Football

Welcome back to the 4th installment of On the Clock: proving that teachers have much more time on their hands to smoke dope and watch NCAA highlight videos than we let on. Speaking of: those last two articles? Yeah, 2500 words that can mean absolutely nothing if the draft doesn’t play out the way that all the pundits seem to think it will. Since I wrote them, I’ve seen several more players mocked to the Bears at 43 and 50, so I’m going to use this last preview piece to try to cover a few more players not included in the original 12 that I DIY “scouted” earlier this week. I’d like to be able to tell you this is the last piece in the series, but when it comes to draft stuff I’m more George Lucas than I’d like to admit; by next Friday I could be publishing “On the Clock 9: the Argument for Taking a Punter at Pick 43”.

 

Noah Igbinoghene- CB Auburn
Once again, while the Bears wait it out and see if teams ahead of them in the early second like Carolina, Jacksonville, and Indy pick up that second wave of potential starting corners, Igbinoghene could be the Bears selection at 43 or 50. However, his frame (5’10”- 198) and his lack of time playing CB (two seasons after being converted from WR) could push teams into using him exclusively as a slot corner. He defends the run super well for such a small player, but I’m gonna be honest, most of his highlight reel is him getting away with pass interference and he only had one career interception at Auburn. I don’t think he’s the fit for this team, but if you’re wondering why I even put him on here, its because he crushed it against Georgia this year and we all know how much Bulldogs tape the Bears front office watches.

Tee Higgins- WR Clemson
Higgins being available when the Bears pick would be a stretch, but crazier things have happened and I think if he’s there at 43 the Bears go and get him. I’ve seen him mocked all over the place (including the first round Raiders pick obtained from the Bears), but it seems like now he’s being talked about like an early to mid second round pick, and possibly one of the better options of that second tier. Higgins would instantly make the Bears offense better and wouldn’t need any sort of real effort to get him touches. He gets open on his own and his tape shows a player who maybe doesn’t have the whole route tree down, but I mean he’s 6’4”, he averaged 19.8 yards a catch last year, oh and he ran a 4.43 at Clemson’s pro day. Several websites have him going to Houston at pick 40, but if Bill O’Brien fucks this one up too the Bears will thank Brandin Cooks and smile politely as they announce a major steal.

KJ Hamler- WR Penn State
If the Bears are looking for a player to provide almost exactly what they’ll be going without now that Taylor Gabriel is off the team, KJ Hamler is the pick at 43. Hamler has juice and all I see is him destroying everyone off the line. He has what looks to be an incredibly similar skill set to Gabriel, and since offenses like Nagy’s are predicated upon finding players that fit the system instead of vice versa, Hamler might be wearing the Blue and Orange next season. He has issues with drops and durability, which means he isn’t the finished product and to be honest I don’t know if I’d want another slot-type receiver, but from looking at it from a purely “let’s stretch the defense” perspective, Hamler is a pick that makes a lot of sense.

Amik Robertson- CB Louisiana Tech
Holy shit, you guys. I had been sleeping on this guy as soon as I saw that he was 5’8, but then I watched his highlight tape. I know JustBombsProductions tend to be a little hyperbolic, and I don’t wanna go too crazy with The Ringer’s player comps, but the names I got from my research were Tyrann Mathieu 2.0 and Steve Smith, but a Cornerback. So I got curious and watched the tape and I was blown away by how physical Robertson is. He’s out there laying dudes out and gave me the same Kyle Dugger vibe of “grown ass man nerfing a bunch of dorks”. His ball skills look great, his physicality is outstanding, and if he’s as scrappy as the tape and his scouting report says, he’s a dark horse for a Bears pick and will certainly win over the fans. Dude looks like Tim Jennings but hits like Adrian Amos. He played for a small school, but if he’s as competitive as they say he is he will be using that as motivation.

Grant Delpit- S LSU
Your desire to see the Bears take Delpit with one of their two second round picks is entirely tied to how many tackles you saw him miss last year (an average of one a game). His sudden inability to wrap up has been shrugged off by those who say he played all of last year injured, but is a frightening thing against NFL competition where one missed tackle can end in misery for the entire defense. If you aren’t dissuaded by his near Chris Conte-esque tackle numbers, Delpit is an absolute stud with great ball skills, a tremendous ability to go sideline to sideline, and the ability to be a playmaker from anywhere on the field. The Bears could do much worse than drafting Delpit, because if he his tackling returns to it’s 2018 form, he could be a major star in the making.

 

Well friends, this series has come to a pause for now, but there’s still quite a bit of time before the NFL Draft comes to us live from a series of bougie living rooms and basements so who knows how much stuff I can crank out before then. Take care of yourselves, wash your hands, and please pay for me to have a PFF Premium account before I have to start an OnlyFans page.

Football

And then there was one.

Eddy Piñeiro is the lone kicker remaining from the Bears extensive offseason search to replace ol’ double-doink, Cody Parkey. Steady Eddy won the right to kick sans competition about as much as the recently cut Elliot “J” Fry lost the job, so sure. Congrats.

But the recent damning article by SI’s Kalyn Kahler about the brief history of this unending quest tells us Eddy shouldn’t get too comfortable. When you have NFL folks quoted as saying that Cody Parkey is easily better than anyone they’ve brought in, Piñeiro included, you best watch your back. You can read the article for the rest of the behind the scenes of what any sane person knew was a batshit circus of a competition; it’s worth your time. You’ll also learn that most of this shit show is probably for nothing, since kicking is based solely on in game results, which no one can tell until September 5th.

But I’m not here to rehash the last few months and, assuming this is not at all over, I want to take a look at the new crop of kickers our pal Eddy is now up against: THE LEAGUE.

The Field – Joey Slye: Best of the rest, but at what cost?

True, the Bears already spent some draft capital on the kicker currently on the team, but he hasn’t made one longer than 47 in a fake games and Slye Stallone here has banged in two from 54+, one of which fans at Soldier got to see in person. He’s a perfect 5-5 on FG attempts and 2/2 on XP. Ryan Pace failed to trade for Kaare Vedvik last week, losing to the rival Vikings because they stumped up to an unconditional 5th rounder. Pace might have to go back to the draft well for Slye instead, as there at plenty others, like the Jets and Cowboys, that have far from certainty at the position.

Slye hasn’t exactly shown a proven record outside of this preseason: Slye was undrafted in 2018, then bounced around from the Bucs to the Browns to out of football to the Giants to summer vacation to the Giants again and eventually landing in Carolina, where he was signed to keep a spot warm until Graham Gano was healthy enough to reclaim his job. Slye has a pretty great backstory of battling adversity and working to achieve his NFL goals in the name of his late brother. He’d hardly be difficult to root for, lack of results be damned. And with a nickname like “Swole”, he’s already earned the hearts of meatball fans without pulling on the GHS armband.

Slye can boast that he’s Virginia Tech’s all-time leading scorer, though. And there are those long makes and impressive ability to simply make the kicks in games. You have to wonder how this guy wasn’t one of the billion legs brought in for a look already, but here we are. It might take a late conditional pick, but Slye passes the eye test which is about all that matters in kicking. The Bears can ill afford to wait it out and hope they can sign him at final cuts, but I also think if they were interested Pace has shown he’ll spend to go get his guy.

A few other notables to watch the next two weeks….

  • Matthew Wright is unlikely to boot incumbent Chris Boswell from his job in Pittsburgh, but the 2019 UDFA is 2/2 from over 40 with a pair of XP as well. Plus, kicking in Heinz is as a good a comparable as any outdoor stadium in the league.
  • Tristan Vizcaino is 2/3 on FGA through two games, going 1/2 from 40+ and nailing a 51 yarder. He  probably won’t win the job over Randy Bullock in Cincinnati. If Piñeiro fails to impress further he might get a call from Pace around Labor Day.
  • Veterans Matt Bryant, Mike Nugent and Kai Forbath all remain unsigned as we approach kickoff in week 1. Bryant may well be done at 41 and isn’t likely to push off retirement to kick in Chicago in December. Nugent and Forbath are probably better than the circus from mini camp, but it’d be unlikely the Bears dial any of them up over anyone already kicking the last month-plus.

NFC North Kicker Thunderdome….

  • Sam Ficken and Mason Crosby are having their own battle up in Green Bay, who were also reportedly in on Vedvik. Ficken and Crosby are both 1/1 on FGA (41/43, respectively), so not much to show yet. Both are perfect on XP as well, so the loser here might not have to wait long for new work if it’s more a coin flip situation than one kicks his was out of town.
  • Minnesota made their intentions clear when they sent a 5th round pick to Baltimore for Kaare Vedvik – he’s pretty much assured to be the guy. That leaves veteran Dan Bailey in limbo, a spot he’s familiar with after a surprise cut from his long time job in Dallas ahead of the 2018 campaign. Bailey is also struggling mightily this preseason, a year after going only 21-28 in FGA for the Vikings. Hard pass if I’m Ryan Pace, but who knows with the way this thing has gone so far.

 

 

Football

Last Thursday, the Bears lost a football game that didn’t matter. However, for Eddy Pineiro and Elliott Fry it meant everything. Just about every NFL kicker and punter knows that for them, preseason games are just as important as the real games. No other position has as much riding on their future employment as specialists do in preseason games. This was not a preseason game for Pineiro and Fry, this was game 1.

After one game, the Bears kicking situation became only marginally clearer. Here is what we learned:

Because he has a stronger leg, and probably because he was the frontrunner to win the position going into the game, Eddy Pineiro was given the opportunity to kickoff the preseason opener. Pineiro blasted his first offering into the endzone for a touchback and phase 2 of the longest and most talked about kicker competition in NFL history was underway.

Kicker Scoreboard: Pineiro 1 Fry 0

After a few stalled drives and Pat O’Donnell bombs, David Montgomery continued to impress with a 7-yard touchdown run. Enter Elliott Fry for the point after; Fry was pure as the Bears tied the game at 7-7.

Kicker Scoreboard: Pineiro 1 Fry 1

Fry handled the ensuing kickoff and didn’t have the leg strength to cancel out a return. The ball was fielded at the 1-yard line and brought out 22 yards to the 23-yard line. This was a good coverage kick, however, the best way to limit the possibility of a big return is to ensure there is no return at all.

Kicker Scoreboard: Pineiro 1 Fry 0

On the next Bears drive, Pineiro’s night took a turn for the worse as he was called on to attempt a 48-yard field goal late in the second quarter. Pineiro never sniffed the middle of the uprights and was wide left on the attempt. No one would say a 48-yarder is a gimmie, but it certainly won’t get any easier to convert when its December, the turf is green spray-painted frozen dirt, and the wind is blowing 20mph off the lake. A low pressure, preseason, 80-degree Chicago night with no wind to speak of is easily the best conditions to kick in the kicker graveyard known as Soldier Field.

Kicker Scoreboard: Pineiro -2 Fry 0

An impressive 43 second drill from Chase Daniel brought the Bears to the Carolina 25-yard line, which meant Elliott Fry would come on to attempt…wait for it…A 43 YARD FIELD GOAL WITH 3 SECONDS LEFT (in the half). Fry calmly banged home his first FG attempt as a Chicago Bear – a smooth looking ball that never left center cut. The result yielding the loudest fan reaction of the night. Something you may have missed is that prior to the kick, Riverboat Ron Rivera called a time-out. When asked about this decision, Rivera said he was trying to help the Bears and their coaching staff out. This was a very cool moment and shows a lot about the character of one Rico Rivera.

Kicker Scoreboard: Pineiro -2 Fry 3

With just over seven minutes left, Eddy Pineiro had a shot at a little redemption. Pineiro easily punched through a 23-yard field goal to savage what would have been a largely disappointing night for the kicker.

Kicker Scoreboard: Pineiro 1 Fry 4

The final kick of the night was an Eddy Pineiro kickoff which failed to reach the endzone. The greater problem with this result and that Pineiro is in this competition due to his supposed kickoff power. This was not evident on this kick vs. the Panthers.

Final Kicker Scoreboard: Pineiro 0 Fry 4

I feel Fry’s game one performance was good enough to move him ahead in the kicking competition. After going center cut on his first extra point attempt, the former ‘Cock (never not funny) made his only FG attempt. Fry’s kickoffs left something to be desired but placekicking consistency will always trump kickoff strength in a league where a premium is placed on points. This a guy who made 161 of 162 extra points during his college career; there is no concern over his short-range accuracy.

The other participant in the Bears Kickerpolloza did not have nearly as good of a night. While Eddy Pineiro has a stronger leg, consistency issues continue to plague him. This was a first impression of sorts for Eddy, and unfortunately, he had the look and the performance of guy who is struggling with confidence issues.

While extra points and field goals get a majority of the attention in this kicking battle, do not overlook the importance of kickoffs and how they will affect the Bears decision on who stays and who goes. Neither kicker pulled away from the competition last night and the neck and neck race continues. If everything continues as it has, the job will go to the better kickoff man. The Bears will not carry a kickoff specialist on the 53 man roster and Pat O’Donnell cannot fill that role. So, moving forward, look beyond extra point and field goal accuracy and focus on touchbacks and kickoff placement.

So, after almost 900 words about kicking, I leave you with this…right now, I don’t see either guy being the Bears kicker in the week 1 opener vs. Green Bay.

Football

vs

Records: 0-0 all around

Game Time: 7:00 pm CT

TV: Fox 32

Radio: WBBM 780 AM/105.9 FM

NFL Network re-air Saturday 8/10 10:00 am, Monday 8/12 3:00 am, Wednesday 8/14 noon

(Because we’re all gonna need this three more times, yessir)

YOU KNOW YOU GOT IT WHEN YOU’RE GOIN’ INSANE: CatScratchFever

The time is finally upon us to kickoff the 2019 NFL (pre)season, and boy are people eager to see who gets to kick it off for the Bears. I sincerely hope the Panthers have something more to offer than the Cat Scratch Fever, because both the real disease and the Ted Nugent song are incredibly fucked. Those two sentences right there are probably about as interesting as things will get for fans on Thursday night, but they have to play these games. Can’t just have grown men walking off the practice field and smashing into each other without a few meaningless quarters of football in the books.

The Panthers wasted no time in announcing way back on Tuesday that Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly will both miss tonight’s game. It’s strictly precautionary, and frankly very wise, to sit the duo as Cam is coming off a shortened season that ended in shoulder surgery and Luke doesn’t need to start collecting concussions before the games matter.

Kyle Allen will get the start, but expect a heavy dose of rookie third rounder Will Grier under center for Carolina in this one. Grier had a pretty interesting career at West Virginia and will look to build his pro resume and win the lead backup role to Newton this preseason. Christian McCaffrey will likely get a series and then sit around shooting the shit with rookie RB Jordan Scarlett, who will miss the game with back soreness. If you’re searching for Panthers beyond that to watch, uhh….rookie first round EDGE Brian Burns out of FSU is likely to make life harder for Chase Daniel? Sure.

Da Bears haven’t yet announced any certain inactives of real note, though the tight end position will be one to watch. Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen are dealing with minor/nagging injuries, and the two TEs that have the most to gain (or lose) are probably undrafted FA Ian Bunting and converted OL Bradley Sowell. Both are more of the blocking TE variety, but given the injury histories of Burton and Shaheen and the need at the position in this offense, opportunity is there for Bunting and the 40 lbs. lighter Sowell to make an impact and last at least another week in camp.

Eyes will also be on the offensive and defensive backfields, with rookie running backs David Montgomery and Kerrith Whyte Jr set to make their Bears debuts. Montgomery comes with high expectations, but White should see more opportunity to show what he can do at full speed and where or if he’ll fit on this team. On the other side of the ball, it’ll be interesting to see who gets early reps at nickel corner between new signee Buster Skrine and veteran Sherrick McManis as they battle for a starting spot. Coaches will likely give plenty of snaps to Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carter at Safety and Duke Shelley, Stephen Denmark, John Franklin III and Kevin Tolliver as they sort out a new stable of DB depth.

The outcome of this game will be entirely meaningless, but get ready for a lot of coach speak in postgame pressers about individual battles and situations. The Bears kicking competition is another spotlight, as I’d expect Elliott Fry and Eddie Piniero to split the work throughout the night. If either of them has a particularly poor showing you can expect to see new competition at kicker as early as Friday afternoon.

A whole goddamn preview and no mention of our main man Mitchell Trubisky or Matt Nagy? Go read about them here is that’s what you’re after.

Happy football, everyone.