Regular readers of this blog know that I occasionally write Dolphins articles for phinmaniacs.com. So I was a natural to comment on the Dolphins signing of Jay Cutler. You can find my post on the Topic here.
As we quickly review some of the things that I’ll be looking at on Thursday with the Bears as they take on the Broncos in the first preseason game, I’d like to take a look at a few of the recent defensive draft picks that the Bears really need to see come through this year.
We will all, of course, be watching Leonard Floyd and Eddie Goldman on Thursday night. Floyd is a potential star outside linebacker in the making and the Bears aren’t the same without Goldman in the middle after his ankle injury last year, something that to their credit they recognized and partially addressed with the addition of nose tackle John Jenkins.
Both of these men have already shown enough to convince fans that they are capable of performing and, though both need to continue to develop, questions surrounding them have more to do with their health than their ability.
So with this post, I’d like to point to a couple of guys whose situation is a little different.
The Bears have completely rebuilt themselves up from scratch starting with Ryan Pace‘s first draft in 2015. Some of those picks have really come through but others have either been inconsistent or have proven to need time to develop. For one or two, its time to produce on their potential. If they don’t, their careers may be in jeopardy.
Jonathan Bullard was a 2016 third round pick that the Bears are depending upon to be part of their future at defensive end. Bullard came from a system at Florida where he was expected to penetrate in a Lovie Smith style of line play. But the Bears base defense is a 3-4 and Bullard is expected to be a two-gap lineman in that sort of scheme. That means he needs to hold up the lineman and read the play while covering the gaps to either side of him. It requires more strength and awareness than, perhaps, Bullard was expected to display in college and he had a hard time adjusting to it in his first year.
Although he’s apparently had a quiet training camp to this point, Bullard bulked up to over 300 lb in the offseason and apparently has progressed in the scheme to the point that there might be some hope for him. Coaches think the game has slowed down form him since his rookie year. They’d better hope so. Their starting ends are Akiem Hicks and either Jay Howard or Mitch Unrein and the first injury is going to throw him into the rotation, ready-or-not.
Similar to Bullard on the defensive line, the Bears need Nick Kwiatkowski, a fourth rounder from 2016, to develop into a starter quality NFL linebacker. Kiatkowski played a great deal last year with Jerrell Freeman missing games due to a suspension and Danny Trevathan‘s knee injury. Travathan is rehabbing but isn’t fully back.
Kwiatkowski played too slowly last year and apparently lacked the necessary play recognition skills to play the position at a high level. He needs to step up now and make plays in the middle and the Bears and their fans have to be hoping that he flashes more this preseason because he’s going to be needed as the first guy off the bench (assuming Trevathan is ready to play – a big assumption).
As young players that they hope are on the rise, both of these men represent important players not only for the Bears present but, they hope, for their future as well. How they perform this year will tell us a lot about how that future will shape itself and how quickly.
I’m quickly reviewing some of the things that I’ll be looking at on Thursday with the Bears as they suit up against the Broncos in the first pre-season game. Next up, a couple of the more interesting rookies.
As most regular readers know, I was critical of the Bears approach to the last draft. Basically its my contention that the Bears took unnecessary risks during the offseason culminating in their selection of too many small school prospects making the draft, something which by its very nature is a crap shoot, into a series of all-or-nothing bets on long shots. One small school guy is OK. Four is insane.
Or so I thought.
I’m usually pretty skeptical of anything that comes out of training camp in terms of media reports. There’s no percentage in trashing a player in July. If you are ever going to be optimistic about your team, this is the time of year for it and no one sees any reason to squish that too soon.
But I have to admit that the almost daily reports about two of the newly drafted small school rookies have worn on me and now I’m intrigued. Article after article has touted how tight end Adam Shaheen (Ashland) and running back Tarik Cohen (North Carolina A&T) have been stringing good practices together and flashing potential. Both men are (apparently) showing a great deal of athleticism. Both have the potential to be a matchup nightmare for defenses, Shaheen because of his size and Cohen because of his quickness and elusiveness.
I’m still skeptical. But I’m anxious to see how these men will perform. Small school prospects have a habit of disappearing once the big boys take the field and I can’t help but believe that Shaheen’s inexperience is likely to show. Cohen is a diminutive 185 pounds and players of that size have a bad habit of being overwhelmed by bigger men with more athleticism than they are used to seeing. Up until now neither has been challenged by players approaching their own level of ability.
With no help coming from first round quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (if the Bears get their way) the Bears need their other picks from this draft to hit along with a few from previous drafts – but we’ll get to them later. The farther we get along, the more we will be able to believe that these guys are the real deal. Their performances at this stage will be crucial steps in their evaluation.
I hate the offseason. I mean I really do. Nothing but pure speculative judgments about personnel that we haven’t even seen play. Finally, this Thursday, we’ll get a chance to see what the Bears are made of as they take the field against the Broncos.
It would be easier to list the things that I won’t be looking for than the things that I will be. This is now truly General Manager Ryan Pace‘s team as the roster has been almost completely turned over since former head coach Marc Trestman and ex-General Manager Phil Emery left Halas Hall. Pace and head coach John Fox have now changed the culture of the team. But do they have the talent to compete?
There are so many unknowns about this team you almost don’t know where to start. But over the next few days I’ll try to get you going starting exactly where you would expect – with the quarterbacks.
Although it will be fun to see the fresh second overall pick Mitch Trubisky play, he is apparently so undeveloped at this point its meaningless. If he plays well, it will be against third stringers who are playing vanilla defenses. If he doesn’t, it’s too early in his development to make a big deal out of it. He needs work. We knew that. Next summer will likely be the time to start paying attention to Trubisky’s performances, at least if the Bears get their way.
No, this preseason is about new veteran quarterback, Mike Glennon. What will be interesting to see is if Glennon is on the same page with these guys.
From what I’ve seen of him on tape, Bears fans are finally going to be able to leave behind the “see-it, throw-it” style that Jay Cutler lived and died with (mostly died with) for 8 years. We should see Glennon throwing with anticipation to receivers rather than waiting for them to get open and then trying to strong arm it in. This is, in my opinion, the only way to win consistently in the NFL and certainly it is the only way the Bears will ever see a top five quarterback perform (on their own team).
Not that Glennon is going to be a top five quarterback. If he was top twelve, I think everyone in town would be very happy. But at least he has a chance to be better than that. Cutler never really did.
Glennon’s strength appears to be his accuracy and the fact that he usually puts the ball where only the receiver can get it. This means that his turnovers should be limited. However, this early in his progression with the team, that may not be entirely evident.
One draw back to throwing with anticipation is that you have to be on the same page with your receivers. The timing has to be good and quarterbacks of this type have a bad habit of looking very bad early on as they gradually get to know their guys on the other end of the pass. Missed connections tend to be frequent either because the receiver goes one way and the quarterback the other or because the timing is simply so bad that neither the ball of the receiver end up in the right spot. It could be ugly for a couple weeks. So keeping an eye on Glennon’s progress will be a key to the preseason. That starts on Thursday.
Mark Sanchez was the second string quarterback in Saturday’s scrimmage and he should get the second team snaps throughout the preseason. With Glennon still learning the offense and the personnel, he’ll go at least a quarter with Sanchez taking what’s left of the first half and probably playing into the third quarter. From there it will probably be Trubisky time as Connor Shaw hasn’t been practicing with an unspecified foot injury and may well not play.
Seeing how sharp Sanchez is with what apparently are limited reps in practice will be something to keep an eye on here.
I represented the Bears on the Next Fan Up podcast NFC North preview. It’s not the most uplifting analysis I’ve ever done but I’d like to think it’s realistic.
Available on iTunes and all of the other common places.
Give it a listen and come at me on Twitter @bearingthenews if you don’t agree.
Yesterday I addressed the first of two Bear-related articles at Yahoo! Sports. The first was a pretty negative view point expressed by Andy Behrens that pretty much corresponds to the national view point. Today I’d like to talk a little about a more balanced article written by Frank Schwab.
Like me, Schwab can’t understand why General Manager Ryan Pace is getting so much flack for aggressively pursuing answers to the quarterback position.
Combining the two big moves at quarterback brought on a separate wave of criticism. Because after almost seven decades of futility at the position, people apparently wanted Pace to just keep doing things the same way they’ve always been done. There’s nothing wrong with investing in both options. Mike Glennon will presumably begin this season as the starter. If he’s bad, the Bears will cut him and they haven’t affected their salary-cap situation. If he’s good, there will be chances to trade him. If he’s great, maybe the Bears keep Glennon and trade Mitch Trubisky. And let’s be clear: If Glennon is great, it’s a problem the Bears haven’t had since Vince Lombardi was an unknown assistant at Army. There are worse problems to have.
Pace’s plan, especially to move up and get Trubisky, was aggressive. That’s OK.
Couldn’t agree more with every word.
The heavy criticism that Pace has gotten for trading away a third round pick and two fourth round picks to move up to get Trubisky is absurd when compared to what both the Chiefs and the Texans had to give up to acquire lesser prospects. Furthermore, Pace’s explanation that he felt he had to trade up to get Trubisky based upon the offers he was getting from quarterback needy teams for the third overall pick is, for some reason, being largely ignored while national outlets continue to push the baseless assumption that the Bears didn’t need to make the trade.
Similarly, people who claim that the Bears should have kept Brian Hoyer or someone similar as a placeholder instead of signing Glennon simply aren’t thinking straight.
Mike Glennon is a legitimate swing at solving the position. Is he a great swing? Maybe. Maybe not. Behrens certainly didn’t think so but, the humorous videos of Glennon fumbling the ball aside, he didn’t really make any legitimate points.
Bottom line, Glennon was the best free agent available and is a legitimate attempt at a long term solution to the problem. Hoyer would have been a waste of a year.
Would Behrens have rather the Bears had handled the off-season the way the 49ers and Browns did, both of whom I’ve seen continually praised despite the fact that neither made a good move to solve their quarterback dilemmas? Or the way the Jets did by deciding to tank the 2017 season and pray that one of the supposedly superior quartbacks in the potential 2018 class 1) continues to develop and 2) comes out early? Anyone remember who the consensus #1 overall pick for 2017 was this time last year? Deshaun Watson.
The only legitimate criticism I’ve heard is the way the Bears handled the draft with Glennon. Certainly the Bears didn’t have to tell Glennon that they were planning to take Trubisky. Indeed, they did the right thing by not doing so. There’s no getting around that he was going to have to be surprised by it and that’s just the way it had to be.
But Glennon was at the Bears draft party when Trubisky’s name was called. Why any active player would be invited to such a party given the chances that any of them could be watching his eventual replacement be drafted is beyond me.
It was bound to happen that Glennon would be unhappy about this. That’s life in the league. But this added drama to a situation that definitely didn’t need any more of it.
The other related thing that bothers me is the continual criticism that the Bears have received for supposedly not telling head coach John Fox that they were trading up to take Trubisky. It has been made crystal clear that Fox was with Pace every step of the way in this process.
Was he happy with it? Hell, who would be? He needs help now. But he accepted the decision and he said that he was on board with it. If he wasn’t told about the trade until “hours before the draft” then its obviously because, though they had been working it before that, the decision wasn’t finalized until then. Indeed, this is exactly what Chris Mortenson, the originator of the initial report, said in a later Tweet that, for some reason continues to be ignored. I see no reason why there should be any more to it than that and I’ve seen zero evidence that there was.
The Bears have become a punching bag for the national media. I understand that when you go 3-13, you aren’t going to get the benefit of the doubt on these decisions. But the criticism that writers and commentators across the league have continued to leveled at the Bears is, as far as I can tell, totally baseless.
There’s not a thing wrong with what the Bears have done at quarterback this off-season. Ryan Pace acted aggressively to solve a situation that is long overdue to be solved.
Will it work? I can’t say. But I can say that I’m glad to see someone giving it a legitimate try and I think any other view point defies logic.
Many who follow (or used to follow) this blog probably think I’ve abandoned it. I haven’t. Its just that I work for a living and things have been a little crazy. They’re probably going to get a lot more crazy in the near future but I’m hoping that doesn’t mean I can’t continue to post every once in a while.
Having said that, I thought I’d reference a couple articles from Yahoo! Sports today and tomorrow that have a little something for everyone.
For those cynics who think the Bears are going to be pretty bad this year because they can’t do anything right, I give you this article from Andy Behrens today. The article criticizes virtually everything from the quarterback situation to the Bears defense. This is a perfectly natural reaction and, as far as I can tell, its one shared around the league nationally. When you go 3-13 and have only won 9 games in two years, you aren’t going to get the benefit of the doubt very often. It doesn’t help that head coach John Fox isn’t what you’d call media friendly.
I’m going to leave the assessment of the way the Bears handled the quarterbacks for tomorrow. Today I’d like to chime in some other somewhat valid criticisms of the Bears off-season. From Behrens:
“The list of Chicago’s free agent additions on offense looks like a last-place fantasy roster from 2014: [Mike] Glennon, Mark Sanchez, Victor Cruz, Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright, Rueben Randle, Dion Sims, Benny Cunningham. A few of those players could be serviceable, but none move the needle for a team coming off a 3-win season. In April, the Bears’ drafted as if their singular goal was to flummox anyone providing analysis on live TV. After using the No. 2 overall pick on [Mitch] Trubisky, Chicago spent three of its four remaining selections on players from non-FBS schools. It’s not at all clear that any of them, or Trubisky, will contribute in a meaningful way in 2017.
“So, um … Bear down. Woo.”
OK. This is mostly hard truth. Certainly the wide receiver free agents look like dart being thrown at a board. The Bears are hoping one or two stick. The Bears did manage to re-make their secondary with the signings of Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper. But for the most part, Fox got virtually no help in the off-season. Some have chosen to interpret this as general manager Ryan Pace throwing Fox under the bus with the idea that he will be hiring a new coach for 2018. But I’ve a sneaking suspicion that its more likely that Fox is getting a free year as long as the team shows at least some improvement.
I also don’t disagree with Behrens’ assessment of the draft but for an entirely different reason. People who think the Bears draft was a problem because it didn’t supply immediate help just don’t understand the situation. The Bears are rebuilding. They aren’t planning for this year. They’re planning for a couple years down the road. In that respect, Pace obviously felt that he could draft guys who might require a bit longer to develop and its hard to refute that logic.
No. The problem as I see it is a different one.
The NFL draft by its very nature is a crop shoot. Its full of risk at even the best of times with roughly half of all first round picks busting out. That percentage increases to something close to three quarters for quarterbacks. The Bears took those normal risks and at least doubled them by taking small school prospects that require even more projection than usual to get right.
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of great NFL players who came from small schools, not the least of whom was the late great Walter Payton (Jackson State). Its perfectly OK to take a player like that every once in a while. But to do with with 3 of 5 with the quarterback, Trubisky, being one of the two that wasn’t? That’s asking for trouble, my friends.
The Bears really needed to approach this draft the way they approached the one in 2016 when they found Jordan Howard and Cody Whitehair. Taking the guys from FBS schools carries enough risk. There’s little reason to introduce more to the process.
Here’s hoping that I’m wrong and that all of these guys work out. But if they do, it’s going to require some luck. And the Bears haven’t had much of that lately.
It’s interesting the effect that a different view point can have.
I grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis. The neighborhood in St. Charles, Mo. was predominantly white and relatively prosperous. When I left to go to college to experience the world, I was a typical conservative suburbanite. I didn’t know that’s what I was. But that’s what I was. Members of my family that stayed in that environment are, too. And they don’t know they are, either.
Forward 30 years later after spending 15 of that living in downtown Chicago and I can honestly say that I’m a much different man than I was then. If you ever wonder why big cities are more liberal than urban environments, move to one and you’ll find out. Few people can walk past multiple homeless beggars on their way to work every day and not be affected. I wouldn’t call myself a liberal. But how would I know? I just know now that I was very conservative before.
How you view the Bears first round last night is also largely a matter of perspective. Nationally the pick of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has been almost universally panned because media experts and anonymous scouts who have an interest in seeing the quarterbacks fall have almost universally disparaged the class. And the Bears actually traded up a spot to get theirs.
But in stark contrast to the national reaction, the local media were generally positive about the move.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune was (and has been) amongst the most out spoken.
“[General manager Ryan] Pace said the strength of the draft was on defense and plenty of observers would agree. Moreover, the Bears have a host of needs on that side of the ball. But they haven’t had a greater need, period, than quarterback and that pre-dates the Phil Emery era. In fact, the Bears have mismanaged the position for far too much of the post-Sid Luckman era.
“Something had to be done and when the Browns didn’t draft Trubisky, who was raised in the Cleveland suburb of Mentor, with the No. 1 pick, Pace paid big-time to acquire the No. 2 pick from the 49ers. The Bears forked over the No. 3 pick, their third-round pick (No. 67 overall), fourth-round pick (No. 111) and a third-rounder in 2018. The exchange was a steep price, equivalent to a second-round pick according to a source with another team, but when you’re seeking a franchise quarterback, you have to be bold and the Bears have spent far too much time being meek.”
Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times, usually ready to fire at the Bears at the drop of the hat, was fine with this (albeit with a parting shot):
“A tip of the cap to general manager Ryan Pace for having the courage to make a choice that is very much a roll of the dice. I have no idea whether Trubisky will be a good NFL quarterback. But I like the idea of the Bears throwing caution to the wind and going for it. They haven’t had an excellent quarterback since Jim McMahon, and I think it has slowly dawned on them that they can’t win a Super Bowl without one. And when I say slowly, I mean slooooooooowly.”
Even David Haugh at the Tribune, who I rarely completely agree with, nailed this one perfectly in my mind:
“It’s about time.
“The Bears could have stayed in the third spot and taken a defensive player to suit coach John Fox, or maybe even Trubisky if he was still on the board. They could have gone by the book like NFL executives typically do and the way Pace fooled everyone into believing he would.
“But going all-in to draft a Trubisky for all the Grabowskis in Chicago, Pace opted for bold over blase.”
People who actually follow the Bears are bound to have a different perspective on this once they settle down and ponder it this morning. It’s really easy if you are covering or following a NFL team that has a good quarterback to trash this pick. But try doing that if you are following a team that hasn’t had a quarterback in 30 years (or more) and who hasn’t even tried to draft anyone to solve the problem in 13 years.
Do that year after year after year and watch what happens to your attitude. It certainly has had an effect on me. And I’m not alone.
In contrast to media reports, NFL teams actually valued this quarterback class a great deal. We know that because, depite deceptive anonymous quotes, their actions spoke louder than their words. General manager Ryan Pace stated that they knew that the 49ers were receiving offers to move up for a quarterback because they were receiving offers from the same teams. And the 49ers confirmed that they had two offers on the table.
That’s not all. Immediately after the Bears took Trubisky, the Browns reportedly tried to engineer a trade for Kirk Cousins, something that could have been done well before the draft but was likely attempted only after the guy they, themselves, planned to trade up to get disappeared. It’s worth noting that the Chiefs also traded up to get ahead of the Browns and the Saints to keep them from taking Pat Mahomes. Houston traded up a long way to get Deshaun Watson at 12 overall. And many, many other teams worked these players out privately before the draft despite the class’s supposed lack of quality.
Needless to say that, when you aren’t just a media pundit and your job is actually on the line when your team doesn’t win, it obviously affects how you see things. These people thought a lot more highly of these players than reports indicated.
The Bears had to make this move. They had a guy they liked, they aren’t planning to be drafting this high again, and they don’t have a developing quarterback, a position that Pace has stated repeatedly that he’d like to draft every year.
For the record, I’m warming to the pick and to Trubisky. He is, after all, the only one of the top quarterbacks who has been characterized as accurate, something that arguably can’t be taught. Indeed, the only major criticism that’s usually leveled is that he was a one year starter. Well, so was Marshawn Lattimore. So was Ryan Ramczyk. So were quite a few of the top prospects in this draft. You do your due diligence, evaluate and project based upon what you have. That’s all their is to it.
I didn’t like the price but 2 third round picks and a fourth round pick isn’t exactly giving up the farm. And if he’s the guy you like, there’s no price too high for a potential franchise quarterback.
At least not if you have been exposed to the Chicago Bears for any length of time.
Brad Bigs at the Chicago Tribune addresses the possibility that there will be a quarterback available for the Bears in round 2:
“I can tell you this: There are plenty of scouts who don’t believe the quarterbacks will free-fall. The need is simply too great, and you can’t argue the Bears’ need. I wrote Tuesday that the Bears’ need for a quarterback is too great for them to ignore at No. 3, and I believe that. That doesn’t mean they see it the same way.”
Many of us really think the Bears have to take a quarterback this draft as Biggs does. But it is looking increasingly like they aren’t going to do it at three overall. Pace’s stubborn insistence on undervaluing the position means that he’ll wait until the second round to see which quarterback falls. That’s where the Bears have put in the most work with the prospects.
According to Biggs the Bears have invited Mitchell Trubisky and Deshaun Watson in for no pre-draft visits or private workouts. On the other hand, the two qurterbacks mostly likely to go some time after the top two have gotten a great deal of attention.
Pace, coach John Fox, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains and player personnel director Josh Lucas all went to Lubbock to work out Mahomes. Mahomes also made a pre-draft visit to Halas Hall.
Deshone Kizer has had two pre-draft visits to Halas Hall, including the local day workout.
Bears fans had better prepare themselves for some major disappointment. If the Bears don’t take a quarterback at three overall, it looks very likely to me that none of these four quarterbacks are going to be available to them in round two. And that likely they won’t be doing it at all. And that, despite all of our hopes that it would be otherwise, means that Pace will be no better than his predecessors as he serially mismanages the position for the Bears.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune gives 13 reasons why the Bears will want to draft a quarterback in the first round:
If not now, when?
The time to invest a first-round draft pick in a quarterback appears to have come for the Bears, who have not selected a passer in Round 1 since Rex Grossman in 2003. The Bears dealt two first-round picks to the Broncos in the 2009 Jay Cutler deal, a trade that proved to be too good to be true because teams don’t deal away franchise quarterbacks.
It took the Bears longer than most to realize Cutler wasn’t that player, and now here they are with the No. 3 pick Thursday night, staring down the opportunity to solve their never-ending issue — if they can pick the right quarterback.
I couldn’t agree more.
The Bears aren’t currently developing a quarterback. They have failed to even attempt to draft one for years now. That must end here. Quarterback is the only position that you absolutely cannot do without to achieve consistent success. That has now been proven over and over again.
You have to take your swings at the position and you have to take guys who have a shot at actually being good. That means early in the draft and, this year, that means the first round. How do I know that?
A couple weeks ago I participated in a mock draft. Representatives for each team drafted who they wanted in the proper order and trades were allowed. They were, of course, extremely knowledgable about their teams current situation and thinking.
My plan going in was probably what many of you are thinking. Assuming I couldn’t trade down (I tried), I would take the best defensive player available, then take the best quarterback available in the second round or trade up into the tail end of the first round to get the third or fourth best available (likely Patrick Mahomes or Deshone Kizer). So I took defensive end Soloman Thomas and felt pretty good about it.
And then I watched as my world slowly fell apart. It started at the 7th pick where Cleveland traded up to take Mahomes. Crazy, right? Could have maybe even waited for the second to get that guy, right?
The quarterbacks few off the board like pigeons getting out of the way of a speeding car. Arizona took Deshaun Watson at 13. Carson Palmer is aging but you probably figured that they’d wait and take a long-term project later. And you would have been wrong. Same with Kansas City, who traded up to 22 to get Mitchell Trubisky. Then Houston took Deshone Kizer at 25 and you were left with… who?
At that point there was one quarterback left that I thought might – maybe – turn into a good starter, Davis Webb. And I had both New Orleans at 32 and SanFransisco at 34 drafting ahead of me. There was no way I could possible wait and take the chance that I’d be drafting a Nate Peterman at the top of the second round. So I had to trade a fourth round pick to move up from 36 to 30 to get what amounted ot the dregs of the starting quarterback class.
I hear over and over again that you don’t “reach” for a quarterback. But if the rest of the league values the position more than you do, as was definitely the case with me in this mock draft, are you reaching or are you undervaluing the prospects and their potential impact?
The draft is always a crap shoot. It’s even more of one when it comes to quarterbacks. That’s the way it is. There’s a rookie cap so it isn’t like you set your franchise back 5 years by missing on a one in the first round anymore. You take your swings until you find one. If that means taking one that you like best at 3 overall, so be it. And that certainly looks like that’s the case this year.