189 Comments

Three Things Bears Need to Do on Offense Over Next Few Weeks

| October 18th, 2022


By now, most fans have come to terms with what the 2022 season is going to be. And what it’s going to be is ugly. But this season won’t be a wasted one if the team drains every ounce of evaluative sweat out of this gym towel of a roster. What do they need to do short-term?

(1) Get Velus Jones into the offense. It is understandable to want his speed involved in the punt return game, but that experiment has failed with gusto. Jones brings a dimension to the offense – speed – that doesn’t currently exist. Oh, he’s struggling with the playbook? Adjust the playbook! You’re telling me Jones is incapable of running 3-4 go routes a game to take the top off the defense? You’re telling me he can’t consistently motion as a decoy? He’s the only player on this roster capable of turning a bubble screen into a 25-yard gain. Play him and commit to getting him five touches a game.

(2) Acknowledge David Montgomery is not your best running back. DBB’s Data has been all over this, for seemingly years, but it’s now obvious that Montgomery is not a better running back than Khalil Herbert. Is he more valuable in the passing game? Yes. And that should guarantee him a role in the offense. But if the Bears are considering giving Montgomery big money, they have completely lost the plot. (For the record, I don’t believe they are.) Start Herbert. Work Montgomery into the game. Start thinking about 2023.

Read Wood’s thread on the issue HERE.

(3) Get Sam Mustipher off the field / Alex Leatherwood on it. Move Lucas Patrick – if healthy – to center and bring the former Raider on to play guard.  It is time to start experimenting with this offensive line at just about every position but the two tackles, where the Bears benefit from seeing Braxton Jones and Larry Borom with a full season of work. Leatherwood’s early career has been a disappointment, but he plays with aggression and that aggression should work for this rushing attack. (And if Leatherwood doesn’t work out, stick Riley Reiff into the lineup. That’s still a move for the future as Patrick profiles better at center than guard, long-term.)


The Bears are seeing, with Kyler Gordon, the importance of letting young players play. Gordon looked like the worst corner in the sport for four weeks but has completely turned his season around. Get as many of these kids on the field as possible and keep them there.

Tagged: , , , , ,

153 Comments

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.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , , ,

288 Comments

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.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , , ,

418 Comments

What Happened in Vegas: Bears Beat Raiders, Give Themselves Chance for a Season

| October 11th, 2021


The Bears were significant underdogs in Las Vegas. And they won the game by double digits. There is plenty to criticize about this performance. (And you’ll find much of that below.) But one thing can not be stated clearly enough: this was a massive win for the 2021 Chicago Bears and their head coach, Matt Nagy. They now have a chance for a season.

Rapid fire.

  • Everything starts with Justin Fields and he was getting annihilated early. And most of it was NOT the result of poor play on the offensive line. The Raiders came into Sunday with the clear directive to hit Fields, whether the play was alive or dead. And Fields almost didn’t survive it.
    • As brutal as the hit was later in the game, don’t think for a moment those early hits didn’t play into Roquan Smith’s mindset when he knocked Derek Carr from the game. That was a teammate having the back of another teammate. You hit my guy up top, I hit yours up top. That’s how football used to be played.
  • Fields was good in this game, but the Bears have to let him do more moving forward. At several moments late, Nagy could have told his quarterback, “Make a play here and the it’s over.” He didn’t Sunday. He will have to soon.
    • I would have loved to see a replay of Fields’ touchdown pass to Jesper Horsted from any angle but the one shown on TV. (Apparently the only camera working at the time was on the other side of the field.) It looked like a bold decision, perfectly executed.
    • The Fields-to-Mooney 3rd down toss on what ultimately became the game-sealing drive was an absolute thing of beauty. If Fields can make that throw, in that moment, there’s nothing he can’t do physically out there.
  • As for Roquan, what a performance. He broke up a touchdown in the end zone. He stopped Carr on what looked like an easy first down run on a pivotal third down in the first half. And he’s called for two big penalties – a PI and an unnecessary roughness – neither of which were actually penalties. In the modern NFL, teams need to be wary when paying inside linebackers. The Bears should hand him a blank check.
  • There’s very little left to say about Khalil Mack. The Raiders tried to hold him early but the refs called it. Then they tried to double, and sometimes triple him. He beat it all. Some days he’s unblockable. Quite frankly, there aren’t enough of those days. But Sunday was one of them.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , , ,

299 Comments

Week Four Game Preview, Volume II: Nagy Rebound Effect, Trib’s Pearson on Arlington Heights & Trying to Predict the Unpredictable

| October 1st, 2021


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears. 

And I’ll say this about the 2021 Bears…they’re interesting! The coach might be nuts. The quarterbacks may stage a mutiny. The GM may be in witness protection.

Who the hell knows what football team is going to show up on Sunday?


The Nagy Rebound Effect

The first major hiccup of the Matt Nagy era in Chicago was the 2019 opener. The Bears were lifeless on offense against the Green Bay Packers, the quarterback was horrible, and the team lost 10-3 at home. How did they rebound from that effort? They won their next three games, two on the road, by a combined score of 62-35.

The next significant hiccup (light term) of the Nagy era came at the tail end of a six-game losing streak in 2020. After being blown out by the Packers at Lambeau, the Bears collapsed against the Detroit Lions to fall to 5-7. Many, including this space, called for Nagy’s firing. How did the team rebound? They won their next three games, scored a million points, and found themselves in the postseason. (You can bring up the opponents here if you like but the results are the results.)

Like it or not, the Bears have rebounded from the shakiest moments of Nagy’s tenure. And one can argue there has been no shakier moment than Sunday in Cleveland. Will they rebound again?


Arlington Heights: Three Questions with the Tribune’s Rick Pearson

Rick Pearson is one of the country’s finest political journalists. He is also one of my favorite people on the earth. Follow him on Twitter – @Rap30

____________

DBB: You suggested in your Tweet there’d be no interest in using city money to keep the Bears in Chicago proper. So if George and Ted went to the city and said, “We need X amount for renovations and improvements and we’ll stay three more decades” does the city see no value in making that happen? Or is the money just not there?

RP: Those TV establishing shots of Soldier Field on a warm spring day over Lake Michigan look very enticing and perfect for a post card. But the state and city have a heavy postage due bill. If George and Ted came to the city and state and listed their desired improvements, they would be listened to. But the only real answer for the team in the way the modern-day NFL operates is a new stadium. Soldier Field has been renovated as far as it can be without being torn down—an unlikely situation for a historic war memorial even though its 2006 renovation stripped it of its national landmark status. The stadium’s historic colonnades prevent the sidelines from being widened to add new seats to the smallest gridiron in the league.  Neither the state nor city has the money or the appetite for a new multi-billion dollar stadium—either in Chicago or in Arlington Heights. More than $430 million in debt is outstanding on the renovation that created the current Soldier Field, paid largely through hotel taxes, and the agency that issued the bonds is at junk-bond credit status.

____________

DBB: Nobody builds these new buildings without taxpayer money. That conversation is coming. How will it be received? Do you think it can be avoided?

RP: As I said, there is very little appetite for public financing for a brand new stadium. In fact, there’s resentment that the Bears would likely leave before the latest bonds have been paid off, coinciding with the team’s lease through 2033. A new stadium in Arlington Heights would get minimal public funding for things like roads and sewer, similar to what the privately owned United Center got on the West Side. But Arlington Heights and its 326 acres provide the Bears with several funding opportunities. They can link up with a private developer to create retail and even residential opportunities. The NFL has a loan program for new stadiums and the Bears, as a founding member of the league, would likely get favorable terms. In addition, a domed stadium also would provide new year-round opportunities for revenue. And the team wouldn’t have to split some of its revenues with the Chicago Park District, its current leaseholder, and would be able to sell naming rights. Then add the prospect of a sportsbook on game days, which is something the Bears clearly want and haven’t been able to get.

____________

DBB: What do you think it will mean to the city – specifically that area of the city – to lose the Bears to the burbs?

RP: The South Loop, where Soldier Field is located, is among the fastest growing areas of the city and can withstand the loss of 10 or so events. Soldier Field would still exist for Chicago Fire soccer, admittedly less of a draw than the Bears, as well as a home for international soccer matches which, when Mexico plays, have filled the stadium. Soldier Field also would continue to be a place for major outdoor concerts. The team’s fan base is strong in the suburbs and while traffic to Arlington Heights might get bad, it was always worse trying to get to and park at Soldier Field on game days. And hey, regardless of a move to the suburbs, they’ll always be the Chicago Bears—and the eyes of all Chicagoland will be on them every time they play.


Stats of the Week

  • The Lions have played the Niners, Packers and Ravens in this early stretch of the season and they are gaining 162 yards per game more than the Bears. (Sunday, of course, swayed these numbers against the Bears but Sunday did, in fact, count.) When you look at these two offensive rosters, that seems inconceivable.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , ,

74 Comments

Training Camp Player to Watch: Special Teams

| July 15th, 2021


Cordarrelle Patterson was the best kickoff return man in football during his tenure with the Chicago Bears, and ascended into the ranks of the best kickoff return men of all-time. Patterson was also the club’s most reliable gunner on punt coverage and showed remarkable versatility across special teams units the last two seasons. This is a difficult player to replace, but the Bears certainly did not have the financial resources to bring him back at what can only be described as a vanity position in this modern NFL.

We know who the kicker and punter will be in 2021. We know Tarik Cohen will be back on punt returns, especially with Damien Williams brought in to lighten his offensive load. It is impossible to analyze who’ll handle Patterson’s “defending” roles, as those spots are often the byproduct of roster decisions to come later in the summer. (Sherrick McManis is still a free agent and the Bears are still interested in bringing him back.)

So who should fans watch when it comes to the kickoff return spot?

Williams, Damiere Byrd and Marquise Goodwin each have extremely-limited kick return experience and none of them profile for the position athletically. (Speed is great but most speedsters fail due to lack of vision, elusiveness.) Anthony Miller can do the gig but Miller might not be on the roster come September. Dazz Newsome seemed a natural to give work there, but his lack of experience doing so in college, coupled with a broken collarbone, leave it unlikely special teams coach Chris Tabor will get much time to experiment with him this preseason.

That leaves Khalil Herbert. And the rookie, even in a crowded running backs room, has a direct path to making the 53-man roster as a serious contributor.



Three reasons I like Herbert for the role:

  • He’s an exclusively downhill runner and that’s what kickoff returns are: find the seam and get what you can. (His highlight package at Tech above shows what I’m talking about.) He’s also incredibly difficult to bring down on first contact. Often if a kick return man survives first contact, he’s got a chance to score.
  • Pace and the personnel folks will be eager to score more points in the later rounds and getting serious contributions from a sixth-round pick would do just that.
  • Production. Herbert returned 16 kicks last season at an average clip of 26.9 yards per return last season. Nobody else on the current roster had anywhere near that production returning kickoffs over the last calendar year.

With training camp just days away, this feels like it could be Herbert’s job to lose. And maybe it should be.

Tagged: ,

200 Comments

How Will Bears Handle Massive Special Teams Turnover in 2021?

| May 21st, 2021

A whole lot of attention has been paid to Chicago’s offense and defense this offseason, but there hasn’t been much focus on the unit that will see the largest turnover from 2020: special teams.

Bears special teams were quietly very good last year; they ranked 8th in total DVOA according to Football Outsiders, and were among the 10 best NFL teams in field goals, kickoff coverage, kickoff returns, and punt returns.

This was not a usual result for Chicago, as 2020 was the first year they were ranked in the top 10 for ST DVOA since 2012. To put that in perspective, in 2012 Lovie Smith was still the head coach, Dave Toub the ST coordinator, Devin Hester the return man, Robbie Gould the kicker, and Patrick Mannelly the long snapper. Those were the days.

_________________________

General Changeover

So how did Chicago celebrate their 2020 special teams success? By changing over much of the unit. The specialists – K Cairo Santos, P Pat O’Donnell, and LS Patrick Scales – all return, but many of their core ST players will not. Just look at the table below, which shows all 12 Bears who played at least 30% of the ST snaps last year.

The players highlighted in red are no longer with the Bears, and make up nearly half the list (5 of 12). Two more core special teamers – RB Ryan Nall and OLB James Vaughters – saw additions made to their position this offseason that leave them with an uphill climb to make the roster again. If those two are not able to stick, then 7 of the 12 players on this list will be gone. That leaves a whole lot of special teams snaps that will need to be filled.

The good news is that the Bears have emphasized bringing in players with ST experience this offseason. The table below shows new Bears who were core ST performers at their last stop. An * indicates the ST experience was in college.



You can see fairly logical replacements for the players who are leaving from above.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , , ,

169 Comments

The (Rest of the) 2021 Chicago Bears Draft Class [VIDEOS]

| May 2nd, 2021

In the first round, the Bears selected Justin Fields. (More on this tomorrow.)

In the second, they selected Teven Jenkins, the most mocked player to the team over the last month.

We posted highlights of fifth round pick Larry Borom. Here are highlights from the rest.


Khalil Herbert, RB, Virginia Tech


Dazz Newsome, WR, UNC


Thomas Graham Jr., DB, Oregon

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,