Quarterback Escapability Against the Bears an Acceptable Compromise

Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune offers this assessment:

“The Bears have allowed TDs on the ground and in the air to Blaine Gabbert and Kirk Cousins in consecutive losses at home, and I’m wondering, is that a condition that qualifies fans for medical marijuana?”

This is a natural result of the fact that the Bears have played more man-to-man defense than they have in the past. With their backs to the quarterback, defensive backs aren’t as likely to be able to see him escape the pocket and help out as they would be in zone. Add that the Bears have chosen to rush the passer with abandon rather than with the discipline that coaches like Lovie Smith thought was necessary to keep the quarterback in the pocket and the result is what you’ve seen the last couple weeks.

It looks to me like the Bears are risking these runs as part of their overall philosophy.  The idea is to get more sacks with better coverage and more concentrated effort on the part of the defensive front, making the ability of the quarterback to escape the run an acceptable risk.  If the Bears had better pass rushers, such a risky strategy wouldn’t be necessary.  As it stands, they are only 18th in the league in sacks and with few talented blitzers, they haven’t been able to closing the gap.

Until the Bears get better talent on the defensive side of the ball, they have to do what they have to do to get more pressure on the quarterback while making necessary sacrifices.

Hroniss Grasu Is the Key to the Success of the 2015 Draft Class

Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune makes a pertinent comment on the state of the Bears offensive line:

“As good as second-round draft choice Eddie Goldman and fifth-rounder Adrian Amos have performed, it’s scary for Ryan Pace’s draft class that third-round choice Hroniss Grasu gets steamrolled so easily.”

Hroniss Grasu as an Oregon Duck

I don’t know about Pace but it certainly is disturbing to me. The third round is usually reserved for elite talents that have just one or two little things that keep them from being elite players. It’s a round you have to hit on to find starters and the Bears have a poor history of doing so. Since 2010 only Will Sutton and Cris Conte have had anything that you could consider to be close successful careers. Sutton only emerged this year so the jury is still out on him.

The book on Grasu is that he needs a year in the weight room. Bears fans are praying that’s true. The 2015 draft, outside of Grasu and injured wide receiver Kevin White, has been reasonably productive. Eddie Goldman, Adrian Amos, and Jeremey Langford are all starter quality players who have made significant contributions this year. even the sixth round pick, offensive tackle Tayo Fabuluje, shows surprising athleticism for a man his size and he looks to me to have enormous potential. But the draft class won’t really be a success unless Grasu comes through as a solid starter for years to come.

Could the Bears Next Quarterback Already Be on the Roster?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune highlights the situation that 2014 sixth round draft pick, back up quarterback David Fales finds himself in:

“Forget about discovering the next Tom Brady, a former sixth-round pick — the odds are heavily stacked against locating even a quality backup late in the draft. [Former Bears general manager Phil] Emery said he viewed Fales as competition to be a future backup.

“‘Everybody talks,’ Fales said. ‘I don’t care. I appreciated Phil’s interest in me and everything, but what he thought my ceiling was doesn’t matter. I know where I am. I know I can play and I just keep getting better.'”

LAKE FOREST, IL - MAY 18:  Quarterback David Fales #12 of the Chicago Bears works out during rookie minicamp at Halas Hall on May 18, 2014 in Lake Forest, Illinois.   (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
LAKE FOREST, IL – MAY 18: Quarterback David Fales #12 of the Chicago Bears works out during rookie minicamp at Halas Hall on May 18, 2014 in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

It’s worth noting that one reason Emery probably set the bar for Fales so low is that he was afraid of upsetting starter Jay Cutler with the idea that he might be drafting competition for him. He was probably also trying to stop fans and media from creating unwarranted pressure on Fales to perform right away.

No one drafts anyone with any pick anywhere with the idea that he’ll never be more than a back up. Some guys have a better chance than others to start and the higher draft picks certainly have higher floors. But I’ve got to believe that any GM worth his salt is always shooting to find a playmaker with every pick. Emery was no different.

The situation with Fales is similar to a lot of guys who are selected in his position. He has flaws that he needs to overcome. But that doesn’t mean that he can’t, especially at quarterback. Accuracy and intangibles are far, far more important to the position than athleticism. These can make up for a lot of physical limitations as long as those limitations aren’t severe. At about 6’2″ Fales is only slightly undersized. He’s is thought to be extremely intelligent, he had good pocket presence in college and he’s extremely accurate. He led the nation with a 72% completion percentage his first year at San Jose State. That will have to be the factor that compensates for a lack of arm strength as he struggles to throw the ball deep. It’s obvious that the Bears thought that he could do that or they wouldn’t have drafted him.

Matt Blanchard
Matt Blanchard

It’s worth noting that practice squad quarterback Matt Blanchard, an undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin-Whitewater, is in a similar position. Indeed, Blanchard has most of the strengths that Fales has but with more size (6’3″) and athleticism and a better arm. He impressed Green Bay quarterback guru, head coach Mike McCarthy, a great deal in camp this year. Via John Mullin at csnchicago.com:

“[Blanchard] moved Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy to issue more than just platitudes as the Packers and Blanchard went through their final minicamp of the offseason.

“‘I’ll just tell you what I told him when I met him in April,’ McCarthy said via Tyler Dunne’s blog up at the Journal-Sentinel.

“‘I said, ‘Why the hell don’t you have a job?’ Just after watching his workout and watching film of his time at Carolina. I just think there’s a lot there to work with, as far as his physical talent. The young man’s a winner, and he’s in a good place. He’s getting better. He’s getting better each and every week.'”

As Bears fans look toward the offseason and wonder what the team is going to do about the quarterback position, it’s important to note that the quarterback of the future could well be on the team already. True, these aren’t men that you sign and count on to become quality starting quarterbacks in the NFL. But it would be a mistake to count them out.