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Dannehy: Bears Defense Could Be Good

| September 28th, 2022

If the Chicago defense is going to establish itself as a good unit, Sunday in New Jersey is the perfect time to do so.

The unit’s numbers are a bit mixed, which probably best describes their performance. The team is 11th in points allowed and 20th in yardage. They’re 9th in passing defense, 30th against the run. That’s all fine, especially considering their talent. But a deeper dive is less encouraging.

They are 17th in points allowed per drive, 22nd in yardage. However, because they’re seventh in takeaways – The Eberflus Effect – they are 11th in DVOA.

At the very least, this defense is mediocre. They have a chance to be better than that. They struggled in the first half against San Francisco and Green Bay and had some issues early against Houston. But they have been lights out in the second half, another effect of having Eberflus at the helm. (A lot of this is due to Kyler Gordon’s second half performances being far superior to his first halves.)

They need to put it together for four quarters. Sunday is a prime opportunity.

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Lovie Returns to Soldier Field (Again): Week Three Game Preview, Volume I

| September 22nd, 2022


He has a beard now. A glorious, white beard. It terrifies young babies. So…

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears this Week?

I.

Always.

Like.

THE.

Chicago.

Bears.


Lovie vs. Opposing Quarterbacks

In the first two weeks of the season, Lovie’s defense has faced Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson, both times as substantial underdogs. Their passer ratings?

Ryan: 83.1

Wilson: 66.5

That ranks the Texans seventh in the league in opposer passer rating, a pretty decent stat when evaluating a pass defense. For those thinking this is a “get healthy” week for Justin Fields, that just isn’t the case.

But Houston is allowing 163.5 on the ground so don’t be surprised if the game plan for the Bears in Week 3 is relatively similar to what we’ve seen so far in September.

Knowing Lovie, expect the Texans to sell out to stop the run and dare Fields to sit in the pocket and beat them. If Fields has a good afternoon, the Bears could have a big offensive output.


Other Early Stats that Could Matter

  • Lovie’s teams always get off the bus running the ball but through two games the Bears have actually run it substantially more, to the tune of 64-46 total carries. (Fields runs a lot. Davis Mills runs less.) Bears are also averaging a yard more per carry.
  • Keep an eye on third down defense. Texans are allowing conversions on exactly a 33.3% of attempts. The Bears are allowing conversions on 50%. Small sample size, sure, but those numbers projected out are devastating for the Bears.
  • Both the Bears (28.6% conversion) and the Texans (25% conversion) are in the bottom six in the league in third down offense.
  • Underrated stat: total plays per game. Houston is averaging 63.5 (T-15) and the Bears are averaging 48.5 (31). If the Bears want to improve their offensive performance, it would be helpful to run some offensive plays.

Additional Notes (Links) from the Houston Press

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Dannehy: Passing Game Failures are Everyone’s Fault

| September 21st, 2022


If Week One was a giant victory for the Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus era, Week Two was a terrible defeat.

There is a lot of blame to go around for Chicago’s failures against Green Bay. It starts by looking at the rosters. When you compare Green Bay’s defensive front to Chicago’s offensive line, and their secondary to Chicago’s receivers, it is a total mismatch.

That said, it isn’t like the Bears have a bare cupboard. The fact that Justin Fields has fewer than 200 passing yards through two games is, well, shocking.  Nobody will say Fields was great as a rookie, but in his last two games in 2021 he had more than 500 passing yards and three touchdowns. We can talk all day about the players the Bears don’t have, but they do have two who should be good options in the passing game in Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet. Both were able to produce last year and can’t even get the ball thrown their way this year.

Was Matt Nagy that good or is Luke Getsy that bad?

That isn’t to absolve Fields, Kmet, Mooney or any of the other players. We’re simply learning that they aren’t good enough at this point. That also shouldn’t be a surprise. If you go back to the early reports from camp, they were all about how much the Bears were working on their running game and not their passing game. How could anybody expect mediocre — if we’re being generous — talent to produce against elite talent when they haven’t even put the time in on the practice field?

The NFL season is guaranteed to have 17 tests and the Bears have gone through two of them. The team’s front office and coaching staff is well aware that they aren’t going to be contending for the Super Bowl this year. They knowingly took the slow path to success and, unfortunately, that means there will be games like Sunday night.

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Four Positives, Three Concerns from Sunday’s Victory Over the Niners

| September 13th, 2022


There is no reason to overreact to the first game of an NFL season, especially when a substantial period of that game is played in a deluge. But when a season is going to be defined by the development of a young roster, it is worth tracking that developing week-to-week. Tuesdays will be the day we do that on DBB.

Four Positives

  • Dominique Robinson. Scout friends, with much more developed football brains than my own, have been telling me about Robinson since the Bears took him in the fifth round. Well, Robinson had a jump off the screen debut Sunday and Senior Bowl Jim Nagy took notice.

  • Justin Fields. The quarterback was brutal in the first half against San Francisco, but once again he has shown the ability to forget the bad plays and forge ahead. His second half line? 5-for-8, 102 yards, 2 TDs, 0 sacks and a 145.8 passer rating. (And this second half would have likely been even better if the fourth quarter didn’t feature a large boat and two of every animal.)
  • Eddie Jackson. Not only did Jackson make the game-changing interception, but he was active and aggressive in run support, even making some noise on contact. This wasn’t EJ the finesse player. This was EJ the defensive leader and after one game it seems no Bears defender has been more significantly (read: positively) impacted by the implementation of Matt Eberflus’ program.
  • Khalil Herbert. After struggling this summer, Herbert was the best Bears running back Sunday and he seems to have a burst that David Montgomery lacks. It will be worth monitoring the allocation of carries moving forward.

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Dannehy: Memories of Cade & Culpepper, Plus Thoughts on San Francisco

| September 7th, 2022


For Chicago Bears fans in their 30s, or early 40s, it might be hard not to compare Sunday’s quarterback showdown at Soldier Field with a similar contest 22 years ago. This one will hopefully end far better for the Bears in both the short and long term.

The San Francisco 49ers are led by a raw, second-year quarterback with tantalizing physical tools. They face a Bears team with a second-year quarterback who struggled as a rookie but was more highly thought of as a complete player. On Sept. 3, 2000, the Minnesota Vikings – a playoff team the year previous – started Daunte Culpepper, a raw, second-year quarterback with tantalizing physical tools. He faced Cade McNown, a second-year quarterback who struggled as a rookie but was more highly thought of as a complete player.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: I watched this game as a college student at the ESPN Zone in Times Square. Most bars in NYC still didn’t have league-wide accessibility.]

That game ended up being perhaps McCown’s best as a professional. He completed 27 of 41 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t throw an interception. He also ran for 87 yards on 10 attempts, adding another touchdown. The Bears managed 425 yards and 27 points, and the Gary Crowton offense looked like the future of the league.

But the Bears lost the game.

Culpepper struggled as a passer, completing just 13 of 23 passes for 190 yards and an interception. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass but ran for three scores and 73 yards. A 20-9 Bears lead disappeared in the second half but both teams exited Week One feeling good about their young passers. Ultimately, neither proved a long-term answer. McCown was benched eight weeks later and exited the NFL abruptly. Culpepper had a far more substantial career, but the Vikings continually fell short of lofty expectations.

What can we learn? Simply that one game does not make a season and certainly won’t define a career. But the quarterbacks will always be connected.


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Five Predictions for the 2022 Chicago Bears Season.

| September 6th, 2022


This is one of the more interesting seasons in recent memory, with the summer injecting unexpected optimism into the whole affair. So, what do I expect from the 2022 Chicago Bears?


Prediction #1. The Bears will beat their over/under number of six.

On the 2022 schedule: Giants, Jets, Texans, Commanders, Lions (twice), Falcons. Every one of those games is winnable and none of them will feature a point spread outside the 3-point margin. If Eberflus has the defense playing at a top-15 level, and he should, all of those teams are going to struggle to score on the Bears.

This is not to say the Bears will win double-digit games. But 7-10? 8-9? Even 9-8? All three seem perfectly feasible. And a side note to the prediction: this will be an inherently fun team to watch.


Prediction #2. The “starting five” will not be the “final five” along the offensive line.

Someone will flop. Braxton Jones at left tackle? Teven Jenkins at right guard? Larry Borom at right tackle? It is highly unlikely all three will find success and the Bears will have solved their offensive line woes in one off-season. Add in the waiver claim for Alex Leatherwood, with the cost associated, and it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Chris Morgan and Luke Getsy work him into the starting lineup by mid-season.


Prediction #3. The Bears will struggle to rush the passer.

The last time Robert Quinn mounted back-to-back double-digit sack seasons was 2013-14. That is eight years ago. Quinn is capable of being an elite pass rusher (see: 2021), but his career has been defined by inconsistency rather than dominance. He’ll need help on the outside and help is not on this roster unless Trevis Gipson takes a massive leap in his third season. What is more likely is the Bears are debating between pass rusher and wide receiver in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.


Prediction #4. Cole Kmet will score five or more touchdowns.

Rookie season: 28-243-2

Sophomore season: 60-612-0

Third season: 78-1,008-6

Kmet’s lack of touchdown production in his second year had nothing to do with him. It was entirely about the previously regime’s Jimmy Graham obsession. Graham wasn’t just playing a majority of red zone snaps but was also in Graham-specific packages that included fade routes thrown by an inaccurate quarterback to an old tight end.

With attention being paid weekly to Darnell Mooney, Kmet should be the beneficiary of mismatches over the middle and profit greatly from a red zone scheme that will work to get him open for easy scores.


Prediction #5. Justin Fields will have a breakout season.

I’m not going to get into the numbers game because the numbers are not important. A singular conclusion will be reached by the end of the 2022 campaign: Fields is the franchise quarterback the Bears have been desperate to find.

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Dannehy: Upside is Evident, Especially at Coach and Quarterback

| August 31st, 2022


While the most likely scenario is the 2022 Chicago Bears being out of contention before December, last Saturday’s preseason game was a reminder that the outcome of this campaign is far from certain.

There are plenty of question marks on the roster. Will Larry Borom, Teven Jenkins or Kindle Vildor end up being quality players? Flip a coin. Will Justin Jones and Nicholas Morrow stay healthy? Who knows? But there is a world in which a lot of these roster decisions go right, and fans caught a glimpse of that world on Saturday night. The talent on this roster may be better than it has been given credit for, especially considering some think it’s the worst in the league.

But there are two positions on every team that can drastically improve the outcome of any season: head coach and quarterback. That’s where fan focus should rest.

Eberflus.

It has been said over and over that Flus had top-10 defenses with worse talent than he has now. Of course, Eberflus isn’t the defensive coordinator (still a question mark) but his scheme is relatively easy to learn and the principles that made him successful in Indianapolis are being taught in Chicago.

What we’ve seen from the preseason is a Bears team that plays fast, but in control. Control is everything. They’re disciplined and assignment sure. Gone are the days of overcomplicated systems. The Bears will be simple, and they will play harder than their opponent.

Fields.

Enough has been written about his struggles as a rookie.

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Do Summer Performances Raise Expectations for 2022? Maybe.

| August 29th, 2022


The Bears played terrific defense in each of their three preseason games, doing so mostly without the involvement of their two best defensive players, Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn. The veterans (Morrow, Jones, Muhammad, etc.) contributed consistently and the kids (Brisker, Gordon) were the summer’s shining light. If this group can find enough pass rush, still a significant if, they will be a unit easily slotted into the top half of the sport.

The Bears also looked solid on specials in their preseason games and on the Lake Forest practice field. Cairo Santos is one of the most reliable kickers in the league. Trenton Gill is looking like a seventh-round steal, especially considering that the more ballyhooed punter in the draft, Matt Araiza, has now been accused of participation in a gang rape and is out of the sport. And the team has what you want when it comes to return men, the steadiness of a Dante Pettis and the explosiveness of a Velus Jones Jr. (Coverage units are difficult to evaluate during the summer because they are formed by the bottom third of the roster.)

When it came to the competitiveness of the 2022 Bears, it was always going to come down to the offense. Would the quarterback take the next step? Could the young line hold up? Do they have enough playmakers on the outside? How long would it take this group to grasp Luke Getsy’s system – a system that has historically struggled in year one? Questions, questions, questions, questions. But did the summer provide any answers?

Yes, I think one could argue it did.

The quarterback had his moment Saturday night. And it was a moment many inside the building were desperate to see. He was poised in the pocket, processed the field well, and was decisive and accurate with his throws. It was still a practice game, and it’ll be forgotten by the middle of the week, but it has to instill a tremendous amount of confidence in Justin Fields as he embarks upon the journey of his sophomore season.

The young offensive line has looked just fine and should improve when Lucas Patrick makes his expected return in September. This group is going to have its struggles. Braxton Jones is a rookie. Teven Jenkins is playing his first season at guard. Larry Borom probably shouldn’t be a starting tackle, but the team’s future will be better served getting him on-field experience this year. There will be drives that frustrate fans and drives that enthrall fans. That’s the story with young starters in the NFL. But this unit has certainly not been the liability this summer many predicted.

As for playmakers, of course the Bears don’t have enough. Not even close. Look at the talent outside for contenders like the Bucs, Rams, Bengals, Bills and the entirety of the AFC West. “Why can’t the Bears contend for a title this year?” is often asked by the most optimistic of fans on social media. (They must know, but they ask anyway.) This is the answer. But a few things should be noted here. First, a Larry Mayer tweet:

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