Betting the Under at 6.5 Wins for the Bears? I Wouldn’t. And Other Points of View.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions. And mine.

    In a column last week, you quoted [Bears haed coach] Matt Eberflus as saying it “creates more gaps in the running game when you have that lead back in there.” I wasn’t sure exactly what this meant. Why does having the extra player “create more gaps”? Don’t the players have to cover the same number of gaps regardless? Can you explain? — Tom S., Chicago

    Let’s say, for example, the Bears run power or lead through the C gap. With a fullback on the field, the offense is getting an extra player to the second level and it creates another gap because now the defense needs two linebackers (or one and a safety) attacking the back. One has to hammer the back and the other has to spill the play. In essence, the fullback creates leverage advantages for the offense and a plus-one number through the gap leading to the second level. I hope that makes sense.

    It does.

    I thought about this and after a while I think I figured out exactly what Eberflus was talking about in terms of the scheme.

    If you have three blockers on the right side of the offensive line (center, guard, tackle) you have three gaps, one to the right of each player (A, B, C). If you throw an extra blocker in the hole in the form of a full back, you have an extra gap.

    Probably should’ve waited a day or two and thought about that one before writing it in.

  • The Dolphins traded former Bear Adam Shaheen to the Texans for a sixth round pick. Via Charean Williams at
  • One thing you immediately notice about the Dolphins if you follow them over any length of time is that they have a gift for getting value for players that are going to make the roster. This is just the latest in a long line of such transactions.

    The Bears in contrast rarely get what fans think are good value for their players when they need to trade them. I’m not quite sure why but it could be that they simply don’t do a good enough job of selling them.

    In any case it’s an area that I think we would all like to see improved.

  • Adam Jahns at The Atheletic passess on information about linebacker Roquan Smith‘s trade request.
  • Smith shared some harsh words about the Bears front office in his statement. The NFL Network reported that there are de-escalators included in the Bears’ offer.

    “The deal sent to me is one that would be bad for myself, and for the entire LB market if I signed it,” Smith said. “I’ve been trying to get something done that’s fair since April, but their focus has been on trying to take advantage of me.”

    There are a few things that struck me about this situation. First, they’re letting Smith get away with negotiating through the media. That was absolutely forbidden by former GM Ryan Pace who was following the lead of the GMs before him. When an agent tried to leak information to the media like this, Pace shut him down. Literally. As far as anyone can tell, he didn’t even talk to Allen Robinson‘s agent for months after he pulled such a stunt.

    Poles handled this situation completely differently. He immediately called a press conference in answer to Smith’s public comments.

    I’ve always liked the way that Bears handled these negotiations because I always thought that negotiating through the media was a bad thing. It will be interesting to see if this was a one time exception for a player who is negotiating his contract without an agent or if this is a new way of doing things in the front office. And I won’t be the only one watching. Agents throughout the league are probably very interested in this situation.

    In any case, media commentary has very generally not really matched up to reality in this negotiation. Most media members find it much easier to criticize a large, almost faceless organization than a player that they would like to talk to every day. Personal relationships get in the way, as well.

    The truth is that this trade request is a non-issue unless someone blows the Bears away with an offer. The Bears have all of the leveage here.

    Smith’s ultimate option is to hold out until week 10 of the season when he would need to come back for his contract to toll for another year. That would mean giving up between 2/3 and 3/4 of his salary. I can’t imagine he’d do that. Not only that but in a year where the Bears aren’t really expected to compete for anything significant, how much would it really matter if Smith did sit out?

    In addition, if a deal doesn’t get done before the season starts and Smith comes back and plays, which is a virtual certainty, then the Bears can franchise tag him in 2023.

    The fact that Smith doens’t have an agent and is negotiating his own contract is really a problem here. First, as Jahns points out, Smith is undoubtedly hearing the Bears tell him things that he doesn’t want to hear. Their job is to negotiate his contract number down. That means being critical. When you do that to an agent, he serves as a buffer between the organization and the player. Without an agent, there is no buffer and negative things end up having to be said directly to him. That can not only affect the player emotionally, it could even translate to doubt on the field. No team wants to be faced with this situation.

    Even more, there is the practical matter of just how much of th epractical business of negotiating that Smith can do himself. We don’t know this but let’s say that the offer from the Bears with the de-escalators was an initial offer. Has Smith submitted a counter-offer? Is he even capable of doing that? If not, what does he expect? That the Bears will just negotiate with themsleves?

    This whole thing is a little bit of a mess. But, prersonally, I don’t lay that at the Bears door.

  • Colleen Kane at the Chicago Tribune quotes offensive coordinator Luke Getsy on the way that he’s training the offensive players to execute his scheme.
  • “This is a process, right? And we stress every single day that we’re a process-driven team, and our unit is the same way,” Getsy said. “And it’s all about making sure we get better every single day. Whether the focus is on getting better at our protection adjustments or our hot adjustments or throwing hot routes — whatever that adjustment is or whatever that emphasis of the day is, we just have to make sure we’re getting better at it.

    I really liked this quote.

    Football coaches are, when you break it down, teachers. And the best way to teach broad subjects is to break them down into their components and teach each component one at a time. Each one builds one upon another.

    It sounds to me like that’s what Getsy he is doing. One day on protection adjustments. One day on throwing hot routes. Another day on another part of the offense.

    It isn’t just a question of watching film seeing problems and then plugging holes every single day. If we’re all lucky, they’ll eventually get to that point. But for right now it’s about building the offense one block at a time. It’s nice to know that the coaches realize that.

  • Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times talks about the Bears affinity for Equanimeous St. Brown.
  • Eberflus talked up Equanimeous St. Brown after a strong practice Wednesday, but it’s near-impossible to get excited about someone with 16 catches over the past three seasons. It’s still baffling that the Bears, so desperate for offensive playmakers, wouldn’t commit to [wide receiver Allen] Robinson under the Ryan Pace regime. The smartest offensive mind in the NFL, Sean McVay, had no trouble with the Super Bowl champion Rams giving him a three-year, $46.5 million deal.

    It’s not really baffling. It’s fairly obvious that Pace didn’t see the dominant athleticism in Alan Robinson that he wanted in a number one wide receiver. He almost certainly also thought that wide receiver was a very replaceable position and that he could rapidly rebuild it with other players.

    That doesn’t mean he was right. But given his history with the Bears and the facts of the matter, it wasn’t terribly surprising that he thought paying Robinson would be overpaying.

One Final Thought

Finley analyzes what he seen from the Bears thus far.

The Bears win total is 6.5 — over or under?

Under. They’re not better than the Packers, 49ers, Bills, Eagles, Patriots, Cowboys, Dolphins or Vikings. That’s 10 losses right there — and they can’t run the table against the rest of their slate.

This win total in Vegas has intrigued me since it was first set. It does seem a little bit high. But it’s likely that the bookies are counting on fans pounding the under.

If we don’t think the Bears are very good in Chicago, imagine what fans in other cities think.

I’m not much of a gambler but I know one thing. Never bet against the bookies. If it looks like the bookies are trying to get you to pound the under, there’s usually a good reason for that. Something tells me that nationally and locally, people are underestimating the influence of a new coaching staff in Chicago.

I don’t usually gamble. But if I did, I’d bet the over here.

What Will the New Offensive Scheme Look Like? And Other Points of View.

  • Kevin Fishbain and Adam Jahns at The Athletic give their report from the first padded practice.
  • Running back David Montgomery has embraced the potential of playing on special teams this season.

    “Funny thing about David the other day, he was taking a couple reps on the special teams and his reps were over and he said, ‘Hey, can I get on the scout team since my reps are over? Can I get on the scout team and give these guys a look?’” special teams coordinator Richard Hightower Said. “That just speaks to (GM) Ryan Poles and (coach) Matt Eberflus about the culture that these guys are creating.”

    But it probably says more about Montgomery, who remains the Bears’ lead back but also is in the final year of his contract. The special teams work is new for him. He has to learn it. Montgomery said it was as simple as seeing his name on the depth chart and going to the special teams drills.

    “Wherever they need me, I’m going to be ready to be there,” he said. “I’ve never played special teams before. But I’m always down and excited to learn so I can be better.”

    I liked hearing this. I’ve always wondered why they don’t put more starting players from offense and defense on special teams. They are, supposedly, generally speaking your best players.

    Coaches constantly claim that special teams are as important as the offence and the defense on the team. But if that were true, I always thought that you would see more starting players on the third phase. I understand that it increases the possibility that these players will get hurt. But, if your words are good and special teams are as important as the two other phases, that shouldn’t really be a factor.

  • Fishbain and Jahns also shared some observations from Friday’s practice.
  • Wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown proved a reliable target for Fields on Friday in the red zone, high-pointing a couple of passes for touchdowns.

    Usually I read these short blurbs about some play in camp and just pass them over. Observations like this early in camp with guys not playing in pads don’t really mean much to me.

But I have high hopes about St. Brown. He’s got size, he’s got speed, he’s got everything that you need. He wasn’t the best of receivers with the Packers but quarterback Aaron Rodgers knew St. Brown as a rookie. That’s a little bit like being 50 years old but having your mother look at you and still see you like you’re 16.

Offense coordinator Luke Getsy seems to agree that there might be something there. Via Dan Wiederer and Colleen Kane at the Chicago Tribune.

Getsy said St. Brown’s best football is ahead of him after watching him mature last season after initially not making the Packers roster out of training camp.

“I saw a transformation of a guy turn into a pro, and his mentality, the toughness and the way he attacked every day, I was just super impressed with how he handled that,” Getsy said. “I always liked EQ and thought he was good player and then I saw him go through that adversity and the way he handled all that stuff, that’s what these guys are all leaning on. That leadership and that experience that he went through, that’s super for us.”

St. Brown might be capable of doing more than he showed with the Packers. The Bears might be catching him on the rise where if they give him an opportunity to show what he can do, he could be a very good player for them. As far as I can tell he certainly has the tools.

  • Speaking of Getsy, Jahns talks about what the scheme he will run might look like.
  • Coming from the Packers, Getsy is an extension of the Kyle Shanahan/Sean McVay coaching tree and offense. One scout suggested that the Bears could run a version of the Titans offense.

    Packers coach Matt LaFleur was Tennessee’s offensive coordinator in 2018. Since that season, the Titans have ranked ninth, 10th, second and first in rushing attempts. And with it could come a heavy dose of play-action passes. According to data from Pro Football Reference, Tennessee ranked first, second and 12th in play-action passing yards over the past three seasons.

    “All of the new coaches, they’ve been great,” [QB Justin] Fields said. “They’re great teachers. So (I’m) just learning something new every day. Building on what we have already as our foundation is just going to make us better as a team.”

    I would be extremely happy to see the Bears run the kind of offense that the Titans have run. It’s an offense that seemed to get the most out of the players on the team year after year.

    Play action pass is and has always been the heart of most NFL offenses for decades and decades now. The Bears to me seem to be set up to effectively run a system where the run game is the base and you pass off of it. The Chicago weather and the quality of their running backs and many other factors seem to point in that direction.

    Former head coach Matt Nagy seemed to come to that conclusion last year. It’s seemed that he tried to make the adjustment to run more of a play action offense in response to suggestions from the players and perhaps some of his coaches. However neither he nor his staff really knew what they were doing or how to teach the system. Nagys background was in Kansas City which is more of an open, pass first offense.

    The coaching staff this year seems to be cut from a different cloth. Their experience and ability to teach a play action based offense bodes well for the transition to that kind of a scheme. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do.

  • Kane on center Doug Kramer, who has replaced Lucas Patrick as the starting center in the lineup due to injury.
  • Kramer, who is 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, noted he has been labeled as undersized for his position for years but still made 48 starts at center over five seasons at Illinois. He said having that much experience gives him confidence but also noted the huge amount of work he has to do — starting with the mental side — to catch up to NFL veterans.

    I’m worried about the fact that Kramer is undersized. Whenever I hear the words “learn leverage“ that’s usually what that means.

    It looks to me like the Bears are not going to rely much on power football. That will help Kramer here. But nevertheless, even as they execute an outside zone blocking scheme, Kramer will be someone to keep an eye on if he continues to be the starter at the position.

  • Fishbain and Jahns quotes wide receiver and N’Keal Harry.
  • “This is a golden opportunity for all of us,” Harry said. “It’s just who’s going to grab it? For me to capitalize off this … I just have to show how dominant I am, and I just need to be that big, strong wide receiver.”

    Word is that Harry came out of Arizona State after having physically dominated the defensive backs in the Pac-10. However he was unable to do the same with the defense of backs on the pro level and was unable to learn the subtleties involved in the position that would have allowed him to use the traits that he has to beat them in the pro game.

    It’s hard to imagine that the Bears will get more out of Harry than the Patriots did. But perhaps the change in scenery will allow Henry to get more out of his physical traits in the NFL. The Patriots run a really complex technical system. Some good wide receivers have failed to pick it up. Chad Johnson, for instance, seemed to have trouble simply learning the playbook.

    It’s possible that Harry just needs a fresh start in a new system where things are a little bit simpler and where he can just play in lack and asthma points out and let his physical traits come through more while thinking less.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune thinks that Riley Reiff is the Bears new starting left tackle.
  • Reiff’s one-year contract calls for a base salary of $3 million, and he will earn an additional $4.5 million if he plays only 10% of snaps and the offense improves in any one of six key offensive categories. Details of the categories are unknown, but the offense was so bad last season, the Bears obviously are planning to pay the additional money and aren’t going to make $7.5 million a layup for a player they expect to be a backup. Reiff can earn another $2.5 million tied to playing time and has a $2 million playoff bonus as well, so it’s easy to envision him as the starting left tackle.

    Biggs has a point and usually you can’t go wrong following the money. And it’s worth noting that Fishbain agrees with him. In fact Fishbain also thinks that Kevin Schofield will be the new starting right guard.

    But I have my doubts. Reiff has never been a very good tackle in the league. The Lions teams and Vikings teams that he played on were generally considered to be among the worst in the league and Reiff’s position was always targeted as on eneeding an upgrade, primarily because of his run blocking. I would’ve never put him anywhere above the bottom third of the week and I don’t even think it’s a borderline call. It’s not like he can’t be beaten out.

    The Bears invested resources in the draft to try to find younger players to take these positions. They weren’t high draft picks but it was an investment. I still believe that the Bears will be disappointed if both Reiff and Schofield are starting in September. Certainly in November. There can be a little doubt whether you think the odds are decent or not but the best possible scenario for the Bears would be for the younger players to work out and beat out these veterans.