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For Bears Defense, Offseason Needs Quickly Coming into Focus

| September 27th, 2022


Thinking about 2022 as a developmental season means thinking about what the primary roster needs will be heading into 2023. And just three weeks into the season, those needs are becoming clear on the defensive side of the football.

First things first. The Bears should not even consider letting Roquan Smith play elsewhere next season. Does that mean signing him to a $100 million contract? Not necessarily. While a happy Roquan is the best possible outcome for both sides, it was obvious Sunday that Roquan is more than capable of delivering a professional (and brilliant) performance even without the (somewhat absurd) guaranteed money he seeks. The franchise tag is awful for players, but it exists, and the Bears should not hesitate to use it on one of the best defensive players in the league. Unless another team approaches with a knockout trade offer Roquan should be wearing #58 in Chicago next year.

Second is the secondary, which looks solid at the very back and sketchy everywhere else. At corner, there are too many questions. Can Jaylon Johnson stay healthy for a season? Kindle Vildor has shown an ability to make plays, but can he display the consistency required to be a starting NFL corner? Kyler Gordon is a rookie, and rookies struggle, but some of Gordon’s struggles are, let’s just call them…eye-popping. Yet there are still plenty of moments that show why Gordon was selected in the second round, including several in the second half Sunday. Can he overcome the former and produce more of the latter? Corner is a position where you can’t have too much talent and the Bears need to add several quality bodies.

Last, and the opposite of least, is the defensive front. There is some talent on this line, but it’s hard not to notice two alarming trends.

  • For as good as the Bears have been running the ball, they have been equally bad defending the run. They’re getting pushed off the ball and it’s now very clear why their first free agent target was Larry Ogunjobi. They lack heft in the middle of the line.
  • The Bears are struggling to get off the field on third downs, primarily because their pass rush disappears in those spots. (Robert Quinn seems like he’s been a few feet from about ten sacks.) There is no such thing as a great defense absent a great pass rush. The quickest route to a great pass rush is finding yourself a great pass rusher. It will likely be their second biggest need this offseason.

Through three games, the Bears are firmly a mid-table defense, which should give fans confidence in what Matt Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams are building in Chicago. They don’t have top of the league defensive talent. But they might only be three or four players away from being among the game’s best.

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Week Three Game Preview, Volume II: Bears Will Find Themselves a Surprising 2-1

| September 23rd, 2022


Five Things I Think Will Happen Sunday:

  • Justin Fields will rebound, to a degree. The Bears will get the run game going early, opening up play action, and leading to a stat line around 17-26, 246 yards, 1 TD throwing, 1 TD running. It will be enough to quiet down the noise surrounding the quarterback for at least another week.
  • Darnell Mooney will finally kick off his 2022 campaign. Luke Getsy hears the criticism and knows he needs to get his top receiver involved. Seven catches, 104 yards and a touchdown.
  • Dameon Pierce will have his breakout game for the Texans. After a 15 carry, 69-yard output against Denver, this shapes up for a 20+ carry, 100+ yard performance, especially with the Bears concerned about protecting both one starting outside corner and their rookie slot guy.
  • Eddie Jackson will get his second interception of the season. One thing that stands out watching Davis Mills is the number of contested balls he throws over the middle of the field. Jackson snags one.
  • The team that wins the sack battle wins the game. And the Bears win that battle, 4-2.

Chicago Bears 24, Houston Texans 13

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Lovie Returns to Soldier Field (Again): Week Three Game Preview, Volume I

| September 22nd, 2022


He has a beard now. A glorious, white beard. It terrifies young babies. So…

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears this Week?

I.

Always.

Like.

THE.

Chicago.

Bears.


Lovie vs. Opposing Quarterbacks

In the first two weeks of the season, Lovie’s defense has faced Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson, both times as substantial underdogs. Their passer ratings?

Ryan: 83.1

Wilson: 66.5

That ranks the Texans seventh in the league in opposer passer rating, a pretty decent stat when evaluating a pass defense. For those thinking this is a “get healthy” week for Justin Fields, that just isn’t the case.

But Houston is allowing 163.5 on the ground so don’t be surprised if the game plan for the Bears in Week 3 is relatively similar to what we’ve seen so far in September.

Knowing Lovie, expect the Texans to sell out to stop the run and dare Fields to sit in the pocket and beat them. If Fields has a good afternoon, the Bears could have a big offensive output.


Other Early Stats that Could Matter

  • Lovie’s teams always get off the bus running the ball but through two games the Bears have actually run it substantially more, to the tune of 64-46 total carries. (Fields runs a lot. Davis Mills runs less.) Bears are also averaging a yard more per carry.
  • Keep an eye on third down defense. Texans are allowing conversions on exactly a 33.3% of attempts. The Bears are allowing conversions on 50%. Small sample size, sure, but those numbers projected out are devastating for the Bears.
  • Both the Bears (28.6% conversion) and the Texans (25% conversion) are in the bottom six in the league in third down offense.
  • Underrated stat: total plays per game. Houston is averaging 63.5 (T-15) and the Bears are averaging 48.5 (31). If the Bears want to improve their offensive performance, it would be helpful to run some offensive plays.

Additional Notes (Links) from the Houston Press

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Four Young Bears Off to Cold Starts (Non-Quarterback Category)

| September 20th, 2022

Again, Tuesdays are a good spot in the week to assess the development of young players on this young roster and a few concerning trends have begun to emerge.


Darnell Mooney/Cole Kmet

Where are they?

That’s serious question worth asking after two games.

Where are they?

There was no scenario wherein the Bears could be a productive offense in 2022 without serious production from Mooney and Kmet and, through two games, they have been utterly invisible. How much of that do they own? How much of that is on the quarterback? How much of that is on two difficult defensive opponents?

Whatever the reasoning, it has to stop. The next two games – home to Houston and at the Giants – need to be games where these two players are fed the football. Scheme them open if necessary. The Bears need to find out just how many weapons they need to acquire this off-season.


Roquan Smith

In the winter, Aaron Judge played hardball with the New York Yankees. He wanted a zillion dollars over a zillion years. The Yankees only wanted to give him 3/4 of a zillion over slightly less than a zillion years. Nobody budged. No deal. And now Judge is having the greatest contract year in the history of professional sports.

Roquan Smith is off to the opposite campaign. He is getting blown off the ball repeatedly, including by backs and receivers. He looks slow in coverage, normally a major strength. And the tenacity that has come to define his game is absent. Roquan is 25 years old and should be a long-term answer on this defense. But playing at this level, it’s becoming more and more likely he is elsewhere in 2023.

Imagine the criticism that would befall Ryan Poles were Smith to be playing at this level after being given $100 million.


Larry Borom

With a nod to Dave Wasserman, I believe I’ve seen enough. Borom is not a starting offensive tackle.

Teven Jenkins looks good inside. Braxton Jones is holding his own at left tackle. But Borom is a severe liability on the right side and the Bears need to start thinking about an upfront construction that doesn’t land him in the starting five. (This might take Alex Leatherwood’s return from mono.)

This shouldn’t be read as a striking criticism, either. Borom was a late-round pick and is a perfectly capable swing tackle. He is a roster asset. But in a league where the athleticism on the defensive edge seems to increase tenfold yearly (have you seen Micah Parsons play?), Borom simply can’t handle the role four quarters a week for 17 weeks plus.

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Week Two Minute-By-Minute Report: Bears at Packers

| September 19th, 2022


8:00 PM ET

Thoughts on a day of watching football and researching Hitchcock’s silent stage adaptations.

  • There was some brutal football played in the early window. Saints/Bucs and Giants/Panthers were bad, bad ballgames.
  • I know it seems I have a personal issue with Chris Ballard. And that’s only because I do. But Ballard’s answers at quarterback for a supposedly ready-to-contend roster have been a shot Phil Rivers, a never good Carson Wentz and an elderly Matt Ryan (who looked incredibly shot today). Ballard has been the GM of the Colts for six off-seasons. Is he going to take a risk at quarterback at ANY point?
  • I never hated Mitch Trubisky, but I recognized his extreme limitations against the Saints in 2019. It’s not there. Pittsburgh can delay the inevitable all they want but not playing Kenny Pickett is wasting time. Trubisky is a solid backup option.
  • Every time Tua attempts to throw a pass more than 10 yards it’s an adventure. But there is so much speed in that receiving room. He won’t need to be that accurate deep when Hill is averaging four yards of separation.
  • So many helmet-to-helmet hits across the league. Spare me the “speed of the game” argument. If you can’t see the guy you’re tackling, you are tackling incorrectly.
  • New Orleans did everything a team needs to do defensively against a Tom Brady offense, but they just kept handing him first downs with silly penalties. Ultimately, Brady made them pay for their “mistakes”.
  • Amon-Ra St. Brown is one of the best receivers in the league. Games like today aren’t stories anymore. This is who he is.
  • Through two weeks, the Bengals look like a bad team. Somehow their offensive line is worse than a year ago. But they have now lost to Trubisky and Cooper Rush to start the season. That’s not a contender.
  • Micah Parsons might be the best player in the league. He controls games.
  • Not sure I can remember a rookie head coach looking as out of his depth as Nathaniel Hackett. The Broncos need to monitor that closely and pull the trigger quickly if these performances continue.
  • The Cardinals are not in a good spot as an organization. Kliff got ownership to fully commit to Kyler. If you fire Kliff, the next coach has to want Kyler. How much coaches do?
    • If Kyle didn’t convert on the two-point conversion to end regulation, I’m not sure Kliff wouldn’t have been fired by the time you’re reading this. A delay of game…on a two point…with the game on the line???
    • But you rarely see a team as desperate to lose as Vegas was tonight.

8:16 PM ET

“I’ve been waiting all day for Sunday night” is one of the most ridiculous football concepts around. Other than the fans of the two teams, nobody waits all day for Sunday Night Football. If anything, most NFL fans are exhausted by kickoff. (People forget this slot used to be occupied by a throwaway game for years.)


8:18 PM ET

“The most played rivalry in the history of the National Football League.”

Is that a compliment?


8:24 PM ET

KICKOFF!

TOUCHBACK!


8:26 PM ET

I would like to preemptively apologize for tonight’s minute-by-minute. I am pretty damn tired and I’m old now and these games feel super late to me. I shall do my best and try to land a few barbs.


8:27 PM ET

Aaron Rodgers looks like Aaron Rodgers.


8:32 PM ET

Angelo Blackson makes a great play in the backfield and then stands over the back. He luckily avoided an unsportsmanlike penalty for taunting. That is being called all over the league. Needs to be coached into these guys pronto.


8:36 PM ET

Kyler Gordon makes a brilliant play on the football, and Trevis Gipson follows that with a sack. That is the kind of sequence fans need to see this year. Young players developing is the primary story of this campaign. Some very good signs through one game and one drive.

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Undefeated Bears Travel to Lambeau: Week Two Game Preview

| September 16th, 2022


They weren’t supposed to win the opener. They’re not supposed to win Sunday night at Lambeau. So, one might ask…

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I.

Always.

Like.

THE.

Chicago.

Bears.


The “Packer Week” Thing

The Packers have never bothered me. There are many reasons for this.

First, I’m not from Chicago and I think that matters. Geographic proximity seems to breed sporting animosity, but specifically that 200-mile range. It is roughly 200 miles from Chicago to Green Bay. It is also roughly 200 miles from New York City to Boston, and Ann Arbor to Columbus. (There are about 40 miles less in the journey from Tuscaloosa to Auburn.) But if you’re not from these places (or if they’re not your alma mater) it is incredibly difficult to feel the rivalry.

Also, for the entirety of my lifetime, Bears vs. Packers has been a terrible rivalry. Green Bay has had a Hall of Fame quarterback since I’m ten years old. Brett Favre was 22-10 against Chicago. Aaron Rodgers is 23-5. This is a rivalry? 45-15? I get the historical underpinnings of the whole endeavor, but it hasn’t been a fair fight since George H.W. Bush was in the White House.

And for those who got angry at the whole “I own you” episode with Rodgers a year ago, I ask you this: why? Rodgers is a desperately sad individual. His prolific professional career has been marred by disappointment. His life has been a mess. His family has written him off. He’s constantly searching for magic elixirs that will enter his bloodstream and trip whatever wire releases the happiness enzymes. If proclaiming ownership over a franchise that has beaten him a total of five times in 14 years brings him closer to whatever nirvana he seeks, I’m willing to let him have that.

I’ve always done the “Packer Week” thing around here because I figured it’s what the fans want. Until this rivalry becomes a rivalry again, and produces some memorable games/moments, I’m done with it. Let me see the Bears win four of the next eight and then we can go on and on about “Packer Week”.


Mourning Jean-Luc Godard

Until this summer, I must admit, I was not a huge fan of this oft-proclaimed master of the French New Wave. As a matter of fact, I much preferred the films of Francois Truffaut to Godard. But a revisiting of his work, in the wake of my return to academia, has enlightened me. And though it won’t mean anything to Godard, who died this week at 91, I’m very glad to have seen a print of Bande à part with the First Lady of DBB at Film Forum in NYC while he was still alive.

Here are some great quotes about Godard.

Roger Ebert, from a 1969 review of Weekend: “Godard is a director of the very first rank; no other director in the 1960s has had more influence on the development of the feature-length film. Like Joyce in fiction or Beckett in theater, he is a pioneer whose present work is not acceptable to present audiences. But his influence on other directors is gradually creating and educating an audience that will, perhaps in the next generation, be able to look back at his films and see that this is where their cinema began.”

Woody Allen: “Then he said I could say whatever I wanted to say. He plays the French intellectual very well, with the 5 o’clock shadow and a certain vagueness. Meanwhile, when I got there for the shoot, he was wearing pajamas—tops and bottoms—and a bathrobe and slippers and smoking a big cigar. I had the uncanny feeling that I was being directed by Rufus T. Firefly.”

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