Hub Arkush‘s thoughts at chicagofootball.com on safety Adrian Amos mirror my own:
“To start every game your rookie year as a fifth-round draft choice is exceptional in and of itself. That Amos has blended right in and rarely been visible – meaning he is at least doing his job well – is remarkable.”
“Understand that the Bears’ problems at safety over the last seven or eight years have been that the safeties have been the most obvious players on the field, too often getting burned on big plays.
“It’s too early to know if Amos is going to be more than an average guy who won’t kill you or a good football player, but if you think about it, how often have you seen him burned at all?”
I can’t think of a single time. And that’s good.
There’s only one thing that bothers me about Amos. Presumably he’s supposed to be helping the cornerbacks in coverage. Yes, you neer want to notice the safety because usually when you do, it’s because he’s blown a tackle or was out of position on a play. But this is a part of the game where you should notice the safety – coming over the top at the last minute as a cornerback covers a good receiver near the side line. Yet, I’ve rarely noticed Amos on these plays and it often looks like its just the cornerback on an island on these plays. I’m wondering how much help Amos has been in coverage under those circumstances.
Amos is a developing situation that I think all of us will continue to keep an eye on. But, with that one caveat, so far so good.
Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune previews the Bears game against the Chiefs:
“Tight end Travis Kelce has 21 catches for 293 yards and two TDs in the first four games. He also leads NFL tight ends in yards after the catch. He’s Rob Gronkowski with fewer viral videos.
“[Shea] McClellin, the wrong linebacker chosen by the wrong general manager, hasn’t made a play in the passing game this season. And now he gets this guy.
“McClellin, who’s playing inside linebacker because there’s no one else to coach, seems perpetually in the trail technique. And now he gets this guy.
“The Chiefs offense will throw the ball between the hash marks. It will create picks and decisions because Andy Reid loves high-low routes, especially crossing patterns. It will teach us about McClellin’s progress, athleticism and instincts.”
Presumably Rosenbloom picks on McClellin because he’s the former first round pick – and I won’t say he’s wrong to do so. But it’s worth pointing out that his teammate inside, Christian Jones hasn’t been much better. Both look lost in coverage.
Having said that, both should get plenty of help this week. The Chiefs have one wide receiver who can catch the ball down field and that’s Jeremy Maclin. The Bears will undoubtedly do what the Bengals did to Maclin last week – roll the safety to his side. Other than that the entire Chiefs offense is short passes and handing the ball off to Jamal Charles and everyone on the defense except cornerback Tracy Porter and safety Adrian Amos will likely be keying on that.
Rosenbloom thinks McClellin is the key to this game but my money is on a patchwork offensive line. The Bengals made that pass rush look pretty ordinary last week and that gives hope that the Bears will do the same. But anyone who watched this team play the Broncos in week 2 knows that they’re ferocious when they’re on their game. And they’re almost certainly licking their chops at the thought of facing a very wounded Bears offense.
Forget McClellin and the Bears defense. The Bears will go as the offensive line goes this week.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune thinks that history should provide a lesson for Bears general manager Ryan Pace:
“It’s easy to point to busted draft picks and say that is why [former Bears general manager Jerry] Angelo was dumped after 11 seasons, but trace his problems closely and they were rooted in not maintaining the offensive line.
“In a span of five drafts from 2003-2007, the Bears had 42 total picks with 23 coming in the top four rounds. Only one of those 23 was an offensive lineman and only three linemen were selected overall — one in the sixth round and two in the seventh. The fourth-rounder, Josh Beekman, made 20 starts and didn’t pan out.”
As Biggs points out, Angelo ended up relying too heavily on free agency to stock the line. But in fairness, this isn’t entirely his fault. Offensive line coaches simply have to be able to develop players that are drafted in later rounds or that are found as street free agents. It was former Bears offensive line coach Aaron Kromer‘s specialty and it was what made him so attractive as an offensive coordinator under Marc Trestman.
You can’t rely entirely on late draft picks and rookie free agents. That’s been proven, particularly at left tackle. But putting together a good offensive line is a combination of good drafting and development. If either breaks down, you’re going to fail.
In the case of the current Bears line, I’m encouraged that Charles Leno in particular was able to step in and play so well last week. It’s a very small sample size to be sure but it’s a hopeful sign that offensive line coach Dave Magazu knows what he’s doing and that he can develop talent at the position. Let’s hope it continues. They’re going to need Leno and a whole lot more this Sunday.
Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune obliterates some of my pre-conceptions about game planning:
“As is common throughout the league, game-planning duties are spread among the Bears’ offensive assistants as a starting point for meetings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights.”
“Elements of the running game were divided between running backs coach Stan Drayton, offensive line coach Dave Magazu and tight ends coach Frank Smith. Receivers coach Mike Groh handled third down and Dowell Loggains focused on the red zone. Coaches studied video, then collaborated.
“‘It makes it a really nice conversation,’ [offensive coordinator Adam] Gase said.
“‘We’ll say, ‘Who does that really well? If we don’t have anybody who does that really well, we’ll throw it out. You don’t want to try to force a guy to do something he’s not really good at.'”
I always had this notion in my head that offensive game planning consisted of the coordinator sitting alone in his office until 2AM watching film putting it all together. It never occurred to me that all of the coaches might share in the duty.
A couple thoughts on this. First, this means that the offensive coaches better get along pretty well because they’re going to spend a lot of time together. I remember stories of offensive coordinator John Shoop, then under head coach Dick Jauron, throwing wide receivers coach Todd Haley out of meetings because things got so heated. No wonder the offense was such an unmitigated disaster.
I also think its interesting that all of these coaches are basically coordinators in training. It’s one additional explanation for why promoting from within is so common in the NFL, particularly with successful units. You can’t say that anyone on the staff has never put a game plan together before because they all have. And since they’ve all been working even more closely together than I previously thought, breaking up the relationships seems even more foolish than it would have been anyway.
Connor Orr at nfl.com writes about how NFC teams off to a bad start can be fixed. He comments on the Bears:
“Trade for Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib, EJ Manuel or AJ McCarron: Most of these quarterbacks are from the forgotten class of 2013, but McCarron, a fifth-round pick the year after, is also jammed between a rock and a hard place in Cincinnati. The Bears, not knowing what will happen in next year’s draft, should ensure themselves by dealing for one of these unknown quarterbacks — with Manuel and Smith, give them a chance in a different offense — and letting them rip. They can spend the weeks leading up to, and including the bye week learning the system and for the final eight games, the Bears’ offense is theirs to mold. What’s the worst-case scenario here? The Bears deal a late-round pick on a flier and it doesn’t work out? Are they worried about protecting their relationship with Jay Cutler?”
I don’t have a problem with trading for a young back up who shows promise. But Nassib has thrown just 5 passes with the New York Giants. McCarron might fit the bill but he would almost certainly cost more than “a late round pick”.
But at least the Bears could entertain the possibility with those two. The very thought of trading for Smith or Manuel is absolutely revolting. If these players couldn’t do it for the Jets and Bills, two teams which are at worst middle of the pack this year, I have no use for them. These aren’t even mediocre quarterbacks that are hanging around while waiting for the light to come on. Neither has ever shown me even a smidgen of what it takes to be a good quarterback in the NFL. Kordell Stuart was a better acquisition. And Bears fans know how that one turned out.
Orr might think that taking a chance with a late round draft pick isn’t a big deal but the Bears aren’t the Denver Broncos. They’re rebuilding and they need every pick. If they’re going to trade one, I would hope that it wouldn’t be for a quarterback that has already shown that he doesn’t have it.
Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune on quarterback Jay Cutler‘s performance Sunday:
“[C]an we take a quick intermission here for a PSA to remind our audience that Cutler’s career arc did not experience a dramatic shift based on Sunday’s final drive? Can you imagine how different the discussion would be this week had he and the offense not converted a fourth-and-5 from their own 25 with 1:30 to play to extend the game-winning drive?
“Yes, it’s acceptable to credit Cutler for another fourth-quarter comeback victory. But only if you also acknowledge that Sunday’s game probably should have become a routine Bears win had their quarterback simply added to a 19-17 lead earlier in the period rather than throwing a back-breaking interception.
“Cutler’s toughness? Documented long ago. Cutler’s error-prone tendencies in key moments? Documented long ago. Cutler’s ability to bounce back? Documented long ago. So give him credit for Sunday’s effort. It’s deserved. Let’s just slow down the parade proclaiming that the entire organization has now fully rallied behind him and will never look back.”
Few people are more critical of Cutler than I am. So let me first say that I actually mean what I’m about to say – all credit to him for the game winning drive. I thought it was great and I’ll say that not every QB could have done it. Jimmy Clausen probably doesn’t move in the pocket like Cutler and probably doesn’t win Sunday. Some of those throws threaded the needle. Honestly, I was thrilled.
But I think its necessary to point out that it was at home against a below average team that has been a tire fire in the defensive backfield for four games now. It appalls me to see people like Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com give Cutler an “A-“ for an effort that yielded a QB rating of 60 just as it disturbed me to see people heaping praise on him for an effort in week one against the Packers where that same rating was less than 30.
In any case, we’ve known for some time that Cutler can look good against teams like the Raiders under those conditions. The problem is that he saves his worst performances for when the team needs him most at his best – on the road against an very good teams in prime time.
Thanksgiving at Lambeau still looks like a very ugly match up to me. That’s not entirely because of Jay Cutler but its going to remain an ugly match up as long as he is the Bears quarterback.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on the performance of Marquess Wilson:
“[W]ilson stepped up with his biggest game in three seasons with six catches for 80 yards. He caught two balls on the game-winning drive, a 6-yarder on third-and-3 and a 9-yarder that put Robbie Gould in field goal range. They came after a drop with a minute remaining.
“‘I thought Marquess did a heck of a job,’ [quarterback Jay] Cutler said. ‘Coming up big. Some big-time catches. He had the drop, came back, had a couple of catches in a row.'”
No one benefited from the return of Cutler more than Wilson did. He had dramatically under-performed in the previous three games, particularly when you consider that he was on the field for the vast majority of the Bears snaps. Perhaps his time on the sideline in Seattle provided him with some perspective but Cutler seemed determined to get Wilson more involved in the absence of Alshon Jeffery. Cutler showed great confidence in Wilson even after he had a terrible drop in an important spot on the game winning drive. Wilson justified Cutler’s confidence and came through.
Wilson has done almost nothing for the team for 2 seasons and a quarter despite the confidence that two coaching staffs have shown him now. Hopefully Sunday will finally provide the jumping off point he needed to progress to better things.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on left guard Matt Slauson taking over at center after Will Montgomery was injured Sunday:
“Former general manager Phil Emery said Slauson was a potential candidate to replace Garza in the future but his experience at center was limited to just a few occasions with his former team the New York Jets.
“‘A couple of quarters here and there with the Jets but that was a dire emergency type of deal where if I was ever called upon to come in it was a deal where, ‘All right, Slauson is in. We’re not going ’gun the rest of the game,’’ Slauson said. ‘Just because it is hard to get those reps when you are starting at one position and backing up at another. You don’t have the time to work on the other. I just have to do mental reps at center throughout the week.'”
Indeed, Slauson said after the game that he only got three or four reps in training camp at the position. This was poor planning on the part of the coaching staff. It could be that the initial plan was to keep Hroniss Grasu active on game day as the first guard or center off the bench. But if that’s true, once it became clear that he’s not big enough to play either position (yet) they should have given Slauson and quarterback Jay Cutler more snaps in the event that they would need a center and Grasu wasn’t active.
It will be interesting to see what the Bears do at the position this Sunday. Grasu says that he’s gained about 10 pounds since he joined the Bears, putting him just over 300. That will undoubtedly help. But he still may not have the knowledge to make the proper line calls, in which case Slauson will remain at center and, presumably, Patrick Omameh at left guard. Assuming that’s the case, will they decide to make Grasu active as the first interior lineman off the bench or will they sign someone else to come in? Which it is will tell us a lot about what the staff currently thinks of Gasu.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune from his excellent “10 Thoughts” column after the Bears – Raiders game:
“The biggest difference on defense a week after the Bears showed improvement in a loss at Seattle was the play of Tracy Porter. He stepped into the starting lineup even though Alan Ball, who was questionable with a groin injury suffered during the week in practice, was active. Porter looks like someone who will stay in the starting lineup after successfully handling an assignment to follow Raiders rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper from side to side.”
“His comeback [from a hamstring injury] against the Raiders was strong and while the Bears ultimately would surely prefer to have Kyle Fuller in a place where he can be the matchup cornerback, he’s not there right now. The Bears have to hope he sees elements of Porter’s game in this scheme that can help him improve along the way.”
I like the way that the Bears handled Cooper, who is the Raiders biggest offensive threat by far. It’s true that the Bears chose to put Porter on him, a show of some confidence. But its also true that Porter got a lot of safety help – as well he should. You could argue that Fuller got the tougher assignment in that he was in man coverage on the other side most of the game without that kind of help. It was against much inferior receivers but still, its nothing to sneeze at.
To Cooper’s credit, he still found some success on Sunday. But the Bears limited him in a way that hasn’t happened often in the young season. As Biggs points out, there can be little doubt that the Bears will try to handle Jeremy Maclin the same way when they play the Chefs next week.