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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Lions 10/18/15


  1. The Lions come out mixing it up and playing well. They sustained a good, long drive starting at their own 20 yard line and ending with a touchdown. In contrast to recent weeks, they looked ready to play and take care of business. The Bears didn’t do anything fancy in defense, playing both their standard 3-4 and their nickel defense when expected. The Lions simply executed.
  2. Tracy Porter came out on Calvin Johnson as expected. If he was getting any special safety help, it wasn’t evident at first. Later after Porter had some help with Harold Jones-Quartey was bracketing Johnson deep. Kyle Fuller also had a very tough time with Lance Moore. The lack of pressure on Stafford didn’t help (see below). All in all it was a tough game for the defensive backs.
  3. In fairness to Fuller, he did come up aggressively on some quick throws to the outside to make a few good tackles.
  4. Having said that, Harold Jones-Quartey missed a tackle to allow Calvin Johnson to go 43 yards on a drive in the second quarter. Johnson hasn’t looked good this year but he somehow managed to take advantage of the Bears defense, which was playing zone on the play.
  5. Jones-Quartey wasn’t the only one who wasn’t tackling well. For the first time all season I can say that there was some bad tackling out there pretty much all over on occasion.
  6. The Bears had trouble getting pressure on Stafford over a much maligned offensive line. They were running stunts but the Lions were blocking it well.
  7. As with the pass protection, I thought the Lions offensive line did a good job blocking the run. All in all the Bears were getting blown back off the line and were having a tough time getting off of blocks. Aggressive play behind them helped limit the damage.
  8. I love Ameer Abdulla but was disappointed to once again see him put the ball on the ground again. The Lions got it back but it’s still a problem.
  9. Jeremiah Ratliff was out there but it sure didn’t show.


  1. The Lions came out playing eight in the box on first down. The Bears were glad to take advantage by attacking the edges with a lot of quick screens to the outside. The Bears didn’t abandon the run but the Lions defense was definitely stopping it. The Bears success with the pass eventually loosened them up and Forte saw more room later in the half .
  2. It was funny to watch the Lions come out for the second half because it was like a replay of the first half. They went back to what they started with, putting eight in the box and stopping the run. The Bears eventually went to the pass to beat it. I’d say that the Bears were reasonably successful taking what the Lions gave them, today.
  3. Again, its worth noting that the Lions looked aggressive and ready to play. They weren’t world beaters but to my eye they was still plenty of effort.
  4. Eddie Royal was back in the slot, this time helped out by having Alshon Jeffery back out wide. Royal came to the Bears hoping he could prove that he could play on the outside. But its obvious that the slot is where he belongs and he looks good there.
  5. Jay Cutler was far from perfect with his ball placement again, occasionally making it a lot tougher on his receivers than it should have been. He threw behind his receiver twice near the goal line late in the second quarter – once on a simple wide receiver screen – and the Bears settled for a field goal. Once again I was shaking my head over some throws.
  6. Cutler didn’t see a whole lot of pressure from the Lions front four against a patch work Bears offensive line. Once again, Cutler was very effective moving around the pocket when he did see pressure . On one pass late in the second quarter, he pulled off a near miracle to get away from pressure and throw up a 45 yard jump ball for Alshon Jeffery. Cutler threw some good clutch passes on the Bears last possession in regulation.
  7. The Bears struggled in the red zone today, settling for field goals more often than I’d like. They did score a critical touchdown midway through the fourth quarter but they needed an extra set of downs on what I thought was a questionable defensive holding call to do it.


  1. Chris Myers and Ronde Barber were OK. Again, I didn’t feel like I learned much and Barber gave me the distinct impression that he had some sympathy for the Lions but not enough to really be bothersome. Looking at Jen Hale makes me happy.
  2. I’m getting a little tired of watching other kickers put the ball out of the end zone while Robbie Gould kicks it short. Marc Mariani had a nice return in the second quarter but it was the usual story as it was brought back by a holding penalty. On the good side, the Bears recovered two muffed punts, one in the third quarter and one in the fourth in what was some poor special teams play by the Lions. The Lions pulled out a nicely timed fake punt in the fourth quarter to help make up for some of it.
  3. Walt Coleman’s crew had the fewest called penalties in the league going in to this game but apparently the Bears were out to ruin their record. Will Sutton was offsides, eliminating a sack from Jonathan Anderson. Sam Acho had a damaging face mask penalty on a Lions touchdown drive in the second quarter. Kyle Long had two holding penalties which put the Bears offense in a hole, one in the second quarter and one in the third. The Bears lost a first down in the third quarter on an Alshon Jeffery hold. Jeffery also had a pass interference in the red zone in the fourth quarter. He made up for it with a nice touchdown catch a play later. Fuller had a bad pass interference penalty in the fourth quarter to put the Lions into the red zone. For the Lions, Glover Quin had an unnecessary roughness call in the second quarter. They lost a touchdown on and offensive pass interference call on Calvin Johnson. It looked like a bad call to me, though. Josh Bynes had a bad holding call on Alshon Jeffery in the end zone to give the Bears four new downs in the red zone. Forte put the ball into the end zone.
  4. It felt like there were so many penalties in over time I stopped counting.  Suffice it to say I thought it was sloppy.
  5. There weren’t that many drops but Tim Wright had a bad one midway through the fourth quarter with the Lions down 31-24. Golden Tate also had a drop in the red zone on a ball thrown behind him in the red zone in the fourth quarter. Eddie Royal had a bad drop in over time.
  6. Jonathan Anderson almost came up with a huge interception late in the second quarter in the end zone. Great play by Kyle Fuller stripping the ball on that play. Unfortunately the call on the field was reversed and the referees awarded the Lions a touchdown on the field. That non-turnover meant as much to this game as any real turnover did. Good for Anderson for getting another one in the fourth quarter as Matthew Stafford pulled a Cutler on a badly thrown, soul-crushing interception deep in Detroit territory. Cutler had a third quarter interception in the end zone on a bad throw which cost the Bears at least three points.
  7. With the score at 24-22 early in the fourth quarter, I was pretty surprised to see the Bears kick the extra point rather than go for two. I con’t see the downside to going for it. It will be interesting to hear John Fox’s explanation after the game. They successfully went for two after scoring a touchdown later in the quarter.
  8. On the Lion’s side, kicking the field goal with less than three minutes to play on 4th and four in the red zone was a head scratcher. They did have three time outs and the Bears did have to run the ball to try to run the clock out. Nevertheless, it wasn’t the decision that I would have made. But I guess it worked out.
  9. The last Lions possession in regulation was a circus. There was a devastating intentional grounding call with 45 second left in the game on what I thought was a simple cross up between Stafford and Golden Tate. That was followed by a tough roughing the passer call against Pernell McPhee. Calvin Johnson finally put an end to it with a good six yard touchdown catch from Stafford.
  10. Though it was far from perfect, this was a pretty good football game to watch. These were reasonably well-matched, competitive teams, one that has a bad habit of turning the ball over and the other that has a bad habit of shooting itself in the foot with penalties. I thought both teams played hard, though. That was especially notable from the Lions, who some speculated might simply throw in the towel on a disappointing season after starting 0-5. There are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than watching these two teams play ball.

Marquess Wilson Come Out

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on the emergence of wide receiver Marquess Wilson:

“In the last two games, Wilson has been targeted 17 times and has 12 catches for 165 yards and one touchdown. That’s after he had nine targets and just three catches while playing 158 snaps in the first three games.

“‘Part of it is consistency, but part of it is this is a guy who even though he has been here three years hasn’t really played much,’ wide receivers coach Mike Groh said. “

And part of it is that the Bears have finally faced two mediocre secondaries. And quarterback Jay Cutler has done a wonderful job of avoiding the rush and that’s allowed Wilson and his mates to get open. Even then, the Bears aren’t getting a lot out of the offense.

It looks a lot like the Bears will be facing another struggling secondary this Sunday and a defensive front that isn’t getting to the quarterback like they did last year. I’d look for Wilson to once again be a minor force in an offense that needs everthing it can get.