kirk Cousins. They had a lot of success as the Bears made too many mistakes filling gaps and/or failing to set the edge and gave up some big runs.
  2. The Vikings had good success attacking the Bears inside linebackers in both the run and the pass game, specifically Kevin Pierre-Louis. Both he and Nick Kwitkowski are back ups who were playing in place of the injured Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan.
  3. The Vikings flat out shoved the Bears front seven around in the second half. Very disappointing as the Vikings offensive line really isn’t that good even when its just starters in there. Between that and the poor run defense in general, Mike Boone ran wild.

Offense

  1. The Bears came out with their usual game plan consisting of runs and short passes as they tried to work their way down the field. To their credit they did eventually start to attack deeper over the middle in a way that they didn’t do against the Chiefs.
  2. The Bears came out in the second half and renewed their commitment to the run with a great deal of success.
  3. Notable was the running back rotation, as David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen and Cordarrelle Patterson took turns, sometimes two of them at once. It looked effective as each has his own style.
  4. Trubisky spent most of the first half feeding Allen Robinson. He needs to find success with more of his other receivers. With the exception of some screen passes the tight ends were non-existant.
  5. As usual the Bears foundered in the red zone coming away with only two field goals on two early turnovers.
  6. As usual the Bears offensive line play left a lot to be desired as they failed to execute far too often against the Vikings back ups. Charles Leno had an awful day as he was occasionally a turn stile in pass protection.
  7. The Vikings blitzed with a lot of success against the Bears, putting pressure on the line and the running backs to block it up.
  8. I can’t understand why the Bears kept calling wide receiver screens when it was so obvious that the Vikings were reading them like a book.
  9. Mitch Trubisky’s performance was unremarkable in that it was inconsistent as usual.

Miscellaneous

  1. Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth and Jen Hale were on the call. I knew that this one wasn’t going to be about subtle X’s and O’s as soon as I saw Schlereth was on the menu. He loves to concentrate upon the individual players and their performance. I was at a bit of a loss when Schlereth practically described this game as a must win for the Bears since they would be playing back ups. I doubt this game was of critical importance to anyone.
  2. Special teams played reasonably well for the Bears. They pinned the ball back on the one yard line in the second quarter. That led to a safety.
  3. Neither penalties nor drops were a major factor.
  4. Mike Boone had a miserable start to this game. Bilal Nichols had a Boone fumble recovery the second play of the game. The Bears were fortunate in that they had given up a huge 59 yard run on the first play. Boone also juggled a pass on the second possession that led to a Kevin Pierre-Louis interception. The Bears turned each into a field goal. Mitch Trubisky had the ball stripped in the fourth quarter. The resulting field goal gave the Vikings the late lead.
  5. Other than the Bears leaky run defense, this game was business as usual only worse. There’s just no getting around the fact that the Bears have an awful, broken offense. That starts with the offensive line that couldn’t block the Vikings back ups and with Bears receivers who, other than Allen Robinson, flat out can’t get open. The Bears first mistake of the off-season was not addressing the tight end position and it burned them right to the end. Perhaps most disturbing of all was the inability of all 11 men on the field to run plays without one of them making a mistake.

Points of View 12/20/19

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

    “The Bears will be playing the Chiefs on Sunday, pitting Patrick Mahomes against Mitchell Trubisky. I’m sure that there will be all sorts of comparisons along with what-ifs before and during the game. I wonder, however, what Mahomes would be like right now if he had been drafted by the Bears. Would [head coach Matt] Nagy’s offense have dulled him? Would he have been micromanaged and not the quarterback that he is today for Kansas City? I am curious about the inverse of that thought too. What would Trubisky be like today after spending most of three seasons with the Chiefs under Andy Reid? — Tom H., Chicago

    “It’s not a perfect apples-to-apples comparison. But you’re overlooking the fact that Matt Nagy was the offensive coordinator during the 2017 season in Kansas City when Mahomes was being developed as a rookie. Nagy isn’t going to claim to be the guy who made Mahomes the player he is today or the player he was last season when he was the NFL MVP, but he was part of the guy’s development, right? We’re talking about very similar playbooks, too, so the suggestion that Mahomes wouldn’t be a star if he was with the Bears seems off the mark to me. I tend to doubt Trubisky would be significantly better had he landed in Kansas City. Maybe a little bit, but the coach can’t see the field for the quarterback when he’s on the field.”

    Bigg’s points are well-taken but its well known that one of the reasons why Chiefs coach Andy Reid handed over play calling duties to Nagy late that year was so that he could personally work with Mahomes more. It’s definitely not out of the question that had the two been switched, Trubisky wouldn’t be considerably more successful as the Chiefs quarterback.

  • Biggs answers another one:

    “Do you think the Bears will look to replace James Daniels and/or Bobby Massie? I know Daniels has played better at guard, but something about the line isn’t working. — @daniel_larocco

    “I agree that the offensive line has not played to its potential this season. Massie certainly hasn’t done anything the last three weeks to be downgraded, though. He has been sidelined with a high ankle sprain and hasn’t played. Daniels hasn’t been as good as the Bears would have hoped, but he’s a second-round draft pick and he’s only 22. I don’t see a scenario in which the Bears don’t count on him as a starter for next season. Massie was extended last January, and his 2020 base salary of $6.9 million is fully guaranteed. He’s not going anywhere either. The question on the line will be Rashaad Coward. He got off to a decent start, but I’m not sure he has really advanced since moving into the starting lineup in place of right guard Kyle Long. The Bears will, at the minimum, need to find some competition that they like beyond just Alex Bars, the undrafted rookie free agent from Notre Dame. They also need to figure out where they want to play Daniels and Cody Whitehair and leave them there. In an ideal world, they’d get a developmental offensive tackle in the draft and maybe even an interior lineman in the middle rounds that they can groom for a year.”

    I would agree with the assessment in that the interior of the line appears to be the problem, specifically both guard positions. The only thing I would question is whether the Bears should seriously consider replacing Daniels. Near the end of his second year, Daniels has been part of the problem, not the solution. Good organizations know when to move on from mistakes. It might be time for the Bears to do it with him.

  • And another one:

    “What do the Bears go next for next season? New QB? New RB? New OL? New TE? New kicker? I think we are good at WR and on defense. — @jojopuppyfish

    “They’re going to have to take a hard look at what didn’t go right on offense, which was a lot. I believe they need to consider veteran options at quarterback. I’m not sure the brain trust will agree with that assessment. David Montgomery has done better as the season has gone along and I believe he will be back as the starter next season. They will probably look for one starter on the offensive line, but as I have detailed in previous questions, I don’t expect wholesale changes to the personnel there. The Bears have to get a lot more from the tight end position, and they’re going to need to cover themselves in case Trey Burton, who is guaranteed $4 million of his $6.7 million base salary, cannot produce. I believe they at least need to have Eddy Pineiro compete for the kicking job next season. I believe the Bears will have to address the wide receiver position as well. Anthony Miller has really stepped up in the second half of the season and he looks like he’s going to be a pretty good player. But other than Allen Robinson, they are thin at that position, and I think they need to move on from Taylor Gabriel and come up with a quality option. They’re using Cordarrelle Patterson a lot, but he’s little more than a decoy on offense. They need another wide receiver who can produce on the outside and, at minimum, push Riley Ridley for playing time. The defense should be good. They’ve got some moves to make there, but the unit remains strong. It will be a busy offseason and an interesting one.”

    Biggs literally read my mind and I agree with every word of this. It’s also very possible that they’ll be seeking help at inside linebacker with both Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwitkowski entering the unrestricted free agent market. However, with limited draft picks and cap space, there’s only so much the Bears are going to do.

    I’m reminded of one of the more profound statements that former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio made about his unit a couple years ago. The Bears need more from their “so called good players”. At some point you are going to have to coach up and improve the talent you have at any or all of these positions if you want to get better. It’s only a question of which are the positions that are the most in need of new personnel.

    I’m going to guess that the Bears roll with Trubisky at quarterback and pray that it all finally falls together for him, as unlikely as that seems to be to some on the outside looking in. I suspect that they won’t bring in serious competition at guard with Bars waiting in the wings. A lot will depend on who they like in the draft, though. We shall see.

  • And another one:

    “Based on the fact that the offense has never really appeared to be in sync, do you think Matt Nagy will change his approach toward the amount of live game actions some of the key players (Mitch Trubisky, for example) will see during the preseason? — @mike32198768

    “Everything has to be on the table for consideration when Nagy maps out a plan for 2020, including what the goals are for the preseason games. I am sure Nagy will assess his approach in preseason. Will that mean we see starters in preseason? I don’t know. I do know the goal is to get to games that are meaningful with a healthy roster, something the Bears have accomplished the last two years. I also firmly believe that you cannot pin the struggles of the offense this season on missed action in preseason. If you evaluate how much some starters play for other teams, the Bears’ front-line guys missed out on maybe 60 snaps in preseason, 75 tops. You can’t tell me that those snaps would have made a difference for this team in Week 4, Week 8, Week 12 or now.”

    No. But I absolutely believe they would have made a difference in weeks 1 and 2. And a better performance against the Packers would have made a huge difference in how this year went.

    Nagy failed to properly evaluate Trubisky coming into this season and it seriously damaged their chances this year. He chose to pile more on him and “move from offense 101 to 202” as he put it instead of recognizing that Trubisky needed to solidify his gains from last season first. It was one of many decisions that Nagy made this season that didn’t work out after having virtually everything go right last season. It was probably the one that had the biggest impact as Trubsky regressed and struggled to recover for half the year.

    Forty snaps in the preseason might well have shown Nagy that he was making a mistake. It certainly didn’t take 40 snaps in the regular season to show the rest of us.

    There’s a reason why teams have always played their starters in the preseason to at least some extent. The Bears in general, and Trubisky in particular, were woefully unprepared to play at game speed when the season started. Even given that conditions aren’t exactly like real games, playing more in the preseason against starting caliber players on the other team probably would have helped.

    Whether you agree with that or not, something has to change in the way the Bears prepare for the season.

One Final Thought

Biggs and Colleen Kane talk about the uphill battle Bears punt returner Tarik Cohen faces against a very good Chiefs special teams unit:

“Cohen is fourth in the NFL, averaging 9.2 yards per return, but faces a tough task against the Chiefs. They are allowing only 4.2 yards per return, and the long return against Dave Toub’s unit this season is 11 yards.”

Toub is flat out the best special teams coach in the league. It really is a shame he hasn’t gotten a chance at a head coaching job. Good special teams coaches have to be both talented and resourceful because they are always dealing with back ups at the bottom of the roster. I’m convinced Toub would be a good one. Perhaps one day someone will give him the chance that former special teams coach John Harbaugh got to show what he could do with the perennial contender Baltimore Ravens.

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Packers 12/15/19

Offense

  1. Bears doing triple receivers to get a free release.
  2. The Packers dominated the line of scrimmage against the run and got a lot of pressure on Trubisky. Kenny Clark, in particular, dominated the Bears guards and made some really good plays early.
  3. The Bears went “up tempo” but it was kind of an illusion. The idea was that they could get to the line of scrimmage as quickly as possible so that head coach Matt Nagy could get into Mitch Trubisky’s ear and let him know what he saw. Nagy then made the call. It kept the Packers from confusing Trubisky, at least before the snap. It also kept the Packers from substituting. This may have been offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich’s influence with his college background coming to the fore. They stayed at the line of scrimmage for a good part of the play clock, which prevented them from wearing out the defense too much more than usual. The Packers started shifting their coverages right before the snap in response, especially in the second half.
  4. Mitch Trubisky made some really good throws today, frequently in the face of pressure. He needed to be more consistent with his accuracy.
  5. It was nice to see Trubisky finding Anthony Miller so often today. But the tight ends were non-existent in the passing game. Maybe some day they’ll put it all together. But not today.

Defense

  1. The Bears came out very aware of Aaron Jones and his ability to run. The Packers were using play action very effectively because of that.
  2. The Bears struggled to get pressure on quarterback Aaron Rogers. They eventually started to blitz.
  3. The Packers receivers won some one-on-one match ups early, forcing the Bears to back off the line of scrimmage a bit. That occasionally gave the Packers receivers a free release and some easy catches.
  4. One thing that became apparent early was the Packers thought they could pick on nickel cornerback Buster Skrine. They threw at him early and often in man coverage match ups such as the in the first quarter when he was burned for a touchdown.
  5. The defense gave up way too many big plays today. Admittedly its tough to cover receivers forever when you aren’t generating a pass rush but that wasn’t the whole problem. There was too much room for Packers receivers to run and the tackling was occasionally poor.
  6. One thing the Packers didn’t have a lot of success with was double moves. Kyle Fuller, in particular, has been susceptible to these but he played with discipline.

Miscellaneous

  1. Charles Davis and Kevin Burkhardt were on the call. I had no problem with it. Side line reporter Pam Oliver sounded like she hadn’t slept in about three days.
  2. Eddie Piniero hit a couple short field goals. Not much else to say about special teams.
  3. Marquez Valdes-Scantling dropped a touchdown on the Packers first possession. It was one of a number of drops for the Packers. This has been a tendency of theirs over the years. It doesn’t seem to bother them much.
  4. The referees handed the Packers the ball on the Bears 35 yard line in the first quarter on a terrible call where Patterson was accused of arriving early on a punt return (it wasn’t close). The Packers scored a touchdown.
  5. Trubisky had a back breaking fluke interception to defensive lineman Dean Lowery with the Bears trying to come back in the fourth quarter.
  6. The Bears defense picked a bad time to have a bad game. Not enough pass rush on a mobile Aaron Rogers and too many big plays added up to a poor performance. Mitch Trubisky didn’t have a bad game, the Bears offense certainly did. The offensive line got dominated by the Packers both in the run game and the pass game and it made for difficult going for much of the game.

Quick Comments: Giants at Bears 11/24/19

Defense

  1. The Giants were apparently intent on running the ball against the Bears defense. The plan was likely to force the Bears offense into three and outs and wear the defense down.
  2. The Bears got decent pressure on Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. They did blitz on occasion to do it as is Chuck Pagano’s want.
  3. Given the weak Giant offensive line and the blitzing, I’m surprised Khalil Mack didn’t have a better game. Jones usually did a decent job of getting it out quick. Mack did knock the ball out of Jones’s hand for a crucial fumble in the third quarter.
  4. The Bear generally did a good job of stopping Saquon Barkley. Given the item above about running the ball, that was a key to the game.

Offense

  1. The Giants weren’t getting a body on Tarik Cohen, allowing him to get off of the line. They corrected that in the second quarter.
  2. The Giants were playing a lot of zone defense early which, if you’ve been watching the bears, you know is a mistake. They adjusted early in the second quarter and started playing more man-to-man.
  3. Trubisky looked better in the pocket this week. He also was moving better outside and had some good runs. He was reasonably accurate (for him).
  4. Unfortunately many of the other players on offense didn’t have a good game. The Bears flat out can’t get 11 guys to all do thier jobs at the same time on offense. If its not a edropped pass, its a penalty. If its not a penalty, it a missed block or a bad pass route.
  5. As the broadcast team pointed out and as we have seen on a number of occasions over the course of the year, two or more Bears receivers somehow ended up i the same area of the field an awful lot today.
  6. Trubisky did a good job with the hard count today. He got the Giants to jump a number of times.

Miscellaneous

  1. Thom Brennaman is a professional. Chris Spielman did a good job today. I thought he pointed out a number of little things, particularly in terms of the X’s and O’s that the average viewer would have missed and which the average viewer would find interesting.
  2. The Giants basically played the entire first half on the Bears half of the field.
    • Eddie Pineiro started the game by kicking the ball out of bounds.
    • A poor line drive punt by Pat O’Donnell set up the Giants touchdown in the second quarter.
    • The Bears allowed a big punt return for Jabrill Peppers later in the second quarter. fortunately the Giants missed the field goal. O’Donnell then promptly shanked the next punt after the Bears went three and out. The Giants promptly missed the field goal again. Fun stuff.
    • Twelve men on the field for an extra point in the third quarter made it a 38 yard field goal.
    • Cordarrelle Patterson made some good plays on punts to pin the Giants inside their ten yard line to partially make up for this clown show.
  3. Drops were a problem all day for both teams. Saquon Barkley dropped what would have been a big gain early. Ben Brauneker dropped a potential touchdown midway through the first quarter. Trubisky threw an interception in the end zone later in the drive.
  4. Time after time when the Bears produced a decent play, it was called back due to a penalty. It was one of those days and it didn’t help that the Bears had the worst officiating crew in the league to call every little ticky tack infraction. The penalties were atrocious. An illegal hands to the face call on an unidentified player brought back a 60 yard pass play.
  5. Trubisky threw an interception in the end zone in the first quarter on what appeared to be a good play by Alec Ogletree. Daniel Jones fumbled inside the Giants 5 yard line in the third quarter. Mack knocked it out.
  6. This was a bad, bad game between two bad teams trending in the wrong direction. At times it hurt too much to laugh. By far the most troubling thing about this game and this season is that the for long streaks the Bears offense doesn’t appear to be getting better. I think Trubisky is – and that is very good. But the team as a whole is finding new ways to mess up every good thing that happens on the field. The lack of discipline and the lack of coordination is very evident. And it has to be said that it comes back to the coaches. From that, you are forced to conclude that the future of this franchise over the next couple years may not be too rosy. It not that there isn’t hope. But the signs aren’t good.

Quick Game Comments: Lions at Bears 11/10/19

Defense

  1. The Bears came out in base 3-4, presumably expecting the run. That’s exactly what they got and it was the smart play on the Lions part. By running the ball, the Lions protected Jeff Driskel, who was in for Matt Stafford with a broken back. It also set the Bears defense up to be worn down to a nub by the 4th quarter, as has happened many time this year.
  2. I thought maybe the Bears generated just a tad more pressure today than has been their habit. It still wasn’t a great game for it and Khalil Mack is still slumping. But it seemed like Driskel saw more than usual. The games at the line of scrimmage that they started running in the second half helped.
  3. The Bears did a good job of holding the line of scrimmage and stopping the run early.
  4. The Bears are playing more and more zone defense as they try to keep the defensive backs facing the quarterback to see if they can get more turnovers. Its not generating many, though and its making it a bit easier on the other team to scheme completions.
  5. Nick Kwiatkoski had yet another outstanding game in relief of Danny Trevathan. He was all over the place in the second half.

Offense

  1. Cody Whitehair was back at center and having the same problems snapping the ball that he had in his first year at the position. He was obviously rusty.
  2. The Bears offensive line had a rough game through three quarters as they couldn’t run the ball. To head coach Matt Nagy’s credit, the run pass balance at half wasn’t bad. At half the it was 10 passes to 9 rushes on just 19 plays. The time of possession wasn’t terrible at 16:59 Lions to 13:02 Bears. But other than the last drive of the half by the Bears it was total ineptitude. The final count was 24 rushes to just 16 passes and the time of possession was about even at 31:47 – 28:06 Lions.
  3. Once again, the Bears could not get Trey Burton or Anthony Miller going in the passing game, relying almost totally on Allen Robinson or Tarik Cohen when they needed a catch.
  4. It was nice to see Cohen, however, have a nice game as he occasionally looked like his old self after a rough month where he definitely didn’t.
  5. David Montgomery was breaking some tackles today and made some tough runs. This is the guy they drafted.
  6. They needed to be tough because the offensive line generally struggled. They struggled to block the run with 3.2 yards per rush and Trubisky was sacked 5 times.
  7. The Bears were a miserable 2 for 12 on third down. That just has to change and is in drastic contrast to last year when Trubisky had a habit of pulling big plays out to get first downs.

Miscellaneous

  1. Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts were fine. Fouts tried to provide unique insight and, like the rest of us, explain the ineptitude of the Bears offense in the first half. Also like the rest of us, he failed but I can’t blame him for that and at least he gets an “A” for effort.
  2. Eddie Pineiro missed an extra point. He actually almost missed two as he suck the fist one inside the left upright. That point was critical as the Lions had the ball with 3 minutes left down 7 points instead of 8.
  3. Taylor Gabriel had a bad drop that was preceded by a bobble. Both were on third down and both would have been badly needed first downs. The Lions had a couple of critical drops down the stretch with only a few minutes left.
  4. Both teams had too many penalties and the Bears should have had a couple more with a couple missed face masks that they were lucky to get away with.
  5. Nick Kwiatkoski got an important interception early in the second half that the Bears turned into a Taylor Gabriel touchdown catch.
  6. I loved it at the end of the first half when running out of time but with the clock stopped, the Bears wast4ed a time out. Trubisky threw a touchdown to Ben Braunecker anyway so no harm. But it was typical.
  7. This was a tough game for the Lions. You wonder if they would have won with Matt Stafford at quarterback. The Bears showed some life in the second half and all credit to them for winning this game. But once again they wasted almost an entire first half with inept play on offense. I think its time to wonder about this team’s failure to improve over the first half of the season and I think we have to start pointing to the coaching, especially on the offensive line. Right now this team is stuck in the mud in more ways than just the failure to win.

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Eagles 11/3/19

Offense

  1. The Bears came out running the ball but that was about it. They had just 3 rushing attempts in the first half. Not that there were many plays overall. The play calling was more even in the second half as the final count was 18 runs compared to 22 passes.
  2. Instead they chose to rely once again on their struggling quarterback. Trubisky was inconsistent to be kind. Some times his confidence just looks completely shot. The Bears eventually calls swing passes and even a wide receiver screen just to get him some easy completions.
  3. The Eagles started coming with heavy blitzes on third down because they knew that Trubisky would never find the open receiver under pressure.
  4. It was nice to see Trubisky finally hit a deep pass to Taylor Gabriel in the third quarter. It set up a David Montgomery touchdown. I’d say Trubisky needed that in the worst way. It seemed to be part of a half time adjustment where the Bears decided to throw more long passes. It was reasonably successful as the Bears eventually mounted a comeback.

Defense

  1. The Eagles had a smart game plan against the Bears defense. They used heavy misdirection against an aggressive Bears front seven.
  2. On a related note Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was very effective with the hard count today, getting the Bears to jump offsides a number of times.
  3. The Bears once again lost at the line of scrimmage too often this game. The linebackers were getting caught up in the wash and couldn’t run to the play.
  4. Jordan Howard certainly ran well today and looked like the Bears version two years ago. No one should be surprised. He’s now fully recovered from his knee injury.
  5. The Bears didn’t always do a good job of stopping it but they were very aware of the screen pass today. That was obviously a big part of the plan.
  6. It was nice to see Leonard Floyd show some life today by bringing some pressure.
  7. Carson Wentz didn’t look as effective in the second half as he did in the first. His accuracy wasn’ quite on point. It looked like the Bears adjusted at half and started to take Zack Ertz away in the middle of the field.

Miscellaneous

  1. Dick Stockton and Mark Schlereth were on the call. I eventually just turned the sound off. It wasn’t that it was terrible. There was just nothing added.
  2. Special teams
  3. Tarik Cohen had a couple bad drops that did not help Trubisky much today. Cohen hasn’t been himself this year. He’s not running with vision and his head doesn’t seem to always be in the game.
  4. Penalties were horrendous for the Bears, especially presnap penalties. Nine penalties for 70 yards is too many. Many of them like Nick Williams roughing the passer penalty in the first half after the Bears had stopped the Eagles on 4th down were just plain dumb.
  5. The Eagles won the time of possession battle and wore the Bears defense down, holding the ball for 39:53 (including most of the final 9 minutes of the game) compared to the Bears 20:07. It was Eagles 20:45 Bears 9:15 after a miserable first half.
  6. Zack Ertz went wild today. Anyone heard from Trey Burton? Anyone?
  7. Turnovers weren’t a factor today as neither team had any.
  8. This turned out to be a winnable game for the Bears after some half time adjustments that enabled them to get back into the game. But once again, dumb mistakes and missed opportunities were too much to over come and the Eagles offense wore the Bear defense down in the end (again).

Quick Game Comments: Chargers at Bears 10/27/19

Defense

  1. I’d say the Bears defense generally played with some extra energy today on defense. They definitely came out with an edge.
  2. Interestingly after playing much more 3-4 base defense for the first 6 games of the season, the Bears played mostly in the nickel formation today. That probably means that they didn’t have much respect for the Chargers running game. With reason.
  3. The Bears also played a lot more zone defense. The guess here is that it was meant to generate more big plays with the defenders facing the quarterback
  4. To my eye, the Bears got better play from the defensive line this week. That made a huge difference in the run defense and the pass rush.
  5. Having said that, the Bears had a tough time getting pressure on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. If you are going to play a lot of zone defense you have to get pressure with a four man rush. Neither Khalil Mack nor Leonard Floyd got much pressure. The Bears eventually had to resort to the blitz.
  6. I also thought Roquan Smith played better today as well as he showed up more often around the ball.
  7. The Chargers came out of half time with adjustments and had some big gains on some zone beaters.
  8. Having a hard time understanding what was wrong with Keenan Allen but the guy looked like he was running on ice. He couldn’t keep his feet.

Offense

  1. The Bears came out running and definitely committed to it this week. The result of that patience with the run game was some good runs. They gained 162 yards on 38 rushing attempts.
  2. Having said that calling a running play as the clock wound down at the end of the first half with no timeouts was a bit boneheaded. I’m not big on criticizing play calling but having to spike the ball on 3rd down with one second left isn’t great clock management. A pass into the end zone would have given them one more shot at the end zone.
  3. Trubisky was inconsistent as usual but had some decent to good throws today. Notably, those throws came when he had good protection and didn’t see much pressure. The better protection can, I think, be partly attributed to the commitment to the run. Chargers pass rushers had to slow down for fear of it and the Chargers linebackers had to play it.
  4. The troubles in the red zone were notably for the Bears today. Four trips into the red zone in the first half yielded 9 points. That can’t happen.
  5. The commitment to the running game gave the Bears a definitive advantage in time of possession in the first half. They almost doubled the Chargers in that stat in the first half. The final stat was 37:56 to 22:00.
  6. Bobby Massie had a tough time with Joey Bosa all day. Bosa got a critical sack with 2:30 to play taking the Bears out of field goal range. You had to wonder why the Bears gave him no help on such a critical play knowing what a sack would mean.

Miscellaneous

  1. Thom Brennaman and Chris Spielman were your announcers. Brennaman is a pro. Spielman isn’t my cup of tea. He spends a lot of time critiquing individual players but I don’t find his insight to be compelling and to my mind he added little to the game.
  2. Eddie Pineiro missed a field goal early as did Chargers kicker Chase McLaughlin. Of course, Pineiro missed the game winner.
  3. Drops weren’t a big issue for the Bears but the Chargers had one or two that were drive killers. Mike Williams and Keenan Allen both dropped a touchdown.
  4. Penalties were horrendous for the Chargers. The stat line won’t show it as bad as it was because the Bears refused some but the ones that counted were damaging. The Chargers had the Bears off the field in the red zone twice and twice let them off the hook with penalties – one horse collar tackle and one pass interference in the end zone. The Bears still only scored a field goal but it was still really poor play. Rashad Coward had a bad game with multiple penalties.
  5. Kyle Fuller had an interception deep in Los Angeles territory. The Bears converted only a field goal. Trubisky threw an interception early in the fourth quarter that set the Chargers up on the Bears 20 yard line. He also gave up a fumble midway through the quarter, also in deep in Bears territory at the 25 yard line.
  6. Well, the Chargers did everything they could to hand the Bears this game and the Bears just wouldn’t take it. The Bears playoff hopes are gradually fading.

Quick Comments: Saints at Bears 10/20/19

Offense

  1. The Bears came out with the short passing game and the run as they have done in recent games. They had no success on the goround and limited success through the air, largely because the short passes were all they could complete. Without stretching the field it was evident that they were going nowhere.
  2. Trubisky’s accuracy was off, just as it was before the bye. The offense will always be limited as long as this is the case. He seemed to be mighty low with a lot of those short throws. Whether they are caught or not there’s little chance of yards after the catch with throws like that. Ball placement seems to be an issue.
  3. Allen Robinson is doing a great job but he can’t be the whole offense. Trubisky needs to start finding someone else. It looked like they were starting to find Trey Burton and Anthony Miller in the second half of the Oakland game. They needed to pick up where they left off with that.
  4. Matt Nagy forgot about the run in the first half. Again.

Defense

  1. I haven’t seen the statistics but one of the things I’m noticing about the defense under Chuck Pagano is that they are playing a lot more base 3-4 defense. It got a lot to recommend it in terms of versatility as long as Eddie Goldman can get some pass rush.
  2. The Bears had a tough time getting to Teddy Bridgewater on the pass rush as the Saints offensive line did a good job on the Bears front.
  3. On the other hand, I thought the Bears were solid against the run coming off of a terrible performance in London against the Raiders. Presumably they weren’t jet lagged playing at home.
  4. HaHa Clinton-Dix came to Chicago with a reputation for making big mistakes and we saw an example of it today as he was cheating up on the run and let Ted Ginn Jr. get behind him for a huge catch to set up a touchdown coming out of halftime.
  5. The Bears offense is wearing the defense down to a nub. They are being hung out to dry and are worn down in the second half. These are grim days. But very familiar to anyone who has watch this happen over and over over the last 20 years.

Miscellaneous

  1. Thom Brennaman and Troy Aikman did a nice job as usual. I kind of like Brennaman better than Joe Buck, who usually has some strong opinions that I don’t always agree with and who was presumably doing the baseball playoffs.
  2. Good play by the Saints to block the punt on the first Bears posession. The Saints schemed up a huge gap up the middle with to linement going in opposite directions to allow J.T. Gray to go right up the middle. The ball was alertly batted through the end zone by punter Pat O’Donnel to take the safety rather tha let the Saints recover for a touchdown. The Bears gave up another blocked punt in the second quarter.
  3. Heck of a kick return by Cordarrelle Patterson in the first quarter. He’s a big guy and he’s not particularly easy to bring down.
  4. Trey Burton had a bad drop before half time that should have been a first down. There were a few big catches that I thought the Saints receivers should have had for Bridgewater.
  5. The Saints went 52 yards in 12 plays aided by a terrible spot and worse review that failed to reverse the call in the second quarter.
  6. Anthony Miller is frustrated but when he finally get a chance to do something, he fumbles the ball deep in Bears territory. Maybe if he pulled his head out and played good fundamental football, good things would happen. Tight end Josh Hill cashed the turnover in for a touchdown. David Montgomery fumbled the ball deep in Bears territory early in the third quarter.
  7. Kudos to the crowd at Soldier Field It was pretty loud out there. Including the boos.
  8. The Bears opened as 6 point favorites over the Chargers and I’m wondering. How in the hell are they going to score 6 points?
  9. It seems evident that the Bears are set up to waste yet another championship caliber defense with putrid offensive play. The offense looks about as bad as it has since the early 2000s under Dick Jauron and John Shoop. As happened then, teams stacked the line of scrimmage to play the run and defended the short pass knowing that the Bears had little chance of stretching the field with big plays.

    Despite the Bears efforts to spread the blame around, its hard not to lay most of this at Mitch Trubisky’s feet. His inability to get on the same page with his receivers and throw an accurate pass more than 10 yards is a large part of the problem here. Matt Nagy abandoning the run early didn’t do him or the offensive line any favors as the Saints simply pinned their ears back and rush the passer.