Fales or Clausen? The Debate Continues.

Adam Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times doesn’t have a problem with starting quarterback Jimmy Clausen this week but believes that the Bears eventually should get a good look at back up David Fales.

“The difference is that Clausen, who’s 28 and in his sixth season, isn’t a long-term solution for when the Bears finally move on from Cutler. If Clausen flounders in Seattle and Cutler remains out, the Bears should start Fales in Week 4 against the Oakland Raiders at Soldier Field.

“The Bears could be looking at another top-10 pick, possibly in the top five, and there will be quarterbacks to consider, namely Cal’s Jared Goff and Michigan State’s Connor Cook. They need to know what Fales can do.”

Clausen might very well struggle against the Seahawks. Jay Cutler probably would have too, for that matter. In fact, in his case I’d call it highly likely. It’s exactly the kind of game he saves his worst performances for. But that wouldn’t necessarily make either of them a worse option than Fales against the Raiders.

Do the Bears start David Fales (left) or Jimmy Clausen (right)?

Do the Bears start David Fales (left) or Jimmy Clausen (right)?

I think it’s worth re-iterating that a lot depends upon what the organization thinks of Fales. Former general manager Phil Emery drafted Fales as someone he thought would develop into “a good back up”. If the current regime thinks the same, there’s no reason to throw in the towel on the season by playing him this early. It’s pretty hard to develop good talent elsewhere when you don’t have a solid starting quarterback.

On the other hand, if the current staff thinks Fales has the potential to be a starter, it’s a totally different story. Then you put him in, not just in game four, but in game three today. That looks unlikely to happen.

In any case, this is definitely a situation to keep an eye on. As long as Fales sits the bench with Cutler out, the conclusion has to be that the staff doesn’t have the confidence in him that should be there for a player in his second year with a high ceiling.

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Connor Cook Is a Draft Prospect You Should Know

Most Bears fans will be looking for the team to draft a potential starting quarterback next year, potentially with a pretty high draft pick. Recent discussions amongst friends left me in the mood to seek out and give some preliminary evaluation on a couple of good quarterback prospects. We’ll start with Connor Cook (below).  This particular evaluation is based upon his game against Central Michigan only so take it with a grain of salt.

Generated by  IJG JPEG Library

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

Connor Cook

Connor Cook is currently rated the second best quarterback in the 2016 NFL draft class and the ninth best prospect overall by cbssports.com. He’s got good size at 6 ft 4 in, 220 lb.

Though it’s not exactly a pro style offense, Cook’s Michigan State team does at least huddle up and Cook does call plays. Most of the passing down snaps are taken from the shotgun but he does occasionally get under center, usually in running situations. Given that Michigan St. felt that they could run on their opponent Saturday, Central Michigan, that mean he was under center a lot. His footwork was fine and he’s definitely a pocket passer.

Cook has a reasonably quick release and he’s got at least average to above average professional grade arm strength. His ball placement isn’t a strength and his accuracy left a lot to be desired in this game. He missed some open throws over 12 yards or so. Nevertheless he can and did hit receivers on the run. Not surprisingly, he’s particularly prone to be inaccurate under pressure.

Other than that it was hard to evaluate how Cook handled the pass rush just because the Michigan State offensive line is so good that he rarely saw pressure. When he did, he stood well in the pocket and does step up. Otherwise he didn’t move around much within the pocket. His mechanics definitely seemed to break down when the pocket got muddy. Further evaluation will have to wait until the second ranked Spartans play a better team.

Finally, Cook isn’t being asked to throw with anticipation much but he did hit tight end Josiah Price for a touchdown midway through the second quarter right as he came out of his break which offers some hope in this area.

Its only one game but based upon what I saw on Saturday, I wouldn’t rate Cook as no more than a late second round prospect. He’s got some physical tools and a nice, quick release but his accuracy and his movement in the pocket left me kind of cold on him. Nevertheless it will be worth keeping a closer eye on him as the year goes by.

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Detroit Lions Are Down but Far From Out

Eric-EbronDave Birkett at the Detroit Free Press comments upon the improvement of tight end Eric Ebron this year:

“Ebron has been a revelation in the Lions’ offense through two games, leading the team with two touchdowns and ranking third behind Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate with nine catches for 96 yards.”

“‘(He’s) improved,’ Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. ‘The last two weeks, he’s caught the ball pretty well and made some plays for us. So I think he’s — his arrow of improvement is heading in the right direction.'”

Ebron is looking to improve the numbers he put up in last year’s disappointing rookie season — 25 catches for 248 yards.  He’s well on his way to doing that and his emergence is just one reason why the Lions offense should be better than last year’s version.

The Lions are 0-2 and a lot of people are jumping ship on them after a very encouraging preseason. But I’m not. The Lions have four big weapons on offense in Ebron, Johnson, Tate and Ameer Abdullah. The Lion defense certainly misses Ndamukong Suh and they’ve under-performed without him.  But they’ve been without linebacker DeAndrey Levy, who is doubtful again this week but his return will eventually give that defense a boost..

The Lions lost to the Vikings last week but the game was in Minnesota. I don’t think that they should be counted out yet and I can’t get past the feeling that they are going to make some noise in the NFC North before it’s all over.

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Redskins Potential Once Again Limited with No Answers at the Quarterback Position

Conor Orr has the unenviable task of writing up a blog post on the Redskins – Giants game for nfl.com:

“Where do we begin with Kirk Cousins? Perhaps it was the two times he missed Jordan Reed wide open in the back of the end zone. Maybe it was him getting blanked on play-action passes (and clearly missing two fake handoffs altogether), leading to two picks. Cousins has now turned the ball over 29 times over his last 17 games, this despite a fine, working offensive line and a budding 6-foot-2, 230-pound star at running back. In eight of his 17 career games, he has two or more picks. Would we be stunned to see Colt McCoy next week?”

This was a bad game all around but by far the biggest take away for me was that Kirk Cousins (below) doesn’t have it as a quarterback. Not only did he turn the ball over, but he was incredibly inaccurate with his passes, making receivers reach behind to grab the ball constantly. He was lucky that there were not more drops then there were.

 (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Cousins’ shaky play after the first interception told me all I needed to know about him. Like Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, he’s mentally weak. Unlike Cutler he also has physical limitations in that he has a weak arm and limited mobility.

No, I would not be at all surprised to see Colt McCoy start next week (Redskins head coach Jay Gruden says that he wont). But McCoy’s not the answer either or he’d have been starting before now.

I was one of those who thought that the Redskins were pulling out of the decade long slump with some good play against the Dolphins and the Rams prior to this game. But in the end, given that Robert Griffin III has apparently forgotten how to play quarterback, I think the Redskins are once again looking for someone who can sling the ball. As long as that’s the case, it’s going to put a ceiling on how far they can go.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams, Washington Redskins | Leave a comment

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:

Posted in New York Giants, Washington Redskins | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders | Leave a comment

New Quarterback, New Game Plan

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“How much different will the offensive scheme look with Jimmy Clausen? I expect a run heavy offense. — @naterbachhh

“The offense has been pretty balanced under coordinator Adam Gase to this point and I would expect it to remain that way with Clausen at quarterback. No question the overriding goal is going to be to get in manageable down and distance situations. That’s how teams best remain balanced because if you’re facing a lot of third-and-long situations, it limits the play-calling options. But the Seahawks this Sunday and the Raiders the following week are surely going to be keying on running back Matt Forte and looking to challenge Clausen.

I think there will be one big difference in the offense that we’ll all notice – less of the read option. This was a tool that Gase was just starting to pull out of his hat when quarterback Jay Cutler went down against the Cardinals. Cutler’s very mobile and with Alshon Jeffery injured, adding the read option to help compensate for the loss was a stroke of brilliance. Unfortunately, Clausen hasn’t shown Cutler’s athleticism and I’d be surprised if we saw much of it with him behind center.

Clausen could surprise some people with this effort but he’s got a tough road to hoe against one of the best defenses in the NFL. 17bc7ad32b1c880a1130af388c3b6526 One thing that I think we’ll see from Clausen that we never see from Cutler is the ability to throw with anticipation to a receiver.  This should help Clausen dissect the cover three zone that the Seahawks favor.

One thing I think we will continue to see is a lot of double tight end sets. With little else to show in the passing game, Martellus Bennett is your best option. The underrated but oft injured Zack Miller (left) is a nice alternative option.

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Brock Osweiler in 2016? It’s Not Impossible.

Troy Renck at The Denver Post answers your questions:

“If we don’t re-sign Brock Osweiler by the end of the season, what do you think happens? Go with Trevor Siemian or draft high again?

“— Brooks Lee, Kalamazoo, Mi.

“Brooks: As we sit here today, I expect them to make a strong effort to keep Brock Osweiler. He made strides in the spring and preseason. Any real evaluation will have to wait until a real game, but his progress was encouraging. There’s no denying how highly this coaching staff thinks of Trevor Siemian. I do think it would impact their search for a quarterback if Osweiler were to leave via free agency. They would still look to add depth, but I doubt they would use a high draft pick for the position.”

800px-Brock_Osweiler_2013The Broncos might make a strong effort to keep Osweiler but I can’t imagine he’d sign anywhere, including Denver, unless they guaranteed that he’d be the starter. That’s possible with current starter Peyton Manning showing his age.  But its also possible that if Manning recovers to have a good year, as many think the veteran will, that they’ll wish to stick with him and put their future in to Siemian’s hands.

Osweiler’s likely to be a hot name after the season amongst teams that are desperate for quarterbacks. He’s unproven but if you can’t draft early enough to get a highly touted prospect, you may roll the dice.

We hear all the time when talk of replacing quarterback Jay Cutler comes up – “Who are you going to replace him with?”  There can be little doubt that the Chicago Bears would guarantee him the starting position if the chose to pursue him.  Osweiler has obviously worked closely with both head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase. They would know as well as anyone what his potential is. The Bears will in all likelihood have plenty of cap room even after they sign the few of their own free agents that they’d like to keep.

Bottom line, Osweiler would be a strong candidate to come to the Bears should he hit the free agent market.

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Veteran Coaching Staff in Control and Keeping the Bears Focused

fox-bears-850x560Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune quotes left tackle Jermon Bushrod on starting the season 0-2:

“‘You want to keep your eyes on what’s in front of you,’ Bushrod said. ‘We don’t really want to look at the big picture right now. Because when you look at the big picture, it will get you off the task at hand. And if you’re not focusing on your specific job, you’re not trying to help us.

“‘It’s something we all have to deal with. You have to tell yourself to zero in. And it’s not easy.'”

The Bears are dealing with the unenviable task of keeping their spirits up in the face of a poor start with what I’m sure they realize is a team with a limited upside. Getting them to the point where they can do that is the job of the head coach. And I consider what’s happening here to be the sign of a veteran on the job dealing with the problem.

One thing that you notice after a while as an alert fan is that when players make statements like this, it’s usually more or less because that’s the message that they’re getting from coaches. Most coaches know that you tell teams in this situation not to panic and that they’re “starting fresh this week”. But what’s happening here goes beyond that because head coach John Fox is giving the players something else to focus on in place of the situation that the team finds itself in. Namely, themselves. Fox is telling the team to focus on what they can control – if you focus on yourself and do your own job better and if everyone else does the same, the wins will take care of themselves.

That’s an amazingly simple message but it’s one I can’t imagine some other head coaches the Bears have had sending in the same way – I’m looking at you, Marc Trestman. This may be a team with limited talent but more and more I’m convinced that this coaching staff is exactly what the Bears need to build a future around.

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It’s the Brad Biggs Show Today. And Other Points of View.


    • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reviews the film from Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals:

      Eddie Royal looks out of position on the outside, and that’s the way it’s going to be without Alshon Jeffery (and Kevin White). Undrafted rookie Cameron Meredith flashed a little at the very end and might be worth looking at in place of Marquess Wilson, who is not maximizing his playing time.”

      Royal insisted during the preseason that he was looking forward to proving that he’s more than a slot receiver. But I think we all understood that wasn’t what he was signed to do. Wilson has, once again, been a major disappointment. He was targeted five times for only one catch and 10 yards. It may be time to accept that he’s the seventh round pick that he is.

    • Biggs continues:

      “Bennett needed to run a better route on the Jefferson interception, but the ball was behind him. Period. He didn’t get enough chances as he was targeted only six times. With Jeffery out, the Bears needed to do a better job of highlighting him in the passing game.”

      I noted in my game comments that the Bears came out in double tightend, throwing to both Bennett and Zack Miller. But they didn’t carry it through the game.

    • It’s the Brad Biggs show today, folks:

“Right guard Vladimir Ducasse added two more penalties to give him four. Even if the holding call looked questionable, that is a problem. Right tackle Kyle Long is in a tough spot with a cast on his right hand.”

Those who insisted that it was a good idea to move Long to tackle and wonder why it took so long should take note here. I’m not saying it was the wrong thing to do but if Jordan Mills had these kinds of penalties, the town would be burning him in effigy. I’m not at all sure that putting Charles Leno in at tackle and letting him develop wasn’t the right thing to do. He probably wouldn’t be much worse than Ducasse and he has a higher ceiling.

    • On a day when I have to believe that the Bears are desperately searching for a solution at quarterback, I have to once again agree with Biggs that they must surely be looking forward to having Tracy Porter available. He’s been out with a hamstring injury but believes that he’s getting closer to being ready to play. Terrance Mitchell is also a possibility. He got burned by Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday and admits that he made a mistake in hesitating on the tackle, saying, “I should have just come up harder, you know what I am saying?” I do, indeed. But I’m concerned that his football instincts didn’t tell him that. It looked ot me like he lacked confidence and I’m not sure its the kind of thing you can teach.
    • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com gives out some pretty harsh grades but with this caveat:

“It is also fair to point out that as well coached as the Bears looked against the Packers, they didn’t appear well prepared for Arizona, and John Fox and company should be looking in the mirror this week as well as at the tape.”

Gotta disagree with Hub, there. I liked the offensive game plan before quarterback Jay Cutler got hurt and there’s only so much you can do on defense with that talent. The Bear biggest problem in relation to their performance in week one was the penalties and the turnovers. I suppose that could be coaching but I’m inclined to believe it was a team effort.


  • I know that Bears fans are feeling pretty sorry for themselves right now. But at least they aren’t the Detroit Lions. The Lions are 0-2. Their next three opponents? vs. Denver Broncos, at Seattle Seahawks and home vs. Arizona Cardinals. That looks to me like 0-5, folks.
  • I didn’t see the game but by all reports they came out flat and gave a subpar performance again this week against Tampa Bay. I’m starting to wonder if head coach Sean Payton isn’t on the hot seat. If he isn’t, I’m wondering if he should be.
  • It appears that Kam Chancellor made a major miscalculation in holding out for the first three games this year. Yes, the Seahawks were worse without him but they never budged in negotiations. According to Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com Chancellor racked up $1.1 million in fines and the team could demand that he return $500,000 in signing bonus money now that he’s ended his hold out. He’s also missed two game checks. The team would undoubtedly like to be lenient but I can’t imagine that they think they can afford to be so. This is a good team with a lot of players that will undoubtedly want more money over the next couple years. Letting Chancellor off the hook in any way encourages them to follow his lead.
  • Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has the unenviable task of preparing his 0-2 team to play the Bengals this weekend. He says that the Bengals are the best team in the NFL. Right now, to my eye, he’s right.
  • There are a lot of reasons why the Dolphins are not living up to the preseason hype. But Omar Kelly at the Sun-Sentinel is spot on when he says that the team has to get tougher and run the ball more.
  • How good has running back Dion Lewis been for the Patriots? He’s fumbled twice in two games but head coach Bill Belichick can’t afford to put him in his dog house.
  • Michael Rand at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “A younger, dumber, childless version of myself might have been tempted to take a press release from the Vikings about installing breastfeeding/lactation suites at TCF Bank Stadium (and eventually U.S. Bank Stadium) and make a few lame jokes along with the information.” Count me in as being both young and dumb.

One Final Thought

He just now came to this conclusion? VERY, VERY NSFW.

Posted in Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks | Leave a comment