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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Considering the Move of Kyle Long to Tackle in Retrospect

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune asks an interesting question as the Bears enter the bye week:

“Coming out of the open date, will left tackle Jermon Bushrod reclaim his starting role or will the Bears prioritize the continued development of Charles Leno?”

Kyle Long (Wikipedia)

Kyle Long (Wikipedia)

That’s a tough question. Bushrod is probably the better player at this point and my gut tells me he reclaims his starting job. But you would, indeed, like to continue to develop Leno.

Hindsight is 20-20 but this situation demonstrates why it may have been a mistake to move Kyle Long to right tackle. Long continues to struggle in the transition – which in a rebuilding year is OK. You could argue that moving Long seemed to help the Bears before the break when Bushrod went down and Leno was free to step in and develop on the left. But even then I’m not sure the Bears wouldn’t be better long-term developing Tayo Fabuluje in Leno’s place on the right. The man’s got good feet and he moves well for a big man. There isn’t much doubt he’s got the athletic ability. It’s just a matter of finding out what’s above his neck.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 6.22.47 AMIn any case you’d like to have your five best players on the line right now and mediocre right guard Vladamir Ducasse, a veteran who has a team-high seven penalties, is not one of them. With Long at guard, the Bears could have developed Leno and play Bushrod at the same time. That’s not an option now.

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Could the Bears Trade Alshon Jeffery?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune evaluates the film from Sunday’s loss to the Lions:

“[Alshon] Jeffery was dynamic after missing four games with a hamstring injury, showing his ability to dominate cornerbacks on back-shoulder throws on the final drive of regulation and how his 6-foot-3 frame makes him a mismatch on high throws in the end zone on his touchdown. The return of Eddie Royal also opened creative screens.”


Alshon Jeffery (Wikipedia)

Eddie Royal has come alive because the Bears finally put him back in the slot where he belongs. But that’s not what stuck out to me in Biggs’s comment.

Just a week ago I was asked by a Jets fan if I thought the Bears would take a second round pick for Jeffery. The question was not unreasonable given that his contract is up after this year and he hadn’t been able to get on the field. I told the fan that I thought the Bears wouldn’t trade Jeffery until they got a good look at him on the field. This game demonstrated why.

There were (ands still are) questions about whether Jeffery can be a real number one wide receiver who can perform despite the absence of Brandon Marshall, who was traded in the offseason. In his first game back last Sunday, Jeffery made all the difference, providing a deep threat that the Bears simply don’t otherwise have.

That doesn’t mean the Bears might not trade Jeffery eventually. There are still a lot of games to play and Jeffery likely hasn’t seen anyone’s best shot yet. And the Bears do still have Keven White, who they surely drafted in the first round with the expectation that he would eventually be a number one receiver.

It says here that the Bears probably franchise Jeffery. They’ve got cap room and don’t have anyone else to tag.  It will keep the price reasonable  down while they negotiate a long-term extension.  Jeffery would skip offseason workouts but he’d probably rather train with Marshall anyway.

Still, you never know.

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Kyle Long Is Still Adjusting to Right Tackle

Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune quotes right tackle Kyle Long on Twiter after the game Sunday:

“I played like dog (excrement) today Missed blocks, holding penalties. You should never hear my name. Sorry Chicago. You deserve great”

He did, indeed. I was tempted to mention Long’s play as a problem in my game comments. I didn’t in the end.

Long was put in a tough spot, switched to a new position on the line literally on the eve of the season. He’s still learning the position and I’m not inclined to be too critical. Yet.

The good news is that, to my eye, Long isn’t getting beat physically and, though the holding penalties aren’t good, I don’t see them as an indication that he can’t do that job once he becomes acclimated and is assignment sound. If Long is still performing like this in week eight, I may have more to say about him.

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Cutler More than Just Right Against the Lions

Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune evaluates three Bears including quarterback Jay Cutler:

“Cutler’s final numbers look OK. He was 26 of 41 passing for 353 yards, a touchdown, an interception and an 88.8 passer rating. But the Bears scored only three touchdowns on eight trips inside the red zone, and he acknowledged those failures start with him. Cornerback Rashean Mathis intercepted Cutler’s poorly thrown fade in the end zone on the opening possession of the second half. On the up side, Cutler delayed the Bears’ demise by moving them 69 yards in 17 seconds just before the fourth quarter expired.”

Its worth noting that, at least to my eye, Cutler had his best game of the year Sunday. He still missed some throws, his ball placement isn’t always great and he still threw his weekly interception.  But generally speaking I thought he was more consistent than he has been and I think that passer rating of almost 90 reflects that.

Not much is really going wrong for Cutler and, as far as I’m concerned, he is still on perhaps the best roll of his career in Chicago. Here’s hoping that continues after the bye.

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Lack of Pass Rush a Huge Factor in Loss to the Lions

With the Bears on a mini-winning streak before Sunday, I think Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune has been saving up his angst. He let loose on Monday. I’ll just highlight one comment:

“Who’s the genius who let Harold Jones-Quartey take Calvin Johnson deep in overtime?

“The one real threat the Lions have, and the Bears let him make the biggest play of the game.”

It’s always dicey guessing what’s going on in the defensive backfield while watching on television. Having said that, the Bears used some zone but for the most part it looked to me like they were using bracket coverage on Johnson with safety Jones-Quartey over the top and cornerback Terry Porter underneath for a good part of the game. As a defensive coach, that’s pretty much the most you can do with Johnson (or anyone).

Sure, Jones-Quartey was a problem. Though it hadn’t emerged a a serious weakness with Adrian Amos on the other side, the safety position hasn’t been a strength for the Bears and I think everyone knew there was the potential for one or both of them to be exposed, especially with Antrel Rolle on the list of walking wounded.

The reason the safety position hadn’t been exposed previously is in part because the Bears were generating a decent pass rush. That disappeared on Sunday against a Lions offensive line that has been putrid all year. That, more than any other factor, is the reason Johnson, fellow wide receiver Lance Moore and the much maligned Matthew Stafford busted out against the Bears. I won’t degrade Pernell McPhee too much because he was around Stafford for most of the game. But Jarvis Jenkins, Sam Acho, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and especially Jeremiah Ratliff were invisible.

I find it hard to get too upset over this loss. I thought the team played hard and we knew it was a developmental year. But there’s little doubt that the Bears pass rush took a step back on Sunday. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the Bears do about it after the break this week.

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