Football

Welcome back, Bears fans! Today, Friday, and Monday Wes and I will be doing a 3 part roundtable about the draft and going forward. Just like every website that somehow has access to our email addresses, I’d like to include the phrase “in these uncertain times” before we go too far- so be on the lookout for that.
-TM

Wes-
It’s been a minute since we were together here at the roundtable. Since we last spoke, I wrote 3500 words about a bunch of players the Bears didn’t draft, but they selected 7 new dudes and picked up 11 UDFAs.
How do we feel, in these uncertain times?

Wes French: I’m a little…skeptical. I was ECSTATIC when Josh Jones, Antoine Winfield Jr., Grant Delpit and Jeremy Chinn were all there at 43 only to see the Bears pop Cole Kmet. I was still pretty happy when Jones and Chinn were available at 50, but Jaylon Johnson is also a very good gamble given his ability and “slide” was due to some cranky shoulders that might not be that scary. 

Ryan Pace has made his mark in the middle rounds across his drafts, so I didn’t mind spending a little draft capital next year and using existing later round picks this year to create three Fifth Round 2020 selections. Trevis Gipson especially stands out for me.

Tony Martin: As everyone that reads the site knows, I was a major mark for Winfield Jr throughout the pre-draft process and I was so pumped when he was still on the board at 43. I have mixed feelings about the draft, but Jaylon Johnson isn’t one I’m mixed on. I saw projections of him as a day 1 player, and “immediate starter” is a phrase I’ve seen in a lot of his scouting reports. If both he and Kmet live up to their potential, this was a power move by Pace.

I don’t really know what to feel about the Kmet pick. I mean, I guess this is more Nagy’s chance to prove that the offensive shortcomings can be changed if they have that prototypical TE, I just wish the Bears fans on Reddit can see that he’s not a complete prospect and his blocking is suspect. Tell me more about why you like the Gibson pick, I’ll tell you why I think Kindle Vildor shines in this system and then we can probe the late round picks and UDFAs.

Wes: I was WAY in on Winfeild Jr. Man, the possibilities with playing next to Eddie Money, allowing Jackson to basically be unleashed to do ANYTHING in the defensive backfield…fuck. Oh well. 

My problem with the Kmet pick is it feels desperate. We know this was Nagy’s guy, it had to be. My problem with the whole situation is that they have now devoted a ton of resources in the way of salary, draft capital and player development into positions that are clearly central to Nagy’s offense. The boys upstairs got super cute with the first iteration, tabbing a career back up and Juco draft reach the first go around in 2017 and now Trey Burton is cut and costing millions to not play and Adam Shaheen is more thank likely to be cut without a complete 180 this summer. The pedigree is better for the second crack at it with Jimmy Graham/Kmet…but Graham is basically in the twilight of his career and Kmet is at best a high upside project. Just feels like throwing more bad money after bad money but I guess they have to try. 
On Gipson, it just feels like the type of mid/late round Pace pick that will pop. A guy that had some really strong games while playing a style with his hand in the dirt on the edge at Tulsa could easily become a force in a stand-up 3-4 straight up edge rusher role. Also, there’s this comparison I found to be pretty encouraging: 

Matthew Judon: 6-foot-3, 261 lbs., Arm length: 33 7/8 inches – Drafted: 5th round, No. 146 overall in 2016

Trevis Gipson: 6-foot-3 3/8, 261 lbs., Arm length: 33 7/8 inches – Drafted: 5th round, No. 155 overall in 2020

The paths could be similar too – Judon was a rotational/role player on the edge his rookie year, and in the last three seasons has become a force worthy of a Franchise Tag in Baltimore. Gipson has the measureables and quick-twitch hallmarks of someone that can succeed on the edge in the new NFL. While he didn’t pile up sacks last year (8.5) he did have 15 tackles for loss showing he knows how to be disruptive in opposing backfields. I love this pick. (h/t Adam Hoge for the leg work on this one)

Tony: Before we put the Winfield Jr stuff to rest, I’d like to agree and also point out that I’ve seen a lot of chatter that the Bears needed an “in the box” safety, without acknowledging that EJax also plays close to the line and makes plays in the run game as well, and having two incredibly versatile athletes at Safety gives the team crazy amounts of flexibility.I think your love for Gipson will pay off, to be honest. He looks like he can contribute to the rotation and will certainly be an upgrade over Aaron Lynch almost no matter what. As an added bonus, he also gets to learn from two all-star edge rushers, which no doubt inspires confidence in his future development.While we’re dreaming of big things, I wanna talk about two guys that I think not only make this team but contribute: CB Kindle Vildor and WR Darnell Mooney. Vildor is a man corner who won’t challenge for starting reps anytime soon, but he will make major contributions on special teams and I believe can eventually come in and make plays in sub packages. He’s got a major chip on his shoulder and I have major love for gritty players from small schools. Mooney, on the other hand, is going to come in and make plays. He’s quick, tall, and can win contested catches. His highlight tape is basically him winning jump balls and taking slants 70 yards to the endzone, and ironically as I was writing this the Bears signed Ted Ginn Jr, so I guess there’s time for him to develop that route tree.

Any thoughts on the later round guys or UDFAs?

Wes:I agree on Vildor, and I’d like to tie this into baseball (RIP) a little bit and steal a phrase – This entire Bears draft is full of 70/80-grade names. Love it. I do think taking two CBs and no safeties tells you how they feel about the personnel in house. I was pretty happy with what I saw from Kevin Toliver at the end of last season, but he’s going to have a real battle just to make this team now.For the 7th rounders/UDFAs I think it’s those last two picks/two signings on the Oline that stand out, another few 80-grade names in Arlington Hambright and Lachavious Simmons (7th Rd) and Dieter Eiselen/Badara Traore (UDFAs). The more I think about the process the more I like the idea of swinging for a handful of OL late with the idea you stash them on the practice (or possible taxi squad this Fall…) and let them come along that way instead of a project in the 2nd round. Pace keeps telling us that Juan Castillo was the big acquisition on the OL this offseason and this draft only solidifies that sentiment.

You feeling good about any of the other UDFAs?

Tony: Simmons has some awesome tape, and with a new offensive line coach I’m excited to see how the young guys develop, given that most of them won’t have the time to take physical reps, given the state of the world. I’m hoping at least one of the late round linemen makes the team, and a couple of the UDFAs make the practice squad. Is LeDarius Mack a viable prospect? I’m hoping the name gets him in the door and he makes the team, but the ones I like the most are Artavis Pierce, the RB from Oregon State, and Rashad Smith, another OLB from Florida Atlantic who I think is going to get kicked inside and back up Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith. Rashad Smith put up preposterous tackle numbers and can cover as well as play the run. I’d like to see Pierce make the team, especially if the Bears don’t intend to resign Tarik Cohen after this season. I think Ryan Pace’s ability to find quality running backs has been understated in his time here, and Pierce might make the team given where the depth chart sits today.

Final thoughts?

Wes: I feel like Mack was a nice nod to Khalil, and if there’s anything that will get him as motivated as possible it’s big brother on his ass all offseason in the same training program. I’m not sure if he can become a rotation player given what they have at the position, but he can win a job by going hard on special teams and showing some versatility – he’s smaller than Khalil so maybe a hybrid edge/coverage option in the middle.

I really, really like Pierce as well, the lightening to our fan favorite Ryan Nall’s thunder at OSU. I feel like overall there are some good opportunities for the guys drafted/signed to make this team one way or another. I’ll especially be keeping my eye on Pierce and Mooney as returner options and a path for either to make the team outright.

That’s all I have for now…which looks like quite a bit as I scroll back up this marathon. Great chatting you up about sports again with the uncertainty surrounding everything else right now. Stay safe out there, dear readers, and remember – fuck landlords and mortgage lenders #cancelrent Now!

Tony: It’s always a pleasure chopping up the finer points of this shitshow with you, Wes. Football was a nice distraction from the dystopian shithole our world is at the moment. I hope everyone reading this is making the best of it that they can, unless you’re a landlord expecting rent today. Happy May Day!

Football

For the purposes of this article, I’ll be considering edge rushers as linebackers.

Roster/PFF Grade/Stats:

Kevin Pierre-Louis (90.5) 27 tackles, 0 sacks
Khalil Mack (86.2) 34 tackles, 9 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
Nick Kwiatkoski (72.6) 51 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception
Leonard Floyd (69.8) nice 32 tackles, 3 sacks
Danny Trevathan (61.9) 54 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble
Isaiah Irving (61.1) 8 tackles
James Vaughters (60.0) 3 tackles
Roquan Smith (52.4) 76 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 interception
Joel Iyiegbuniwe (42.1) 2 tackles
Aaron Lynch (36.0) 2 tackles, 2 sacks

First, let’s parse out the data. Irving and Iyiegbuniwe aren’t on the team next year, Vaughters might be. Aaron Lynch needs to go, though. I can shrug off Irving and Iggy’s small sample size, but Lynch played in every game this year. He logged 244 snaps, about 15 a game, and he sucked. I thought he was only brought here to be part of Vic Fangio’s defense as an old friend from San Francisco, but they kept him around for another season and it was a season too long. As low as I am on Irving, I’d rather see him get some run, or see if James Vaughters can play with the starters for a spell. Lynch has to be gone next year, right? Right?

Roquan Smith started off slow, got hot in the middle of the season, and cooled off before his injury against Dallas in week 14. Opponents caught 75% of the passes he was credited as the primary defender on, which is about right given the amount of swings and dumpoffs he was required to stop. His tackling is still his best quality, and he maintained the same level of dominance there in 2019 as his stellar rookie campaign. His only two sacks both came against Detroit in week 13 against first-time starter David Blough, so take that with a grain of salt too. Chuck Pagano needs to make sure to scheme better for Roquan to move in space. If Danny Trevathan doesn’t come back next year, the pressure will be on Smith to do all the things he does so well while also being the main focus of all the second level blocking on inside runs. For what it’s worth, Smith was rated highly for his block-shedding coming out of college, so at least there’s hope.

If the Bears think they could do okay with replacing Trevathan with Nick Kwiatkoski, it would be Kwit’s excellent last few games that made his resume too much to pass up. He hadn’t played as many snaps as he did in 2019 since his rookie season, and the team and fans saw a kid who has developed from playing behind outstanding veterans and learned how to be a Swiss Army knife. He is a stud on special teams, but if the Bears end up letting Trevathan go and sign the cheaper Kwiatkoski, they might have to find a new replacement inside linebacker that can go make the plays he does on kick coverage. One of these two dudes leaves and is starting in a new uniform Week 1 of next year, it’s just a question of who. I personally think the Bears pay AR12 and let Danny walk, which hurts my heart but it is what it is.

I’m a sucker for Leonard Floyd but I kinda waxed too poetic about him in my team defense review, so I’m gonna skip it now. Just know, I say nice things about his ability to set the edge and I think the Bears should seriously consider re-signing him depending on how this year goes.

Khalil Mack is a hard player to write about because he really reminds me how amateur I am in all ways, even in talking about how awesome he is to watch. So many real journalists have poured over Mack that it almost feels pointless to say anything. His numbers could never truly represent exactly how much shit he ruins and how much his being on the field alters the very concept of the way the game is played. You know whenever any referee apologist says something like “well, there’s holding on every play” they’re right, but it’s kinda hard to focus on long enough to prove? Yeah, Khalil Mack gets chipped, double-teamed, and held on literally every single play. It’s like watching a created player in Madden that you just said “fuck it” on and made everything a 99 overall, but instead of shredding CPU lineman while quarterbacks takes seven-step drops, the AI actually gameplanned to stop Mack and half the time it still didn’t matter. The game would stop every play if they called holding on Khalil Mack the way they do for most other players, which is truly a blessing and a curse.

Basically, this linebacker corps has studs in all spots and maybe two quality backups. This offseason is gonna be a tough one, but hopefully the Bears linebackers go into 2020 being their strongest unit once again. That’s a special feeling that makes all Chicagoans do three things: look for that old Bears starter coat in their closet, pretend for one fleeting moment that Mike Ditka wasn’t a hardcore right wing drunken buffoon, and just vibe, baby.

Football

Tony Martin: Today’s matchup post is going to look a little different than usual- since this year has been anything but normal, we are having to seriously discuss how to spend our Sunday afternoons. I just started a new job, I’m still in grad school, and I still play in multiple bands- that time of the weekend would be perfect to spend it on anything other than shitty football that I’m emotionally invested in.

Yet I know for a fact that I’ll be parked on the couch this Sunday, watching the lifeless Bears play against the Giants. I’m not sure if I’m watching to see if they have something to prove or if I do it out of sheer tradition. I feel like if there was a Dawn of the Dead style zombie apocalypse, instead of lurking to the mall you’d find my dead ass sitting on the couch with a half cashed bowl and a LaCroix within arms reach of my rotting arms, waiting for the Bears to come on.

What do the Bears have to prove over these last few games? Is this just a talent evaluation process by now? It could be. I’m thinking they need to assess what options they have at so many different positions- both sides of the line, tight end, linebacker, kicker, and the defensive backfield. At this point, let’s see what this team has going forward. A lot of what Pace and Nagy should be focusing on where the holes in this leaky sink are coming from, because even though Mitch is the most glaring problem, the reason we are where we are is deeper than bad QB play. If Kyle Orton can win games as a starting QB, so can Mitch, but the franchise needs to build and play to his strengths. A great game plan can help mitigate a lot of deficiencies if done right.

This team absolutely has a playoff core, but Pace/Nagy need to spend the offseason figuring out what the identity of the franchise actually is and then building towards it. The end of last season covered up a lot of the problems with this roster from an identity standpoint on offense. They had a bruising running back and then a scatback, an all-star caliber wide receiver and a bunch of undersized speedsters, and a tight end that was not worth the money. All they did was replace the running back with a much better prospect that fits the offense, but they get away from running as soon as they fall behind, even if it’s by something as small as a first half field goal. Now might be the time to find those things to build upon, but it’s going to be boring as shit from a fan perspective to see it.

To wrap this part up, I’ll tell you what I’m looking for as the Bears play us off (insert Bill O’Reilly impression here):

-Is there an NFL-caliber tight end on the roster?
-Is Anthony Miller consistent enough to warrant a spot as the starting slot WR?
-Which defensive linemen could create pressure on their own in the absence of Khalil Mack?
-Does Leonard Floyd still play for this team?
-Eddie Goldman somehow has a grade of 74.3 so far from PFF- how much of 2018’s 88 rating from PFF was aided by the presence of Akiem Hicks?
-Do the Bears look to extend any of the following players: Danny Trevathan, Haha Clinton-Dix, Aaron Lynch, Nick Williams, Nick Kwiatkoski, or Roy Robertson-Harris?
-Are the Bears interested in taking a harder look at Javon Wims or Ryan Nall?

 

Wes French:Tony, I have to admit – If there is a Dawn of the Dead style scenario, I’d like to come find that couch and help you finish off your party favors. Barring a Hollywood situation on Sunday, though, I think I’m checking out on the Bears for a week.

It’s the Sunday before what’s basically a holiday week – yeah, I’ve got to work a few days at the beginning, but am I REALLY working? Fuck no. And the fact the Bears don’t really seem to be working the last month+ makes me unsure about investing another 3-4 hour block of my weekend, especially against a putrid trash heap like the New York Giants. I guess this might be the BEST time to check in, since the Bears should be able to get a W against the rookie-QB led G-Men, but the last time we had that narrative was all of two weeks ago against Detroit and that game was about as entertaining as a wet fart. Plus we’ll get that same wet fart four days later, bright and early before we’re all stuffed.
Am I interested in another slog between trash teams trying to sort out how exactly to best use the players they employ? No, no I’m not. Tony outlined plenty to look for in terms of WHY you may want to check in to this game on Sunday, and beyond the Bears sorting themselves out for a hopefully more spirited run in 2020 I could see you being mildly interested in who this Daniel Jones character is playing QB for NYG and wanting to see the sometimes electric Barkley do what he does. Outside of those two, the Giants have nothing to hold the interest of anyone but the diehards in the Big Apple and even those dummies are probably on to other things by week 12 of a 2-8 season. The Giants are pretty terrible and deserve no one’s attention, and in the immortal words of Local H – And Fuck New York, Too.

So what else should you be doing on Sunday? I’m going to play hockey and casually catch a nice dose of Red Zone with NINE noon games. Why the NFL can’t sort themselves out enough to have a better division of games through the day (there are only TWO late afternoon contests, but one is DAL @ NE) remains a mystery, but I digress. There are some strong teams on bye this week (KC/MIN), but while the schedule at first glance looks like a mirror of Bears/Giants, I’d say we’re in for a noon slate of some wild football with goofy fun matchups galore: 
– SEA @ PHI: The best game on paper at noon, Seattle looks to keep the Eagles down as they chase the 49ers for the NFC West/#1 seed. The Eagles are maddening, but always capable of a breakout performance and still have a shot at their own shitty Division
– TB @ ATL: Human Turnover Machine/Piece of Shit Jameis Winston goes into Hotlanta, quietly one of the best defensive units in the league since Week 5; I’ll guarantee at least 3 INTs and a DEF TD
– DEN @ BUF/ OAK @ NYJ: On the surface, the Bills and Raiders should cruise, but the Broncos have proved a difficult out and the Jets are scoring in bunches of late. The Bills and Raiders also remain the Bills and Raiders, so place those bets cautiously
– PIT @ CIN: A once fierce rivalry reduced to Mason Rudolph against Ryan Finley. I’ll be honest, this one excites even less than the Bears, but it does produce a decent opportunity for the Bungals to get their first win…it could totally be worse, Bears fans
– CAR @ NO: This sees two teams heading in wildly opposite directions, with the Panthers looking like they might be onto their third QB of the season and just about dead in the NFC at 5-5. Saints are aiming for NFC’s top spot. Divisional games can be weird, though
– MIA @ CLE/DET @ WSH: These two matchups pit four of the leagues worst franchises (of late, at least) against each other, and while on the surface the matchups look shit you should NEVER discount a game between the worst of the worst. How will Cleveland respond after the brawl to end last week’s game? Can Miami make it 3 wins in 4 after starting 0-7? Will the Lions continue to be the tonic that aids young/under-performing QBs for Dwayne Haskins and the Racial Slurs???
TUNE IN TO FIND OUT
Football

You are what you eat, they say. If the old adage rings true for NFL coaches, you are what your team is. In that case, Matt Nagy is a colossal letdown. I’m sure he’s a great guy, but his team has forgotten where Club Dub is and Matt is the Lyft driver whose phone just died. He’s spent the last few weeks pretty much just defending Mitch, so it feels like the other areas of the team is suffering due to neglect. The Eagles game was atrocious. The Bears were penalized nine times for 70 yards which doesn’t sound too bad but a handful of those penalties were pre-snap. Nagy, as is Bears coach tradition, has also forgotten how to properly utilize his timeouts, his challenge record is spotty at best, and his clock management has been terrible this year.

Multiple games have seen Nagy attempt a hurry up offense at the end of the half with minimal timeouts remaining and the resulting quick three-and-out and punt has put opposing teams in a spot where they can try to get points instead. During the Packers game when the Bears went for it on fourth down early in the 4th while in field goal range, with a defense that was playing excellently, it dawned on me: Matt Nagy is a 17-year-old playing Madden. Sure, he’s old enough to know better than to do it, but when his system isn’t working he tries to make it work instead of playing to the situation. Running a four-vertical play against a defense that had been getting to the QB with just a three- or four-man rush is totally something your idiot teenager cousin would do right before he takes a sack and turns off the Playstation.

It’s hard to know exactly what level of control Nagy has over the defensive play-calling, but that’s also been suspect. The Bears have stopped blitzing frequently, relying on the front-4 to bring pressure. Offenses have this team figured out, and the defense hasn’t adjusted from a philosophical standpoint. Matt Stafford can pick this team apart if given time, but he can also make mistakes if he is pressured. Let’s hope the Nagy/Pagano brain-trust picks that one up and doesn’t rely on Aaron Lynch to beat a left tackle in under five seconds.

The edge in this match-up has to go to Matt Patricia, right? The Lions are by no means a playoff team, but they’re a competent football team with less talent than they need to be serious contenders. The Lions don’t look great, but Matt Nagy is also not putting his team in a position to be successful. Too many of the routes being run were five-man curls or short routes that ended with a Mitch sack because an effectively run short zone defense wipes out 95% of the Bears offensive plays. When the Bears were moving the ball, it was because they were down by multiple scores and because it seemed like the first time in weeks that Nagy played to the team and Mitch’s strengths.

Even so, this offense has become so predictable that it’s hard to see how they can be successful at anything. If Matt Patricia wants to win this game by out-coaching Matt Nagy, all he needs to do is watch the tape, where the Bears offense has successfully telegraphed themselves into obsolescence.

Tell me more about the previously indicted for sexual assault head coach of the Lions, won’t you Wes?

Matt Nagy is pretty damn STINKY this year, which you’ve laid out nicely. But I’m not sure that Matt Patricia takes the edge based solely on how crappy Nagy has been in year two. 

Patricia, also in his sophomore season as head coach, is failing Detroit in ways that everyone thought he’d succeed – his defense. Detroit currently ranks 31st on defense, giving up a staggering 424 yards a game on average. This is after the team spent pretty heavily on the defensive side this offseason, bringing in former Patricia players from New England in Trey Flowers and Justin Coleman. The results on those two and the defense as a whole are clearly pretty poor, and whatever the plan was in terms of a system or tweaking said system isn’t working. 
Detroit chose to move on from the statue that is Jim Caldwell in early 2018 in favor of Patricia even though Caldwell had winning seasons in three of his four years in Detroit, albeit with some poor playoff performances. If the plan was to bring in a Belichick disciple and have him elevate your team to that next level, Patricia’s short tenure can be generously described as a disappointment. He continues the long history of coaches leaving New England and subsequently failing, usually miserably. There’s time to turn it around, but the natives are getting pretty restless in Detroit and his players seems to be on the verge of mutiny as well. 
Sure sounds an awful lot like the Lions have the same kind of issues on defense as Nagy and the Bears have with the offense: A scheme that either isn’t being executed/grasped properly by the personnel, not having the right personnel or some combination of the two. Regardless, it ain’t working. Patricia claimed him and Darius Slay spoke about his post-Raiders loss comments and they’re now on the same page, that some of the comments were mischaracterized by the media, that he sees the plays and he needs to coach better but they’re working and they’re close….sound familiar? This is all after Detroit gave up 450 yards to Oakland, including a 75-yard drive late in the 4th to seal the game while also failing to force a punt for the first three quarters. (what sort of shitty team allows the Oakland Raiders to go almost the length of the field in the 4th quarter to give up a game losing touchdown? Terrible. -Tony)
We’ve had this conversation before, most recently ahead of the Chargers game; the Bears offense is dreadful and they’re about to face a defense that’s as equally, if not more, inept than they are. SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE, RIGHT??? We’re gonna find out if the Detroit defense is just the right medicine Trubisky, Nagy and the Bears need or if Patricia can use Nagy’s poor year to get his defense back on track. This is a pretty massive week for both of these teams, kicking off stretches of four games with three they each have to feel are winnable (DET/CHI play twice between now and turkey day, sandwiched around CHI @LAR/vsNYG and DET vsDAL/@WSH). Three wins in the next four would put each team at six wins on the year and in the hunt for the Wild Card, but anything less and you’re going to start hearing about whether or not either of these guys gets a crack at year three. 
Nagy has his fantastic first season to buoy him, IMO. And maybe with a different QB the Bears look A LOT better. I think the Bears have to have a total disaster of a 2nd half for Nagy to lose his job. Patricia on the other hand, is coming off 6-10 and another losing season after the investments made and the depressing defense (allegedly his strong suit) could see him and possibly most of the Detroit front office fired into the sun. Matt Stafford isn’t getting any younger and his offense is performing well enough to win games, and none of that sentence bodes well for the defense-focused first time Head Coach staying in charge without showing progress – and quickly. Here’s to hoping Nagy can help Patricia start finding a real estate agent sooner than later.