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.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks | Leave a comment

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

Pick Your Poison

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

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

I loved head coach John Fox‘s answer when he was asked if quarterback Jay Cutler would be able to practice on Wednesday:

“Is (the coin flip) going to be heads or tails on Sunday? I don’t know.

He knows. Cutler is reportedly out for two weeks and it looks like it’s time for his back ups to step up.

Fans and media have been pretty harsh on Jimmy Clausen after Sunday’s performance and it’s hard to defend. Clausen was 14/23 for 121 yards, an average of 5.3 yards per attempt and a turnover. He didn’t exactly look like a guy who was waiting for his chance to show what he could do in this league.

I’m inclined to go easier on him than most but there’s no doubt that, going in cold with no practice reps or not, he was unprepared on Sunday. The question is, how much better is he going to be when he is prepared. And, more to the point, is it time to take a good look at David Fales?

Everyone understands this is a rebuilding year for the Bears so the first instinct is to say, “Throw the youngster in and see what he can do.” But the problem is that the quarterback isn’t the only position where development has to take place. What will it do to the development of other young players on the team without a veteran quarterback who can make the required throws. Clausen was 23/39 for 181 yards in his only start of 2014 against the Detroit Lions and his QBR was 77.

Those statistics aren’t earth shattering  but they are at least competent and I’d say that Clausen is good enough to allow other young players to progress, something that we won’t know about Fales until we see him under real game conditions. But Clausen’s performances for the Bears haven’t been starting quarterback of the future material and Clausen has a long history of below average quarterback play in the NFL before that to judge him on, indicating that he’s not likely to do a whole lot better given the chance.

Fales is currently on the Bears practice squad but will almost certainly be promoted before the game this week. He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 draft. However, the last coaching staff didn’t deem him ready to play very often and when Clausen sustained a concussion last year in his only start, the team chose to go back to the benched Cutler rather than put Fales on to the field to see what he could do.

The good news for Fales is that the current regime chose to keep him despite the fact that they did not draft him and he missed a significant portion of training camp with an illness. So they must see something in him. But is he that much more ready now than he was late last year when the staff that drafted him wouldn’t play him?

What the coaching staff does here may tell us a lot about what they think about Fales. They could see him as a guy whose ceiling is a good back up. If that’s the case, Clausen is your man. If they see him as something more, then the decision gets more tricky. Take a huge chance on the young guy or go with the devil that you know? As Fox would undoubtedly say, “Flip a coin”.

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Speed Kills

I couldn’t agree more with Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on the Bears pass rush:

“This is a major issue for the Bears right now. They have no pass rush and that’s deeply troubling because the team stance through the offseason and then training camp was outside linebacker was the deepest position on the roster or at least on the defensive side of the ball. That was supposed to be a strength. Right now, it looks like a real problem area, one that’s making a talent-deficient secondary look worse.”

It was supposed to be deep in that they’ve got a lot of guys at the position. But none of us really knew how good those guys were going to be. Biggs quotes Cardinals left tackle Jared Veldheer as he addresses the problem:

“They are big for outside ’backers. They’re almost all 4-3 D-ends that have been converted.’

“With that size, there isn’t a lot of speed coming off the edge. Veldheer agreed with that and said he found himself misjudging the pass rush a couple times because he expected a defender to be on top of him sooner than they were.”

Exactly. Speed. The Bears lack speed virtually everywhere on their defense. They lack speed at linebacker and they lack it in the defensive backfield where the cornerbacks don’t have the necessary recovery speed to effectively play man coverage and the safeties, particularly the aging Antrel Rolle, can’t get over to help.

This was a large part of the problem last year when defensive coordinator Mel Tucker took much of the blame for the Bears defensive woes. And like last year, I’m starting to wonder if this isn’t going to be another historically bad defense. Indeed, 48 points was the most the Bears have ever allowed in a home game. Only the expected development of the younger players, the hope that everyone will react quicker and more instinctually as they get more familiar with the defense, and the better coaching gives me any hope that won’t happen.Running-Turkey405

But I’m starting to look more and more at that Thanksgiving game against the Packers at Lambeau Field with trepidation. Something tells me I’m going to once again be the deeply humiliated Bears fan surrounded by family in another city as the team gets a 50 burger hung on them. Or more.

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Use of the Zone Read Adds a Nice New Wrinkle to the Bears Offense

Bears-Jay-Cutler1One positive from Sunday’s game is highlighted by Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune points to offensive coordinator Adam Gase‘s use of the zone read with quarterback Jay Cutler as a positive from Sunday’s game:

“‘We did it the last two years with Peyton [Manning],’ Gase said. ‘Peyton didn’t keep any. But that’s been going on for a long time. That was different stuff (that what we ran with Tim Tebow in Denver). A lot of this stuff we do, everybody is doing it in the league right now. It’s just kind of the decision making. If you watch Philly, even when (Mark) Sanchez was playing, he’d pull it and get 4 and slide. Jay just decided like he felt like dropping the shoulder. He does a good job and does a good job of making the right decisions.'”

I like this for a number of reasons. First it gives the defense another runner to worry about. Despite putting it on tape against the Green Bay Packers the week before, the Cardinals were clearly surprised when Cutler kept the ball and scrambled for a couple of good gains of 10 and 8 yards. Second it takes advantage of Cutler’s underrated mobility and physical toughness. At a time when the offense lacks talent at wide receiver with Alshon Jeffery hurting, Gase is using every weapon in his arsenal to compensate. Cutler’s willingness to run and take a hit when necessary (though they’d rather he slides) could be a big part of that.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles | Leave a comment

Jimmy Clausen Not the Biggest Problem. But He Was a Problem.

Jimmy Clausen

Jimmy Clausen

Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune describes head coach John Fox‘s reaction to quarterback Jimmy Clausen‘s effort in relief of starting quarterback Jay Cutler:

“Jimmy Clausen took over, and the offense gained only one first down on his first five possessions. That allowed the Cardinals to pull away and send the Bears to their first 0-2 start since 2003.

“‘Any time you put a quarterback in that has gotten backup reps during the week, I think it’s tough,’ Fox said. ‘All in all, I thought he did the best he could, and that’s all you can ask for as a coach.'”

I disagree. Clausen looked unprepared for what he was seeing. I understand that Cutler probably took virtually all of the snaps in practice but its Clausen’s job to be ready. He wasn’t.

The biggest problems that the Bears had yesterday were on defense.   But the lack of preparation on Clausen’s part was a major issue in a game where the offense had to make up for that defensive ineptitude.  Assuming Cutler’s “hamstring injury” lingers, we can only hope he will be better after a week of preparation against a pretty good Seahawks defense.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks | Leave a comment