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Hey, I (Almost) Called It…

| October 25th, 2022

From the Game Preview:

  • Kyler Gordon will get the first interception of his career, a pick six, capping off a solid night for the defense overall. But it just won’t be enough to overcome the offensive woes. (It might be enough to start a QB controversy in New England.)

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Three Positives from a Week Five Loss to the Vikings

| October 11th, 2022

Justin Fields was the major positive to come from Sunday’s loss to the Vikings. But that ground has been well covered. Today’s column looks elsewhere.

Second Half Defensive Dominance

The Bears have now allowed 26 points total in the second half this season, and one touchdown. They’ve also shown a knack for making the big play in the final two quarters, with Kindle Vildor continuing his solid season, adding his first career interception.

Jaylon Johnson isn’t playing. Roquan Smith whiffs on a big tackle every week. The middle of the defensive line is terrible. The pass rush is often nonexistent. But the Bears are emerging from halftime each week an inspired defense. It is a testament to the coaching staff.


Cole Kmet’s Season Begins?

Kmet had two catches against the Texans, three against the Giants, and now four against the Vikings. But if Fields is going to start attacking defenses underneath, like he did Sunday, Kmet is going to be the biggest beneficiary. He is also the only Bears receiving weapon that seems to work the middle of the field.


Rookies Making Plays

Kyler Gordon was a sure tackler and was inches from a game-changing pick six. (His coverage is still an issue.)

Dominique Robinson blocked a field goal.

Velus Jones Jr. scored a touchdown and looked to have a burst in the kickoff return game. (Why was he only on the field for 6% of snaps?)

You don’t win in the NFL playing a bunch of rookies, but their performances suggest a promising future for the franchise.

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Dannehy: Fair to Question Luke Getsy

| October 5th, 2022


Once again, Chicago Bears fans are left playing the “chicken or the egg” game when it comes to determining what, exactly, is the problem with the team’s offense. But there certainly is some evidence to suggest offensive coordinator Luke Getsy isn’t getting the most out of his players.

Justin Fields might be bad, but we know he is certainly capable of being much better than this. In his last four complete games of his rookie season, he passed for 975 yards and five touchdowns, with a passer rating of 85.9. Compare that to the first four of 2022, in which he has managed 471 yards, two touchdowns and a rating of, gulp, 58.7.

Fields isn’t even as effective as a rusher. In that same span, he ran for 257 yards, compared to 147 this year.

Somehow, the Bears offense is worse. They went from 27th in scoring and 24th in yardage to 31st in both. They are averaging 33 fewer yards and 2.3 fewer points per game. It is especially concerning when one evaluates Getsy’s performance in the passing game because, well, Getsy came to the team after being a passing game coordinator. It’s supposed to be his specialty.

It’s hard to see a major difference in the supporting cast; it isn’t as if the Bears didn’t have struggles at wide receiver and offensive line last year. And, while I have written several times about the difficulties Fields might have adjusting to an offense he has never played in — especially one that quarterbacks tend to struggle in — at least some of that should be offset simply by Fields no longer being a rookie.

The benefit of the wide zone offense Getsy was set to bring to Chicago is supposed to be the easy throws for the quarterback, but we aren’t seeing those. One can watch any Green Bay Packers game and see several examples of Aaron Rodgers taking a three step drop and making an easy throw for six yards. Do those not exist in Getsy’s version of the offense or is the quarterback not pulling the trigger?

Read More …

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Four Positives Through the First Four Games

| October 4th, 2022

The Bears are not a good football team. But they have won two of their first four games, so there must be positives to take from this early portion of the season. Here are four.


Second Half Defense

This coaching staff has clearly displayed the ability to make defensive adjustments at halftime, as the Bears have allowed only 18 total points in the second half and zero touchdowns. This group still needs an injection of talent in coming off-seasons, but Matt Eberflus and Alan Williams are showing they can put a competitive unit on the field with whatever they’re given.


Eddie Jackson’s Return to Form

EJ will be 29 when the all-important 2023 season begins, and many of us believed he would not be part of this new leadership’s plans. But through four games, Jackson has been the team’s best and most consistent defender, rediscovering his ballhawk abilities (3 INTs) and looking determined/aggressive in run support. With Jaquan Brisker looking the part beside him, the Bears look like they have the back of the secondary solidified for the next several years.


The Run Game

Everyone wants to make the blanket statement – “the offense is terrible” – but it’s factually untrue. The Bears have one of the best running games in the league, averaging 5.2 yards per carry and 177.3 yards per game. What they are terrible at is throwing the football and throwing the football is how you score points in the modern NFL. But the Bears are establishing a run-game baseline for the future that will be essential.


The 2022 Draft Class

The Bears did not have a first rounder in the 2022 NFL Draft, but they seem to have found some real players. Brisker is playing like a first rounder. Braxton Jones is showing signs that he can develop into a serious answer at left tackle. Trenton Gill is a terrific punter, delivering his best performance in the conditions in the Meadowlands on Sunday. Dominique Robinson has 1.5 sacks and is showing to be a playmaker.

Two questions remain. Can Velus Jones be worked into this offense post-injury, and can Kyler Gordon recover from a brutal start to his career? But otherwise, this draft class is reason for front office optimism.

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For Bears Defense, Offseason Needs Quickly Coming into Focus

| September 27th, 2022


Thinking about 2022 as a developmental season means thinking about what the primary roster needs will be heading into 2023. And just three weeks into the season, those needs are becoming clear on the defensive side of the football.

First things first. The Bears should not even consider letting Roquan Smith play elsewhere next season. Does that mean signing him to a $100 million contract? Not necessarily. While a happy Roquan is the best possible outcome for both sides, it was obvious Sunday that Roquan is more than capable of delivering a professional (and brilliant) performance even without the (somewhat absurd) guaranteed money he seeks. The franchise tag is awful for players, but it exists, and the Bears should not hesitate to use it on one of the best defensive players in the league. Unless another team approaches with a knockout trade offer Roquan should be wearing #58 in Chicago next year.

Second is the secondary, which looks solid at the very back and sketchy everywhere else. At corner, there are too many questions. Can Jaylon Johnson stay healthy for a season? Kindle Vildor has shown an ability to make plays, but can he display the consistency required to be a starting NFL corner? Kyler Gordon is a rookie, and rookies struggle, but some of Gordon’s struggles are, let’s just call them…eye-popping. Yet there are still plenty of moments that show why Gordon was selected in the second round, including several in the second half Sunday. Can he overcome the former and produce more of the latter? Corner is a position where you can’t have too much talent and the Bears need to add several quality bodies.

Last, and the opposite of least, is the defensive front. There is some talent on this line, but it’s hard not to notice two alarming trends.

  • For as good as the Bears have been running the ball, they have been equally bad defending the run. They’re getting pushed off the ball and it’s now very clear why their first free agent target was Larry Ogunjobi. They lack heft in the middle of the line.
  • The Bears are struggling to get off the field on third downs, primarily because their pass rush disappears in those spots. (Robert Quinn seems like he’s been a few feet from about ten sacks.) There is no such thing as a great defense absent a great pass rush. The quickest route to a great pass rush is finding yourself a great pass rusher. It will likely be their second biggest need this offseason.

Through three games, the Bears are firmly a mid-table defense, which should give fans confidence in what Matt Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams are building in Chicago. They don’t have top of the league defensive talent. But they might only be three or four players away from being among the game’s best.

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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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Training Camp Thoughts, Volume III: Patrick’s Thumb, Secondary Surging & (Slightly) More

| August 1st, 2022


  • Injuries, injuries, injuries. Lucas Patrick’s injured right thumb might seem minor but it’s hard to imagine a more significant malady for a team’s center. There are still 42 days until they start keeping score, so it’s a good thing the injury happened early, but Justin Fields will need time with his center before the 49ers arrive at Soldier Field on 9/11.
    • My guess at the starting OL for the opener: Reiff-Whitehair-Patrick-Schofield-Borom.
  • Training camp practices are always a double edge sword. If one position group is thriving, it must mean the position group facing them on the other side of the ball is struggling. There is very strong reason to believe Ryan Poles has rebuilt the secondary in a single draft. Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker are not only making plays, but also carrying themselves like they belong. So much of secondary play is about swagger and these kids have it. But this wide receiver group is not very good. Darnell Mooney is a top player on the ascent. Velus Jones Jr. has the potential to be a versatile, exciting tool. But Byron Pringle, N’Keal Harry, Equanimeous St. Brown are all basically fourth options. It would be worrisome if this group were consistently winning on the practice field.
  • Teven Jenkins is severely trending in the wrong direction. No player on this roster needed to prove more during these practice sessions. His unavailability is disconcerting.

Camp Tweet of the Week

Courtney Cronin is killing it on the Bears beat and she’s 100% right about this. Teams are getting comically paranoid.

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Training Camp Questions for a Season Lacking Urgency (Not Import)

| July 18th, 2022


Training camp for the 2022 Chicago is now next week, and thus this seems the appropriate time to think about the questions that will need answering over the coming month. Do these questions require urgent reply? Not necessarily. 2022 is not an urgent season. But just because it’s not an urgent season – a season defined by lofty expectations – does not mean it lacks import.

Here are some questions worth considering.

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Question #1. Can the offense resemble a professional unit? 

Dannehy did a nice job detailing the first-year struggles of this offense historically, and it would be unfair not to expect those same troubles here. The offensive coordinator has never done the job. The quarterback is on his third offense in three years. The team is going need solid production from a third-round wide receiver and a fifth-round left tackle. None of these elements are dealbreakers but they portend a period of struggle.

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Question #2. Are the kids alright in the secondary?

The Bears are assuming Jaylon Johnson and Eddie Jackson will be just fine. (Jackson back into a defense that fits his skills is a huge bonus.) But if the same can be said for rookie Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker, the secondary goes from one of the team’s weakest units in 2021 to one of its strengths in 2022. There will be a lot of bullshit emanating from training camp about young players. There always is. But the narrative arc of a professional career usually begins that first summer. And expectations are high for Gordon and Brisker.

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Question #3. How does the offensive line shake out?

This is probably the most pertinent question facing the Bears this summer because, right now, everybody is just guessing. Is Braxton Jones going to anchor the blindside? Is Larry Borom going to start over Teven Jenkins? If Borom usurps Jenkins, does that kick Jenkins inside? No franchise wants to enter camp with this much uncertainty across the whole of their offensive line but that is where the 2022 Chicago Bears find themselves.

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As Summer Unofficially Begins, Reasons to Be Optimistic About the 2022 Chicago Bears

| May 27th, 2022


Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer. It launches a period of cold beer in ice-filled coolers, attractive people strutting their tattoo-riddled muscles down the boardwalk, the sweet green fairway grass of golf courses across the north and just general happiness. It is the season of optimism, so this seems like the right moment to look at why a Chicago Bears fan should be optimistic about the months to come.

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(1) Justin Fields is going to be fun to watch. 

Is Fields a sure thing to be a franchise quarterback? Of course not. But he brings two things to the position this franchise has lacked for an awful long time: athleticism and charisma. Fields is fun to watch play football and that has not been the case for most of the quarterbacks in the history of the Chicago Bears.

And now he’s the starter. He’ll get an entire summer to be “the guy”. And that’s not a small thing. Fields was neutered in 2021 by a GM and coach that had no interest in playing him; a pair that believed Andy Dalton could win enough games to solidify their standing in the organization. This is not an excuse for his struggles on the field. Those come with being a rookie. But Fields will now exist with the freedom of knowing this is his team. And it should allow his personality to flourish on the field.

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(2) The potential impact of the 2022 draft class.

Kyler Gordon, Jaquan Brisker and Velus Jones Jr. are all expected to start come September and the early word on Gordon and Jones – inside the building – is remarkably positive. (It’s a bit hard for a safety to wow people before pads get involved.)

Off-ball linebackers and running backs – the specialty of the Bears – are important pieces to a championship puzzle. But those positions, and even offensive/defensive linemen, don’t give you much to watch during the summer months. Corners are different. Receivers are VERY different. These are guys that can start to brandish their reputations in camp and create genuine excitement for the coming campaign. Gordon and Jones have that potential.

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(3) A new culture. 

Justin Fields has already mentioned it, and it has been the most consistent thing I’ve heard from folks around ownership over the last few months: the culture has shifted.

Give it a name.

Intensity.

Professionalism.

Business-like approach.

There was plenty of excitement about the prospects of the previous regime, a duo that promised to bring Bears football into the modern age with a dynamic offense reminiscent of what’s happening in Kansas City. But when that promise remained unfulfilled, the excitement turned to concern.

This group is only making one promise: they are going to build a team and coach a team that plays hard and plays fast. Ownership is already seeing that. Poles and Flus believe it will be noticeable to the fans soon too. Soon means this summer.

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Five Quick Hits for a Monday Morning

| May 23rd, 2022


It is a slow period. Here are a few things.

  • From the spectacular Twitter feed of Adam Jahns: Bears coach Matt Eberflus on CB Kyler Gordon: “Kyler’s been lighting it up the last two days. I’ll just tell you that. The guy’s got tremendous ball skills. He’s been playing the defense the right way and we’re very impressed with him.” If Ryan Poles found a reliable starting corner with his first draft pick, the 2022 NFL Draft will be remembered as a success.
  • Sort of drifted through the news but it’s somewhat telling the Bears cut punter Ryan Winslow. That means rookie Trenton Gill – who was born in 1999 and looks like he’s about 14 years old – is the only punter on the roster. A lot of confidence in the kid.
  • A Tweet from Nate Tice seemed to capture the imagine of the internet this week: “the 2021 Bears drew up isolation plays in the redzone for 34-year-old Jimmy Graham with a straight face.” Aside from the insanity of the actual concept, this is also a reason I don’t take Cole Kmet touchdown production criticisms very seriously. Kmet didn’t score in 2021 because the Bears didn’t really give him many opportunities to score. Because, you know, they had Jimmy Graham!
  • As for the offensive line, there is still nothing to evaluate until we know how the players shake out. The Bears still don’t know where Teven Jenkins is going to line up. They don’t know if Larry Borom if going to be in their starting five. Similar to the QB, these guys are still learning how to play within a new scheme/structure.
    • One thing I have heard from inside the building is Morgan likes Borom more than Poles and company did when they were first hired. Poles didn’t initially envision Borom as a starter. That may be changing.
  • Jason La Canfora’s “report” that Robert Quinn wants out of Chicago is basically poppycock. Here’s the truth. (1) The Bears have been trying to trade Quinn for months. Poles wants more draft picks, and less salary and Quinn is coming off a career year. But he’s not just going to give players away and the Bears need pass rush to be competitive defensively in 2022. It’ll take a significant offer. (2) Quinn is making a fortune and quite likes it in Chicago. He’s not unhappy. He’s not disgruntled. He’s not trying to force a trade. Would he prefer to be on a team trying to win a title this season? Sure. But he’s not creating any issues at Halas Hall.

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