For much of his rookie season, most of the talk surrounding Kyler Gordon has been about players the Bears could’ve had instead. But Sunday was a big step for the kid, as he prepared to close out an inconsistent but improving rookie season. While his coverage issues have been problematic at times, the Bears got exactly what they’ve wanted from Gordon this week, as he took the ball away twice against Philadelphia.
The Bears almost immediately slid Gordon into the slot corner position in the defense. They did so because it is a playmaking position in their scheme; he might not be able to stick with the league’s best wide receivers in coverage, but if he can attack the ball, the team will be happy.
Gordon will get better in coverage, and he already has, but he Bears might not need him to be a top cover corner.
By now, we all know and should accept that Jaylon Johnson is a high-level coverage corner. He gave up quite a bit against the Eagles, but almost everything he surrendered was earned through tight coverage. The Bears will still want him to make more plays on the ball going forward, but Johnson is proving to be a good starting corner.
Jaylon Jones might be the real key to the secondary going forward. He too struggled in coverage early this season, but has been especially sticky in recent weeks.
If the Jaylons can man the outside of the Bears defense, it will free Gordon to focus more on taking the ball away. If Sunday was any indication, the Bears just might have something.
Wide Receivers Matter
As sticky as the Bears were in coverage last week, Jalen Hurts still managed to throw for more than 300 yards simply because his wide receivers made plays on contested passes.
While Hurts deserves credit for delivering great passes, the Eagles have two high-level wide receivers who have made their quarterback’s life much easier. While we can pinpoint potential solutions to most of the Bears problems, wide receiver is a tricky one.
The hope was that Darnell Mooney would take another step this year, but that didn’t really happen. The Bears traded what looks to be the 33rd pick and will almost certainly be in the top 35 for Chase Claypool who has done very little.
While both would benefit from better offensive line play – an issue that has often destroyed the team’s passing game – there is little question that neither are stars or even close to the likes of A.J. Brown and probably not even DaVonta Smith.
What also hurts is 2022 third-round pick Velus Jones Jr. looking absolutely unplayable simply because he can’t hold onto the ball. If Jones Jr. can’t make more of an impact than Nsimba Webster, they can’t include him in any future plans.
There isn’t an elite wide receiver prospect available early in this year’s draft and it seems rather unlikely that the team would use its other second round pick on the same position it used its first second rounder on. The free agent market doesn’t look all that promising either.
While they’ll probably add a draft pick or a cheaper veteran, the Bears are likely stuck without a true game-changing wide receiver for at least another year.
Sanborn Injury a Bummer
While some Bears fans have already put the young linebacker in the Hall of Fame, the team very likely needed to see more from Jack Sanborn in order to guarantee a starting spot for him in 2023.
It will be interesting to find out what the Bears evaluation of Sanborn is. Eberlfus has a history of prioritizing speed at the linebacker position and Sanborn (4.73 40) is considerably slower than any linebacker the Colts drafted while Eberflus was their defensive coordinator.
Sanborn has some clear strengths as he consistently showed the ability to get off blockers and make plays while attacking the line of scrimmage. At the very least, he has proven that he should have been drafted.
But that might not be enough for the Bears, especially with Bobby Okereke looming in free agency. Okereke played inside linebacker for Eberflus in 2021 and would give the team a surefire star at the second level. Okereke would be a clear upgrade, especially in pass coverage, where both Sanborn and Nick Morrow have struggled.
It’s undeniable that Sanborn was improving every week, but is that enough to prevent the team from pursuing a high-level player like Okereke? We’ll find out.
That’s a Bison
Perhaps the most annoying thing about the Buffalo Bills is that their mascot is actually a bison.
While one can argue that William the Buffalo’s blue color makes him clearly a fictional creature, it’s undeniable that they were attempting to make him look like a bison, thinking it was a buffalo.
It’s a common mistake. Personally, I blame Kevin Costner and the movie Dances with Wolves as they regularly referred to bison as buffalo. A buffalo looks much more like a cow than it does a bison.
Maybe the worst part is that the Bills didn’t have to do it this way. The team is named after frontiersman Buffalo Bill Cody; they could’ve had a cowboy or an early settler as their mascot. Instead, they picked the wrong animal.
As for the game, I fully expect the Bears to be buffaloed by the Bills.