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Dannehy: Opener Displays the 2022 Recipe for Success

| September 14th, 2022


If you are hoping, for the first time in your life, to see a Chicago Bears team air it out, the 2022 edition is unlikely to fulfill those desires. But there does exist an offensive recipe for this vintage to succeed and it was almost on full display Sunday. The defense will fly to the football. The offense will generate big plays in the passing game. The Bears will run it a ton. They did two of three successfully against San Francisco and laid the groundwork for the rest of the season, monsoon or not.

With a defensive head coach, the defense is probably going to remain the straw that stirs the drink. While that may bring a collective groan from Bears fans, it shouldn’t. If they can run the ball and Justin Fields can keep making big plays, they will be competitive each week. But perhaps the most interesting part of the postgame reaction, though, was Matt Eberflus saying flat out that the team needs to be better.

There were a number of blown coverages that Aaron Rodgers is going to take advantage of in Week Two, assuming his receivers catch the football.

Fields put the team on his back at times, but he also had one horrible interception and barely avoided a couple more – including on his first pass attempt of the game, a screen in which the ball was thrown high with several Niner defenders closing in. He has to learn from those mistakes in a way past young Bears quarterbacks haven’t.

While it was Flus’ first win, the coach wasn’t puffing a victory cigar. He has an eye on next week and the future of the team. We’ll see what’s cooking for the rest of 2022. The recipe looks simple enough.


Herbert v. Montgomery

The hottest take to come from Sunday’s game was that Khalil Herbert is better than David Montgomery. That is a conversation that has more layers than their yards per carry averages though.

There is no question that Herbert was better running with the ball on Sunday. He was decisive and got whatever yardage was available. Montgomery seemed to have a difficult time finding the line of scrimmage at times.

But there is another factor. While NFL GSIS shows Herbert as having the most positive influence on the Bears running game, he was the biggest negative in the passing game. Herbert’s struggles in that regard aren’t just about catching passes. He has also had issues as a blocker.

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Fields Takes the Stage: “Dress Rehearsal” a Rousing Success for Young QB

| August 28th, 2022


It’s hard to get excited for a “dress rehearsal” when the opponent announces none of their stars will play and several of your own stars won’t play either. They don’t have dress rehearsals for a production of Hamlet and let the Claudius and Gertrude sit them out. Nevertheless, we watch.

Quarter One.

  • Dante Pettis returns the first punt. He’s been reliable in that job this summer and he seems to have a solid spot on the roster.
  • Why does David Montgomery need preseason reps? We know how limited the shelf life of running backs is in the league. Why would you subject one to a single hit they don’t need to take?
  • Second drive for the offense provided a sense of how Getsy wants to approach the field. This is not an offense that will exist between the tackles. They want to use every inch, from sideline to sideline.
  • Justin Fields taking cheap shots in the preseason. That seems valuable.
    • Fields’ touchdown strike to Ryan Griffin was on a rope. The kid has a remarkable arm.
    • He also played an extremely composed quarter. He sat in the pocket. He surveyed the field. He delivered the football accurately.
  • Hard to really gauge what this defense will look like without seeing Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith out there. But they are checking all the boxes when it comes to intensity.

Quarter Two.

  • David Montgomery looks quicker, but there was no reason for him to STILL be carrying the football in the second quarter.
  • Fields to Pettis for the second touchdown. Another strike, after Fields looked all other options.
  • Never overreact to preseason action but Jaquan Brisker has some superstar potential. He’s as good in run support, pursuing the player, as he is in coverage, pursuing the football.
  • Fields throws a touchdown pass to a wide-open Cole Kmet. But the play was made by Fields’ patience. He had the checkdown early. But he didn’t take it. He allowed the play to breath. It did. Touchdown.
  • Really strong performance all around from Justin Jones.
  • Same for Kindle Vildor, who looks like he’ll have a significant role in the defense.

There is only one story of this half, and subsequently, game. The Bears saw what Justin Fields can be in this league. And what he can be is a top tier starting quarterback.


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Montgomery.

| August 5th, 2022

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Dannehy: Five Bears on Hot Seat in 2022

| July 7th, 2022


A new year, scheme and regime could have several players could leave some formerly key contributors looking for new jobs in 2023.

The new coach and general manager have nothing invested in the current players; surely a scary thought to some of the youngsters on the team. There are no certainties. Nothing is guaranteed. We thought John Fox and Ryan Pace were inheriting young talent like Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett. Both were gone before Fox’s third season. Matt Nagy was greeted by Jordan Howard and Adam Shaheen was supposed to be his Travis Kelce — neither made it to his third season.

In some of these cases, the players may be one-and-done if they don’t produce in 2022. In others, they might get a second year to prove themselves simply because their contracts make it difficult to move on. In any case, these players will have pressure to perform in 2022.


David Montgomery

Entering a contract year, Montgomery is an obvious candidate for this list.

The previous regime loved Montgomery because of the leadership he provides off the field and his versatility on it. (Eberflus has already praised Montgomery’s character.)

However, there have been some questions as to whether Montgomery fits this new scheme. He isn’t Aaron Jones-like, nor is he A.J. Dillon — the two running backs new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy worked with in Green Bay.

There is also some question about Montgomery’s talent level. His career 3.9 yards per attempt certainly doesn’t look worthy of a second contract and advanced statistics are somewhat mixed on his performance.

With the lack of playmakers available, Montgomery figures to have plenty of opportunities to make plays. The team needs him to be more efficient than he has been.


Cole Kmet

There’s no real reason to think Kmet won’t continue to improve, but that isn’t always how it works.

Kmet had rather exceptional production for a 22-year-old tight end, but there’s still questions regarding his receiving ability. He certainly looks the part physically, but his hands aren’t always reliable, and his routes aren’t always smooth.

The third-year Notre Dame product is a solid blocker and possesses good straight-line speed, but the Bears need him to create more big plays and find the end zone. (Throwing him the ball down there should help.)


Eddie Jackson

Jackson is finally returning to a scheme that keeps two safeties back and he needs to show that he can still attack the ball.

Once Vic Fangio left, Jackson’s position changed. He still played safety, but Chuck Pagano wanted to move him around more. That didn’t really work. Sean Desai liked to keep him back, but in a single-high approach with man coverage all around him. That didn’t work.

There’s truth to the thought that opponents have been avoiding Jackson, but we’ve also seen him fail to make plays that have been available.

The Bears might be tied to Jackson contractually through the 2023 season — it depends on how much dead cap space they’d be willing to eat. In any case, he turns 29 during the 2022 season and needs to show he can still play.


Trevis Gipson

Is Gipson a starter or a solid backup? That’s what the Bears need to find out in 2022.

Regardless of what happens with Robert Quinn in 2022, it’s a safe bet that the veteran won’t be on the team in 2024 and probably not in 2023. Do the Bears need to find one new starting defensive end before then or two? Al-Quadin Muhammad signed just a two-year deal and really should be a backup.

This Cover-2 scheme relies on the front four being able to get to the passer; the Bears need to know if they have defensive ends who can do that. Gipson flashed with seven sacks and five forced fumbles in 2021 after barely playing as a rookie. Can he build on that?


Justin Fields

Regardless of what anyone thinks the Bears think of Fields, nobody outside of Halas Hall actually knows.

Hell, they might not even know inside Halas Hall.

The hard truth is that, while he showed flashes, his rookie season did nothing to guarantee that he is going to be a franchise quarterback. The Bears certainly didn’t bet on him becoming one this offseason, unlike the last regime did with Mitch Trubisky.

Whether the Bears 2022 season is a success or failure is going to depend largely on Fields. If he can build off success of late last season, the team might be OK. If he can’t, they’ll have a very high draft pick and, very likely, will be looking at another talented quarterback prospect.

It’s fair to say the Bears haven’t given Fields the necessary tools to succeed.

It’s also fair to say that really good quarterbacks make the players around them better.

The worst thing that can happen — which is perhaps what the Bears have set themselves up for — is that they still don’t know what kind of player Fields is following this season. In that case, they’d probably jump on the opportunity to draft another top quarterback prospect and trade Fields.

But, make no mistake, the current long-term plan has to be for Fields to be the guy and he has the opportunity to make sure that is the case. We know he can make big plays; we need to see more consistency on the routine concepts.  His performance in 2022 doesn’t have to be judged by statistics; he needs to show leadership and the ability to come through for his team when it needs him the most. We need to see more performances like the one he had in Pittsburgh.

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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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David Montgomery is an Inefficient Running Back.

| February 3rd, 2022

Bears running back David Montgomery has one year remaining on his rookie contract, meaning he is eligible for an early extension if the Bears want to give him one. After George McCaskey specifically praised Montgomery and linebacker Roquan Smith (who is also looking to get paid this offseason) at his end of season press conference in January, many fans speculated that both were about to get paid.

On the surface, an extension could make sense for Montgomery. Since entering the NFL in 2019, he is 6th in the league in carries, 9th in rushing yards, and 12th in rushing touchdowns. But those are volume stats and say nothing about Montgomery beyond his ability to stay healthy and handle a heavy workload. Today I want to take a closer look at Montgomery’s efficiency to see if he is a good running back or just a running back who gets a lot of touches.


Overall Efficiency

Let’s start with a general look at Montgomery’s overall efficiency, measured both in yards/carry and rush yards over expectation/carry (RYOE/carry).

RYOE/carry is a new stat in the last few years, and it’s based on both the position and the movement of all 22 players on the field at the time of handoff. Basically, it projects how many yards an average NFL running back would get in a given carry based on historical data, and then compares how that specific running back did on that play. All RYOE/carry stats are pulled from Tej Seth’s website mfbanalytics.

The table below shows Montgomery’s yards/carry and RYOE/expectation marks for all three of his NFL seasons. It also compares him to the average NFL running back each season, looking only at backs who get 150 or more carries on the year (close to 1/team, so roughly starting NFL running backs).

A few thoughts:

  • As you can see, Montgomery has not generally been very efficient. He ranks in the bottom half of all starting running backs in both yards/carry and RYOE/carry in all three seasons.
  • You could try to explain away a poor yards/carry mark by pointing out that Chicago’s offensive line, offensive scheme, and offense as a whole have been bad for Montgomery’s career. Those are fair points, which is why I didn’t just want to look at his yards/carry mark when evaluating Montgomery. If that is bad but his underlying metrics are good, it would indicate a good running back trapped in a bad offense.
  • RYOE, however, doesn’t support that idea. This stat in particular is intended to isolate the running back’s performance, since the expected yards mark takes into consideration where every other player (both offense and defense) is at the time of handoff, as well as where they’re moving. Therefore, this should remove scheme and the caliber of talent around you from being a significant factor. Consistently underperforming your RYOE mark is an indication of a below-average running back.

Explosion and Consistency

It feels weird to call David Montgomery a below-average running back. Just writing that is jarring. After all, we’ve spent three years cheering for him and loving how he runs. So maybe there’s something else out there that can highlight what Montgomery is good at.

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Bears at Lions Thanksgiving Game Preview, Vol. III: Predictions!

| November 24th, 2021


There are only two possible outcomes for this game.

Outcome #1. The Bears win and nobody cares. (Maybe some young players flash and that will be exciting, but honestly, who cares?)

Outcome #2. The Bears lose and it becomes impossible for Matt Nagy to coach the team for the remainder of 2021. (Honestly, I’m not sure Nagy or Pace will still be employed Friday if this is the result Thursday. When I floated the scenario to someone in the building they responded with the simple, “Buckle up.”)

Three predictions:

  • David Montgomery has 24 carries for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns.
  • Robert Quinn adds another 1.5 sacks to his ledger, bringing his total to 11.5 on the season.
  • Matt Nagy avoids a midseason firing with an ugly win in front a national audience. And he will hear about it loudly from the Soldier Field faithful on December 3.

Chicago Bears 20, Detroit Lions 16

 

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Justin Fields Gets His First Win as Chicago Bears Quarterback: Rapid Fire Recap

| October 4th, 2021


This is a game of two emotions.

The Positive, First.

Justin Fields was excellent. Yes, he made some rookie mistakes, mostly regarding his clock in the pocket. But this was the kind of game you love to see from a talented rookie. He kept his eyes down the field. He went through his progressions. He extended plays with his legs. But most importantly, he made several, SEVERAL, absolutely gorgeous throws. There is no questioning the ability of this player. If he develops as the Bears hope, their future involves a star quarterback.

(There will be plenty of time to talk more Fields as the week progresses.)

The Negative, Second.

Everything about David Montgomery’s knee injury – his reaction, the reaction of teammates, the refusal of TV to show it a second time – leads one to believe it’s unlikely he’ll be on the field again this season. This is a devastating blow for the 2021 Chicago Bears. If you were someone who hoped this team would compete for a postseason spot, this injury should relegate those hopes moot.

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So That Happened.

| September 14th, 2021

In David Mamet’s State and Main, Alec Baldwin plays a movie star with a penchant for young women. In the middle of the movie, he flips a car, climbs out the window, looks at Phil Hoffman, and nonchalantly says, “So that happened.” It is quite literally one of my favorite moments (and lines) in movie history.



The inevitable car wreck to open the 2021 Chicago Bears season took place in Los Angeles Sunday night. And as I turned off the television I was left with the same sentiment as Baldwin, climbing out of a comfy living room chair in Greenwood Lake, NY to toss an empty bottle of Labatt’s in the recycling bin.

So that happened.

I felt nothing about it. No emotion whatsoever. And not feeling any emotion about a Bears game actually filled me with sadness. In my game preview I had written what I thought would transpire Sunday night, predicting an outcome of 30-13 Rams. The game played according to that script. The offense was a little bit better; the defense a little bit worse. 34-14 Rams. (The most surprising aspect to the whole evening was the performance of David Montgomery and the offensive line in the run game.)

Now the Bears are left to deal with the damage.

Their stopgap, 39 year-old answer at left tackle isn’t going to hold up. The fifth-round pick that replaced him might not either.

The secondary is one of the two or three worst in the sport and can’t survive unless Khalil Mack dominates opponents. (Mack hasn’t dominated many during his Chicago tenure.)

Eddie Goldman has mysteriously vanished into injury again.

Andy Dalton is Andy Dalton and the Bears have decided to use his backup – a far superior player – for a series of moronic gadget plays sprinkled into the sea of dinks and dunks.

The Bears are bad.

Okay, so you don’t want to go that far?

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Training Camp Diary: Montgomery Gains Speed, Mooney Gains Confidence, Ogletree Gains.

| August 9th, 2021


The Bears practiced Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Here are a collection of thoughts and ruminations.

  • David Montgomery has been a good running back. But what’s kept him from being a great running back is his lack of breakaway speed. Too often Montgomery gains 15-20 yards on runs that should be 70-yard touchdowns. Adam Jahns (in The Athletic, of course) discusses Montgomery’s clear speed gains this summer: “It was also a run where Montgomery’s speed training from the offseason appeared to factor in. The surprising thing wasn’t that Montgomery broke tackles; it continues to be how fast he’s eating up yardage when he is in the open field.”
  • The NFL will not allow us to embed their YouTube content on our websites – a decision that literally makes zero digital sense. So if you want to see Jimbo Covert’s Hall of Fame speech, go over there and see it.
  • Cairo Santos saved his NFL career in 2020 with the Chicago Bears. Adam Hoge profiled that season quite nicely for NBC Sports.
  • Take everything you hear in training camp with a grain of salt, but the praise being poured out for Darnell Mooney is coming from everywhere. One reason for the excitement is Mooney actually fits what Nagy wants to do offensively better than a player like Allen Robinson. (Another reason the Bears are reluctant to throw top five money at Robinson.) Won’t surprise me if Mooney’s numbers exceed ARob’s this season.
    • From Wikipedia: “Hypotheses of the phrase’s origin include Pliny the Elder‘s Naturalis Historia, regarding the discovery of a recipe for an antidote to a poison.[2] In the antidote, one of the ingredients was a grain of salt. Threats involving the poison were thus to be taken “with a grain of salt”, and therefore less seriously. The phrase cum grano salis (“with a grain of salt”) is not what Pliny wrote. It is constructed according to the grammar of modern European languages rather than Classical Latin. Pliny’s actual words were addito salis grano (“after having added a grain of salt”).”
  • Matt Nagy said he “feels better than worse” about Roquan’s injury. Here’s my question: why speak like this? The whole league does it and it makes no sense. Here’s how coaches should talk about injuries. Player X has a problem with his Y and we expect him to return in around Z days. What other details are required? Why do we need a non-medical professional’s feel for the situation?

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