Quick Game Comments: Bears at Giants 11-20-16

Offense

  1. The Bears came out running the ball on three of the first four plays.   In total, they ran the ball 17 times in the first half compared to 14 pass plays. The Bears made some yardage throwing to Jeremy Langford out of the backfield.   Then Jordan Howard went out with something in his eye and Cutler started throwing it to him in the backfield.  Langford is a pretty decent receiver after working all offseason on it and it was effective.  Indeed, Cutler used him on a blitz to get rid of the ball quickly on the very first series.
  2. Interestingly, despite Langford’s success, once Howard came back they went right back to the power running game, rarely throwing to Howard.  Nevertheless, Langford’s success makes you wonder if maybe they should be using him more as a change of pace.  Indeed, they did use him more in the second quarter and he scored the second Bears touchdown.
  3. The constant use of Howard, even when the running game wasn’t working, opened up the play action pass nicely and helped Cutler and his protection a great deal.
  4. Some credit has to go to the offensive line that came out and controlled the Giants offensive front in the first half.  The success of the entire offense, both the run game which served to set up everything, and the passing game where they gave Cutler pretty good protection, depended critically on them and early in the game they came through.
  5. Cutler made a beautiful throw to Zack Miller, who appeared to me to be well covered by a linebacker.  It was a nice play.  Indeed, Cutler had obviously decided that Miller was going to be his major target in the absence of Jeffery. Miller continued to make plays through out the first half until he had an apparent injury near the end of the period.
  6. While we’re at it, kudos to Cutler.  Coming off of his worst game of the year, he was dropping back in the first half and getting rid of the ball quickly, something he has to do to find success.  Its when Cutler drops back and holds the ball in an effort to make a big play (as he did in the second half) that he gets himself in trouble.  Like most quarterbacks, he’s at his best when he spreads the ball around, reads the defense at the line of scrimmage and gets rid of the ball quickly.
  7. It’s a shame that the Bears good offensive performance didn’t last into the second half when the Giants took over the line of scrimmage.  Cutler was under a great dal of pressure and it was evident that the loss of Josh Sitton may have broken the back of a pretty banged up offensive line.  Mike Adams and Charles Leno took turns giving up pressure.  Adams in particular looked totally overmatched against Jason Pierre-Paul.   And Cutler’s old problem identifying and avoiding back side pressure also started to rear its ugly head.  In fairness to Cutler, he did try to get rid of the ball quickly but the Giants were covering his receivers like a blanket and it was very difficult to find an uncontested throw.

Defense

  1. Giants came out on the first drive mixing it up and executing well.  One thing that you notice immediately is how under-rated Eli Manning’s movement in the pocket is as he avoids the rush with “phone booth quicks”.  Manning really is an under-rated quarterback.
  2. The Bears defense played pretty well in the first half.  They were fast to the ball and aggressive in the way that they need to be.  Generally speaking they tackled well, though when they did miss, especially on the outside as Cre’Von LeBlanc did on 4th and 2 in the second quarter, the Giants burned them.
  3. The LeBlanc play was the second 4th down conversion that they Bears yielded to extend a drive in the first half.  The first was far more damaging as it set the Giants up for their first touchdown.  The Bears need to do a better job of stiffening in those situations.
  4. The Bears didn’t generate much pass rush, that was as much a function of the play of the Giants offensive line as anything else.  Frankly, I’ve never seen a line hold so much and get away with it.  In any case, that lack of pressure burned them in the second half when Manning got things going.
  5. Despite that, I thought Leonard Floyd had a pretty good first half of football.  He was around Manning applying pressure for a good part of the time.  It was a shame to see him carted off on a back board and we can all hope, not just for his own future but for the future of the Bears, that he isn’t seriously injured.
  6. And Manning did eventually get things going.  The Giants snapped out of their funk after half time.  Taking advantage of all of the attention that the Bears were forced to give to Odell Beckham, Manning really started to spread the ball around and find the open man nicely.

 

Miscellaneous

  1. Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, and Pam Oliver did the announcing.  I’ve never been a big John Lynch fan but kudos to him for at least trying to teach me something as a fan on occasion.  We could have done far worse.
  2. Connor Barth missed the extra point on the first TD.  I’m sure that makes Robbie Gould feel better.  Temporarily.  Gould missed his first extra-point attempt as well, probably making Ryan Pace feel better in his turn in the process.  Overall, it wasn’t a good day for the kickers as Gould missed another extra point and Barth hit the post on a 54 yard field goal.  Deonte Thompson had a pretty good 40 yard return in the first half.  Pat O’Donnell had a good day punting.
  3. Adrian Amos did not do much to alleviate my concerns about his ability to make plays when he flat out dropped an interception that was right in his hands.  Such plays are often the difference between winning and losing.  Marquis Wilson dropped a big third down pass in the third quarter with the momentum having turned against the Bears.  Jordan Howard dropped a huge third down pass with 3:30 left in the game and the Bears down six points.
  4. Olivier Vernon roughing the passer in the first quarter – totally unnecessary.  The Bears stayed out of trouble with penalties (only 4 for 35 yards) but it was ruined by an awful holding penalty on Mike Adams on third and ten near the end of the first half took the Bears out of field goal range.  Ted Larsen had a big holding penalty with 2:39 left with the Bears driving to try to score at the end of the game.  Indeed, both teams played a relatively clean game.  The Giants only had 4 for 35 yards, themselves.
  5. Neither team turned the ball over until the final minute when Cutler threw an interception trying to make a play.  Cutler also gave up a sack and a forced fumble (which the Bears got back) at a critical time with 1:30 left in the game.
  6. Tony Romo repeated a common football mantra this week when he said that if you control the one inside of you, the one across from you really doesn’t matter.  In one respect, the Bears did that today in a season where wins and losses really don’t matter as much as showing progress as the season wears on.  Five penalties for 40 yards and no turnovers until the end of the game is a vast improvement over where they’ve been at for most of the year when they have continually shot themselves in the foot over and over.  The team isn’t good enough to overcome those kinds of mistakes and that was very evident today as they got totally out classed in the second half.

    They were beaten this game by a better team that also managed to play a clean game rather than handing them a win.  But I assure you that if they continue to play like that, this won’t be true every week.

Giants Looked Blind-Sided by Bears First Round Trade

Bart Hubbuch at the New York Post reviews the Bears draft:

“Bears: B

“Threw everyone — but especially the Giants — a curveball by swooping into the top 10 to take Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, who needs to add some bulk before making a big impact. Used three of their nine picks on safeties.”

I would agree and I was surprised that the Giants didn’t get more flack for their next choice in other places:

“Giants: C

“Doesn’t appear to be anywhere near the home-run draft GM Jerry Reese needed. Caught flat-footed by the Bears moving up to steal Leonard Floyd, and scouts are divided about top pick Eli Apple.”

Reese is widely believed to be in some trouble in New York and with some justification. Tom Coughlin took the fall for a bad season with a talent-poor roster last year.

I’m convinced that the Bears trade to leap over the Giants did, indeed, throw them for a loop and they reacted poorly with what is widely believed to be a reach. I like Apple more than most because of his length but almost no one believed that he was a top 10 pick. It had the look of a panic move by a team that didn’t have a plan if the guys they had targeted all went early (no one anticipated Laremy Tunsil‘s fall and that pushed guys like Floyd up the board a slot or two).

Predictably, Reese defended the pick:

“‘Well, when somebody doesn’t know what they’re talking about, it’s easy to depict it that way because they don’t know what they’re talking about,’ Reese said. ‘We clearly went through this scenario that Apple could be the player we would pick.'”

If you say so.

The Bears reacted better when the Packers leap-frogged them to take Indiana tackle Jason Spriggs in the second though general manager Ryan Pace claims that it had no effect on their draft they immediately traded back for the second time in the round when Spriggs went off the board.  Though Cody Whitehair is a good pick, a good offensive tackle made a lot more sense than a guard at that point.

But if the Packers out maneuvered them for Spriggs, at least the Bears were ready and got good value.  The Giants really didn’t.

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.

Don’t Hold Your Breath on the Bears Drafting Their Quarterback of the Future

When the question of whether the Bears will take a quarterback in the first round comes up, the answer is almost always something on the order of “doubtful”. And I would agree for a number of reasons.

I wrote not long ago that head coach John Fox is all in on offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, letting a proven, productive coach in Mike Groh go in favor of Loggains and new quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone. But the truth is that Fox is really all in on Jay Cutler. Keeping Loggains as coach is largely to cater to Cutler in an effort to try to keep him comfortable. Those of us who are Cutler doubters know where this has led in the past. But Fox and general manager Ryan Pace haven’t been here watching Cutler for the six years he was here prior to their arrival. If all you really thought you knew of Cutler was what you saw last year, you might think that this was the smart move. We shall see.

In any case, from Fox’s point of view, Cutler’s your guy. But he’s aging, you say, and the Bears need to start developing a starter behind him sooner rather than later. Well, I agree with the developing part if for no other reason than past history tells me not to trust Cutler to perform consistently at a high level year in and year out. I also am constantly reminded every year that the Packers took Aaron Rogers when they still had a more than very functional Brett Favre playing.

The problem is with the “aging” part of the above thinking. Cutler will only be 33 years old when the 2016 season starts. That’s not that old and you can figure most quarterbacks now a days will have a minimum of three or four more good years left. If you are Fox and you are really all in with Cutler and you don’t buy into the “draft a quarterback even though your starter is still good” philosophy (which most teams don’t), drafting a quarterback at number eleven overall is at or near the bottom of your list.  The Bears have needs everywhere and Fox and Pace are almost certainly much more focused on getting better in other areas with that pick right now.

But having said all of that, let’s imagine that the Bears will, indeed, seriously consider one of the top three quarterbacks in the first round.

It’s very, very early to be speculating on how this draft will go but I’ll go ahead and throw out a theory and we’ll see how it turns out.

I think Carson Wentz and Jared Goff are your top two quarterbacks and that they are long gone before the Bears pick. Cleveland will almost certainly take one of them and one of the teams I’m about to mention will take the other. I think the Bears maybe – might – have a shot at Paxton Lynch being there when they pick in the first round. From what I’ve seen, Lynch needs more work than Wentz and Goff.  Teams that want a starter who is lower risk and closer to a finished product right now might not want to draft such a project. The above aside, with Cutler around for a few years yet, the Bears might be willing to look ahead and draft Lynch to develop into a franchise guy.

Here’s the problem. The San Diego Chargers draft third. Like the Bears, they’ve still got a 34 year old Philip Rivers to start in front of a project for a while if they really like Lynch. The Cowboys draft 4th. Tony Romo is 35. The Giants draft 10th. Eli Manning is 35… I’m sure you see the problem. All of these teams might be thinking that they might never draft this high again and that they’d better draft the future now in the same way that you and I are thinking the Bears should.

I think we have to start looking at those second and third round quarterbacks. And so far… well, I’m very unimpressed. I haven’t seen anyone yet that I think might develop into a starter no matter how much time you give them. One name to keep in mind that might give you some hope is former Arkansas Razorback quarterback Brandon Allen. As Arthur Arkush at chicagofootball.com points out in this video, Allen is someone who apparently stood out at Senior Bowl practices (along with Wentz, naturally). What I saw during the game backed that up. Allen is supposedly only 6’1″ but he certainly doesn’t look like a short quarterback when he plays. And I’ve pointed out before that if there’s a general manager in the NFL who might be inclined to take a risk on a shorter prospect to develop, based upon his background it’s Pace.  The guess here is that Pace is one of a number of general managers going back to the college tape to take a closer look at Allen after his performance last week.

The problem is that Pace may well have to draft Allen with the Bears second round pick if he wants him. I could be wrong but I can’t see him doing that. But if he trades back a bit or if Allen falls into the third round, you might see him go to the Bears.

But the truth is that’s unlikely.  And I’m sorry to say that with the commitment to Cutler along with needs in other areas all over the field, I think we may be looking at another draft that goes by without the Bears drafting their future at quarterback.

Bears Chances of Finding an Inside Linebacker at the 11th Spot in the Draft May Not Be Good

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times comments on the upcoming NFL draft:

“ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper has the Bears taking Alabama inside linebacker Reggie Ragland with the No. 11 pick in the first round of his first mock draft.

“‘[He’s a] guy who can really, [really] handle the run and be a great leader,’ Kiper said. ‘He’s a run-stuffer. He’s got good range. Coverage ability is OK. It’s not great — you saw that exposed in the National Championship Game. Tremendous, tremendous intangibles. All the physical qualifications you want. Overall, he would fill a void there [and] can step right in.'”

I caught an interview with former Bears personnel man Greg Gabriel on WSCR Wednesday and he was considerably less optimistic about the Bears chances of taking an inside linebacker in the first round.  Gabriel is currently preparing the annual draft guide publication for Hub Arkush.

Gabriel doesn’t see Ragland as a first rounder saying “He’ll run 4.7 [seconds in the 40 yard dash] at the combine.” He also believes that Myles Jack out of UCLA, who Kiper has going at the 10 spot to the New York Giants, as more of a hybrid linebacker/defensive back guy who excels in coverage. Gabriel doesn’t believe that Jack would fit the profile the Bears are looking for.

If Gabriel is right, it might not be great year to find a playmaker at the inside linebacker spot and the Bears will likely be looking in another direction with their first round pick.

Average Fan Loses in Network Prime Time Choices

Paul Schwartz at the New York Post comments upon the state of the Giants:

“Gee, wonder how happy the NFL and TV network suits are about their decision to flex Sunday’s Giants-Vikings game to the prime time Sunday Night Football stage on NBC? The Giants could be eliminated before they take the field and might be without [Odell] Beckham, their one true superstar, because of a suspension. “

Beckham has been suspended for the game pending appeal after committing an NFL record six personal fouls with some out of control reaction to the physical coverage he was getting from the Carolina Panthers. The Giants could be eliminated before the game if the Redskins clinch the NFC East with a win over the Eagles Saturday night.

Despite that, I doubt that anyone is regretting the decision to move the Giants. First, the Eagles and the Redskins are both miserable football teams and the game should effectively be a coin flip (the Eagles opened as four point favorites). But more to the point, the game involves the Giants which means CBS and the NFL Network get the New York market. The guess here is that only the Chicago market is more lucrative and that only because the Bears are the only team in town. Like every other NFC North team, the Vikings have a national following and barring a complete collapse they are probably playoff bound.

They could probably find a better game but networks don’t care about the quality of the match up. They care about viewers. Sometimes that means the average NFL fan loses.

Quick Comments from Thursday Night’s Game

    • The Giants had a hard time rushing Kirk Cousins. They obviously are missing Jean Pierre-Paul.
    • I was surprised to see Washington come out spreading the field instead of playing to their strength with the run. They went to the running game afterwards and it looks to me like they just wanted to come out and soften up the defense by putting the pass into their minds first.
    • On a related note, Cousins didn’t impress me too much tonight. His accuracy left a lot to be desired. I didn’t see anything that convinced me that the right thing to do wasn’t to crowd the line, blitz and stop the run. That would have solved a lot of the Giants’ problems. Indeed, they started bringing more pressure late in the second quarter.
    • Honestly, I can’t imagine what runs through Cousins’ mind sometimes. He made some terrible decisions and the Giants did a very good job of taking advantage of those opportunities. Unfortunately, if you’re a Redskins fan, this is who Cousins is.
    • Washington did a reasonable job of winning the line of scrimmage against the run in the first half but they had a great deal of trouble pressuring Eli Manning. I was therefore surprised when the Giants came out in the second half and started pounding the ball. I was further surprised by the success that they had doing it. I’m not sure what changed but suddenly their offensive line was dominating the line of scrimmage.
    • Tweet of the night:

Should the Bears Have Signed James Jones? Only if Aaron Rogers Came with Him.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers another question:

“Why didn’t the Bears claim James Jones off waivers before the Packers grabbed him?… Seem[s] Jones was much better than what the Bears had on their roster. — Greg M., Hayward, Wis.

“Jones was a vested veteran when the New York Giants terminated his contract and that made him a free agent, eligible to sign with any team he wanted. I am guessing GM Jerry Reese and coach Tom Coughlin regret that decision right now. New York released wide receiver Preston Parker earlier this week after five drops in two games. But this was not a situation where the Bears could have placed a claim for Jones. Even if the Bears were interested in Jones, why would he sign with them when he could return to a team and offense he knows to play with arguably the best quarterback in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers?”

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Exactly. And it worth asking one further question – “How good would Jones (left) be without Rogers?”

Two teams couldn’t find room for Rogers on their roster – the Oakland Raiders and the New York Giants. Two quarterbacks, one an up and comer in Derek Carr and the other a veteran Super Bowl quarterback in Eli Manning, couldn’t find a way to get Jones the ball. What hope would he have had with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler?

The guess here is that only Rogers could have possibly made Jones as good as he’s been early in the season and its a graphic demonstration of how important he is to that team. How many of their receivers could succeed elsewhere? My guess is that the answer might be “not many”. I haven’t seen one yet who left in the Rogers era and made it anywhere else.

Photos of Jason Pierre-Paul’s Hand Hit the Web. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times points out that Adrian Amos had a generally solid NFL debut against the NFL’s best quarterback. I was surprised that the Packers didn’t challenge him more. But maybe they had so many other spots to exploit that they couldn’t get to them all.
  • Kevin Fishbain and Arthur Arkush do an exceptionally nice job of breaking down the Bears in this video (which, unfortunately, they won’t let me embed). They quickly hit all of the major problems to be corrected in the coming weeks – red zone offense, downfield passing, getting off the field on third down and getting pressure on the quarterback. Plenty of things to watch for and plenty of room for improvement to look forward to with this team.
  • Sunday’s most significant accomplishment? Probably the play of tight end Zack Miller, who went 1,429 days between appearing in regular-season games.
  • Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune does a nice job of breaking down the Bears problems in the red zone. Look at it here, it appears that the problems were varied and its hard to put it down to one particular thing. Tough there’s no doubt in my mind that they needed to be able to run the ball more down there. Perhaps trying to get the ball to tight end Martellus Bennett, a large red zone target, would have helped as well.
  • Quarterback David Fales was added back on to the practice squad as predicted here.

Elsewhere

  • Those who find their way into MetLife Stadium during a New York Jets game this season can now enjoy a breakfast bagel for the low, low price of $50.img253004201
  • Giants players are sticking up for quarterback Eli Manning after running back Rashad Jennings let it out that Manning had told him not to score in the final drive of their game against the Dallas Cowboys. Manning did not know that the clock wouldn’t start again after a declined penalty within 5 minutes of the end of the game. He therefore assumed that the Giants would be able to run down the clock as long as they kept possession.What really made this maneuver dumb was that had the Giants scored a touchdown, they would have made it a two score game with about a minute left. They should have taken the touchdown under any circumstances where that is the case.
  • If you’ve got a strong stomach you can see photos of Jason Pierre-Paul‘s hand here.

One Final Thought

Peyton Manning‘s teammates are calling the media reports questioning his arm strength “blasphemy”. What can I say?

Quick Comments from Selected Late Sunday NFL Games

Some quick observations on some of the games that I caught late in the day after the Bears game was over.

Broncos – Ravens:

There was a huge question about Peyton Manning‘s arm before their game against the Ravens this weak. Manning has been struggling with his arm strength all preseason and has put up some ugly game tape. Pre-game reports that he’d been putting more zip on the ball after starting to wear a glove on his throwing hand, something he didn’t do in the preseason. However, I’m inclined to attribute more of it to the huge windup he’s developed in an effort to get more behind his throws. He was also much more inaccurate than he has been in the past.

Manning actually didn’t do too badly. But that long release may haunt him all season, as it did on a Jimmy Smith pick six on Manning’s first throw of the second half.

On the other side Denver constantly harassed Joe Flacco with a ferocious pass rush. Both Denver and Baltimore struggled to protect their quarterbacks and I’m now officially concerned about both of these offensive lines.

Finally, Terrell Suggs‘s torn achilles will keep him out for the year. That’s bad news for my Ravens Super Bowl pick.

Titans – Buccaneers:

The Jameis WinstonMarcus Mariota match up looked very much like you’d expect it it.

Mariota looked far more pro-ready, being in command of the offense the entire game against that nice, standard cover-two defense. He threw four touchdowns in the first half alone.

Winston was far more up and down, mostly down, as he was in the preseason. Winston has quit a way to go before he’s going to be a competent NFL quarterback and its going to be a long season for the Bucs.

Another thing to keep an eye on is that Buccaneer running game, which looked very effective. If Winston develops at all, he’s going to get a lot of help from some wonderful running by Doug Martin.

The Bears play the Buccaneers on December 27.

Chargers – Lions:

Preseason reports had people wondering if Chargers first round running back Melvin Gordon was headed towards bust territory. I wouldn’t say that Gordon looked bad so much as he looked disappointingly nondescript. But as expected, the Lions Ameer Abdulla was the guy to watch in this game. His tendency to accelerate through his cuts and continue to gain momentum is rapidly putting him into an upper class of running backs.

There should be concern about that Lions defense without Ndamukong Suh. The Chargers dissected them in the second half both in the running game and with the pass. They made it look far too easy for any Lions fan comfort. Or for the comfort of the Bears, who are going to be visiting San Diego in November.

I’m not entirely sure what was wrong with Matthew Stafford but he looked awful in this game. You might generously say that he wasn’t on the same page with his receivers but his accuracy was very suspect. This is a situation to keep an eye on in the competitive NFC North.

Cardinals – Saints:

The Bears next opponent is the Arizona Cardinals. My initial impression watching them beat up on the New Orleans Saints is that this is a rough, tough team up front on both sides of the ball. If the Bears run on this team like they did on the Packers in the first half, more power to them. I have my doubts.

The Saints looked completely flat. I’m really surprised as offseason reports indicated that they were muscling up to become more physical. If they did, they didn’t show it. Sean Payton didn’t have this team prepared to play in this game. The Saints have to pick it up.

Cowboys – Giants

Tony Romo had ages to throw the ball in this game. That Dallas offensive line is a wall. No one got close. And they road graders blocking the run. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better offensive line.

The Cowboys are a tough team. Which why I was shocked that the Giants were actually ahead at half. They were badly out played and the statistics were sick – they only had the ball for about 8 minutes of the half. But the Cowboys kept shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers and but you have to give the Giants credit. They hung tough.

The Giants offensive line wasn’t nearly as impressive as the Cowboys but Erik Flowers looks like he’s going to turn out to be a pretty good pick at left tackle. And of course, they have Odell Beckham, who drew a safety rolled to his side all night. I was also impressed by their coverage teams on special teams. But they were out classed you figured that they were eventually going to lose – and they did.  But the Cowboys did everything they could to give it away.