352 Comments

Week 11: Bears at Falcons Game Preview

| November 17th, 2022


Let’s bowl, let’s bowl, let’s rock and roll…

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears this Week?

I.

Always.

Like.

THE.

Chicago.

Bears.


Stats of Relevance

  • Due to the emergence of Justin Fields, the Bears are now rushing for 201.7 yards per game. That’s obviously best in the sport. The Falcons are fourth in that category, but they are FORTY yards behind. The correlating stat is also interesting. Chicago has thrown the fewest passes (208) in the league, while Atlanta has thrown the third fewest (231). Passing aficionados might want to spend their Sunday watching the FIFA documentary series on Netflix.
  • Of the teams in the top ten (including ties) in sacks, only the New Orleans Saints have a losing record. There are so many interesting stats in the NFL these days, but the sport still comes to playing well at quarterback and stopping the other guys from playing well at quarterback.
    • Chicago is 28th in sacks. Atlanta is 31st.
  • These teams are very similar. Is turnover differential the reason for their differing records? No. Both have a turnover differential of 0.

Three Bears Who Need to Start Playing

(3) Chase Claypool. Kadarius Toney was acquired by the Chiefs around the same time the Bears acquired Claypool and the former is already a prominent contributor in Kansas City’s offense. Come up with a dozen plays for him and run them.

(2) Velus Jones Jr. It must be “tough love” coaching because benching Jones on Sundays makes no sense otherwise. Jones has speed and this offense desperately needs it. Who cares if he is struggling with his route tree? Who cares if he misses a few blocking assignments? Put the ball in his hands a few times each Sunday and see what he can do with it.

(1) Alex Leatherwood. It is time to see everyone in the offensive line room. This is a pivotal eight weeks of evaluation, and the Bears can’t waste a day of it.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

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: , , , , ,

222 Comments

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.

Tagged: , , , ,

261 Comments

A Desperately Useless Affair: Rapid Fire Recap of the Second Practice Game

| August 19th, 2022


As is the want of DBB, we’ll approach this practice game quarter-by-quarter. And hopefully I will be able to stay awake for all four. (That is highly doubtful. With both teams sitting 20+ players, this is a more useless preseason game than most.)

Quarter One.

  • Velus Jones looks like he’s going to be the return man. Showed a remarkable burst on the opening kickoff (before fumbling) and had a long punt return later. When you have that kind of speed on your roster, you have to use it, and the return game is a good way to start.
  • First offensive drive, the Bears surrendered a lot of pressure. But Fields was genuinely quick to recognize it and get the football out of his hands. Remember, this is all vanilla game planning. Nothing the Bears ran against Seattle had anything to do with Seattle.
  • Never overreact to the preseason. But Cole Kmet looks like he’s going to be a central part of this passing game.
  • Just an eye test thing, but I think the Bears need to move Trestan Ebner ahead of Khalil Herbert on their depth chart. He’s got a better burst and he’s tougher to bring down. Herbert is useful but Ebner looks better as a runner.
    • Ebner didn’t make it through the first half healthy. Something to monitor.
  • This game kicked off at 8:13 or so ET. By 8:43 all of the relevant Bears were out of the game. These games in August should all be early afternoon kickoffs.
  • No idea how well Teven Jenkins played inside against the better Seahawks, but he didn’t seem to make any visible errors. (When Seattle moved to the backups late in the quarter, Jenkins leveled a few guys.)

Quarter Two.

  • Trevor Siemian is having a nice summer for this team. You want a backup quarterback that can execute the offense and not be an automatic loss. Siemian is that.
  • Do the Bears intend to use Trenton Gill on kickoffs?
  • Big time whiff by Kyle Gordon on the long Homer run at the start of the second quarter. Happens. But needs to get corrected.
  • Good reason to be concerned about Trevis Gipson. For a guy expected to start on the edge, he’s had a relatively unimpressive summer and was kept in this game far too long. Bears need pass rush production aside from Robert Quinn. Gipson need to provide a significant amount of it.
  • Dante Pettis relieved Dazz on punt returns last week and relieved Velus this week. Seems like he’ll have a spot on this roster.
  • A guy slid to end the half for Seattle. And then he looked shocked by the moment. That seems about right for these awful games.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

139 Comments

Hey, Velusy: Jones Reason to Be Excited About the Offense in 2022

| May 9th, 2022


As the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft rolled along, there were receivers available for the Chicago Bears. The Packers moved up – something Ryan Poles was NOT going to do – for Christian Watson. Many fans were calling for George Pickens, a player one scout called “a turd” during a text conversation with DBB. Many thought Skyy Moore’s route running prowess could catapult him into the back end of round one, where several WR-needy clubs resided. It did not.

The truth is that while many were calling this draft deep at wide receiver, the Bears (and several other clubs) didn’t particularly agree with that assessment. They rated Wilson, Williams, and Olave highly, the latter being their top player at the position. They liked the polish of Dotson and thought Burks might have the highest upside in the class. But they knew they were not in play for any of those players, and saw the gap between that group and the next group as cavernous.

Poles, with significant input from Luke Getsy, turned his attention to Velus Jones Jr. – the rare third-round receiver this brass believes can make an immediate impact on the football team. Why? Because Jones fits a specific role in this offense and is already well-accomplished in that role. What is that role?

First, he’s just a good receiver. From Jacob Infante over at WCG:

Jones broke out from a receiving production perspective in 2021, when he tallied 62 receptions, 807 yards and 7 touchdowns for the Volunteers. He proved to be a reliable kick returner over the course of his collegiate career, returning 2 kicks back for touchdowns and averaging 24.4 yards per return during his time in both Tennessee and USC.

There are concerns with Jones’ profile, turning 25 years old in May and not having an incredibly refined skillset as a route runner. That said, he’s a tremendous YAC threat with 4.31 speed, the lateral agility needed to change direction and make defenders miss, along with a powerful frame that allows him to shed would-be tacklers in the open field.

Second, there are two elements the Bears want to be hallmarks of their new offense: a diverse rushing attack and a quick, timing passing game. Jones projects to be a key aspect of both.

Read More …

Tagged:

185 Comments

Secondary Rebuilt, Weapons Lacking: Assessing the 2022 NFL Draft in the Context of 2023

| May 1st, 2022

The texts buzzed my nightstand unprompted, piercing through the endless, awkward chuckling of Robert Mays and Nate Tice, as I tried to force myself to sleep on Friday evening. (I decided to take a brief, week-long booze sabbatical and it makes slumber a tricky enterprise.) The scout who I have relied upon this week to fill me in on all things draft was giving his assessment of Ryan Poles’ work over rounds two and three.



This is not someone who has any reason to inflate the work of the GM of the Chicago Bears. He has zero stake in the game. This was a professional talent evaluator evaluating the talent selected; examining the players acquired in a draft he has routinely described to me as “the weakest in the last 15 years.”

_____________________

The Complaints.

Listen, the complaints are understandable. A logical case could have been made for the Bears to spend every single pick Friday night on the offensive side of the ball. One could argue that taking shots on the potential of George Pickens or Alec Pierce or Skyy Moore is more exciting (undoubtedly) and more in-tune with the modern game. But if that’s the case, why were the Baltimore Ravens universally celebrated for their work in the first round, securing a box safety and center while trading away their best outside receiver?

Pickens will be asked to do very little in Pittsburgh (and will do little with those quarterbacks). Pierce and Moore will be no more than third options on their rosters in Indianapolis and Kansas City. The Bears would have been asking all three to start on day one and seriously contribute as rookies. Does anyone actually believe these three players are capable of that? If they were, would several receiver-needy clubs have gleefully passed on them at the backend of the first round?

But most complaints coming from fans are actually based on a fallacy. Bears fans seem to believe the organization needs to pile talent around Justin Fields to accurately assess his ability as a quarterback and make determinations on his future. That is definitively not the case. Ryan Poles and Justin Fields have been side-by-side through this process, even to the point of watching tape together on receiver prospects in the draft.



The team will not hold Fields accountable for the lack of playmaking ability around him. Poles got this job because he looked George McCaskey in the eyes and told him the roster was dreck. No one has a more sober view of the depth chart and the communication between the new leadership and the young quarterback has been impeccable.

Also, this belief that a quarterback requires a stacked roster around him in year two to improve is utter nonsense. Josh Allen’s second-year receivers were John Brown and Cole Beasley. Deshaun Watson’s second receiver in his second year totaled 32 catches. Russell Wilson’s top pass catcher in his sophomore season had 64 catches. Fields is going into this season with a new coaching staff building an offense specifically for him, a talented run game and a 1,000-yard receiver he loves. If he can’t improve in that context, fair questions should be asked.

_____________________

The Approach.

If Poles’ board had potential starters at wideout and along the offensive line at the top of the second round, those would have been his selections. But it didn’t. And with secondary being the second-worst position group on the roster, why wouldn’t he hesitate to fortify that unit? As Poles himself stated, “There were two good starting-level defensive players, and I would have made a huge mistake for this organization to say, ‘Let’s leave them there’.”

The Bears believe the best way to “develop” Fields is to take pressure off of him, not artificially inflate the wide receiver room with day two maybes. Selecting Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker (the latter described to me by the aforementioned scout as a “top 35 talent” in this draft) is about establishing a structure for the difficult season to come. The Bears want to run the ball effectively and play solid defense. If they do those two things, they will not have to ask their quarterback – now in his third offensive system in three years – to drop back and fling it 40 times a week.

If the Bears didn’t address their secondary, especially after trading Khalil Mack, the team was looking at fielding an unprofessional group at the backend of their defense. If they did that, they would be chasing every game. Is there a worse possible scenario for a young QB?

The selection of Velus Jones Jr. in the third round also plays to this approach. “Deebo light” might seem like a grandiose designation, with Samuel coming off a brilliant 2021 campaign, but it’s easy to forget that the Niners receiver was more of a prolific gadget player in his first two seasons. Jones’ speed will give the Bears a dynamic they have sorely lacked in the Pace years, a player capable of taking a quick slant or bubble screen to the house at any moment. And it’s also difficult understand how Bears fans – OF ALL FANS – don’t understand the potential viability of drafting college football’s most electric return man.

Jones is a chess piece for an organization whose offensive game strategy hasn’t ascended beyond Connect Four in the modern era.


Read More …

Tagged: , , , ,

721 Comments

NFL Draft, Rounds Two & Three, Open Thread

| April 29th, 2022

Pick # 39

Washington, CB, Kyler Gordon

From NFL.com: “Cornerback who comes with an elite, high-performance engine but a GPS still in the process of loading. Gordon’s dynamic athletic qualities will show up in testing, but more importantly, they are all over his tape. His blend of play strength and explosive burst affects the passing game from press, off-man and zone coverages. He plays with an alpha demeanor and hitting is definitely part of his overall package. Gordon lacks polish and needs to play with better route recognition and anticipation, but if those elements click, his ball production could be near the top of the league as one of the top playmakers in the game.”


Pick #48

Penn State, S, Jaquan Brisker

From NFL.com: “Athletic safety prospect whose versatility and toughness will endear him to coaches during the evaluation process. Brisker continued to pick up elements of the defensive scheme and his play has steadily transformed from hesitant in 2019 to downright instinctive in 2021. He has the versatility to become a moving chess piece in a variety of coverages and has the size and talent to match up with both “Y” and “F” tight ends. He played with a banged-up shoulder in 2021 so his 2020 tape is a clearer indicator of his run support acumen. Brisker is an ascending talent with the NFL traits to become a long-time starter as a Day 2 draft pick.”


Pick #71

Tennessee, WR, Velus Jones Jr. 

From NFL.com: “Special-teams specialist with good size. Despite spending six seasons in college between his time at USC and Tennessee, Jones has very modest production as a wideout, but flashed potential in that area in 2021. He’s fearless with the ball in his hands after the catch and as a kick returner. He’s not a very fundamentally sound route-runner but might not need to be if teams view him as a catch-and-run specialist in the quick game underneath. Jones has a chance to ride his special teams versatility into a specialist spot on a roster.”

Tagged: , , , , ,