A Trade Off at Cornerback

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune comments on former Bears cornerback Tim Jennings‘ situation:

“When the Bears released two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Tim Jennings on Aug. 30, some questioned if the club was ditching a shot at winning now in order to get some younger players involved. Yes, that really was the approach some took. As is often the case, the front office had a solid gauge on where Jennings was at as the Buccaneers and former coach Lovie Smith released him on Monday. Keep in mind Jennings had arthroscopic knee surgery early in the offseason and Smith probably didn’t get the same player he remembered.”

Yes, but its worth noting that though the Jennings signing didn’t work out, former Bear Charles Tillman has been performing extremely well for the undefeated Carolina Panthers. So strike one up for the Bears on Jennings but take it away for Tillman, someone the Bears could sorely use in coverage this season.

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The Bears Linebacking Corp Needs Major Work in Coverage

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune talks up undrafted free agent linebacker Jonathan Anderson. Anderson is asked about the fact that he was given the helmet with the headset in it on Monday night to call the plays instead of Christian Jones:

“‘I feel like they trust me a little bit more and that is why I got a little more action,’ Anderson said. ‘I was out there trying to do my job.’

“In press box statistics, Anderson was credited with a team-high 11 solo tackles and 12 total. It will be interesting to see how coaches grade him. The Chargers did some damage underneath in the passing game. Jones was second on the defense with seven tackles. When [SheaMcClellin is cleared to return, I’d expect him to regain some playing time from the younger players.”

That first comment was a blunt assessment that won’t score him points for tact in the locker room. But If Jones doesn’t like it, he should perform better.

Regardless, the bet here is that none of the linebackers is scoring many points with the coaching staff. As Biggs points out, San Diego running back Danny Woodhead did major damage in the underneath passing game and the old man at tight end, Antonio Gates, had a good game against them as well.

You have to play mistake free football to take advantage of that kind of weakness and the Chargers obviously weren’t up to the task. But if the Rams don’t execute well enough to take advantage of that weakness, I can guarantee you that the Broncos will and then the Packers will on Thanksgiving.

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Outside Linebacker Position Up for Grabs as Acho Steps Out and Houston Steps Up

Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune celebrates Lamarr Houston after he got two sacks late in the second half against the Chargers:

“‘I was out there trying to work hard,’ Houston said, ‘and see if I could get something done.'”

Houston and Willie Young almost both saw opportunity knocking after starter Sam Acho had a lousy night where he gave up a touchdown on a blown coverage and was otherwise a non-entity. The Beras have gotten almost no pass rush opposite Pernell McPhee with Acho getting the bulk of the snaps and they obviously were in search for more in the second half on Monday night.

This will be a position to keep an eye on as it’s obviously a place that is waiting for someone to step up and take it.

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Game Comments: Bears at Chargers 11/9/15

monday-night-football-bears-vs-chargers-score-results Offense

  1. Though it wasn’t all through the air, the Bears spread it out a bit more than usual early with fewer double tight end sets and with Martellus Bennett in the back field rather than right at the line of scrimmage. The Bears apparently wanted to use the pass to set up the run tonight. I thought they ran the ball a bit more in the second half.
  2. The Bears offensive line was doing a good job of moving the San Diego defensive line in the run game. They won the line of scrimmage for the most part tonight.
  3. Martellus Bennett had a good game. He looked like he reacted by coming back to play full speed after catching some criticism last week for his low numbers in the passing game.
  4. The Chargers used line stunts to try to get pressure on Jay Cutler with limited success. It’s probably something the offensive line needs to work on.
  5. The Chargers also liked to blitz, especially on third down. The Bears went to the screen game in response with some success in the second half. Jeremy Langford did a good job picking up the blitz as well.
  6. That was a wonderful long catch by Jeremy Langford to pick up a first down in the first quarter. He’s appears to have good hands. Langford had a good night.
  7. Jason Verrett played an excellent game as he shut down Alshon Jeffery and had an interception for a touchdown. Once Jeffery ended up on Steve Williams in the second quarter the Bears tried to feed him with some success.
  8. If Jeffery had a good night, it would have been nice to have seen Marquess Wilson have a better one along side him. He had a tough time getting open against man coverage.
  9. That was a wonderful play action pass call on the one yard line to get Martellus Bennett a touchdown in the second quarter.
  10. Magnificent catch by Zach Miller for what turned out to be the game winning touchdown.


  1. San Diego was winning the line of scrimmage early with their offensive line. Bears linebackers were having a hard time getting off blocks.
  2. The Bears had a tough time getting pressure on Philip Rivers and eventually resorted to doing more blitzing than usual with limited success.
  3. The Bears may have gotten a little more pressure on Rivers in the third quarter and there were more tipped passes which makes me wonder if the Bears coaches didn’t say something about getting their hands up on the line of scrimmage at half time. TO my eye, Willie Young came out with some fire. He may be seeing a chance to show the coaches something with poor play o that side by Sam Acho.
  4. Speaking of Acho, that was a bad blown coverage on Danny Woodhead to give up a San Diego touchdown in the first quarter.
  5. San Diego took advantage of the Bears linebackers by sending their running backs out into patterns from the backfield. The Bears had a tough time handling it.
  6. The Bears defensive backs didn’t fare much better than the linebackers in coverage as there appeared to be big gaps on occasion for the Chargers to take advantage of. The Bears appear to me to play particularly poor zone defense, perhaps because they lack speed.
  7. Melvin Gordon is a huge disappointment to me. Going into the NFL draft I thought he might have been even better than Todd Gurley. But he looks like an average back with average vision to me right now.
  8. Does Philip Rivers ever shut up?
  9. With a lot of injuries the Chargers certainly welcomed a good performance from Antonio Gates.
  10. The defense really came through with some nice plays on the last San Diego possession. A couple nice sacks on the last drive by Lamarr Houston. I wish he wouldn’t celebrate like that…


  1. These have to be two of the worst special teams units in football. Robbie Gould missed a field goal in the first quarter and in the third quarter. The ball may have been tipped on the first one. San Diego missed an extra point in the second quarter. There was also a poor punt by Mike Scifres late in the second quarter.
  2. This was a sloppy game with too many penalties on both sides. San Diego had an illegal formation in the first quarter. Matt Slauson had a false start with the ball at the 10 yard line near the beginning of the second quarter. Lamarr Houston had an offsides penalty in the second quarter and a bad one in the fourth quarter on the final San Diego drive. That was followed by an offensive pass interference, a holding call and a false start as San Diego shot themselves in the foot. Kyle Long got a stupid unsportsman-like conduct penalty late in the second quarter to take the Bears out of field goal range. Long also had a holding penalty that the Bears could ill afford late in the third quarter with the team down nine points. Jarvis Jenkins had a killer roughing the passer penalty to put the Chargers in field goal range on the drive to end the first half. Stevie Johnson had a terrible delay of game penalty in the fourth quarter with the Chargers in the red zone after he spiked the ball in the field of play. That was followed by a damaging ineligible man down field penalty by D.J. Fluker that took a touchdown off the board. Those penalties arguably cost the Chargers the game in the end.
  3. Dropped passes weren’t really a factor.
  4. It wasn’t a good night for Cutler as far as turnovers are concerned. A Cutler fumble on the 20 yard line gave the ball to San Diego and ruined a trip into the red zone in the second quarter. In the same quarter the Bears recovered a fumble in San Diego territory but Cutler threw it back to them for a pick six.
  5. Jay Cutler giveth and Jay Cutler taketh away in what was really a sloppy game on both sides tonight. Too many turnovers and far too many penalties, especially on the San Diego side of the field. The Bears continue to have coverage issues in the defensive backfield and, especially, with their linebackers and I think we can expect to see plenty of short passes, especially to running backs out of the backfield, in the near future. It wasn’t pretty but a win is a win.


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Are Willie Young and Lamar Houston Still Recovering?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers more your questions:

“Now that the trade deadline has passed do you see the Bears parting ways with Willie Young or Lamarr Houston and giving their reps elsewhere? — @sly034

“There aren’t any exciting outside linebackers on the street right [now]. As unproductive as Sam Acho has been as a starter opposite Pernell McPhee, is shows you what the coaching staff thinks of Young and Houston at this point. But getting rid of them right now doesn’t necessarily improve the roster and it also doesn’t save the Bears any money.”

I would add that both Young and Houston are recovering injuries. These frequently take more than a year to completely heal, particularly knee injuries like the top Lamar Houston.  The recovery of former Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris comes to mind as a comparison.

It’s possible that the Bears are biding their time with both of these men. As Biggs points out, there’s not much out there anyway and you can always release them later if they don’t get better.

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Is Hard Knocks Possible for the Bears?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Is it too early to nominate Da Bears for next season’s edition of ‘Hard Knocks?’ — @TraderjoeyG

“You can nominate them all you want but unless there has been a dramatic reversal of thinking at Halas Hall, the Bears will do everything in their power to stay out of that spotlight come August.”

Truth. But will that be enough?

HBO and the NFL would prefer that someone volunteer for this duty. But what if no one volunteers?

The Bears are a guaranteed ratings winner and nothing demonstrates that more than the fact that they are on this Monday night – and on Thanksgiving – despite the fact that they are completely irrelevant this year.

Yes, the McCaskey’s don’t want to do Hard Knocks – nor should they. I have to believe that it would be a huge distraction no matter what anyone says to the contrary. But they are still team players and my gut tells me that HBO would crawl from New York to Chicago on their knees to get them on. If the NFL appears to be in a bind and they ask, the team might say yes.

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Quick Game Comments: Vikings at Bears 11/1/15


  1. Kyle Fuller was given the assignment of covering Vikings break out wide receiver Stephon Diggs for a good part of this game though Tracy Porter did have him on occasion. Both did a reasonable job all in all. Diggs finally beat Sherrick McManis for a long touchdown in the fourth quarter. I’m not sure how the Vikings managed to manipulate the match ups but Diggs ended up with 96 yards on 6 receptions, much of that in the fourth quarter when neither Fuller nor Porter were covering him.
  2. Undrafted Bryce Callahan was the nickel back instead of Sherrick McManis, who has been burned too often lately. He did OK.
  3. The Bears had a hard time getting pressure on Bridgewater against a porous Viking offensive line with their for man rush. They did have some success on occasion with the blitz.
  4. Significantly, the Bears, though obviously keying on Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, weren’t stacking the box to stop him. It looked to me like they were getting mauled at the line of scrimmage in the running game and Peterson had a good game at 103 yards on 20 carries. Some good linebacker play and some timely blitzing did help cover a lot of problems on the defensive line. When you look at the score, you can’t really fault them. They did something right.
  5. For most of two quarters the Bears couldn’t sniff out a screen pass on third down for the life of them. They finally seemed to get the picture about half way through the second quarter.
  6. Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater wasn’t holding the ball too long as often this week as he did last week against the Lions. He was generally getting rid of the ball quick and relying on Adrian Peterson to run against a Bears defense that refuses to stack the box against him. Like his opposite on the Bears sideline, he could have been more consistent. there were a lot of miscommunications between Bridgewater and the receivers.


  1. The Bears came out in a double tight end set. Despite that, they weren’t running much out of it to begin the game. Apparently they thought their tight ends were a mismatch for Matt Forte and their tight ends in the passing game. They probably thought they could set up the run later.
  2. The offensive line was patchwork this week but despite that I wouldn’t say they had a horrible game. Patrick Omameh started at right guard, and Vladimir Ducasse could moved to the left guard spot. Charles Leno gave up a sack and they had a hard time pulling and getting out in front of outside runs but overall it was OK.
  3. Despite the fact that it doesn’t ever work that well, the Bears love that wildcat formation with Matt Forte.
  4. As color man Ronde Barber repeatedly pointed out the Vikings really tacklie well.
  5. This was a miserable Bears offensive game for most of the first two quarters. The Bears were afraid to be aggressive with their play calling, probably due to limits to their personnel. I understand being conservative and sticking with the short passing game but that has to be more than wide receiver screens that aren’t working. Cutler finally got off a long pass to Martellus Bennett late in the second quarter and the offense broke out a little bit.
  6. I might also point out that though the wide receiver screens weren’t working, the regular screens to the running back that they started throwing in the third quarter were working. This was a nice adjustment.
  7. Wonderful catch for a touchdown in the corner of the end zone by Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery had a very good game. For some reason the Vikings apparently weren’t giving him a lot of special attention. He was really their only reliable receiver.
  8. It was interesting to see Martellus Bennett line up to block for Matt Forte in the backfield in the third quarter. That might be a good role for him to play on occasion.
  9. I would say that generally this was a typical 2015 Jay Cutler game. Some good movement in the pocket. Some good throws. Some head shakers. All-in-all another decent outing.


  1. Chris Myers is a professional and Ronde Barber is OK but sometimes I think Barber is just the master of the obvious. Not a lot of great insight there and I never feel like I’m learning much. Holly Sonders is fine but I miss Jen Hale
  2. Marc Mariani dropped the first two punts of the game. Robbie Gould hit a 55 yard field goal to open the scoring for the game. Gould missed a field goal in the third quarter that they really could have used. The Viking punt return in the first quarter for a touchdown by Marcus Sherels was the result of some terrible punt return coverage.
  3. This officiating crew called more penalties in the first seven weeks than any other group. Despite that I wouldn’t call the number of penalties in this game excessive. Patrick Omameh had a holding call. Sam Acho had a late, helmet-to-helmet on Bridgewater.
  4. There weren’t a lot of drops in this game but Jeremy Langford had a terrible one in the fourth quarter on what should have been a first down to keep a potential game winning drive alive.
  5. The Bears defensive backfield finally broke out with an important interception by Kyle Fuller. It was a nice play by Fuller on what was a poor decision from Viking QB Teddy Bridgewater.
  6. Players were slipping all over the field despite that fact that the field was supposedly in better shape than usual for this time of year. Apparently the turf was loose. The slipping around continued into the second half indicating that either better cleats couldn’t help of the Bears failed to adjust and change shoes at the half.
  7. Those new KFC commercials with the new “Cornel Sanders” are hilarious.
  8. This was the kind of ball control football game that defensive head coaches like Mike Zimmer and John Fox dream about. Zimmer tried to use Adrian Peterson to wear down a Bears defense that flat out refused to do anything special to stop the him. On the other side the Bears, in particular, did a good job of executing and holding the ball, especially in the second half, allowing the defense to rest and keeping Peterson off the field. That they managed to do it with patchwork offensive and defensive lines and almost no talent on the defensive side of the ball is a miracle. Despite the loss, if you are a Bears fan, you have to like a lot of what you saw today.


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Already Looking Ahead to the 2016 NFL Draft

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions. One fan wants to know if the Bears will be looking to draft a cornerback in 2016:

[T]racy Porter is on a one-year contract for the minimum salary benefit and he’s been injury prone in the past. Alan Ball, who was passed on the depth chart by Porter, is also on a one-year contract. Whether that means re-signing one or both of these guys, drafting a cornerback or going the free-agent route, they’re going to have to take action. It would certainly make sense for them to look at a cornerback at some point in the draft.”

It’s very early to be thinking too much about the draft but based upon what we’ve seen, one thing can be said with some certainty. The Bears are in both an enviable and an unenviable position when it comes to their 2016 selections. They have a lot of needs, offense and defense. Offensive guard, defensive line, linebacker, pass rusher, safety and cornerback. Add future (if not immediate) starter at quarterback and a second tight end and wide receiver opposite Martellus Bennett (if he’s with the team) and Kevin White (if Alshon Jeffery isn’t with the team), respectively you’ve got almost everything.

There’s almost no doubt about it. It won’t be brain surgery. It’s going to be the best available player, again.

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Different Strokes for Different Folks Lead to Different Consequences


Jeremiah Ratliff

Rob Demovsky at ESPN reports that Packers head coach Mike McCarthy gave his players almost eight days off over their bye week. That’s nearly double the minimum four days that the NFL Players Union requires.

I find this to be interesting because Bears head coach John Fox went with the minimum four days rather than give the players the maximum amount of rest the way that McCarthy did.

I’m not saying that Fox did the wrong thing. The Bears are a young team who undoubtedly needed the extra work. I’m sure they did what most teams do over the bye – they tried to correct problems that have been identified via self-scouting. And I’m sure there are a lot of problems.

The Packers are a veteran team and one that’s undefeated at that. Perhaps there are some guys who still needed the work and perhaps there aren’t.  We’ll have to wait and see how they do but they undoubtedly have fewer things to worry about correcting than the Bears. McCarthy is a fantastic 8-1 after the bye during his tenure but Fox is a pretty respectable 10-3. I’d say both coaches know what they’re doing and what their team needs.

But there may have been one negative factor that fell out of Fox’s decision to work his team. It’s all well and good to get young players into the building for needed extra work but it’s quite another to ask veteran players to do it, correction of problems identified via self-scouting or not. A lot of these guys have families and they were undoubtedly looking forward to the time off. It doesn’t take much imagination to wonder whether veteran defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff wasn’t one of them and whether that factored into his decision to show up “in no condition for work” on Wednesday. Perhaps Ratliff had decided to take the extra day of the bye to relax and do whatever it is that he did a little early, team demands or not. Knowing that your biggest rival a couple hours away was giving the players more than a week probably didn’t help.

Again, I’m not saying that Fox did the wrong thing. But there are consequences that have to be weighed whenever a decision like this is made. The Bears may well have lost Ratliff as a consequence of this one. It’s well known that Ratliff was a mentor for the younger defensive linemen including rookie Eddie Goldman. Even rookie center Hroniss Grasu sought him out for advice.

Perhaps the best lesson Ratliff could have taught these players was his final one when he pushed the team over the edge and was released. Perhaps the long-term benefit of a few extra days of practice was worth the loss. And perhaps it wasn’t.

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Martellus Bennett: Consistently Inconsistent


Martellus Bennett

I was talking football with a friend the other day but not the kind we usually talk about here. He’s Welsh and we were talking rugby. The rugby World Cup is being staged right now and we were talking about the French team’s inconsistent play. My friend made the comment, “They’re pretty good but the problem is that they’re French. They only play when they want to.”

Forgetting the uncalled for shot at the people of France, his point was well taken and it came to mind when I read Brad Biggs‘s answer to a fan question about Bennett in the Chicago Tribune:

“Bennett is a mismatch freak at 6-foot-6, 273 pounds but he’s only a mismatch when he’s using that size and length to shield defenders away from the ball and make the play. I don’t think he’s ever been known as a particularly consistent run blocker. In fact, he’s regularly inconsistent. He’s got the ability to be quite good at it when he wants. There have been a few drops, too, as you note.

“But the Bears knew what they were getting when they signed him to a four-year contract as a free agent in 2013. He’s a mercurial dude that marches to the beat of his own drum. The Cowboys knew that. The Giants, after one season, knew that. Bennett sought a contract extension (or raise) in the offseason and didn’t get it. The surest way for him to be paid with one year remaining on his deal is to have a monster final 10 games. If he outperforms the contract with only one year remaining on the deal, he just might be able to make a case for himself or create a situation where he achieves his goal. If he putters along, it’s going to be difficult for him to leverage more money from the Bears (or any other team).”

Last offseason I was worried that Bennett might let his denied quest for more money affect his play this year. I shouldn’t have. Bennett has said – and I believe him – that he was seeking more money as a matter of principle. Because everyone should always be seeking more money. That sounds like him.

What also sounded like him were his comments three weeks ago on the Bears rebuilding program. Bennett said that he was all in on it but it came across as the kind of thing you say because you think fans, media and the team want to hear it.

Actions always speak louder than words and based upon what I’ve seen on the field, Bennett is not all in. He does occasionally put forth good effort to, for instance, lunge forward to get a first down or stay on his feet that extra second to get that extra few yards. But generally speaking his body language indicates that he’s been less than enthusiastic and there are definitely times, particularly over the last couple games, when I thought he could have fought harder for the balls (albeit, not particularly well placed ones) from quarterback Jay Cutler.

Bennett knows as well as you and I do that this team is rebuilding and isn’t going to be winning any championships any time soon. Unfortunately, unlike you and me, he probably gets no particular thrill from watching talented but raw young players develop into very good professionals. Many players could continue to put out their best effort on every ball of every game anyway. But its obvious that Bennett isn’t one of them.  I think that mentally he’s too honest with himself.  He’s just not built that way.

There’s been a lot of talk for years about trading running back Matt Forte and I, myself, broached the topic of whether you eventually let Alshon Jeffery go for a high draft pick depending upon how he plays for the next few games or so. But Bennett is the guy that they should really be considering letting go for a mid-round conditional pick. He’s got an attitude towards authority that nothing is going to change and which could hurt a developing young team. And they’d be doing him a favor by trading him to a contender for whom he could perform. Until then, there’s very little anyone can do to help this situation.  Bennett is going to play only when he wants to play.

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