Now that Ryan Pace has been here a while, it’s possible to look at his past drafts to see what lessons can be learned from his approach. This can help us cautiously look ahead to the 2018 draft to see what he might be thinking.
With that goal in mind, I’m going to spend three weeks looking at how Pace has approached the three days of the draft, and then applying that approach to 2018 to see what players are likely being considered for the Bears this year. I looked at day 1 last week, so today will be day 2 (rounds 2-3).
2017: Adam Shaheen, TE, 45th pick (after trading down)
Trend 1: Trade Down
Ryan Pace has been a big fan of trading down for extra picks in round 2. He did it twice before selecting Cody Whitehair in 2016 and once before taking Adam Shaheen in 2017. Given that the Bears are short a third round pick this year, I think he will be working the phones looking to do that again in round 2. Read More …
Sorry for the break the last few weeks. I haven’t been able to watch games live due to various holiday scheduling hijinks. Darn that real life for getting in the way!
Before we get into today’s game specifically, reports are that John Fox will be fired today. I won’t miss you as Chicago’s head coach.
In general, this game looked very much like a disinterested team playing out the string on the road for a soon-to-be-fired coaching staff against a hungry opponent playing to lock up a first round bye.
The Bears got the ball to start and opened with a heavy set Jordan Howard run into a stacked box for no gain. On their 2nd drive, they followed that up with a Jordan Howard run into a stacked box for -4 yards. Shockingly, both drives ended in 3 and outs. Oh how I am not going to miss that.
On Chicago’s 3rd drive, they threw the ball on 1st down! You’ll be surprised to find out that not being incredibly predictable actually worked. Of course, the Bears followed that up with a FB dive into a 9 man box on 3rd and 1 (why is Michael Burton still a thing?), which lost yardage and forced a punt. Before they could get the punt off, the Bears took a delay of game penalty, because of course.
Rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky had a bad rookie moment that resulted in a safety. Under pressure, he kept backing up until he was in the end zone, which was the mistake. He then threw the ball away to pick up an intentional grounding penalty, which is a safety in the end zone. My complaint is not with the grounding, but with the fact that he backed up into the end zone first. He could have taken the sack at the 3 yard line, and needs to know the field position situation there.
Trubisky also had a terrible throw in the fourth quarter where he missed a wide-open Dontrelle Inman because his feet were not properly set. Despite a clean pocket, he did something weird where he torqued his upper body, which caused him to put the ball far too wide and out of bounds. Those mechanical issues, and the corresponding accuracy concerns, have been a repeated problem this offseason, and are the #1 thing Trubisky needs to work on this offseason.
Chicago came out of the bye flat, acting like nobody actually wanted to play a football game against their biggest rival. Their terrible kicker was good, but nobody else really was. The only thing that kept this game somewhat close was the fact that Green Bay is terrible, but they still won fairly comfortably on the road.
Let’s break down this embarrassing effort.
The first drive was simply awful. After two weeks to prepare, they ran into a loaded box on 1st down and lost a yard. After a nice pass picked up a first down, they again ran into a stacked box and lost a yard. The next play was both an illegal formation and a hold, setting Chicago up in 2nd and 21. At that point, the drive was over thanks to a combination of poor play calling and dumb penalties.
Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky actually had a pretty good start to the game. He made good throws and got the ball to players in space. That changed as the game wore on and Green Bay dialed up the pressure. Trubisky got happy feet and starting pulling his eyes down from scanning the field too quickly. He also refused to throw the ball away, making him completely inept under any sort of pressure.
Green Bay’s five sacks weren’t all on the offensive line, but they were bad today too. Hroniss Grasu, making a start at center and shifting Cody Whitehair to right guard with Kyle Long out, was routinely pushed back into the backfield. The unit also picked up way too many penalties, with a nice mixture of pre-snap, during the play, and after the play mixed in.
The Bears have plenty of weapons at the skill positions and a terrific quarterback, but their offense won’t take a big step if their offensive line isn’t better than it was a year ago.
On paper, the Bears line should be significantly better. They lost Matt Slauson, but Kyle Long moving back to guard, combined with Cody Whitehair or Ted Larsen have to be better than Vlad Ducasse and whoever else they played last year. At his worst Bobby Massie was as good as Long was at tackle last year and, over the last 10 games last year, he was actually pretty good. Charles Leno Jr. and Hroniss Grasu should be better with experience.
But outside of Long, who should be expected to return to his stellar form at guard, there’s the possibility it all goes the other way.
If Hroniss Grasu develops into a frontline center, the Bears may have a terrific offensive line in 2016. But Grasu would have to make a significant leap if that’s going to be the case. From Biggs in the Trib:
The statistics in the eight games Grasu started last season and the other eight games that were split between Slauson and Will Montgomery are similar with one glaring difference. I tallied the stats for Jay Cutler’s 15 starts, (excluding the dud of a performance in Seattle in Week 3 when Jimmy Clausen was at quarterback) and what jumps out is the Bears averaged 4.22 yards per carry with Slauson and Montgomery at center. With Grasu, they averaged 3.77, nearly a half-yard less.
If the Bears had a high level of confidence in Grasu, they wouldn’t have made three additions even while removing Slauson from the equation. When the season opens Sept. 11 in Houston, left tackle Charles Leno could be the only starter in a position he played for the team last season.
My favorite line in the piece? “One front-office guy said his team nearly drafted Whitehair about 20 picks before the Bears.” I maintain a firm belief that Whitehair is going to be a ten-year star at guard for the Bears.
(1) The Leonard Floyd pick will be the most heavily scrutinized moving forward but he will actually have little pressure on him in 2016. With Houston, Young and McPhee already situated at OLB, Floyd will be able to assimilate into Vic Fangio’s defense by doing what he does best: getting after the quarterback.
(2) Cody Whitehair is ready to play right now and the Bears should start him at left guard immediately. What does this mean? It means the team should follow the old offensive line maxim and play their best five. Leno. Whitehair. Slauson at center. Long. Massie.
(3) No, I’m not confident Hroniss Grasu is the future at center for the Bears. And that’s fine. You’re allowed to swing and miss in the name of athleticism. Giving him another season to develop, with Slauson at center, is probably the best thing for him.
(5) I won’t be surprised to see Jonathan Bullard have a more productive Bears career thanFloyd and that’s not knocking Floyd. Bullard is a grinder. Staying away from all the draftspeak, Bullard just made life horrible for offensive linemen and he went up against some terrific ones in the SEC.
This is, by far, the hardest position group to evaluate within an organization because it is not only an evaluation of individual performance but also of the collective whole.
Kyle Long is playing somewhere along the offensive line in 2016, most likely where he played the 2015 season. While the world has panicked at Long’s struggles at times this season, the organization – and more importantly the player – have not. Long will be on the Bears for the foreseeable future.
Matt Slauson would rank just behind Jay Cutler as my Bears MVP for 2015. Slauson excelled at two positions, rescuing the Bears from multiple moments of desperation at center. His versatility is developing into his finest asset as the former Jet can now line up at three positions along the line.
Hroniss Grasu will most likely be the starting center in 2016 after the Bears put him through an extensive offseason of work. He needs to get bigger. He needs to get stronger. And it will be one of the major priorities for the offensive coaching staff this spring and summer.
Bucs offense is simple. They want to hand the ball off a zillion times to Doug Martin and then make plays down the field to Mike Evans off play-action. If their running game is shut down it greatly limits their effectiveness to move the ball/score points.
Earlier in the week I paired the Bucs and Bears as two teams that weren’t ready to put themselves in the thick of a playoff chase. Four weeks ago the Bucs were 5-5 and positioned well to make a run at the 6th seed. Since then they’ve lost to a Luck-less Colts, a Saints team playing out the string and were roughed up last Thursday night by the Rams until mounting a late comeback. This is a team with a lot of weapons and a bright future. But they’re not there yet. The question will be whether Lovie can get them over the top in 2016.
Tampa’s rush defense is very good, allowing 30 less yards per game on the ground than Chicago. If the Bears think they’re going to control this game on the ground it’s unlikely. The way to attack Tampa is to isolate a couple familiar fellows at the backend of their secondary (Conte, Wright…etc.) and throw the ball down the field. The question will be whether any of the Bears receivers can get any separation.
NEW CHRISTMAS CLASSICS
Each year, from Thanksgiving until Christmas, I (like many) indulge in the joy that is the Christmas movie. And it surprises me that movies and television shows still find their way into the rotation. This last year produced two new additions.
A VERY MURRAY CHRISTMAS
It’s television the way television used to be made in the days of soundstages and cigarette holders and Dean Martin. Everything about it is a throwback and it’s still completely original. The highlight? George Clooney popping out repeatedly from behind Christmas trees to deliver the chorus of Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’.
DIFFICULT PEOPLE, “DIFFICULT CHRISTMAS”
The best new comedy on television in 2015 was Julie Klausner’s Difficult People and the final episode of the season, the Christmas episode, might have been the best. The highlight? Klausner getting fired from her job as a gift wrapper for reciting the story of Capturing the Friedmans to a customer.
It was only one win but it felt like six. Thoughts:
This was the classic Jay Cutler performance, even without proper usage of his legs. He moved the team up and down the field, behind a makeshift offensive line and without his top wide receiver. He threw one stupid pass. But with the game on the line and the ball in his hands he drove the Bears to their first victory of the season.
Cutler continues to be a winning quarterback when the Bears play defense. The model isn’t brain surgery, folks. Cutler is not a shootout-type quarterback. There are only about five of those in the league and he isn’t one of them.
Losing Will Montgomery can’t be overstated. NFL teams have collapsed under the weight of losing their starting center. But the Bears used their third round pick on center Hroniss Grasu this year. If he’s not moved into the starting lineup this week, one wonders how far off the kid is from playing?
Still not sure I understand Matt Forte picking up 25 carries while Rodgers and Langford total 3.
Hated how John Fox handled the ends of both halves. In the first half, once the Bears sack Carr on first down, Fox has to use the first timeout. He gave away a clear scoring chance. At the end of the game, who plays for a 49-yard field goal? I don’t care how good Robbie Gould is kicking right now – and he might be at his career best – there was far too much time to get ultra-conservative with the game on the line.