Adrian Peterson Remains Unsigned But It’s Not All About the Money

Jeremy Fowler at ESPN  makes claims that former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is demanding too much money.

Adrian Peterson might have priced himself out of signing with a team early in free agency.”

“One source from a team in the market for a running back believes Peterson wanted more than $8 million in the first year of a contract. Despite his reputation as one of the best playmakers of the modern era, that is a steep request for the current veteran tailback climate.”

It seems that few people in Minnesota are surprised.  Rana Cash at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune seems to be typical:

“The consensus all along has been that it would come down to money for Peterson. Of course he says it is more to it than that, but from a general manager’s perspective, that’s what it is all about.”

Indeed, Peterson does dispute this.  And, I for one, believe him.

I’ve little doubt that Fowler’s sources told him the truth about Peterson’s demands.  In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that isn’t what he told the Vikings at the beginning of free agency   But to suggest that’s the whole story is monolithic, as Bears fans should know more than anyone.  After all, Alshon Jeffery took less money on a one year deal just so he could get out of Chicago.  I’ve little doubt that the Peterson situation is similar.

Numerous reports indicated that Peterson wasn’t particularly happy in Minnesota, especially during the time when he was accused of  reckless or negligent injury to a child when he didn’t feel like he got enough support from the Vikings.  His price to go to another team that he felt was a good fit is undoubtedly another thing altogether.  For instance, the guess here is that Peterson could be had for a song in his hometown of Dallas, where he has reportedly always wanted to  play.

Don’t be surprised if Peterson finds a good, competitive team that wants him after the draft, when such teams often find that the selection process didn’t fall their way and that they didn’t get one on the players they were looking for.  And don’t be surprised if its for a lot less than he demanded to stay with the Vikings.

 

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Vikings 1/1/17

Defense

      1. Minnesota came out mixing it up and did a lot of damage with big plays on the Bears young defensive backs.  Cre’Von LeBlanc gave up a big catch to Cordarrelle Patterson as he let him get too far behind him while training him – which seems to be a habit with him.  Adrian Amos missed a tackle on Jerick McKinnon which allowed him to score the touchdown.

        The sequence highlights one problem with the Bears.  Yes, they’re playing lots of young players.  But are they really any good?  You wouldn’t know it by this series.

        In any case, despite some better play from both of these guys in the second half, I have very serious doubts about the future of both with the Bears.

      2. I’m really tired of seeing missed tackles play after play from these guys.  Something needs to be done about this.
      3. The Bears struggled to get pressure on Sam Bradford through a totally miserable Vikings offensive line.  That exposed a young and evidently less talented than people think Bears defensive backfield.  Very disappointing.
      4. The Vikings evidently decided that they could attack the Bears linebackers and safeties.  Bradford fed the ball effectively to the running backs and the tight ends, especially Kyle Rudolph who it seems the Bears simply couldn’t cover.

Offense

      1. Dowell Loggains apparently decided to quiet critics by running the ball more.  The first 3 plays and 10 of the first 12 plays were runs.  They ran the ball 22 of 31 total plays in the first half and were very successful at over 6 yards per rush.It was really nice to watch Howard run today as he broke the Bears rookie rushing record.  He broke tackles everywhere and ran with great vision.
      2. The Vikings evidently decided to let Xavier Rhoades cover Jeffery man-to-man.  The Bears tried to take advantage but Barkley and Jeffery had trouble getting on the same page.
      3. Had a great time watching the pass from former college quarterback turned receiver Cam Meredith to current quarterback Matt Barkley.  Some how I don’t see them risking that with Jay Cutler.  In any case, it’s the kind of fun play you run to keep everyone interested in the end of a crappy season.
      4. The Bears frequently looked to me like they weren’t concentrating and offensively they just weren’t always on the same page.  But there  were a couple of plays where Vikings ran right past Bears blockers to disrupt plays in the backfield that were especially bothersome.One was a miss of Eric Kendricks, where he ran right past tight end Daniel Brown in the red zone to disrupt a play.  Everson Giffen disrupted a Howard fourth down run that ultimately didn’t make it after running right by Charles Leno.  This supposedly was a missed block by Cameron Meredith but in any case Griffen was barely touched.

        These plays were either poorly designed, poorly executed or both.  They were very costly and very annoying.

Miscellaneous

      1. Dick Stockton, David Diehl, and Kristina Pink were your announcers.  I didn’t think they added anything special to the broadcast.  But I won’t say that they injured it, either.  Sometimes I guess you have to just be happy with that.
      2. Not a good day for Bears special teams.  Marcus Sherels had a 36 yard punt return to the Chicago 42.  Braylon Addison fumbled a punt late in the first half in Bears territory.  That set up a Viking touchdown.Deonte Thompson did have a very nice 60 yard kick return with 9 seconds left in the first half.  That set up a field goal.
      3. Drops weren’t a major issue.
      4. Six penalties for 49 yards isn’t a terrible game but it wasn’t good, given that the Vikings only had 2.Willie Young was off sides near the goal line early in the second quarter.  The Bears held but it could have been pretty damaging.

        The Bears sustained a long drive at the end of the first half for a touchdown despite a couple of holding calls on Bobby Massie and Josh Sitton.  Part of me was disgusted and part of me was glad to see them over come the problems to score.

      5. Very disappointing to see Matt Barkley throw an interception at the goal line on only his second pass of the game.   The pass was under thrown and behind Alshon Jeffery.  He followed that with another one in the red zone on the first drive of the second half. Both were his fault and both took points off the board.  Finally, he had a fumble in the fourth quarter that was returned for a touchdown.It was critical for Barkley to adjust after miserable showings the two previous games to demonstrate that he could protect the football.  If there’s one thing John Fox won’t put up with, its turnovers from his quarterback.  Barkley may not be back in any capacity next year.  Frankly, I don’t think he should.

        Jeremy Langford did his future no good by fumbling early in the second quarter in Bears territory.  The Vikings turned it into a touchdown.

        The Bears did (finally) get one back as Cre’Von LeBlanc did pick one off in the end zone.

      6. It isn’t very hard to figure this one out, boys and girls.  You can’t turn the ball over like this and win football games.The Bears keep saying that effort isn’t a problem.  Great.  But does it matter if you can’t play smart?

        Sorry.  It’s not brilliant analysis.  It’s just the truth.

 

Quick Comments: Vikings at Bears 10/20/16

Defense

  1. The Vikings came out running on first down, probably in an effort to slow the pass rush and keep the Bears from blitzing.  The Bears were doing a pretty good job of stopping it with seven in the box.  They held the line of scrimmage pretty well.
  2. That also didn’t keep the Bears from blitzing on occasion and getting pressure with it.  The Vikings have one of the worst offensive lines in football and Sam Bradford has a poor reputation for performing in the face of the blitz.  It was what the Eagles beat them with last week and it was obviously part of the game plan for the Bears.
  3. Minnesota also tried to run the no huddle to wear the Bears defense down but they couldn’t sustain a drive to do it.
  4. Some decent pass coverage by the young defensive backs had Bradford occasionally taking a long time to look for targets.  This gave the four man pass rush a lot of time to get to him on these occasions.
  5. The pass rush itself also was pretty good.  I note that Leonard Floyd had another good game with a sack.
  6. The Minnesota offense just looks terrible.  They’re bad up front, Bradford and the receivers aren’t on the same page, Bradford Is missing big throws.  It’s pretty bad right now.
  7. Big night for Akiem Hicks with 2 sacks.
  8. Stephon Diggs is a flat out star.  He had a good game on what was otherwise a miserable night for the Minnesota offense.

Offense

  1. After a really good start with a good 69 yard run by Jordan Howard the Bears started yet another gaff in the red zone with a poorly executed play where a defensive tackle went completely unblocks and there was a mix up between Jay Cutler and Howard in the backfield.  Cutler followed with a poor throw to Jeffery in the end zone.  Alshon Jeffery dropped touchdown on the next trip to the red zone.  This kind of incompetence has to stop.
  2. One good thing that the Bears did in the red zone was run the ball on occasion.  If you can do that, you’ll score.  And when they did it successfully, they did score.
  3. Cutler was getting the ball out quickly and on time in the short passing game and he was spreading the ball around better.
  4. Having said that, he was erratic tonight with his accuracy, especially early in the game.  There were some bad throws to Alshon Jeffery in particular.  At one point Cutler hit Jeffery in the back of the head when Jeffery didn’t turn for the ball and I could hear big top music in my head and it felt like I was watching clowns at the circus.  They did a better job of connecting in the third quarter when Jeffery scored his first touchdown of the year.
  5. Cutler got decent protection from the offensive line against a very good Minnesota defensive front.  The offense generally did a good job of picking up the blitz despite missing both starting guards.  Also kudos to Cutler for getting the ball out when the blitz came.  He did a nice job of that.
  6. Howard had a good night on the ground and with some of his catches on screens and a shuffle pass.  He’s a good one and he was just good enough to make the play action work pretty well tonight.
  7. Some good play calls tonight.  Some well-timed screens.  Nice job by Dowell Loggains there.
  8. Zach Miller had a good night as Cutler frequently looked to him short.  That’s good.
  9. Nice job of running the game out at the end.

Miscellaneous

  1. I really like Jon Gruden.  He’s pretty insightful and I enjow his commentary.  Sean McDonough is a pro.
  2. Special teams, especially the kick coverage, were fine on both sides. I was underwhelmed by Cre’Von LeBlanc as a returner.
  3. The Bears really cut down on the penalties with only 2 for 20 yards.  One of them, an unsportsmanlike conduct on Cornelius Washington, was pretty damaging in that it gave the Vikings a first down on their way to a field goal in the first half.  Nevertheless, this has been a problem and it was better this game.  The Vikings only had 1 penalty.  So a clean game.
  4. Jeffery dropped a touchdown in addition to the ball that hit him in the back of the head that he didn’t look for.
  5. No turnovers on either side.  Again, relatively clean.
  6. This was a nice win for the Bears against what might be the best team in  the division.  They played a clean game with no turnovers and few penalties, something that they have to do if they expect to win.  Some unknown players in the defensive backfield came up with good performances.  Some young players including Cody Whitehair and Leonard Floyd are looking good.  A nice effort going into the bye.

    The Minnesota Vikings, on the other hand, are a huge disappointment.  That offense is a huge problem.  The line stinks, just as it did last year, especially when they play anyone any good.  I had hoped that veteran offensive coordinator Norv Turner could eventually make ice cream out of garbage on this team.  But they simply don’t measure up and the defense can’t make up for it.  They’re the Achilles heel for this team which, once again, looks like it will go nowhere in the playoffs, at least at this point.

Random Post-Draft Thoughts

Now that the NFL draft is behind us I thought it might be time to wrap it up with some odds and ends left over in the wake of the annual selection process.

  • I for the most part agreed with the assessment of the Dolphins post draft roster roster for the Sun-Sentinel on Tuesday. But I have to take exception of his assertion that the defensive backfield is weaker than it was in 2015. The additions of Byron Maxwell and Xavien Howard have transformed an under-sized unit into one with considerable more length that should be able to better deal with the rigors of divisional play with some huge tight ends and wide receivers on the docket. Rashad Jones remains with the team and the addition of Isa Abdul-Quddus is being under-rated.

I’m more in line with Armando Salguero at the Herald when he says that the the success of the Dolphins draft class rides on how well Howard develops. The Dolphins paid a steep price to get him, the 42nd overall pick along with a fourth-round pick (107th overall) to move up four slots in the second round. If he works out it will be well worth it as the Dolphins should be very solid across the board on the back end. If it doesn’t, it will go down as just one of a series of draft failures for the team at the position.

  • Quarterback Cody Kessler may be the luckiest player in the NFL right now. Most believed going into the selection process that he was a late-round pick, if not an undrafted free agent. But all it takes is one and Kessler found an NFL coach that apparently believes in him.

Drafted in round 3 by the Cleveland Browns, presumably at the recommendation of head coach Hue Jackson, Kessler has none of the dominant physical tools that most coaches believe they need to mold a less instinctive quarterback into the next star (see Christian Hackenberg below). Instead, Jackson is betting on savvy and decision making. It will be interesting to see how Kessler develops and, if Jackson is right, if it won’t affect the way that other teams approach drafting the position in the future.

  • This draft was widely believed to be among the deepest ever in terms of defensive tackles and players that would have gone in the first round in other drafts were available as late as the third round. The Dolphins decidedly under-performed opposite Ndamukong Suh at this position and you have to wonder if they won’t regret simply sticking with Deandre Coleman and Jordan Phillips.

The Dolphins have staked a lot on the effect of another year’s experience and better coaching when it comes to these players. There’s little hope that the run defense will be better unless there is improvement in the play at defensive tackle.

  • If you’re already tired of seeing new Minnesota Viking Moritz Boehringer on your TV screen, I’ve got some bad news for you. You’re going to see a lot more of him this summer and, heaven help us, into the fall.

Boehringer is a German born wide receiver who saw a video of Adrian Peterson when he was 17 and decided that he wanted to be a NFL football player. He comes to the league as a former member of the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns of the German Football League.

Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer was apparently thrilled as he said, “That’s kind of what the draft is all about — making dreams come true.”

Zimmer has been around long enough to know that is most certainly not what the draft, or anything else associated with the NFL, is about.

Dollar signs appeared in owners eyes all over the league as an opportunity to further promote football in Europe presented itself on a silver platter and the NFL Network has run with it, making it one of the stories of the draft.

If Boehringer had been Chinese, commissioner Roger Goodell would have probably had to change his pants.

We can only speculate about what precipitated this release but it wasn’t the draft as the Dolphins failed to select a defensive end. Perhaps the reason had something to do with this explanation from Salguero .

It’s also worth noting that Moore was released from the Giants after violating team rules, reportedly after an altercation with Cullen Jenkins over headphones. Jay Glazer at Fox Sports reported that it was only one of many such altercations.

Similar incidents would be a pretty good reason to release such a player in Miami. The release may also be a sign that the Dolphins are counting on the return of troubled player Dion Jordan more than they ought.

  • The Cowboys have received a lot of good publicity for taking linebacker Jaylon Smith in the second round.   Smith was widely believed to be amongst the best players in the draft until he suffered a brutal knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl. The images of Smith’s relief at being drafted so high were heart warming but ultimately the Cowboys may pay a high price for the good feelings this evoked.

Smith’s injury included a damaged nerve similar to what running back Marcus Lattimore suffered in 2012. Lattimore was drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft and never played a down for the 49ers.

This is the trouble with nerve injuries. There’s nothing you can do to fix them. Either the body heals on its own or it never heals at all. Before the draft I figured that there were 32 team doctors all telling 32 general managers the same thing: “We don’t know. It could come completely back or it might not.” I was wrong. It was 31 team doctors.

That’s because the surgeon who fixed Smith’s knee is the Cowboys team doctor. The assumption here is that owner Jerry Jones thought he was getting inside information on this injury but he really should know better.

Surgeons as a group are a different breed. They carry a confidence about them such that I’ve never met one yet that would look you in the eye and say, “Naw. He may never recover.” That confidence is part of what makes them good surgeons. But it makes the advice that Jones got in this case highly questionable.

Feel good or not, Smith should have never come off the board before the fourth round.  The guess here is the his recovery is a coin flip at best.

Here’s the problem with that theory. Fuller is an under-sized body catcher who had 21 drops the last two seasons. Miller made the conversion from quarterback to wide receiver last year at Ohio State and was very athletic. Unfortunately he too has trouble not only with running routes but with just holding on to the ball as demonstrated graphically by his less than stellar performance in the Senior Bowl.

Sure these players are athletic. But how much help are they going to be if they lack the hand-eye coordination to perform the most basic function of any wide receiver: catching the ball.

  • One Final Thought: Message to the New York Jet, who pulled off one of the surprises of the draft when they took Hackenberg in the second round. It’s not a good thing when the NFL Network flashes up a graphic about your pick and under “Weaknesses” it simply says, “Game Tape”.

Good luck with that.

Vikings Change but For the Better or Worse?

Chip Scoggins at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune discusses the curious hire of a seemingly overly qualified Pat Shurmer for the Vikings tight ends coach position. Shurmer reportedly had better opportunities. For instance, he refused an interview for the Rams passing game coordinator position that Bears wide receivers coach Mike Groh eventually took. Scoggin speculates that Shurmer might be a Vikings offensive coordinator in waiting, insurance in case current coach Norv Turner fails to improve the unit.  But in doing so he offers what I consider to be a viable alternative explanation:

“In simplest terms, head coaches should strive to hire as many quality coaches as possible, regardless of roles or titles. Zimmer checked that box with the additions of Shurmur and former NFL head coach Tony Sparano as his new offensive line coach.

“A popular theory in Zimmer’s first two seasons was that he handled the defense, Turner the offense. And while that shared responsibility still exists, Zimmer’s actions in response to a sluggish offense indicate willingness on his part to put a larger imprint on offense.”

People have a habit of thinking that putting together a game plan is the responsibility of the offensive coordinator alone. And that’s true to an extent. But everyone is actually involved as different assistants take an aspect of the upcoming opponent, study it and come up with a plan to handle it. It’s a team effort.  The offensive coordinator just  integrates the parts into a one comprehensive plan. All of the coaches have a part to play and the more smart people you have in the room, the more likely it is that you’ll have a good plan which covers all of the bases well.

There is the risk that Shurmer disrupts the chemistry of this team if he and Turner don’t work well together. It’s a delicate situation when there are too many chefs in the kitchen. But its a risk the team has decided to take.

That’s the advantage of having Shurmer and Sparano on board for the team. The advantage for Shurmer is less certain but I would question whether all of those opportunities elsewhere were more speculation than reality. I have no doubt that the Rams were interested in interviewing him. But given the current make up of the team and mentality of the organization, I’m not sure I’d be interested in that job either. This may have been as good of an offer as Shurmer got, the opportunity to work as part of a staff that is apparently going places as a stepping stone to something better.

The last part of the quote above is also interesting. I’m thinking of Packers coach Mike McCarthy who gave up offensive play calling duties and stepped out of the offensive room to spend more time with his defense and special teams. Those two units got better. But the offense also executed much less sharply in 2015. Yes, I know that they were missing Jordy Nelson. But don’t fool yourself. The offense was off its game even at the beginning of the season and never recovered. By spending more time with his offense, Zimmer risks a similar thing happening with the Vikings defense. He needs to tread carefully or his team might be in for a fall as it’s beating heart declines in exchange for minor gains in other areas.

One thing is certain. The Vikings aren’t sitting on his laurels as the 2015 NFC North champion. But as with all changes, those instituted here are a double edged sword that can hurt as much as they help. It will be interesting to see in which direction they take the Vikings in 2016.

Defensive Linemen on the Rise in 2016 NFL Draft. Offensive Linemen, Not So Much.

Reports from the Senior Bowl at nfl.com support previous indications that the defensive linemen are going to be a strength in this year’s NFL draft. Here’s a cross section of the comments from the first day of practice:

Mike Mayock

“We knew going in the deepest positional group was defensive tackle, and boy did that hold true. I thought Matt Ioannidis from Temple had a great day. I thought the kid from Louisiana Tech, Vernon Butler, had a phenomenal day. But the topper was Adolphus Washington from Ohio State. He was all over the field in one-on-one drills; he was too quick, too stout. He was great in team drills. I thought he put on a show.”

Lance Zierlein

“[Clemson DT D.J.] Reader‘s 340-pound frame was often too much for many of the linemen he faced on Tuesday. Keep an eye on this late addition because Reader could make himself some money this week.

“Louisville DT Sheldon Rankins showed off his ‘karate’ hands by defeating blockers with astounding quickness at times. While Rankins is undersized, his compact frame, outstanding balance, and next-level hand usage should make him one of the most consistent performers on the South squad this week.”

All this is great news for teams like the Bears who need defensive line help. It looks like they’re going to have a great selection to choose from.

But much of the rest of the league might not be too pleased. This dominant performance by the defensive tackles in these practices can’t speak well for the offensive linemen that are getting beat on a consistent basis. Judging by what I saw during the regular season, I’d be very surprised if less than three-quarters of the league is in need of offensive line help. That includes most of the playoff teams, as was graphically demonstrated by the beating that New England quarterback Tom Brady took on Sunday. In the NFC North, Minnesota, Detroit, Green Bay and Chicago all need help in one form or another along the offensive front.

The Bears might be able to find multiple defensive linemen in this draft. But the indications are growing that offensive linemen are going be at a premium.

Bears Will Face Stiff Competition for a Guard in Free Agency

Dave Birkett at the Detroit Free Press thinks the Lions could be big spenders in free agency:

“With a projected cap north of $150 million, and the likelihood they free up more room with cuts or retirements, the Lions have the potential to be significant players in free agency if new general manager Bob Quinn chooses.”

“The Lions have holes on both lines, at linebacker and at receiver this off-season, and their need for a pass catcher could amplify if Calvin Johnson retires, as he’s hinted he might do.

“If Johnson retires, the Lions, who currently have more available cap space than 11 other teams, will gain an additional $11 million in spending room.”

The Lions, like the Bears, might have plenty of cap space but they are one of many, many teams that have needs on the offensive line including playoff teams Minnesota, Seattle and Arizona to name a few. All of these teams will face stiff competition for any offensive lineman who is worth his salt and who hits free agency. That’s going to drive the price up into the stratosphere.

The Bears, at least, are going to have to look for their right guard in the draft. Any team hoping to fill their holes in that area through free agency and is willing to put out the money needed to do it is likely building the foundation of their offense on sand.

Cleaner Play, Better Defense the Real Key to Packers Success

Michael Cohen of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explains what happened on the Packers offensive line in Sunday’s blow out loss to the Arizona Cardinals:

“[David] Bakhtiari is out, [Brian] Bulaga goes down, [T.J.] Lang and [Corey] Linsley both miss portions of what ends as a humiliating 30-point loss for the visitors. The key reserves are once again tested, and the offensive tackles fail in volcanic fashion: 8 1/2 pressures (unofficially) and multiple sacks allowed by Don Barclay; five pressures and a strip sack yielded by Josh Walker.”

That’s quite a test of the Packers’ offensive line depth, even against a Cardinal team that isn’t that good rushing the passer without blitzing. It’s something they’ve been able to adjust to in the past by winning one-on-one match ups with their wide receivers but not this year when they are not only giving the team their usual high number of drops but aren’t producing in other ways as well. Nevertheless, offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett has a plan:

“The change could be as simple as asking running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks to chip block on incoming pass rushers, something the Packers have done sporadically this season. Or they may choose to utilize the blocking skills of tight end Andrew Quarless, who returned to the field Sunday after spending roughly three months on injured reserve/designated to return. Or they could move the pocket laterally to take advantage of the mobility of [Aaron] Rodgers, who threw for just 151 yards against the Cardinals and posted a passer rating of 66.2.

“‘Without getting into our scheme,’ Bennett said, ‘we’ll do certain things to put our players in the best position to win.'”

None of this is brain surgery. But with the exception of the last thing on the list, all of them require that the team be in a close enough game to where they don’t have to pass with the Packers usual multiple wide receiver sets. That wasn’t the case on Sunday where the Packers fell behind early in spectacular fashion.

Many will claim that the key to the Packers success this week against the Vikings and in the playoffs after that will be the performance of that much maligned offensive line. But the really essential element is much simpler. The Packers still have Rogers and even though that’s not enough to carry the team as it has been in the past, if they simply avoid turnovers and play good defense, they’ll give the team a chance. If they do that, the necessary adjustments will flow from it and the Packers should be able to move the ball even against a good Minnesota defense, albeit not all that well.

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.

Quo Vadis Kyle Long

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune describes the action just after half time yesterday after the Bears began with a successful onsides kick:

“The Bears took over on their own 47-yard line with a chance to score and make it a field goal game. Three plays later, veteran defensive end Brian Robison swiped Kyle Long’s hands and sacked Jay Cutler to force a fumble, the second straight game a defender has come from Cutler’s right to force a turnover.

“‘It was a huge play for us,’ Robison said. ‘You definitely want to try and change the momentum back.’

“With good field position, the Vikings scored quickly as Stefon Diggs came across the middle and wasn’t accounted for in coverage (how many times have we seen that in the past month?) for a 33-yard touchdown. What could have become a 3-point game was a 24-7 game. “

Quarterback Jay Cutler give right tackle Kyle Long an irritated look after Long allows a strip-sack against the Vikings on Sunday, December 20, 2015. (NFL Gamepass)
Quarterback Jay Cutler gives right tackle Kyle Long an irritated look after Long allows a strip-sack against the Vikings on Sunday, December 20, 2015. (NFL Gamepass)

The look that Cutler gave Long after this play (above) pretty much said it all. There’s a certain amount of frustration building over Long’s play for a number of reasons.

A quick look at the Bears roster shows me these offensive linemen:

Vladimir Ducasse, G
Patrick Omameh, G
Matt Slauson, G
Nick Becton, T
Jermon Bushrod, T
Tayo Fabuluje, T
Charles Leno, T
Kyle Long, T
Hroniss Grasu, C

At tackle the Bears have the experienced Bushrod, who could be back to being a starter-quality left tackle as his back heals up. They also have Leno, who is developing into a quality left tackle and may take Bushrod’s place. In that case, Bushrod could play either side. And finally there’s Fabuluje, who has wonderful athleticism and quick feet that might make him valuable on either side (probably the right) with a year of development.

Taken together with Long, the Bears have a glut of good tackles. Long’s absence at guard, on the other hand, has made that situation problematic. Slauson is solid on the left but Omameh misses too assignments and allows too many sacks. Ducasse, whose habit of committing penalties made the overall team problem with this even worse, wasn’t even good enough to hold off Omameh in competition for the right spot. Neither option is really good enough to be a back up much less a starter.

I’m willing to be patient with Long and let him have this year and the offseason to develop. I’m willing to take the coaches’ word and that of most of the members of the media that he’s got the talent to play the tackle position. If the Bears were short at tackle, I probably wouldn’t even be questioning the decision to put him there. But its tough to watch the Bears struggle at guard when they’ve got a more tackles than they know what to do with.

Given all of the above, you’d hate to think the Bears turned a Pro Bowl guard into an average to below average tackle. I wouldn’t like to see them yanking Long around without giving him one position to work at. But I’m continuing to wonder if leaving him at right guard at the beginning of the season wasn’t the best thing to do long-term. And I’m starting to wonder if moving him back wouldn’t be best for everyone.