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Money Mooney: Friday News & Notes Around the Chicago Bears

| March 18th, 2022


Free agency is underway, and somewhat underwhelming. But there are still things to discuss.

  • I’ll never understand the sentiment that Darnell Mooney can’t be a number one receiver in the NFL. In his rookie season, with a good Allen Robinson on the other side, he went 61-631-4. In his second season, with a terrible Allen Robinson on the other side, he saw those number leap to 81-1055-4, while developing a serious rapport with Justin Fields. Why do fans believe his ascension won’t continue?
    • Cooper Kupp’s second year: 40-566. His third year: 94-1161.
    • It took Stefon Diggs four seasons to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.
    • Take a look at the progression of Davante Adams’ career in Green Bay.
  • This is not to suggest that Mooney profiles as a Justin Jefferson or J’Marr Chase – players with the tools to physically take over every game they play. But there are only a handful of those in the world. If Fields continues to feed Mooney, Mooney is going to produce at top of the league levels. And production, not profile, is what constitutes being a number one receiver in the NFL.
  • Pat O’Donnell has left the Bears for the Packers. This should provide you the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the legendary leg of Matt Araiza at San Diego State. (This is a deep punter class.)

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Five Positives from the Bears Loss to the Vikings

| December 21st, 2021


Being a beat writer for a losing team is a tough gig. (Nobody has perfected the skill better than Dave Birkett in Detroit.)

In this age where your journalistic value is determined by click totals and uniques, the beats are almost forced to treat meaningless games like they have meaning. Monday night’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings had plenty to discuss but the result really didn’t matter. Still, there were positives to be taken from the game.


Positive #1. Justin Fields.

Fields made plenty of rookie mistakes, which is not surprising because he’s a rookie. (He’s still trying to extend the extendable play and putting the football on the ground too much.) But he also flashed all the traits that give so many fans optimism around Chicago: short memory, remarkable speed, deep accuracy, cannon arm, etc. Fields is playing in an incoherent offensive system, surrounded by one of the worst collections of skill guys in the sport. The arrow is pointed decidedly up.


Positive #2. Thomas Graham Jr.

What a debut! Graham made plays all over the field, including a brilliant PBU in the endzone right after Matt Nagy’s sideline penalty.

There is reason to be very excited but let’s see this kid on the field, non-stop, for the final three games of the season.


Positive #3. Teven Jenkins

Jenkins actually played a fine game against one of the league’s premier pass rushes. But it was the personal foul penalty, defending his quarterback, that landed with the most important player in the locker room.

If the Bears can see good things from Jenkins and right tackle Larry Borom over these final weeks, they can be in a terrific position upfront going into 2022.


Positive #4. Roquan Smith, James Daniels, Darnell Mooney

This the kind of young core that will excite prospective coaches.

  • Roquan continues to be one of the best inside linebackers in the league, as dynamic in space as he is in run support. He’s always had the athletic ability but what’s really become obvious is how intuitively he now plays the position. He’s sniffing out plays pre-snap routinely; the mark of the elite inside backers.
  • Daniels is playing like a top guard and is the anchor of the team’s terrific running game. Hard to believe he won’t be receiving a lucrative extension to stay in town.
  • Mooney is a winning piece in a logical offense. (Hell, he’s a solid piece in this offense.) Why the Bears, with their complete dearth of top skill players, don’t make sure Mooney touches the ball ten times a game, is beyond me. (But that’s a sideline problem, not a player problem.)

Positive #5. Pat O’Donnell had a 72-yard punt.

That is all.

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Predictions & Projections for the 2021 Chicago Bears

| September 7th, 2021


No reason to bury the lede.

If Justin Fields were the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears from Week One, I would predict this team to win 9-10 games and make the playoffs. But he’s not the starting quarterback. And that prediction is impossible to make.

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What Would Starting Fields Do?

This team’s offensive line will not be as bad as many predict, but the unit is still one of the most flawed on the roster. They’ll struggle to run the ball against bigger, more physical interiors. They’ll struggle on the edge against speedier rushers. With Dalton, that means no run game. With Dalton, that means sacks.

With Fields, it doesn’t. The optimum word for a player like Fields is extend. He’ll extend drives with that casual six-yard scramble on third-and-four. That’s three more plays; three more opportunities for big plays; ten more minutes of rest for the defense. Fields will also extend plays with his mobility. That’ll keep edge rushers more worried about contain than crash.

Fields at quarterback would see the offense jump 8-10 spots in every statistical category of note. He would still make plenty of mistakes. He would still turn it over a bunch. But a serious production increase would come with those errors.

And the Bears are starting Andy Dalton.

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How the Bears Stack Up in the NFC North: Special Teams

| June 16th, 2020

The all-important third phase has mixed reviews for the Bears.

There is no question the Bears are the worst in the division when it comes to kickers, but they’re among the best when it comes to return men and punters, the latter not having much competition.

With an offense still expected to struggle, the Bears will desperately need this third phase to be productive.


Kicker

1. Detroit

2. Green Bay

3. Minnesota

4. Chicago

While he’s 35 and coming off of a bit of an off year, Matt Prater’s ability to make kicks from basically anywhere puts him atop this list. Mason Crosby is coming off of a career year, but entered the season fighting for his job. His made field goal percentage seems likely to dip back down into the low-80s Dan Bailey also had to earn his job in camp, but he did so and missed just two kicks. He was three-for-three on 50-plus yarders.

The Bears still need to keep an eye out for a replacement for Eddy Pineiro, who not only had the worst field goal percentage in the division last year, but had maybe the easiest job with just nine field goals beyond 40 yards. He missed four of them.


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Daniels, O’Donnell, Patterson: Three Under-Discussed Keys to the 2019 Season

| August 15th, 2019


#3 James Daniels

There’s been an assumption that Daniels will naturally slide into the starting center role and stay there for half a decade. Hell, it’s an assumption I’ve made on the radio in Des Moines with Daniels-centric hosts Trent Condon and Ken Miller.

But while Cody Whitehair struggled early with snaps, his ability to call out protections and lead this unit was a key to their success in 2018. The center is the most underrated position on the NFL roster. (Just look what happens to teams when they lose their starters there.) Daniels is now sliding into his natural position. But is he a natural leader?


#2 Pat O’Donnell

P.O.D. was having his best punting game as a Bear in the Eagles playoff loss until a nightmarish shank late allowed Nick Foles a short field for the go-ahead touchdown drive. Here’s what someone who works inside the organization texted me a few weeks ago:

He looks different. He looks good. He looks confident.

With a defense this good, long fields will kill opponents. The Bears need a different, good, confident O’Donnell.


#1 Cordarrelle Patterson

The Bears were last in the league in kickoff return average last season and added one of the two or three best kick returners in the game. Patterson’s signing should lead to a huge improvement in field position from day one.

But Patterson also had 21 catches for 247 yards last season in New England and paired that with 42 carries for 228 yards. This is an exceedingly productive offensive weapon who may cover some of the production the club is currently lacking from a struggling tight end group.

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2019 Chicago Bears Off-Season Agenda: Part Two, Complementary Pieces

| February 7th, 2019

The Bears are in the position most NFL franchises want to be in February. They don’t need to spend the next three months searching for starters. They’re looking for complementary pieces to fortify a championship run. And there are several places they should look.


WINGSPAN OUT WIDE

Mitch Trubisky has a miss, especially when he’s throwing deep left. The miss is high. When he gets too pumped up – much like a starting pitcher – the miss is high. There’s no guarantee he’ll continue having this miss as I’m in the camp the Trubisky of September 2019 will bare little resemblance to the Trubisky of September 2018. But in the meantime, why not put a bit more size on the outside? The Bears have a star number one in Allen Robinson and tons of speed around him. But they’ve got no reach.

So why not look for a power forward – a big man to post up at the sticks on third-and-six and catch the ball in traffic? Could that be someone like Kelvin Benjamin or Michael Floyd? Sure, if the money is right. Is the answer possibly in-house, with someone like Javon Wims stepping up in 2019? It’s possible but I’m always wary of depending on players who struggle to even crack the 53 in their rookie season, especially at a position that saw multiple injuries.

The Bears need to add a different kind of player to this group. Someone with size and physicality.


EXPLOSION AT RUNNING BACK

Emily made a thorough argument against the Bears signing Kareem Hunt.

I made the case, as best I could, for the Bears pursuing the troubled running back.

Andrew explained why this Matt Nagy offense needs Kareem Hunt.

Nagy can’t run his offense without an every-down running back who threatens the opposing defense in the passing game.

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Even if the Bears don’t acquire Hunt, they need to acquire a player LIKE Hunt.


MORE AT OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

I texted a league source in November with a question I’m fond of asking: “Tell me something about this Bears team I’m not smart enough to see.”

His response: “Leonard Floyd is playing out of his mind.” He went on to break down the many things Floyd was doing in coverage and explained to me how few outside backers – if any – were capable of that.

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Five Questions as the Bears Begin Training Camp Practices This Weekend

| July 20th, 2018

In this clandestine modern NFL, there’s something to remember: very little NFL teams show the fans or the media, prior to the start of the regular season, is all that valuable. “Open” training camp practices and preseason games exist to drain every possible nickel out of loyal fanbases. Might you catch a glimpse of a gimmick play or two? Sure. But that’s it.

What is valuable is that which is done in the Cone of Silence, behind a shroud of secrecy, in the shadows even Adam Jahns dare not show up with his 4″ x 8″ notebook. And I have questions about what the Bears will be up to in the darkness.


Question #1: Who is where on the interior of the offensive line?

For years, ever since the arrival of Kyle Long, this space has argued against the organization’s lack of consistency when it came to aligning the offensive line. This team, this summer, needs to select positions for Long, Cody Whitehair and rookie James Daniels and leave them there. Daniels will inevitably struggle early no matter where he starts because Daniels is a rookie and rookies struggle. Put em. Leave em.


Question #2: What’s the answer opposite Leonard Floyd?

If you go to the Chicago Bears’ roster page, you’ll get confused when it comes to the linebacker position. Danny Trevathan is correctedly listed at ILB. Roquan Smith is listed at just LB. Nick Kwiatkoski, rumored to be getting run on the outside, is listed at ILB. Aaron Lynch, expected to be a pass rushing option, just LB.

The Bears don’t need a star to emerge opposite Floyd. And based on their current roster, they don’t really have to worry about it. But with opposing offensive coordinators certain to game plan for Floyd’s potential impact, the team must find pass rush production on the other side from a combination of Kwik, Lynch, Sam Acho, Kylie Fitts…etc. Fans should get a good sense in the coming weeks as to where Vic Fangio and his staff are leaning from a personnel perspective.


Question #3: Are there any sneaky positional battles?

Yes, I’m looking at you, Pat O’Donnell. Pitt’s Ryan Winslow is not an elite punting prospect but one hopes the Bears are not going to give P.O.D. the free pass he’s been given in previous summers.

Where else might one’s eyes drift?

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The Positional Quick 3: Special Teams

| June 29th, 2018

I’m traveling in Dingle, Ireland years ago and I’m exhausted. This was my first day ever in Europe and I couldn’t keep my eyes open at 4:30 in the afternoon. My uncle turns to me and says, “Have a quick three. You’ll be fine.” I drank three Guinness in the span of a half hour. Seven hours later I’m dancing to a shitty Irish house DJ with Jenny Pye, a local lass who dreamed of being an EMT in New York City.

I’m very tired of this 2018 off-season. And incredibly eager for the season to begin. So I’m taking the quick three approach to each position group as we head into the summer. Not grading the groups or anything. Just making some points.


Specials

  • One could argue – with relative ease – that Ryan Pace has not botched any position on the roster worse than kicker. The Bears did not just jettison Robbie Gould too early. They WANTED Connor Barth, a player who has never been any good. Credit Pace for acknowledging that mistake and targeting kicker this off-season. Cody Parkey is a damn good kicker.
  • I’ve given Pat O’Donnell every opportunity to wow me but the fact is he’s not a great punter and never will be. Here’s hoping the Bears give Ryan Winslow, the rookie out of Pitt, every opportunity to win the starting job this summer.
  • It would be surprising if the Bears used anybody but Tarik Cohen on returns this season. Matt Nagy and Mark Helfrich will find interesting ways to involve him on offense but returns are guaranteed ways to get the ball in his hands. They won’t pass that up.

Thank you.

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Data Responds: Bears at Eagles

| November 26th, 2017

Well that was ugly. This one felt like a few drubbings the 2014 Bears received after the Bears had quit on Marc Trestman. The John Fox era is officially over, though we almost certainly still have to endure 5 more games before it becomes official. Hopefully those games aren’t all this ugly.

The Bears were never going to win on the road against the best team in the NFL, but they looked completely unprepared in every possible way. They picked up penalties, had zero creativity or imagination anywhere, and were generally outschemed, outcoached, and out-executed.

I’m not going to focus much on coaching, because this staff is obviously finished, but one particular atrocity deserves special attention. Facing 3rd and 17 from their own 1 yard line, the Bears called time out to save half a yard from a delay of game penalty. That’s bad enough, but the worst is the offense had only 10 men on the field after an injury time out gave them more than 2 minutes to prepare. That’s a team with comically inept coaching.

I’m going to focus most of my specific observations on the first half, because quite honestly I didn’t pay as much attention after that. The 24-0 halftime deficit meant the game was over by then anyway (honestly, it was over well before halftime).

Offense

  • Mitchell Trubisky threw an early INT on an inaccurate throw, and it caused the coaching staff to turtle back into their worst habits. It was a long time before they let him throw past the line of scrimmage again, and even then that only came on 3rd and long. Instead, they chose to repeatedly run out of heavy sets into loaded boxes. You might be surprised to learn this was not an effective strategy.

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Midseason Marks: Special Teams

| November 2nd, 2017

The DBB team is evaluating the entire organization at this well-placed, exactly midseason bye week. The catch? Each of us is limited to ONE SENTENCE for each position group. Today we switch to special teams.


Connor Barth

Jeff: Yes, the cupboard is bare at wide receiver due to injury but it’s been at kicker (and Mike Glennon) where the Bears have displayed their most glaring evaluative weakness.

Andrew: Barth just isn’t getting the job done.

Data: Connor Barth is terrible, but that’s something we’ve known since before he signed with the Bears 15 months ago.

DBB Grade: D


Pat O’Donnell

Jeff: Yes, I spend way too much time thinking about and studying punters but POD has improved his directional kicking, hang time and placement in 2017.

Andrew: Pat O’Donnell just might be having the best year of his career.

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