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Dannehy: If Bears Sincerely Like Montgomery, Expect Extension

| April 13th, 2022


If the Chicago Bears actually like David Montgomery, you can bet they’ll end up paying him.

The team will likely wait until after the season, though that could be a mistake if they’re able to get their running game going. While fans have argued about if Montgomery is good enough or if any running back should be paid, in general, the fact of the matter is teams who run the system the Bears are going to run usually end up paying their running backs.

Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy comes from Green Bay where the team spent a second-round pick on AJ Dillon and then paid Aaron Jones a contract that averaged $12 million per year. That wasn’t an exception to the rule. Other running backs from the same system who have gotten large contracts include Dalvin Cook, Todd Gurley, Jerick McKinnon, Arian Foster, Davonta Freeman and Derrick Henry. The Cleveland Browns paid both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

The people who run this offense value running backs, even if fans do not. The question isn’t if they’ll be willing to pay a running back, it’s if they’ll be willing to pay Montgomery.

Getsy didn’t say much when he was introduced; at one point he even questioned the idea of what a playbook is. Head coach Matt Eberflus was effusive in his praise of Montgomery when he met the media at the owner’s meetings.

“You talk about motor and mean, yeah, he is that guy,” Eberflus said. “Serious. A pro. Worker. He’s going to be exciting to work with, and he’s going to fit right in. He’s the kind of guy that just says, ‘Hey, watch me go. I’m not going to say a whole bunch of things, but just watch me do my job.'” Eberflus has spoken about adding more running backs to the mix, but it’s clear he likes Montgomery. A lot.

Perhaps it’s just offseason talk or a smoke screen; we can’t really rule anything out right now. But if Eberflus is sincere, and Montgomery plays well in 2022, he’s going to be in Chicago beyond next season.

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Dannehy: Bears CAN Be Competitive in 2022

| April 6th, 2022


If the Chicago Bears are going to be competitive in 2022, they have some work to do. But it is doable.

There’s little argument that, on paper, the roster is worse right now than it was at the start of the 2021 season, but that doesn’t account for the expected leaps young players can make. The last two draft classes have produced some promising players; the most important of which is quarterback Justin Fields.

If Fields isn’t good, the Bears don’t have a chance at being competitive in 2022. Other young players like Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet, Jaylon Johnson and Trevis Gipson could take big steps. The 2021 draft class oozes with potential (even beyond Fields) as nobody would be shocked if Teven Jenkins, Larry Borom, Khalil Herbert, Thomas Graham and Khyris Tonga were all plus players in 2022.

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Dannehy: Poles and Flus Believe in Fields, But They’re Not Risking Their Careers on an Uncertainty

| March 31st, 2022


Being that they worked together in Kansas City before coming to the Chicago Bears, it was natural to ask if Ryan Poles had contact with Matt Nagy. The answer was a simple yes and the reason was “to find out where he may have messed up.”

For Nagy, and Ryan Pace, the answer very likely comes in 2018, when the team went all in on a second-year quarterback who didn’t have a particularly impressive rookie season. While Nagy didn’t draft Mitch Trubisky, it’s fair to say he wouldn’t have taken the job if he didn’t believe in the young quarterback. It’s also fair to say that Nagy signed off on the moves that followed his hiring that offseason, including trading significant draft capital for Khalil Mack.

While the strategy of investing in and building around young quarterbacks is popular around the league, the Bears are clearly bucking the trend this off-season. The previous regime gave near top of the market deals to Allen Robinson and Trey Burton, while also making Taylor Gabriel wealthy. They spent two top-51 picks on offensive players. The team was set to win, and it did, at first. They went 12-4 and were a missed field goal away from advancing to the second round of the playoffs.

Now we know it was doomed from the start.

Trubisky had his fair share of struggles during his second season, though he was good enough win games. The team had a top ten offense early in the season, but struggled down the stretch, failing to score more than 24 points in the final five games.

The Bears knew the defense would drop off, but they hoped the offense would be better. When Gabriel and Burton were hurt in Nagy’s second year it became clear that Trubisky could not lift the team. He wasn’t a franchise quarterback, but they had already invested too much in him and his supporting cast. He was their best option.

After the 12-win campaign, the team struggled with mediocrity, largely because of what was happening at the quarterback position. It wasn’t until frustration had already built up and fans were at the Halas Hall gates with torches and pitchforks that they moved on from Trubisky.

The plan was sound, the quarterback just never became what they were convinced he would. They gambled on Trubisky. They lost.

Poles isn’t gambling on Justin Fields.

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Dannehy: Three-Tech Becomes Major Draft Need

| March 23rd, 2022


Just like that, the Chicago Bears have yet another major hole to fill on their roster.

Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus aggressively targeted the three-technique defensive tackle position at the onset of free agency. But that aggressiveness didn’t pay off, as Larry Ogunjobi did not pass his physical, and the three-year $40.5 million contract he agreed to went into the trash.

Poles pivoted to Justin Jones, but it’s hard to see the team relying on someone who has mostly been a part-time player at a key position. While he has been solid when he has played, Jones has missed at least three games each of the last three seasons and was out for six games last year. The exact details of the contract have not yet been released, the two-year $12 million deal he reportedly agreed to indicate a rotational player.

From the time the Bears agreed to terms with Ogunjobi to the time he failed his physical, the defensive tackle market dried up. (Jones was on his way to signing with another team before the Bears swooped in.) What we know, though, is that the team sees the position as a priority and the draft could provide them a long-term answer.

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Dannehy: Bears Can’t Ignore Defense as They Build Around Fields

| March 16th, 2022


The signing of Larry Ogunjobi was telling in that it shows the new Chicago Bears regime knows it has to maintain a solid defense for the development of Justin Fields, or whoever the long-term quarterback may be. Ogunjobi will fill a critical position in the Matt Eberflus defense, profiling as the prototypical three-technique, responsible for pressure up the middle. The contract, reported to be three years and $40.5 million, caused some uproar. Why? Because 2022 should rightfully be all about quarterback and it’s hard to argue a defensive tackle helps a quarterback. But this addition will help take pressure off of Justin Fields.

And the new defensive tackle is a very good player. He has had ten or more tackles for a loss, five sacks and at least 13 quarterback hits in three of the last four seasons. He essentially replaces Akiem Hicks, who hasn’t had ten tackles for loss or five sacks since 2018.

Trading Khalil Mack certainly sent mixed signals.

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ATM: There are Solid WR, OL Targets Still Available for the Bears in FA

| March 9th, 2022


As the Chicago Bears get ready to kickoff free agency next week, they should have an eye on finding proven talent with which to surround Justin Fields. This is a similar process to what the team did in 2018 with Mitch Trubisky.

The Bears shelled out big money for Allen Robinson, while also adding Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton. While Gabriel and Burton were both injured early in their tenures, they were also key parts to the team’s 12-4 campaign in 2018. It was when they were no longer available that questions about the supporting cast began.

What hurt the Bears more was the slow — or nonexistent — development of second round picks James Daniels and Anthony Miller. It wasn’t until last year that Daniels finally seemed to come around, though probably still didn’t play up to his draft status. Miller showed flashes but bounced around the league last year after the Bears traded him to Houston. He ended up with just six total catches with Houston and Pittsburgh. The other wide receiver drafted in 2018, Javon Wims, was cut before the season began. Adding to the supporting cast failures was the Riley Ridley selection.

When it comes to evaluating quarterback play, the first question is always regarding what is around the player. The Bears need to do what they can to make sure they have that answered.

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ATM: Colts Drafts Paint Picture of Coach E’s “Type”

| March 2nd, 2022


If the draft history of the Indianapolis Colts is any indication, Matt Eberflus is going to target front seven players who are exceptionally fast with long arms. In four years with Eberflus as their defensive coordinator, the Colts drafted six edge players and six linebackers. The sheer number of players at those positions in four years should be enough to raise eyebrows, but he also seemed to have a specific type, which could key Bears fans into some prospects after the NFL Scouting Combine this week.

Bears fans would be wise to begin familiarizing themselves with the linebackers in the 2022 draft. The Colts almost always took one and that’s surely because Eberlus — a former linebackers coach — prioritizes the position. (We saw in the mid-2000s how important having Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher were to the Bears.)

  • The Colts seemed to prioritize the ability to cover a lot of ground as their linebackers were, for the most part, long and fast. Both of Indianapolis’ top linebackers have arms that are longer than 34 inches.
  • Three of their picks were below 32 inches, but all were barely six-feet tall, meaning their limbs were still long for their frames.
  • What was most interesting about the linebackers is that the slowest still ran a 4.7-second 40-yard dash. The next slowest clocked in at 4.63.
  • They all had broad jumps of at least 10 feet and vertical of at least 33.5 inches.
  • While heights ranged from 6’0 to 6’4”, the Colts drafted players on the lighter side as none weighed even 240 pounds.

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Dannehy: Scheme Changes Can Help Bears Narrow Off-Season Focus

| February 24th, 2022

When mapping out the 2022 Chicago Bears off-season, nobody should forget about where the Bears’ top coaches are coming from.

Luke Getsy comes from Green Bay, where they have succeeded offensively without an elite collection of receiving talent. Matt Eberflus and Alan Williams come from Indianapolis, where they consistently fielded top defenses without top players in the secondary. Since those are the two position groups where the Bears are currently most deficient, one would they’d be the areas of focus for Ryan Poles’ personnel department. But the schemes of the new coaches can help the Bears focus their attention on getting better in the trenches. (Poles has made it clear that he was not happy with what he saw on tape from the team’s offensive line. It wasn’t just talent, but attitude that he noted — a sign that the entire group just may be overhauled or, at the very least, no jobs are safe.)

Offense

The Bears don’t have Davante Adams or Aaron Rodgers like Getsy had with the Packers, but they do have three players who caught more passes than Green Bay’s second-leading wide receiver, Allen Lazard. Green Bay’s passing offense ran through Adams, who caught 123 passes. Their next leading receivers were Lazard (40), Randall Cobb (28) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (26). Their backup running back caught more passes than their third receiver or top tight end.

That’s a recipe the Bears can follow.

Mooney isn’t close to being as good as Adams, but he’s considerably better than the rest of Green Bay’s wide receivers. The simple numbers game tells us the Bears will have to add to the position and whoever they add will likely be better than Lazard.

The Bears also have an ascending Cole Kmet, who caught 60 passes in his second year at 22 years old, and you can bet the team will use David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert more in the passing game.

If Getsy is able to implement a similar system, the Bears will have a run-based offense. In two years with Getsy as the passing game coordinator, the Packers were 24th and 15th in pass attempts. Adams is the only wide receiver who caught more than 40 passes in either season.

The other part, of course, is not having Rodgers. Nobody should expect Fields to play at that level in 2022, but if he isn’t at least a competent passer, the scheme and players around him won’t matter all that much.

The Bears might not have an Adams-like receiver, but they shouldn’t need one. If they can run the ball as efficiently as Green Bay did, they’ll move the ball. And if Fields is what many think he can be, he’ll get them buckets in the passing game with a diverse group of pass catchers.

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Dannehy: It Doesn’t Start at the Top. It Starts Under Center.

| February 9th, 2022

While some voices around the Chicago Bears have lost their voices shouting IT STARTS AT THE TOP, the Cincinnati Bengals serve as a reminder that, in reality, it starts under center.

Sunday, the Bengals have a chance to win their first Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history. They’re doing this after winning a combined six games in the 2019 and 2020 seasons. They have the same coach, the same coordinators, a six-person front office and the cheapest owner in the sport. Yet here they are. Because now they have a Joe Burrow.

The Bears have a chance at a similar turnaround, but Justin Fields will need to make a similar leap.

The Bears offseason and coaching search was seen as something that would be centered around Fields. Fans clamored for an offensive head coach who could, in theory, “develop” Fields into an elite quarterbacks. But NFL coaches don’t make bad quarterbacks good, or good quarterbacks great. That is left mostly up to the player himself. (The 2011 CBA limited the amount of time coaches have with players in the offseason.) Mike McCarthy used 10-hour days to help refine Aaron Rodgers’ mechanics, but that is no longer possible in the current NFL. Quarterbacks have had to rely on personal coaches to refine their mechanics. It’s what Josh Allen credits for his development.

Chicago has been criticized for hiring a defensive head coach with a first-time offensive coordinator and an inexperienced QB coach. In all, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko have just three years total working with quarterbacks. John DeFilippo had 11 himself as a coordinator or QB coach, Bill Lazor had 12 and Matt Nagy had nine. The Bears went from a team of expert QB coaches — who had gotten MVP-caliber seasons from the likes of Alex Smith, Nick Foles and Carson Wentz — to an unknown.

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Dannehy: Eberflus Must Fully Control His Defense

| February 2nd, 2022


The most significant thing to come out of Monday’s introductory press conference was that Matt Eberflus won’t be calling the defensive plays, even while the team converts to the 4-3 defense he ran in Indianapolis. There are no issues with Eberflus delegating; many head coaches find it easier to manage the whole of the game while doing so. But Flus still must maintain full control of this defense. He would not be a head coach without his success as a defensive coordinator and not using those skills would be a waste.

Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh are two common examples of defensive coaches who do not call plays. (Many forget that the season before Harbaugh was hired in Baltimore, he was no longer coaching specials in Philly. He was coaching the defensive backs.) In those cases, though, both teams already had outstanding defenses and the new head coaches retained their staffs.

Eberflus doesn’t have that luxury. The team is bringing several coaches from Indianapolis to fill out the defensive staff, including expected defensive coordinator Alan Williams. The Bears are going to try to mimic the success Eberflus had with the Colts, but the new head coach must understand it won’t be easy without the same guy (him) pushing the buttons.

And for every Tomlin or Harbaugh, there is a Leslie Frazier; a defensive coach who delegated the responsibilities in Minnesota, even though the team probably would’ve been better off with the head coach handling the job. Frazier is a notable example because he entrusted the same person Eberflus is expected to hire and it didn’t go well. The first year was okay, as Williams’ defense with the Vikings ranked 16th in yardage, 14th in points allowed and 22nd in takeaways. The second season, they were in the bottom-five in all three categories. Williams, specifically, was blamed not just by media members and fans, but by players.

The next year, with many of the same players and Mike Zimmer as the coach, the Vikings fielded a top-15 defense.

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