Some Random NFL Thoughts as Week 11 of the Season Comes to a Close

I haven’t had a chance to post much other than game thoughts lately.  Things have been a bit hectic at work and though they show no signs of slowing down, I thought I’d try to get a post up on some NFL thoughts this week as Well 11 wraps up tonight.

      1. Jared Goff didn’t have a great game yesterday.  But that’s understandable.  He’s a rookie in his first start and yet he arguably out played Ryan Tannehill for most of the game yesterday against the Dolphins until a dramatic comeback in the last five minutes of the game stole it away from him..

        Notably Goff has a (perhaps natural at this stage) tendency to panic under pressure.  Whenever he even sensed that a blitz was coming he rushed the pass and it was usually inaccurate.  He’s going to have to settle down and learn to keep calm in those situations.

        I might add that Goff’s accuracy and ball placement were generally a disappointment this game.  In fairness he saw a fair bit of pressure from the Dolphins defensive front and he was throwing on the move quite a bit.  Though he’s certainly mobile, based upon what I saw, that is not his strength and he’s going to have to be given some time in the pocket if the Rams expect his to succeed.

        Many were surprised when Rams head coach Jeff Fisher decided to promote first overall draft pick, quarterback Jared Goff, to the starting lineup.  Reports were that reports that Goff wouldn’t play until the Rams were mathematically eliminated. They’re still alive at 4-5, and if Goff gives the offense a spark they could end up in the mix for a playoff berth.  But head coach Jeff Fisher has claimed that Goff is ready.

        “It’s was just Jared’s progress, and the progression week, after week, after week,” Fisher said. “Preparing to be a two, preparing to be a play away from going in. When he got the reps over the last three or four weeks, they were right, they were good, they were good decisions. So it was time.”

        That’s all nonsense, of course.  Goff struggled notably in the preseason and there’s hardly much reason to believe he’s gotten significantly better with no playing time since.

        The truth is that the Rams have little to lose at this point.  The offense had, in fact, done very little under former starter Case Keenum.   Keenum was not the reason the Rams have been so bad but he hasn’t helped. This season he’s completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,169 yards, with nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He was sacked 23 times and the Rams are 24th in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass play.

        Keenum’s interception percentage is 31st in the NFL and the Rams are 31st in the NFL in touchdowns per game. In fact, the Rams have not scored more than one TD in each of the past three games.

        Given that is the case, Fisher wisely figured that he might as well let the offense be just as bad while developing their quarterback of the future.  As they have in all of their previous games, they will still rely on their defense to win.

        The real question is whether the Rams even can develop Goff.  Jeff Fisher is a defensive head coach and his Assistant Head Coach/Offense, Rob Boras is a former offensive line/tight ends coach.  That means the person who has been primarily responsible for overseeing Goff’s development is quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke.  Weinke has all of two years of NFL coaching experience – 2015 and half of 2016 with the Rams.

        Goff is a wonderful talent.  But at least as important is who is bring him along.  The Rams have been a waste land for quarterback play since Kurt Warner left St. Louis in 2003. With Sam Bradford being its most recent and notable failure at the position.  You have to wonder if Goff is about to get lost in those bad lands as well.

      2. Speaking of the Dolphins, more and more I’m coming to appreciate the play of Kiko Alonzo.  He’s all over the field and he’s largely responsible for what has been an improved (though still flawed) run Dolphin defense.
      3. One more quick Dolphins-related thought.  I was a bit disappointed when Dolphins center Anthony Steen, who played well in place of starting center Mike Pouncey (hip) today, decided to criticize Alabama head coach Nick Saban last week.

        Steen told the Palm Beach Post that he now regrets waiting until the end of his senior season to have the shoulder surgery he needed, and he thinks Saban’s approach leaves Alabama players hurt.

        “If you can work through pain, you can go. But at ‘Bama, that was the problem,” Steen said. “A lot of things you went through and you shouldn’t have. You should have stayed off of it. That’s why a lot of guys from ‘Bama are hurt.”

        If Steen was actually hurt or had done permanent damage to his shoulder by playing, I agree would with him. But as far as I can tell he hasn’t. So I question whether Saban actually pushed him too far.

        Indeed, it may well be Steen’s toughness and willingness to play hurt was one of the reasons he has made it to the NFL.  One scout from the Bleacher Report before the 2014 NFL draft called Steen “Possibly the very definition of ‘toughness’ as it relates to OL scouting purposes.”  CBS Sports said, “Steen’s technical consistency, toughness and instincts are exactly what NFL teams look for in the ideal guard prospect.”  The statements are ironic given that the Dolphins chose highlight their 2016 draft class by trying to make them into something that they weren’t, characterizing them as “alpha personalities” despite zero independent evidence that scouts ever viewed them that way.  Steen appears to the kind of guy they should have been touting all along if that’s what they wanted.

        In any case, if you ask me Saban did Steen a favor.  He pushed him to play and, while doing so, highlighted what was perhaps his greatest strength.

      4. Greg Hardy is gone but hardly forgotten.

        Hardy infamously was arrest for domestic violence after assaulting an ex-girlfriend by grabbing her, throwing her into furniture, strangling her, and threatening to kill her.  Only the Dallas Cowboys and their win at all costs owner Jerry Jones dared to sign Hardy after he hit the street (One wonders what he told his granddaughter.  “Don’t go dating an NFL player, now darlin’.  Unless he can rush the passer.  Heh, heh, heh.”  [slaps her on the behind]).  However, after a miserable season with the Cowboys in which he under-performed and was a locker room distraction, even Jones let him go.  Hardy has been waiting for another team to sign him ever since.

        Good luck with that.  If he ever had a chance – and I doubt very much that he did – its got to be gone now after he was indicted on one count of felony possession of a controlled substance after a September 25 arrest. He allegedly had 0.7 grams of cocaine in his wallet, which police detected after pulling him over for turning without signaling.

        Hardy was and is a blight on the National Football League, a product of a win at all costs mentality that results in animals like this getting rich off of fans who are forced to root for them against their better judgement.  You honestly wonder under the circumstances how the league has the nerve to wear pink in October while keeping men like Hardy  employed.  Fortunately, we’ll almost certainly never have to deal with watching this particular hard case anymore.  Let’s hope that its extended more and more to others whose behavior calls for sanction rather than adulation.

      5. I find the Green Bay Packers to be like a train wreck.  I can’t look and yet I can’t look away.  Some pundits were predicting that the Packers would be among the all-time best this year with the return of a healthy Jordy Nelson, who was supposed to be the major missing cog in the Packer wheel that caused the apparently decline of Aaron Rogers stats last season.

        That hasn’t turned out to be the case.  Among their notable deficiencies this year has been their problems at running back.  The carousel of running backs in Green Bay this season has included Eddie Lacy, Knile Davis (acquired from Kansas City and released after two games), James Starks and Don Jackson (who was placed on injured reserve). Through it all, the most effective runners have been quarterback Aaron Rodgers (who’s averaging 6.3 yards per run and has three rushing touchdowns) and converted receiver Ty Montgomery (who was the team’s leading rusher in two different games this season).

        The latest hope at running back for the team is Christine Michael, who they picked up from waivers after the Seahawks surprised the league by releasing him.

        Michael had two different stints with the Seahawks, who drafted him in the second round in 2013 (one spot after the Packers picked Lacy at No. 61 overall). As recently as this summer, he had earned praise from his teammates who said he was a different player than he was the first time around.  Indeed, NFL pundits have marveled at Michael’s talent and production and it was thought that he was on his way to a fine season.

        At least publicly the Seahawks have only praise for Michael.  “He’s been busting his tail the whole time he’s been here,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Wednesday. “Everything we’ve said about him has been true and real, and he made a great comeback with us. He was the only guy there for a while, and we’re really grateful to the play that he gave us. He’s a good kid.”

        But privately things may be a little different.  Reports have indicated that Michael was too inconsistent for the Seahawks and that they couldn’t trust him to run within the offense.  He struggled to hit the right hole or trust the design of the play. Those are vital elements of any run game but particularly for the Seahawks. The running back is the conductor of the offensive line. His patience, the number of steps he takes, all those details help a run succeed or fail.

        Whether Michael will be better within the Green Bay offense is an open question.  But they are so desperate to find answers at the position, they may rather have a reasonably productive back who free lances than the answers that they currently have on the roster.  Such is the state of what was supposed to be a record breaking offense this year

      6. Of course, the other major problem is the play of Aaron Rogers, himself.  Rogers at his best drops back, hits the last step in that drop and fires the ball immediately to the open receiver.  But he hasn’t looked like that on a consistent basis for over a year now, preferring to hold the ball and play backyard football while trying to make a play.  Pundits have blamed the fact that his receivers can’t get open for the problem and the return of Nelson this year was supposed to solve it.

        For the first time in his career, perhaps ever, Rogers is taking significant criticism from former teammates and the press.  And he apparently hasn’t liked it much.  Even nice guy Tony Dungy has gotten into the act as both he and not so nice guy Rodney Harrison took off on Rogers on Thursday’s edition of Football Night in Carolina on NBC and NFL Network.  Dungy and Harrison particularly addressed Rodgers‘ recent habit of publicly criticizing teammates and/or coaches during post-game press conferences following losses.

        Dungy: “When you’re losing, you can’t make those kinds of comments. I remember my first year in Indianapolis when we lost a playoff game to the Jets 41-0. Mike Vanderjagt, our kicker, comes out after the game and says, ‘Tony Dungy doesn’t fire people up. He’s just an easy-going guy. We don’t need that.’ Well, that might have been true, but when you lose, it’s not the time to say that.”

        Harrison: “I’m going to say this as nice as possible — shut up and play football. Every time that you mention something in the media, it creates a sense of divide in that locker room. Everything that they think about – say it in-house, and don’t bring the media and everyone outside of that locker room into it.”

        Former Packer Jermichael Finley has also been among the latest to speak out with some particularly damaging comments.

        “Aaron Rodgers is so scared of what guys are going to say that he doesn’t say nothing at all,” Finley said. “He doesn’t get vocal. He goes into his little shell. He’s not a guy who hangs out with the fellas. He’s real self-centered.”

        Finley isn’t the first teammate (former or otherwise) to take his shots at Rogers.  Even when Rogers has apparently been playing well, other players have or are suspected to have done so and they haven’t lasted with the team.  Former Packer and Dolphin guard Daryn College was one such player who called out Rogers in a team meeting for not admitting that he was holding the ball too long when the offensive line was taking heat some years ago in 2009.  Current Bears guard Josh Sitton wasn’t known specifically for doing it but he was outspoken and he was known to have called out the coaching staff on at least one occasion last year.  It would certainly not be surprising if criticism of Rogers miserable play last year came with that

        Rogers isn’t just self-centered.  He appears to be sensitive to criticism.  If he continues to play like he is, he’d better get used to it because it won’t stop until he starts reading the defense, getting rid of the ball, playing within the offense and throwing more accurately.

      7. I know that it seems like it’s a long way away but the later we get in both the NFL and the college football season, the more it feels like NFL draft time.  Indeed, site are already starting to speculate about what teams will need what and none will be more prominent than those who will be desperate for quarterback help.  In that respect, I found this article on NFL.com to be quite interesting.  In the column, former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah looks at six teams who he thinks will be targeting the quarterback position.  Most made sense – the Browns, 49ers, Bears and Cardinals.  However, a couple were, in my opinion, questionable.

        First off, the suggestion that the Jets will be looking to draft a quarterback and/or sign a veteran is popular right now and, I think, pretty suspect.  The Jets drafted Bryce Petty in the fourth round in 2015 and, though fourth rounders aren’t always slam dunk starters, I’m not sure they given up on him.

        But Petty isn’t the reason I find this opinion questionable.  You might argue about the Jets commitment to his future but there’s not denying that they are committed to 2016 draft pick Christian Hackenberg.  Like Jeremiah, I don’t think Hackenberg is the answer for them.  But the Jets have to believe otherwise.  To draft Hackenberg in the second round and then not commit to him as your future starter would be ludicrous.  They would be, and should be, a laughing stock.

        No, I can’t imagine the Jets not giving Hackenberg the starting next year.

        The other suspect team on the list was the Jaguars, who appeared to have an answer at the position with Blake Bortles.  Bortles started well as a rookie but has regressed this season.  His mechanics are a mess and during the bye week he even resorted to visiting QB guru Tom House, indicating that perhaps he wasn’t getting the help he needed from head coach Gus Bradley and his staff.

        Bradley may be gone after this season but Bortles isn’t going anywhere.  I have to believe that the Jaguars would rather spend the offseason trying to fix Bortles, who at least has showed potential for a couple years before regressing, than starting over by drafting a new quarterback.

      8. Before we jump too far ahead it should be mentioned that one or two of those teams listed above are going to go for a veteran replacement.  Especially if you are a team who thinks that can win now, as in Arizona or Denver (not listed), the possibility of adding Tony Romo is going to be tempting.

        In addition, another quarterback that Dolphins fans are pretty familiar with might be enticing for one of these teams.  Tyrod Taylor entered the weekend needing to show that he could be the future in Buffalo badly.  Time could be running out for Taylor in his quest to convince management to activate the next phase of his five-year, $90 million contract, which would cost them $27 million for next season alone if they decide to kick in the second year.

        Buffalo beat the Bengals on Sunday but they did it with only an average effort from Taylor who went 19 for 27, 166 yards and a passer rating of 70.9.  Hardly the stuff that characterizes a $90 million quarterback.

        The bet here is that Taylors talent and mobility leads someone to sign him in the hope that he will be the future.  We shall see if it comes true.

 

 

Get Used to Seeing Blitzing in the Preseason. And Other Points of View.

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times has been around long enough to know better than to make this statement:

“Bears coach John Fox, who already has had to trot out a ‘Wally Pipp’ reference a week into camp, will downplay the injury situation and lean on the “next-man-up” philosophy — a flawed rationalization that implies that replacing any player is like changing a light bulb. In reality, the next-man-up often isn’t as good as the man he replaced — that’s why he was the “next man” in the first place.”

The next man up philosophy is not one in which you imply that the next guy can replace the starter with no loss in talent.  It means that the next guy (and the team) has to be ready to step up because injuries won’t be accepted as an excuse for losing, something every team in the NFL has to know and accept because injuries are a part of the game.

Injuries are not an excuse.  If you, as a coach, allow them to become one, your team is never going to win anything.

  • Bears offensive line coach Dave Magazu had some interesting comments about left tackle Charles Leno when he was made available to the media.

“I think he’s so underrated it’s scary..”

I tend to agree.

People I talk to nationally don’t have many good things to say about Leno.  This is probably due to a combination of factors.

First, Pro Football Focus doesn’t rate Leno very highly.  They have him as the 55th best tackle in the league with an overall grade of 39.7  (top rated Joe Thomas has a grade of 94.3).  This probably has something to do with the fact that he was miserable as a right tackle before taking over on the left side in place of Jermon Bushrod, where he did much better.

Second, and related, there’s no name recognition there.  No one’s ever heard of Leno and they can’t believe that the Bears are justified in having such faith in a virtually unknown player.  That’s why people are going to PFF in the first place.

Lastly, and most damningly, national members of the media (and fans) often pop off about players without ever having concentrated on their play.  Sometimes without even having seen them play at all.  When you’ve got 32 teams to follow you can’t take time out to take a hard look at every offensive lineman.  So when one respected member of the media says something, most just pile on and repeat it without questioning it.  That’s probably a good part of what happened here.

The guess here is that there are going to be a lot of people around the country who are going to be surprised at how well Leno plays in 2016.

A.  I noticed that thought Kyle Long apologized for his role in the rumble on the night of the Bears Family Fest, Ted Larsen nor Lamin Barrow, the two primary combatants, didn’t.  In fact, Larsen was down right unrepentant.  “I’m not a guy who’s going to take crap from anybody or stand down,” said Larsen, who will replace the injured Hroniss Grasu at center. “So that’s probably the (gist) of it.”

B.  Though I can see why there’s a lot of hand wringing going on over this (guys could get hurt after all), there still aren’t any signs of trouble chemistry-wise within the team.   Comments by cornerback Tracy Porter are to the point.

“No one holds any grudges — no one’s fighting in the locker room,” he said. “It happens on the field. It’s done after that. And those same two guys that end up in the scuffle, they’re talking to each other in the locker room, laughing and talking.”

If the fights spill over into the locker room, then we’ll all know that this is a really big issue that needs to be addressed directly and firmly.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune had this to say about the competition at wide receiver beyond Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White:

“This is probably the most competitive position on the roster. I could see the Bears easily carrying six receivers on the 53-man roster. If [Eddie] Royal is on the bubble, it will cost a pretty penny to let him go. He is guaranteed $4.5 million this season, so chances are the Bears see if they can get some of that value.”

I can’t imagine that the Bears are thinking about letting Royal go.  It doesn’t show up on the stat sheet but he was by far their best slot receiver last year and unless Daniel Braverman lives up to his fan favorite status, I don’t think that’s likely to change.

Royal is a veteran with under-rated speed and who has a talent for getting open.  I think Bears fans have a habit of under-estimating him because the Bears tried hard to put him n the outside after signing him as a free agent, a position he wasn’t suited for.

“The idea that free agent right tackle Bobby Massie will stabilize the O-line is silly. Massie, like most right tackles, is a big-bodied guy who really struggles against top-shelf edge rushers. That’s why the open market left him with a contract worth only $6.5 million in guarantees. The main benefit of Massie’s arrival is it moves fourth-year stud Kyle Long back to guard, where he’s more comfortable and where the Bears badly needed more athleticism.”

Truth.

Massie will be an interesting guy to keep an eye on this season.  He’s a definite upgrade only in that he’s probably an upgrade over Long at tackle and that Long is definitely a huge upgrade at right guard over Vlad Ducasse.  But that doesn’t make Massie good.

Its possible that Dave Magazu will solidify himself as a very good offensive line coach by making Massie into a very good right tackle this year where the Cardinals couldn’t do it.  But its more likely that offensive line is an area where the Bears still have some building to do before we’ll be able to call them a truly competitive team.

Benoit also makes a good point about the possibility of seeing Pernell McPhee at inside linebacker on occasion.  It’s a good read.

For the defense, this game was valuable.  They didn’t perform well but they were at least credible throughout the game.  There will be plenty to evaluate and plenty of teaching points to make.

But its hard to call the game anything less than a disaster for the offense.  The offensive line from the second quarter on was beyond bad.  How can you evaluate a quarterback like Connor Shaw?  What corrections can you tell him to make?  Run for your life faster?  How can you help wide receivers who aren’t getting reasonable chances to get open and catch the ball?  Or running backs who are stuffed in the backfield?

What are you supposed to teach these guys that is going to make them better next week?

The Bears offense was terrible but it was an exhibition and no one care about that.  What they do care about was the opportunity for the team to get better.  I don’t see that they have much chance to do that looking at Thursday’s tape.

  • Its not a point of emphasis in 2016-2017 but I was struck by the fact that a rules violation that I’d rarely seen called in the past got called not once, but twice in the Bears preseason game Thursday.

Each team got called when their gunner on a punt went out of bounds without being forced out.  It will be interesting to see if that non-point of emphasis point of emphasis gets carried over into the other preseason games and into the season.

“We’re not game-planning for a preseason game, so it was a couple of things we weren’t expecting,” Massie said. “If we had game-planned, it would have been a totally different story.”

Fair enough.  But In watching some other preseason games, I’m starting to think that this was one less excuse that should be used to explain the Bears terrible play.

In particular, the Steelers were at the Lions on the NFL Network Friday night and even though I only watched about half an hour before switching to another game, I can tell you that both teams blitzed aggressively and frequently on third down.  And more to the point, both teams offenses were prepared and handled those blitzes extremely well.  And the Lions are not a particularly good offensive line.

If I wasn’t used to seeing this, I think I’d better get used to it.  And so had the Bears.

  • Given that it was a preseason game, and the first one at that, it was everything I could do to keep from bashing offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone. To see that safety blitz continue to work…

I’m really trying to give these guys a chance. But its my preseason too and, fair warning, I’m loading up.

Quick Comments: Preseason Game, Broncos at Bears

I probably won’t do this for every preseason game but I’m so glad to have football back that I couldn’t help myself.  So here’s an abbreviated version of the game comments for this exhibition.

Defense

  1. Bryce Callahan totally blew the coverage on the first touchdown, settling down short as if he thought there would be someone over the top to pick him up.  Reports are that his job is far from secure.
  2. On the other hand, good awareness by Callahan when he came off of his guy to tip the pass that Jerrell Freeman intercepted in the first quarter.
  3. Freeman looked like he was struggling to cover the Broncos as they came over the middle.  That’s not his reputation.
  4. The Bears starters on defense were getting pressure but, as feared, the pass coverage was letting them down.  The pass rushers are either going to have to be a step quicker or the coverage is going to have to be better.  The pass rushers are also going to have to do a better job of finishing when they do get there.
  5. Mark Sanchez looked rather sharp as he guided the Broncos to their first interception.  Mostly accurate to the open guy.
  6. To my eye Trevor Simian wasn’t as sharp its the second team though he did make a nice play to escape pressure and complete a pass to get the Broncos in field goal range at the end of the second half.
  7. Paxton Lynch wasn’t asked to do a lot bu the looked like he belonged.  That’s probably good enough at this point.
  8. You kind of see why the Bears like Leonard Floyd.  He certainly is quick and he’s got long arms.  High effort guy.  But damn he’s skinny.
  9. It was entertaining to see Deondre Hall go into press coverage alone on throws to the end zone and defend the ball in the second quarter.  The Bears are obviously trying to get a feel for what he can do.
  10. Lots of missed tackles in the second quarter after the back ups got in  Lots to clean up.
  11. Cornelius Washington showed up tonight.  He needed to.  He’s in a tough fight to make the roster.  It was a shame to see him leave on a cart.

Offense

  1. Jay Cutler actually had some room on the first sack.  It looked like he panicked a bit in the face of the blitz.  It’s likely he doesn’t trust the reshuffled offensive line to handle that, yet, with some justification.  Here’s hoping that sense of trust gets better.
  2. Bears starters ran the ball for a paltry 1.8 yards per carry.  That’s not doing anything to alleviate any anxiety amongst fans about either the offensive line or Jeremy Langford, who got all of the carries.
  3. Cody Whitehair might need a little work snapping in the shot gun.
  4. The back up offensive line was simply putrid.  Martin Wallace flat out stunk.  So did Keith Browner and Gary Williams.  Nothing happened tonight to alleviate my concerns about the depth on this unit.  Their ineptitude made it virtually impossible to evaluate the players at any other position.
  5. We got to see two backs in the backfield for the first time in the second half when Jordan Howard entered the game.  We didn’t see much of it but it will be interesting to see how much more of that we get once the games count for real.
  6. I’m not used to seeing teams blitz the safety in the first preseason game but I’m a bit disappointed that it continued to work.  The offense didn’t look like they were ready for it and they didn’t adjust.  Preseason or not, that’s not good.

Miscellaneous

  1. Sam Rosen, Jim Miller & Luo Canellis on the call.  They were OK for what they are.  Miller was soft in his criticism but I’ve certainly heard worse during the preseason and they don’t give you the job of announcing these exhibition games to be overly critical.
  2. I thought the starters were relatively clean but once the back ups got in, the penalty flags started to fly.  First pre-season game.  No need to worry yet.
  3. Special teams were up and down, both allowing a blocked punt and blocking one themselves.
  4. In summary:  lots to work on, folks.

Ten Thoughts on the Bears Offseason Midway Through Free Agency

Spring brings renewal and never more so than with major league baseball and spring training. Like most sports, the offseason in baseball is a time to unwind and relax. The suspense builds as another season draws near because fans miss the sport after literally not thinking about it for at least four months.

Not so with professional football, which has a yearly calendar like no other sport. Football fans find interesting things to think about year around and it’s often the happenings in the offseason that introduce the issues that are most interesting to follow as the season begins. Football fans never stop thinking about football.

With that in mind, here are ten thoughts on the Bears offseason midway through free agency.

1. The Bears now have two long snappers on the roster: the newly signed Aaron Brewer and the long snapper that the Bears finished with last year, Patrick Scales. Scales, a journey man who has bounced around the league since he went undrafted to the Baltimore Ravens in 2011, was signed in late November by the Bears to replace Thomas Gafford in as effort to upgrade the position. He’s still on the roster and apparently will be given a chance to compete to win the starting job but it’s now evident that the Bears still aren’t happy with the performance at the position since Patrick Mannelly retired before the 2014 season.

The Bears evidently hope that the 25 year old Brewer, who spent the last four seasons snapping for the Broncos including three under Bears head coach John Fox, will solve the problem though it isn’t obvious that he will have the edge going into camp. It isn’t evident why Brewer was released by the Broncos.

“There are always decisions being made at the end of the season as you get ready for free agency,’’ Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. “Aaron did a good job for us. … He’s been a consistent snapper. We’ve got to go replace him and it will be tough.’’

Scales is slightly older at 28  and has a salary of only $525,000 this year and none of that is guaranteed while Brewer signed a one-year deal for $760,000, also not guaranteed.

Long-snapper is an underrated position in that you never notice it until something goes wrong. It may be instructive to pay a bit more attention to the fine details this year like the strength of the snap and the ball placement as fans handicap the competition. In the end, though, consistency will be the major factor and that will come across only in camp as each man makes snap after snap under the watchful eye of special teams coordinator Jeff Rogers.

In any case, may the best man win.

2. Two things are worth noting about the Bears approach to free agency this year. The first is that the Bears have been unrelenting in their pursuit of strictly young talent.

Danny Trevathon (26), Jerrell Freeman (29), Bobby Massie (26), Nick Becton (26), Akiem Hicks (26), Jacquizz Rogers (26) and Mitch Unrein (29) are all under the age of 30 and the three major signings (Trevathan, Massie and Hicks) are 26 years old. Only Zack Miller (31) and Tracy Porter (30) are 30 or older and the Bears have extensive experience with both as resignings.

It’s now evident that the Bears are trying to make up for poor drafts in the past in a particular way. Had those drafts from a few years ago been good, the Bears would now be trying to sign their own rather than dipping into free agency. So they’re doing the next best thing – signing young players as if they were signing their own draft picks to second contracts.

The Bears are basically betting on their coaching staff to get these players in and to make them into better values than they were with their previous teams, who chose not to re-sign them.

Given the way the team over achieved last year given their talent, I like the approach.

3. The second thing to note is that the Bears approach to free agency has been a cautious one and, to their credit, they haven’t overpaid for some of the young talent that they’ve signed. But it’s also worth pointing out that they have kept the price down by addressing easy to find needs in free agency.

Inside linebacker has been a major focus and rightfully so. It was a major weakness last year and Trevathan and Freeman will be huge upgrades this season over Shea McClellin and Christian Jones. Addressing right tackle with Massie could pay huge dividends if for no other reason than it move Kyle Long back to right guard, at minimum making that position considerably stronger. Massie will be no worse than Long was last year in his first year at right tackle. and promises to improve the run game considerably.

But holes remain at the hard to find positions, pass rusher, defensive back, and, Unrein and Hicks aside, defensive line where an impact player is still needed.

For instance, assuming the Bears wanted to stay young at the position, the price of a pass rusher would have been unbelievable. Olivier Vernon only had 7.5 sacks last year but signed a contract for an astounding $85 million with $52.5 million guaranteed with the New York Giants. Admittedly most of those sacks came late in the year in an fantastic salary drive in a contract year for Vernon. If he keeps up the pace he finished with, he’ll earn that money. But most people think the Giant overpaid and I tend to agree. It’s a huge risk and the Bears evidently wanted no part of it or anything like it.

Look for the Bears to remain economical by drafting heavily at these positions in April’s main event.

4. Speaking of defensive backs, the Bears apparently liked Tashaun Gipson of the Browns but the sense was his market went higher than they were comfortable with when he signed in Jacksonville for $35.5 million over five years. If the Jaguars get the Gipson that was a Pro Bowl performer in 2014 for the Browns, it’s money well spent. If they get the Gipson that was on the field last year, it’s not going to end well.

This will be a situation to keep an eye on next year as it will interesting to see if the Bears should have pursued Gipson harder, particularly given their troubles at the safety and that they haven’t made any signings to fill the hole.

5. Tight end also remains a position to be addressed in the draft. Khari Lee came over in a trade with the Texans just before the start of last season and Gannon Sinclair was the only player to spend the entire season on the team’s practice squad. Both of them are more blocking tight ends than they are receivers like Zach Miller. Veteran Rob Housler can also block a little.

The obvious assumption is that the Bears will draft a tight end this year and though the draft is thin at the position, there is talent to be found there.  It’s just a risky pick because very few players are asked to block in the spread offenses that are predominant in college.

In particular, Ohio State’s Nick Vannett impressed me at the Senior Bowl as a guy who has the skills to be a receiving threat and at 6’6″, 260 lb, has at least the size to be a blocker.

The 6’4″, 230 lb Lee was a disappointment last year. He came for a sixth round pick and the assumption was the he would contribute immediately. He did play in each of the 16 games but his impact on the offense was minimal. Apparently last year was a red shirt year for the 24 year old and I’m looking for a major jump from Lee this year.

6. One major reason that the Bears are remaining economical in free agency is that they have the contract for Alshon Jeffery yet to be worked out. The efforts to resign Jeffery are ongoing and persistent.

“We’re actively and aggressively negotiating right now,” Pace declared at NFL scouting combine.

The Bears placed a $14 million-plus franchise tag on Jeffery on Feb. 29. The fact that Jeffery signed that offer was critical to his offseason because his salary is now fully guaranteed against skill, injury and salary cap maneuvers.  If he gets hurt, he still gets paid.  Though Jeffery might still fail to show up for workouts because his salary will not be guaranteed beyond this year, the fact that he signed the offer indicates to me that he probably will.  Otherwise there’s little reason to sign the offer and give up the right to negotiate with other teams.

Jeffery has had soft tissue problems over the last few years and there is a plan in place to solve the issue.

“I think being in Year 2 with a player helps a lot in just understanding his body and his body mechanics,” Pace said. “I know (Alshon) and his agent are doing some things, too, to improve on that. So when he gets back, we’ll have a plan in place. It’s important.”

It is.  And getting Jeffery in for those workouts will undoubtedly be a part of it.

Dez Bryant signed a 5 year contract for $70 million with $45 million guaranteed before the 2015 season and Jeffery’s contract will likely equal or exceed that. Presumably some of that will appear as easy to reach incentives for Jeffery to remain with the program to avoid injury.

7. Look for Jeffery’s contract to be at least a little front-loaded in terms of the cap hit.

First, this is the way that the Bears like to work anyway. It allows them to easily get out of any contract with minimal dead money on the cap. But there is an even better reason for it this year than that.

The last season of Long’s four year rookie contract is 2016. Though the Bears will undoubtedly pick up Long’s fifth year option, it is highly unlikely that they will allow him to play out that contract and hit the market in 2018.

The Bears are undoubtedly thinking about the extension that they’ll be negotiating for Long next offseason and they are planning their cap space, which should still be ample, accordingly.

8. The running back situation for the Bears is a curious one.

The Bears spent a good part of the offseason convincing us that their future lay with 2015 fifth round pick Jeremy Langford and hold over Ka’Deem Carey. For a long time there was doubt that Carey would remain on the team but his development on special teams allowed the Bears to get him onto the game day roster the second half of the season and he responded by running well. Rogers was actually ahead of Carey on the depth chart last year before getting hurt.

The Bears will undoubtedly continue to favor the multi-back system that they ran last year and based upon their comments the assumption was that Langford, Carey and Rogers were the guys.

But the Bears pursuit of Denver running back C.J. Anderson changed all of that and many are wondering now if they might be interested in picking up another running back in the draft.

Indeed, Pace has a history of collecting running backs and he’s been known to pull major surprises by drafting players such as Mark Ingram in the first round of the 2011 draft (under general manager Mickey Loomis).

With this in mind, I’ve seen some thoughts floated that the Bears might draft Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. Indeed, the NFL Network‘s Charles Davis has Elliot going to the Bears with the 11th pick.

but I very much doubt that will happen as my gut tells me that Elliot will be gone before the Bears are on the clock. Although there are some who think that it is a mistake to draft a running back that high, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Elliot isn’t the reason why the Eagle traded up with the Dolphins to the eighth position as free agency began this year.

Many have looked at where Todd Gurley was drafted last year and figured that is the highest Elliot will go, putting the Bears in a position to draft him but I don;t believe it. Gurley is a wonderful runner but Elliot is a smooth, all around athlete that can do it all: run block and catch. He’s not just a running back. He’s a weapon.

I might add that after years of being de-valued, the running back position is experiencing something of a renaissance this year. Anderson, Matt Forte, Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson, Doug Martin, Lamar Miller, and Bilal Powell to name a few all got signed in a decent market this year.

The Eagles have already traded running back Demarco Murray and they have reportedly made it known that remaining running back Ryan Matthews is also available. Though Andy Reid often threw the ball an inordinate amount of the time as the Eagles head coach, he relied much more heavily on the run when current head coach Doug Pederson was his offensive coordinator in Kansas City. Expectations are that Pederson will carry that philosophy over from the Chiefs. But that can’t happen if he trades his starting running backs away. The bet here is that he has Elliot in mind as a replacement and will draft him at eighth overall.

9. The NFL’s 32 owners were busy when they convened in Florida last week for their annual meeting given the number of proposed rule changes that had to be considered.

One rule that is not changing despite a mass of confusion is the catch rule.

One of the most memorable quotes of the 2015 season was uttered by frustrated Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy after a playoff game against Arizona in January.

“I don’t know what the hell a catch is anymore,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Despite this statement and many like it, the NFL persists in believing that the relevant people associated with the league understand the rule. They believe that the problem might simply be in communicating the rule more clearly to fans and to the broadcasters who influence their opinion.

The league might continue to delude itself but the rest of us are more apt to believe the evidence of our eyes.

The good news is that, despite their declarations, the league might be taking steps to clarify the situation for the referees on the field. The first of those was having Dean Blandino on the phone for replay reviews to inject some consistency into the interpretation.

In January, during the divisional round playoff game between the Packers and Cardinals to which McCarthy is referring above, Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald caught a pass while going to the ground. He lost possession when he hit the ground, and the official on the field determined that Fitzgerald had caught the ball. Unlike previous calls which had been reversed in such a situation, this one stood as the referee (and Blandino) ruled that “indisputable visual evidence” to overturn the ruling on the field that Fitzgerald had the ball long enough to become a runner was lacking.

The situation caused confusion because it was exactly the same as one that existed in the playoffs the previous season. In that case, the ruling was incorrectly reversed and Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant was ruled to have not made a crucial catch. It arguably cost them the game.

The truth is that though the league never acknowledged that the Bryant ruling was incorrect, the Fitzgerald catch was effectively an admission of it.

Bottom line, the key to clarifying the catch rule isn’t educating the fans and broadcasters. It’s educating the referees. Once that’s done, the standard will be consistent and complaints will tail off.

10. The Browns have decided to hitch their wagon to Robert Griffin III at quarterback. They signed the still young 26 year old to a two-year, $15 million contract with $6.75 million in total guaranteed money.

Most assume that the Browns will still draft a quarterback with the second overall pick in the 2016 draft and, indeed, they might. Conventional wisdom says that the odds of rediscovering the player that took the league by storm in 2012 are not good. Drafting a quarterback to play behind Griffin, Josh McCown, Connor Shaw and/or Austin Davis to develop for a year would seem to be the way that most teams would play it.

But the Browns aren’t most teams and that may be especially true this year.

The Browns hired Paul DePodesta away from the New York Mets as the team’s chief strategy officer. DePodesta is expected to help members of the team’s player-development, sports-science, high-performance and analytics departments maximize their efforts – think money ball for the NFL.

This development could be a fascinating one because it indicates that the Browns may be going all-in on analytics, something that other teams are experimenting with but which is combined with the more traditional approach to building a team.

So though conventional wisdom says draft a quarterback with the pick, what if the analytics say “No”? There have been plenty of busted quarterbacks drafted in the first round of the draft and its generally ruined multiple careers from the general manager down when it’s happened. What if DePodesta has run the numbers and his version of reality indicates that the odds are better of developing a recycled quarterback into a success?

And better yet, what if he’s right?

Things are never dull with the NFL.

C.J. Anderson Wins One for the Little Guys

Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com passes on a comment from Broncos running back C.J. Anderson on whether he would feel comfortable handling a bigger load, as he did in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

“‘Oh, I know that’s something I can do,’ Anderson said during a visit to Thursday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. ‘You know, we chose to go the two-back route and we chose to split time with me and Ronnie [Hillman] and just try to get a change of pace. You know, keep defenses off balance. But I mean if they want me to touch the ball 25 times, 27 times, 28 times, either way whether it’s all carries or carries and catches I believe I can handle it always, whether it’s being a third-down back catching the ball out of the backfield or picking up the blitz and also being first- and second-down just every-down back.'”

I like the two back system in part because if one back goes down with an injury, you effectively have another starter ready to pick up the load. And few people could doubt that Anderson can do that following Sunday’s game where he carried the ball 23 times for 100 yards. Anderson not only displayed his burst but at 5’8″ showed a surprising amount of power in this running style. He was hit repeatedly near or behind the line of scrimmage where you thought he was going down only to find out he’d gained as much as three yards after the initial contact.

Would the Broncs Have Won a Super Bowl with John Fox?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“With Super Bowl 50 in the record books, I can’t help but hope the folks in Halas Hall saw what everyone else did. No disrespect to Peyton Manning, but let’s face it, the Broncos defense beat New England and Carolina. So my question is: Do you believe Ryan Pace and John Fox are committed to building a shutdown defense? — David T., Warwick, R.I.

“I think it’s fair to say Pace and his front office and Fox and his coaching staff have the football acumen necessary to realize what made the Broncos a championship team this season. …It’s probably worth remembering that Fox had a lot to do with constructing the current Broncos defense. He didn’t shift it to a 3-4 front but he had a hand in many of the players that were core performers. …You must be forgetting Fox’s recent past when you wonder if he’s committed to constructing a top-flight defense. That’s just what Fox did in Denver. That’s how he built the Carolina Panthers into a competitor before that. Fox is a defensive guy. Just because the Broncos won a Super Bowl after he left Denver doesn’t mean he didn’t do a good job building a solid defense there.”

I understand the questioner’s trepidation. Broncos General Manager and
Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway strongly implied that getting rid of Fox was an essential step towards winning the Super Bowl. When they hear that, fans are going to wonder what he means and if eventually getting rid of Fox here in Chicago isn’t going to be an essential step for their own advancement.

But I generally agree with Biggs. There are a number of factors to be considered here. For one thing the Broncos added some incredible pieces to the puzzle after Fox left in Demarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and Shane Ray. And although Wade Phillips is a great defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio is no slouch and I’m quite certain that he could have done almost as good of a job as Phillips did. I’m sure he would have been just as aggressive. Furthermore, one of the first things Fox did when he came to Chicago was hire Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator. Anyone who saw his defenses in San Fransisco can have little doubt about his aggressiveness or his ability to get the most out of the talent he is given.

No, whatever Elway’s problem was with Fox, I very much doubt it was with how aggressive they were on defense or with Fox’s commitment to it. I think Bears fans can look forward to seeing some good play on that side of the ball as the front office gradually builds it back up. Furthermore, though we’ll never know for sure, I can find very little to make me believe that the Broncos don’t perform at least as well with Fox at the helm as with current head coach Gary Kubiac.

[EDIT – Turns out that Talib and Ware were both with the Broncos in 2014 when Fox was still the head coach.  No excuse.  I just blew it.  Sorry.]

Super Bowl Teaches Us that Kyle Long Belongs on the Right Side

Nate Atkins at ChicagoFootball.com breaks down the Bears draft (and free agent) needs. This is one of many articles which we can expect to see on the subject but I think the top needs, defensive line, offensive line and inside linebacker, are well established. The only real question is what order you put them in. I do have one bone to pick with Atkin’s analysis, however:

Dave Magazu received all kinds of credit for his grooming of Charles Leno Jr. at left tackle last season. But Leno was a seventh-round pick for a reason, with limited athleticism, and his inability to play on the right side makes the position a priority even if Kyle Long finds a home at left tackle. The Bears also could improve their right guard spot, where neither Patrick Omameh nor Vlad Ducasse (sp) solidified down the stretch last season.”

“Could” is understating it. The Bears have a major need at right guard where neither Omameh nor Ducasse are starters. It’s possible that Atkins’ soft stance has more to do with doubt about whether you address it in the first round – which is certainly valid. But the need is beyond doubt.

But what I’d really like to focus on is the first part of this quote. Atkins implication that the Bears may move Long to left tackle is probably a reflection of the influence of Chicago Football publisher and respected football writer, Hub Arkush on his opinion. Whatever else you say about Arkush’s opinions, they’re always strong and he’s made it very clear in the past that he thinks Long’s move to left tackle is already overdue. I’m not so sure.

First, at least to my eye, Leno didn’t do too badly at left tackle. It’s obvious that he didn’t belong on the right side but for some reason the left side suited him. I can say this: I don’t know why Leno was a seventh rounder but it wasn’t because of limited athleticism. He moves extremely well. I’m not at all certain that isn’t what made him a better left tackle than right, where more power is required, nor am I convinced that he doesn’t have a future as a very good left tackle in the league.

I found the opinion of David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune that there was nothing for NFL teams to learn from Sunday’s Super Bowl to be amusing. There’s always something to learn from any game and, in fact, there was at least one thing that stuck out that could teach a lot of people a lesson. Watching Carolina right tackle Mike Remmers get beaten like a drum by Denver pass rusher Von Miller should have taught people that, though they generally make less money, very good right tackles are almost as valuable in the NFL as left tackles are. I’m not at all sure that your best athlete need be moved to the left, as both Arkush and possibly Atkins believe, especially when you’ve already got a decent guy on the left side who doesn’t seem to be as capable on the right.

The one thing you have to do as a developing team is use the draft to fill holes. Especially when you already have a lot of those holes to fill, creating holes moves you backwards not forwards as a team. Moving Long to left tackle creates two holes, right tackle and right guard, where only one existed before. If right tackle is where the need is, right is where you put your guy. That’s the case here.

Malik Jackson Could Be a Fit for the Bears Defensive Line

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Do you see the Bears making a push to sign Malik Jackson if Denver does not re-sign him? — @bkelz417″

“[The Broncos] would like to keep Jackson too but there might be only so much money to go around. Jackson has flourished as a full-time starter for the first time in his career and would be attractive to any team looking to solidify its defensive line. I don’t know that he is a Pro Bowl-caliber player. His production dipped a little bit after the midpoint of the season. But he’s very good and would fit in nicely for the Bears. Certainly coach John Fox and defensive line coach Jay Rodgers can answer any questions the front office has about Jackson. He’ll likely command very good money at the start of free agency where there really aren’t any good deals. It could come down to how much the Bears want to pay, again, assuming Jackson doesn’t re-sign with the Broncos. He’s definitely a player to keep in mind at this early juncture.”

One thing to bear in mind: the draft is very, very deep in defensive linemen, especially at the top of the draft. That’s going to affect the market for Jackson. Depending on what kind of ceiling teams feel he has when he’s not paired with guys like Von Miller and Derek Wolfe, Jackson’s market may not be as great as it would be in other years.

The Bears need as much or more help than anyone in the NFL right now with multiple spots in the rotation along the line open. Unlike many teams, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to fill all of those holes in the draft. They’ll almost certainly be looking to free agency to sign at least one player. I’d say the Bears will certainly take a close look at Jackson as an option to fill a spot as long as they don’t have to over pay too much.

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.

Fales Starting Quarterback in Waiting?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune documents the process by which Bears quarterback David Fales because the primary back up behind starting quarterback Jay Cutler. Fales got offers to join the rosters of both the 49ers and the Ravens before choosing to remain with the Bears after they agreed to promote him from the practice squad to the roster.

“‘Yeah, but it’s all about being in the right system,’ Fales said. ‘Eventually you are going to get an opportunity and no one knows when that will come. It doesn’t matter if you are not in the right spot.'”

San Fransisco is starting Blaine Gabbert, whose long-term future as the starter is questionable. Former starter Colin Kaepernick had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and his future with the organization is in serious doubt. The Ravens were probably following up on the recommendation of former Bears head coach Marc Trestman, now their offensive coordinator. Starting quarterback Joe Flacco is out for the season after suffering a serious knee injury November 22.

Both of these teams were searching for someone to be a back up after starters became unavailable. But Fale’s popularity around the league, which is why the Bears had to add him to the roster, makes me wonder if he doesn’t have the potential to be a starter. When former Bears general manager Phil Emery drafted him, Emery said it was with the idea that that Fales had the potential to be a solid back up, thus setting the ceiling for him. But does anyone ever draft a player anywhere with the idea that he’ll never be more than a backup? Could it be that Emery was just trying to publicly re-assure Cutler that he wasn’t drafting his replacement even while he took a swing at doing so?

Regardless, Fales may have been given a gift by starting with such apparently low expectations.  He’s had the chance to develop slowly behind other quarterbacks rather than being thrown into the fire too early.  It’s debatable but this is the way many of us still believe it should be done.  No greater example of the benefits could be seen than in the person of Denver quarterback  Brock Osweiler, who beat the Bears and was named AFC offensive player of the week after a solid first start last week.

I’ve very consistently claimed that the Bears need to draft a quarterback of the future sooner rather than later. And I still believe that. But drafting quarterbacks in the first three rounds is a risky business. At minimum Fales may be a good fall back option if the process requires more than one bite at the apple. But you also have to wonder if the Bears aren’t eventually going to find that they were forced to add the quarterback of the future to the roster by necessity last week.