Thursday Lynx Package, Around the League [5/17/22]

| May 19th, 2022

Sometimes it’s good, especially this time of year, to take a look around the league and see what’s happening with the other franchises. And instead of weighing in on teams I have spent almost no time thinking about, I’ll provide links to those who cover them and try to stay away from paywalls.

  • Rashawn Slater, already one of the best tackles in the sport, spent some of his honeymoon trying to get better. What was he doing? “…pass sets in ankle-deep ocean water with a forest of tropical trees nearby.”
  • While the Bears understand year two of Justin Fields will come with continued growing pains, Zach Wilson is not being afforded the same space in New Jersey. “Joe Douglas has beefed up Wilson’s offensive line through free agency and the draft. He has gotten him an assortment of weapons in the backfield and split out wide, too. If Wilson falls short, it won’t be because of his receivers not having the talent to get open or his running backs not being able to hit a hole.”
  • Daniel Jones received support from Giants ownership, but the NY Post is already projecting his replacement in 2023.
  • Mitch Trubisky signed with the Steelers because it was – as he saw it – his best opportunity to start in 2022. But the writing is on the wall and word out of Pittsburgh is it is Kenny Pickett’s job to lose. (I still contend Mitch should have followed Daboll to New Jersey and beat out Jones this summer.)
  • Why did MVS choose Kansas City? “The opportunity within itself to go out and be a great playmaker,” Valdes-Scantling said. “Obviously, I had that opportunity anywhere I went, but I think this one was a better fit for me. Some of the things they do offensively was appealing to me — and obviously, a quarterback like Pat (Mahomes) who is going to be here for a long time, that also was appealing. So I think those two things — and then, obviously, getting here and meeting everybody and it seemed like a good fit. It seemed like home.”
  • Tom Brady is going to be roasted on Netflix.
  • Chris Ballard’s right-hand man, Ed Dodds, is showing a natural ability to work the media as well as his boss. Dodds – and many in the sport – believed he was getting the Raiders job. He did not. (He withdrew from the Bears process because the interview was a trainwreck.)
  • Believe it or not, there are still folks in Detroit who think Jeff Okudah is going to be a thing.
  • The talk of Minnesota’s OTAs? Dalvin Cook has been lining up at receiver in multiple sets. Could be nothing. Could be a significant change in his usage.
  • Is Trey Lance ready? Steve Young thinks it’s a complicated question. “When they say he’s not ready, it because there’s not that body of work of him being on the field. They see what’s on the field—like amazing talent, an amazing arm, and all the things, but there’s so much more to quarterbacking. So when someone says he’s not ready, it’s easy to say because he hasn’t done it.”

Not bad for a Thursday in mid-May.

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Breaking Down the 2022 Schedule into a Quartet of Games

| May 16th, 2022

The NFL schedule does not break into four, neat sections for most teams. Some have 5-6 week runs of easy games. Some face a brutal slate down the stretch. The 2022 Bears schedule seems to break into four uneven sections; a quartet if you will.

Section One: Weeks 1-6

The Games: home Niners, at Packers (SNF), home Texas, at Giants, at Vikings, home Commanders (TNF).

The Analysis: Vegas has opened the Bears as nearly a touchdown underdog at home to the Niners on 9/11. But remember, that line is based on the 2021 Niners, a very good football team, and not a potential Niners club with a question mark at quarterback and their best player residing on the Disgruntled List. It’ll be surprising if the Bears don’t have a chance to win their home opener.

After the opener, this first section features (a) two tough divisional games on the road and (b) three of the ten worst teams in the sport, a category in which the Bears might also find themselves. If the team intends to play meaningful games in late December/early January, one has to think they must come out of this stretch at .500 or better.

Section Two: Weeks 7-10

The Games: at Patriots, at Cowboys, home Dolphins, home Lions.

The Analysis: This is the most difficult stretch of what is generally considered an easy schedule.

Three of these four teams think they are contenders to win the whole thing this season. Belichick always does. Jerry Jones too. And the Dolphins had the most all-in offseason of any team in the sport. If the Bears struggle in the first section of the season, it is very unlikely they’ll improve enough to get the train back on the tracks here. But if the Bears have a respectable first six games, these next four could go a long way towards establishing what the team is capable of achieving in 2022.

(And while the Lions seem to be doing the right things as an organization, Matt Eberflus can’t let Jared Goff beat him at Soldier Field.)

Section Three: Weeks 11-13

The Games: at Falcons, at Jets, home Packers. 

The Analysis: The Falcons have designs on the first overall pick. The Jets added playmakers, but their coach and his defense were borderline non-professional in 2021. The Packers are still the Packers, but this season will test Aaron Rodgers as much as any before. (He simply doesn’t have the weapons outside.) This is the momentum section. The Bears could be coming home, to play their rival, on a two-game win streak. Even if the first ten games didn’t go well, this is the place in the schedule where the 2022 Bears can start building excitement for the 2023 Bears.

Section Four: Weeks 15-18

The Games: home Eagles, home Bills, at Lions, home Vikings.

The Analysis: The Bears will lose to Buffalo. Just accept it. The Bills are probably the best team in the league and their quarterback will relish playing at Soldier Field on Christmas Eve. He’s that kind of competitor.

These other three games are winnable, and that’s important for a team installing a new program. They’ll be looking to contend, of course, but they’ll be more focused on the progress shown from Week One to Week Eighteen. The 2022 Bears don’t belong on the same field as the 2022 Bills, but if this program is progressing well, they should be giving the other three opponents in this section one hell of a fight.

Overall Thoughts

  • The opener is going to set the tone for the entire season. If the Bears beat the Niners, it won’t be surprising to see them hover at or above .500 for most of the season. And that would be a very successful campaign for the new leadership.
  • This still feels like a middle of the road season, with somewhere between seven and nine wins. There are just too many questions on the offensive side of the ball at this point. Now, by midseason, we may have answers to those questions and if those answers are positive, the schedule is clearly positioned for the Bears to have a successful late-season surge.
  • Like always with this franchise, it’ll come down to the play of the quarterback.



Five Points for the Pending Schedule Release

| May 10th, 2022

The NFL has not only decided to delay the release of the 2022 schedule until mid-May, but they have also decided to allow the networks to trickle out their individual schedules in the days leading up to Thursday’s release. Why? Because the NFL is led by buffoons. That’s how Criss Angel ends up hanging from a rope at the draft. Someone on Park Avenue said, out loud, “What if we have the MINDFREAK dangle from a rope and do an escape act right before the draft starts?” Then another one of the brain surgeons in the home office responded, “Genius!” 

The release of the schedule is a very big deal to many NFL fans because it sets their travel agenda for the fall and winter; a point missed by most beat writers who have no choice but to attend every game and only concern themselves with how many Marriot points they can accrue in Atlanta. The Bears play two games in NJ this season. Fans want to know if the league will run those games back-to-back, creating a killer vacation in NYC and a chance to have a beer with me. Bears at Cowboys will have far more appeal to Chicagoans in December than early September.

Here are some things I’ll be looking to see as the schedules trickles out on social media over the coming days.

  • How many times does the league put the Bears in primetime? The Bears are a massive, national draw – no matter how good they are – but this figures to be a season where the NFL could err on the side of a developmental season and keep Chicago in a lot of early Sunday slots.
  • When does Josh Allen come to town? The non-division QBs on the home schedule are seriously underwhelming. Hurts, Lance, Wentz, Tua, and Mills aren’t going to be putting many asses in the seats. Allen and the Bills are the marquee attraction, and if that game is in December, I’ll have my flight and hotel booked Thursday night.
  • What is the December slate? Yes, the Bears are likely to be more competitive in 2022 than many – including myself – thought. (Especially with their secondary upgrades on draft weekend.) But 2022 will still be primarily about 2023 and how the team, and quarterback, finish this campaign could go a long way towards building fan enthusiasm for the off-season.
  • Could there be a hot start? NFL seasons are weird animals, and expectations can change quickly. What if the Bears find themselves playing the Giants, Jets, Texans and Lions in the first quarter? They could easily be .500 or better and dreaming of meaningful football in late December/early January.
  • The guaranteed losses. How many really are there on this schedule? Packers probably sweep them. Belichick handles this offense comfortably at home. The Bills are probably the best team in the league. It’s unlikely the Bears will be significant underdogs in any of the remaining 13 games.

This is going to be an interesting season for the Chicago Bears. By the end of the day Thursday, we’ll know where and when the story will play out.

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Hey, Velusy: Jones Reason to Be Excited About the Offense in 2022

| May 9th, 2022

As the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft rolled along, there were receivers available for the Chicago Bears. The Packers moved up – something Ryan Poles was NOT going to do – for Christian Watson. Many fans were calling for George Pickens, a player one scout called “a turd” during a text conversation with DBB. Many thought Skyy Moore’s route running prowess could catapult him into the back end of round one, where several WR-needy clubs resided. It did not.

The truth is that while many were calling this draft deep at wide receiver, the Bears (and several other clubs) didn’t particularly agree with that assessment. They rated Wilson, Williams, and Olave highly, the latter being their top player at the position. They liked the polish of Dotson and thought Burks might have the highest upside in the class. But they knew they were not in play for any of those players, and saw the gap between that group and the next group as cavernous.

Poles, with significant input from Luke Getsy, turned his attention to Velus Jones Jr. – the rare third-round receiver this brass believes can make an immediate impact on the football team. Why? Because Jones fits a specific role in this offense and is already well-accomplished in that role. What is that role?

First, he’s just a good receiver. From Jacob Infante over at WCG:

Jones broke out from a receiving production perspective in 2021, when he tallied 62 receptions, 807 yards and 7 touchdowns for the Volunteers. He proved to be a reliable kick returner over the course of his collegiate career, returning 2 kicks back for touchdowns and averaging 24.4 yards per return during his time in both Tennessee and USC.

There are concerns with Jones’ profile, turning 25 years old in May and not having an incredibly refined skillset as a route runner. That said, he’s a tremendous YAC threat with 4.31 speed, the lateral agility needed to change direction and make defenders miss, along with a powerful frame that allows him to shed would-be tacklers in the open field.

Second, there are two elements the Bears want to be hallmarks of their new offense: a diverse rushing attack and a quick, timing passing game. Jones projects to be a key aspect of both.

Read More …



Thank You, From DBB.

| May 7th, 2022

I took a shot.

And our loyal readers and Twitter followers delivered. The five-day pledge drive delivered in ways it was impossible to predict. And now it’s on me to keep delivering content worthy of that support.

Thank you.

We will have the drawing for the jersey in the coming weeks and our sticker will be drawn and produced before the season begins.



The DBB Pledge Drive! May 2-6, 2022!

| May 6th, 2022

DBB has never had content behind a paywall. It’s just not something I believe in, even as the digital sports marketplace changes dramatically. But this site has remained my signature literary passion for the last 17 years and there ARE costs associated with keeping it going.

So, this week, we’re asking for support from our readers and followers. You can click the link below and donate $5, $10 or $25 to DBB. (You can donate any amount you want but those are the easy, clickable buttons.) That money helps keep the site operating and keeps the content free to everyone for YEARS to come. There will not be another pledge drive like this for a long time.

Why now? Because at 40 years old, I’m going back to NYU for my Masters in Cinema Studies this fall – hopefully on the way to a PhD soon enough. It will not limit my ability to create content for the site, but it will limit the time I have for site-related money-making activities.

As a benefit, anyone who donates $10 or more will be entered into our drawing to win the Bears jersey of their choice. DBB will customize it for you and have it to your home by the start of the 2022 regular season. We’ll also be doing a special DBB sticker this season and anyone who donates at that level will receive that sticker as well.

(Hey, it’s $10. It’s two beers. You’re saving calories.)

Thank you so much for supporting this site/Twitter feed. I hope you think of it as an important part of your Chicago Bears experience. We will keep doing what we’ve been doing, providing content free of charge, and providing a platform for anyone with an opinion on this franchise. If you can throw a few bucks in, it’s much appreciated. If not, no worries.

This drive will take place today through Friday. We will return with brand new content on Monday, May 9th!



Secondary Rebuilt, Weapons Lacking: Assessing the 2022 NFL Draft in the Context of 2023

| May 1st, 2022

The texts buzzed my nightstand unprompted, piercing through the endless, awkward chuckling of Robert Mays and Nate Tice, as I tried to force myself to sleep on Friday evening. (I decided to take a brief, week-long booze sabbatical and it makes slumber a tricky enterprise.) The scout who I have relied upon this week to fill me in on all things draft was giving his assessment of Ryan Poles’ work over rounds two and three.

This is not someone who has any reason to inflate the work of the GM of the Chicago Bears. He has zero stake in the game. This was a professional talent evaluator evaluating the talent selected; examining the players acquired in a draft he has routinely described to me as “the weakest in the last 15 years.”


The Complaints.

Listen, the complaints are understandable. A logical case could have been made for the Bears to spend every single pick Friday night on the offensive side of the ball. One could argue that taking shots on the potential of George Pickens or Alec Pierce or Skyy Moore is more exciting (undoubtedly) and more in-tune with the modern game. But if that’s the case, why were the Baltimore Ravens universally celebrated for their work in the first round, securing a box safety and center while trading away their best outside receiver?

Pickens will be asked to do very little in Pittsburgh (and will do little with those quarterbacks). Pierce and Moore will be no more than third options on their rosters in Indianapolis and Kansas City. The Bears would have been asking all three to start on day one and seriously contribute as rookies. Does anyone actually believe these three players are capable of that? If they were, would several receiver-needy clubs have gleefully passed on them at the backend of the first round?

But most complaints coming from fans are actually based on a fallacy. Bears fans seem to believe the organization needs to pile talent around Justin Fields to accurately assess his ability as a quarterback and make determinations on his future. That is definitively not the case. Ryan Poles and Justin Fields have been side-by-side through this process, even to the point of watching tape together on receiver prospects in the draft.

The team will not hold Fields accountable for the lack of playmaking ability around him. Poles got this job because he looked George McCaskey in the eyes and told him the roster was dreck. No one has a more sober view of the depth chart and the communication between the new leadership and the young quarterback has been impeccable.

Also, this belief that a quarterback requires a stacked roster around him in year two to improve is utter nonsense. Josh Allen’s second-year receivers were John Brown and Cole Beasley. Deshaun Watson’s second receiver in his second year totaled 32 catches. Russell Wilson’s top pass catcher in his sophomore season had 64 catches. Fields is going into this season with a new coaching staff building an offense specifically for him, a talented run game and a 1,000-yard receiver he loves. If he can’t improve in that context, fair questions should be asked.


The Approach.

If Poles’ board had potential starters at wideout and along the offensive line at the top of the second round, those would have been his selections. But it didn’t. And with secondary being the second-worst position group on the roster, why wouldn’t he hesitate to fortify that unit? As Poles himself stated, “There were two good starting-level defensive players, and I would have made a huge mistake for this organization to say, ‘Let’s leave them there’.”

The Bears believe the best way to “develop” Fields is to take pressure off of him, not artificially inflate the wide receiver room with day two maybes. Selecting Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker (the latter described to me by the aforementioned scout as a “top 35 talent” in this draft) is about establishing a structure for the difficult season to come. The Bears want to run the ball effectively and play solid defense. If they do those two things, they will not have to ask their quarterback – now in his third offensive system in three years – to drop back and fling it 40 times a week.

If the Bears didn’t address their secondary, especially after trading Khalil Mack, the team was looking at fielding an unprofessional group at the backend of their defense. If they did that, they would be chasing every game. Is there a worse possible scenario for a young QB?

The selection of Velus Jones Jr. in the third round also plays to this approach. “Deebo light” might seem like a grandiose designation, with Samuel coming off a brilliant 2021 campaign, but it’s easy to forget that the Niners receiver was more of a prolific gadget player in his first two seasons. Jones’ speed will give the Bears a dynamic they have sorely lacked in the Pace years, a player capable of taking a quick slant or bubble screen to the house at any moment. And it’s also difficult understand how Bears fans – OF ALL FANS – don’t understand the potential viability of drafting college football’s most electric return man.

Jones is a chess piece for an organization whose offensive game strategy hasn’t ascended beyond Connect Four in the modern era.

Read More …

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