ATM: Next 5 Weeks Will Tell Us Who These Bears Are

| October 17th, 2020

With four wins in their first five games, the Chicago Bears did more than tread water over this initial stretch. They put themselves in good position to make a playoff run. And while beating bad teams typically doesn’t mean much, last Thursday’s win over Tampa Bay was a good sign that these Bears might not just be the best of the bad teams. They might actually be good.

The next five weeks will tell the tale.

The offense has to be better. On Friday, Matt Nagy hammered home a point about how they needed to be more detailed, but it’s unclear if he realized that he was really telling the world his offense is poorly coached. The details of a specific offense, after all, have to be taught. They’re not innately known.  The good news is that the Bears had some more time to figure it out and they’ll need it with this upcoming stretch of games.

The defense gets a pass, but shouldn’t. Playing offense is more difficult when the defense gives up early scores and puts the team in a double-digit hole before halftime. While they rank in the top ten in many statistical categories, the truth is, they should be much higher considering who they played and the injuries they’ve encountered. In every game, there has been a stretch of three or four possessions where the opposing offensive coordinator runs circles around Chuck Pagano. (Perhaps the biggest difference between Pagano and Vic Fangio is that Fangio would figure out the problem after one possession.)

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Ranking The Bears: The Stars (10-1)

| August 25th, 2020

If the 2020 Chicago Bears are going to return to the playoffs, there’s a good chance that the players on this list are going to be the ones who lead them there. They have three players among the top three at their positions and a handful more who are near the top. Four of the top 10 players earned All Pro honors in 2018 and should be back to that level in 2020. Another one of the players is consistently underrated, despite being pretty much perfect.

The Bears top 10 players just might stack up with anybody else in the league.

10. Tarik Cohen, RB/Specialist

Coming off a horrendously inefficient season, there’s plenty of reason to think Cohen will play more like the 2017 and 2018 versions of himself. What we learned in 2019 is that Cohen can’t be the star of the offense. He a gimmick, someone who needs others to open the field for him. Once it’s open, he’s still dangerous.

9. Danny Trevathan, ILB

Trevathan was having a career year before injuries hit. In nine games he had 50 solo tackles and seemed to be all over the field, every single week. The 30-year-old is the leader of the defense.

8. Roquan Smith, ILB

Smith gets too much grief for his 2019 campaign. Despite inconsistent play early in the season, he finished with 101 tackles (five behind the line of scrimmage) and two sacks in 12 games. Before he was injured late in the season, Smith was playing the position better than anyone else the Bears had last year. If he played 16 games like he played his last eight last year, he’s going to be known as one of the premier defensive players in the league.

7. Kyle Fuller, CB

He has mostly escaped criticism, but 2019 was as rough for Kyle Fuller as it was for anyone else on the defense. Fuller allowed a passer rating of 102 and missed 12 tackles — an astronomical 12.8 percent of his attempts. He still had some ball production with three interceptions and 12 PBUs, but he didn’t play at the level the Bears expect. That said, he’s still a really good player and he can’t take all the blame as a dormant pass rush can make life difficult for any defensive back.

6. Robert Quinn, Edge

Re-emerging on the scene after a handful of so-so years, Quinn could be the key to the Bears defense going to the next level. After collecting 40 sacks in three years, Quinn struggled with injuries with the Rams, but was still productive on a per-game basis. Even in Quinn’s worst year — 2018 — he had more pressures and sacks than Leonard Floyd managed in either of the last two years. Those numbers figure to go up as Quinn plays opposite Khalil Mack. For his career, Quinn has averaged more sacks per game than Julius Peppers.

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Ranking the Bears: The Contributors (39-11)

| August 19th, 2020

There’s almost a certain point where you can see where the talent on the Bears roster breaks.

The bottom of this list is utterly unimpressive; late-round rookies and NFL journeymen. The top ten: a handful of established NFL players, some who have been stars and some who can be stars going forward.

The word potential could be used for so many of these players and what happens in 2020 could depend on how many of them touch their ceilings.

39. Barkevious Mingo, Edge

While he’s certainly a draft bust, Mingo deserves credit for sticking around. While the 2019 season was a wash as he played just 73 snaps for Houston, he was a pretty regular contributor to Seattle’s solid defense in 2018 and started six games for Chuck Pagano’s Colts in 2017. Doesn’t provide much for pass rush, but is a good special teams player and certainly better than the edges the Bears had beyond their starters last year.

38. Darnell Mooney, WR

Given the odd off-season and the team’s signing of an established veteran to do, essentially, the same job, it might be difficult for Mooney to find the field in 2020. But the Bears need speed and speed is among the traits the rookie receiver offers. A four-year player at Tulane, Mooney is also considered a polished route-runner. It’ll just be a matter of getting the details down.

37. Sherrick McManis, ST

McManis is always tough to rank simply because none of the coaches ever seem to trust him on defense, even though he has always seemed to play well. As it is, he’s among the best special teams player in the league.

36. Kevin Toliver II, CB

Expect Toliver to start the season opposite Kyle Fuller, which may not be a good thing. Toliver has certainly had his struggles in coverage/tackling when playing but those spurts have been too few and far between to get much of a feel for if he can actually play.

35. J.P. Holtz, FB

The Bears are going to try to be a more powerful running team in 2020 and Holtz could factor into that. There’s little doubt that the player none of us had ever previously heard of gave the Bears a little bit of a spark last year.

34. Trevis Gipson, Edge

Gipson might have a learning curve, going from a defensive lineman in college to an edge player in the NFL, but he certainly has the skill set. A long and physical player, Gipson will be raw, but the Bears don’t need him to be great just yet.

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Ranking the Bears: The Relevant Non-Starters (57-40)

| August 11th, 2020

When you get to the bottom of the Bears roster, you see a lot of familiar names who, for one reason or another, have never stuck as starters in the league. Many of the players in this grouping have stuck on as specialists but some are late-round draft picks who just haven’t had a chance to prove themselves yet.

57. Tyler Bray, QB

There isn’t a lot to say about Bray at this point. He won’t get any significant reps and is just about a lock for the practice squad. As far as emergency quarterbacks go, though, it could be a lot worse. Bray knows the offense and played well in the fourth preseason game last year. I’m still not convinced he isn’t better than Chase Daniel.

56. Abdullah Anderson, DL

If you’re looking for a candidate to be this year’s Nick Williams, Anderson might be a good bet. The former UDFA has impressed during camp and preseason and could be ready to crack the rotation. Appeared in six games for the Bears and got one sack.

55.DeAndre Houston-Carson, Safety

DHC doesn’t have the speed to ever be an effective safety, but he has been a regular contributor on special teams since his rookie season.

54. Eddy Pineiro, Kicker

The Bears obviously didn’t trust their rookie kicker in 2019 and he didn’t give them much reason to. He started strong and finished strong, but can he regularly make kicks beyond 40 yards? Can they even fathom 50-yarders? He has to prove it.

53. Patrick Scales, Long snapper

He’s a long snapper.

52. Lachavious Simmons, OL

His nickname “Pig” was almost enough to get him higher on the list. A big, raw athletic guard who might be able to play right tackle.

51. Arlington Hambright, OL

Hambright’s athleticism and college experience make him interesting. He fell off the radar more than anybody who played left tackle in college and showed a good athletic profile should. As of now, the Bears aren’t giving Simmons or Hambright a shot to compete at right guard, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if either ended up starting there in the near future.

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ATM: Lack of Preseason Doesn’t Necessarily Hurt Trubisky

| July 10th, 2020

While many think a lack of a game action prior to the regular season would benefit Nick Foles in the competition to be the starting quarterback of the 2020 Chicago Bears, Mitch Trubisky still has the inside track. As of last week, the preseason slate was cut down to two and it doesn’t seem that anybody actually expects either of those games to be played. That leaves the Bears with only practice settings to determine their QB and Trubisky shouldn’t be ruled out.

When it comes to running plays correctly, adjusting protections and making accurate passes, there’s no question that Foles is superior to Trubisky. It’s the ability to run and make something out of broken plays that is supposed to even the playing field. The problem is, camp practice won’t allow that. When a play breaks down in practice, it is whistled dead and they move on to the next one.

But the Bears have to be absolutely certain he can’t play before moving on to Foles. And it’s unlikely Trubisky will clearly display that inability to play on the practice field. (He hasn’t in summers gone by.) The team does not want a situation where the second overall pick becomes someone else’s franchise quarterback. If the two quarterbacks are even close to equal in practices, Trubisky is going to get the chance to show that he is willing to use those legs and has made the necessary strides to be a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL.

Matt Nagy has said he made a mistake not playing Trubisky and other starters in the 2019 preseason. The team assumed their young quarterback would make plays with his legs. (How could they know he’d suddenly stop running?) Even before he injured his shoulder, Trubisky only had five rushing attempts in three games. The UNC product did begin running again late in the season with 22 rushes over the final month of the season, so there is reason to believe he will again in 2020. Did running equal some magic formula for Trubisky? Hardly. In those four games he had four touchdown passes and three interceptions. Nobody is arguing that he doesn’t need to improve as a passer, but that’s something he can show — at least somewhat — in practice.

With or without preseason games, the ball is firmly in Trubisky’s court. If he shows improvement as a passer, and a firmer handle on the playbook, in whatever form of training camp the team ends up having, he could get to start the regular season.

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How the Bears Stack Up in the NFC North: Defense

| June 10th, 2020

If the Chicago Bears are going to be relevant in the NFC North in 2020, it’s going to be because of their defense.

Last week I published a ranking of the teams in the NFC North positions on offense and the Bears didn’t fair well. They were ranked last in two positions — including the most important in the sport — and weren’t first in any. While the hope and expectation is that the Bears climb out of the bottom-10 when it comes to offensive efficiency, the reality is that expectations going into 2020 should be that the team will still have its struggles and will very likely be the worst offense in the division.

But the defense is a very different story.


1. Chicago

2. Green Bay

3. Minnesota

4. Detroit

Not only are the Bears first in the most important defensive position, it isn’t really all that close. That isn’t to throw shade at Green Bay’s duo of Za’Darius and Preston Smith, but breakout seasons don’t necessarily put them ahead of two guys who have actual Hall of Fame credentials.

We need to start talking more about the Robert Quinn addition.

While it’s easy to focus on his down year with Miami, Quinn has 80.5 career sacks in 106 starts and has added 25 forced fumbles and 20 passes defensed. He averages more sacks per game than Julius Peppers did in his career.

What Quinn should do is take pressure off of Khalil Mack, who became the only front-seven defender offenses had to worry about last year after Akiem Hicks went down. Mack is a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate and should be expected to return to that form. Even in a down year, he was among the league leaders in pressures.

There’s no question Za’Darius Smith is a star, his combined 35.5 quarterback sacks and knockdowns are incredible. There should be some question about if Preston Smith can repeat his 2019 season in which he got nearly a third of his career sacks.

The Vikings have some questions opposite Danielle Hunter. Ifeadi Odenigbo had seven sacks last year, but those are all he has for his career. The Lions paid Trey Flowers to get to the quarterback, but he has never had more than 7.5 sacks in a season and he’s their best pass rusher.

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