Football

Hey it’s yr boi DJ Yung Milwaukee- Wes and I decided to collab again on a matchup post for Sunday’s weekly nightmare. One of the greatest things about football is it’s ability to take us away from the problems of the workweek or whatever. Watching the Bears in 2019 is still therapeutic, because no matter how bad things get for me at least I’m not on this team, I just write about them

*sobs to the tune of “Bear Down, Chicago Bears”*

Mornin, Wes! Let’s chop up these Bears/Chargers matchups, shall we? Since I’m a glutton for punishment, I’ll take the Bears offense vs the Chargers defense.
 
Looking at the NFL.com stats for the Bears offense this season is a new, special form of torture. It’s the kind of torture that you know will keep bringing you back for more, but I think hopefully for us the expectations have been completely removed so we can laugh. They say comedy is tragedy plus time, and I’d say it’s time we went full Joker.
 
Look, the Bears live in a society. A society where they have 420 rushing yards in six games. They have gotten 17 first downs this year via the run game, and 15 first downs via penalty. Mitch can’t run a simple RPO. Kids are getting booed at Hawks games for going as Trubisky for Halloween, as if that wasn’t the spookiest costume in Chicagoland right now.
 
Anthony Miller is officially a ghost, Taylor Gabriel exploded for a huge game and is now also a non-factor, and the Bears customary jet sweep motion is bringing extra men into the box to stop the run. They’re shooting themselves in the foot left and right. The line isn’t performing well, but how well can you expect a line to hold up when they’re constantly facing 2nd-and-8 or 3rd-and-10? Hopefully the Bears take advantage of the Chargers allowing for 3rd down conversions literally half the time (39 conversions in 78 tries).
The interior of the Chargers line (Justin Jones and Brandon Mebane) are both out, so hopefully the Bears take advantage of that and establish the run for once. That said, Joey Bosa is still a monster and I’d hope the Bears keep some extra blockers back there to chip and give Mitch extra time to survey the field before eventually taking a sack.
 
Basically I’m afraid that Ryan Tannehill is going to have a better game against this team than Mitch will, but if the Bears watch tape they’ll know that the best way to beat the Chargers is to run the ball. Darwin James has been out all season, which opens up the box for more running lanes. You would think the Bears have plenty of options this Sunday going against a middling defense missing both it’s defensive tackles and safeties, right? The Chargers hemorrhaged yards to Titans receivers last week, with Ryan Tannehill going 12/13 for 181 yards and 2 TDs when targeting the middle of the field last week. Naturally, I’m expecting Matt Nagy to do the opposite.
 
Well, I’m thoroughly depressed now. What ya got, Wes?
I wish I could tell you that I’ve got a pick me up…and I might?

The Chargers offense can boast the third highest average passing yards a game at 293 and change, but they’re only one spot ahead of the putrid Bear rushing attack at 74 yard/game. So while they’ve been able to move the ball through the air with some ease, they are just as atrocious running the ball and the passing yards are nice, but they’re a 11/6 TD/INT ratio through the air and fumbled five times, bringing the overall TD/TO ratio to 14/11. The Bears TD/TO ratio is 10/6.

This is NOT going to be a battle of competent offense/teams; things will be ugly.

Things aren’t getting any easier for the Chargers before they even leave for Chicago. Recently promoted G Forrest Lamp broke his ankle last weekend and will miss the rest of the season. It’s another hit to a line that’s already down Mike Pouncey and Russell Okung, though even with Okung reportedly be back this week you could expect some rust.
Melvin Gordon will continue trying to get up to speed after ending his hold out a few weeks ago, but neither he or Austin Ekeler have gotten much going at 2.3 and 3.6 yards/carry, respectively.

Ekeler is helping to prop up that passing game with 44 receptions for nearly 500 yards and four TDs, most on the team. He’s joined by Keenan Allen with 49/564/3, but after that it’s a steep drop to Mike Williams at just 23 catches. In fact, only TE Hunter Henry is in double digits for receptions on the season, and he’s gotten 14 of them the last two weeks. Philip Rivers has a game plan, and it’s to feed Allen, Ekeler and now Henry.

The Bears will need to get the pass rush back on track to create pressures and get Rivers forcing balls to those guys to early or into what should be some stiff coverage for his three favorite targets. Ekeler gets most of his on designed screens and check downs, so Roquan Smith will need to shake out of his funk to keep himself and his front-7 on task to stymie the few things the Chargers do well. The way that Allen makes more of his catches in the short to intermediate route tree, I’d like to see Prince Amukamara stick with Allen all over the field, but the next time we see the Bears employs such a tactic will be the first.

This really feels like the perfect “get back to basics” opponent for Matt Nagy and Chuck Pagano to hit the reset button. You already spoke to the offense having an opportunity to exploit a battered and ineffective defense. The Bears defense doesn’t really need a full reset, but they need an easier matchup in terms of the game as a whole, and if the offense can put even some semblance of sustained drives together, that alone will make the job a much simpler one for the defense. They’ve also got a strong potential for turnovers, which we know they thrive off of and use to build confidence.

This could game could lift a lot of spirits IF Nagy and Pagano and be simple, be basic and just play a clean game, because Anthony Lynn’s Chargers are more than capable of demolishing themselves if you give them slight trouble and can mitigate the big play here and there. Would be nice to see that from the other side in 2019.

Football

The “Black and Blue” division, a title that Bears fans have worn with pride for decades. My dad used to love to talk about how tough and gritty a team needed to be to win in the former NFC Central division, and that shit’s goofy. Sure, toughness is important in a physically demanding and violent sport, but the “three yards and a cloud of dust” adage is kind of tired in 2019.

Needless to say, our dads are gonna LOVE the Bears/Vikings game this Sunday, because the trenches will be a war. Minnesota comes to Soldier Field planning on running the ball. They’ve rushed the ball 103 times in three games thus far, and average 193.7 yards a game. Holy shit. That sort of commitment to the run is something the suburban dads who listen to The Score salivate over, so I hope they enjoy it. Minnesota has opened some almost unbelievably wide lanes for Dalvin Cook, and as the NFL’s leading rusher this season, he’s got the juice to take the ball all the way damn near every time he touches it. Needless to say, the matchups between Minnesota’s rushing attack and Chicago’s run defense look like the most likely factor in the outcome of Sunday’s tilt, so let’s get into it. For the dads.

Minnesota Run Offense: A kickass running attack needs two things: a killer line and a running back who can make people miss at the second level. Minnesota has both. Their line has the 4th best Adjusted Line Yards on the season thus far (a Football Outsiders metric attempting to quantify how much of a runner’s success is due to good blocking), and Dalvin Cook has the highest yards per carry average for any runs broken at least 11 yards from the line of scrimmage. These dudes can ball. Right Guard Josh Kline is in concussion protocol, and though it would make the Bears’ task easier on Sunday, it would be a bummer if the Hoffman Estates kid missed his chance to play in Chicago. Also, I’m sure he told everyone he grew up in the city when he made it to the NFL. Look for Minnesota to run left frequently, since they rank second in the NFL in success rate for runs to the left (also a Football Outsiders metric).

Chicago Run Defense: So much of what the Bears are trying to do up front is reliant on Akiem Hicks being an actual bear and wrecking plays in the backfield, so it’s with great anxiety that Bears fans wait to see if he’ll suit up on Sunday (as of this writing, he’s expected to be a game-time decision). The run defense with Hicks in so far has been dominant through three games: the defense has literally allowed a 0% success rate on runs that take place on 3rd/4th down with two yards to go or less, and they allow a measly 0.11 yards in the open field, a testament to the fast, swarming linebackers the Bears employ. If Hicks is indeed out, and since the thought is that the Bears will also potentially be missing Bilal Nichols, the defensive line will need to demonstrate their depth. Nick Williams, Roy Robertson-Harris, and Eddie Goldman will have a mammoth task ahead of them.

I fear the Bears defensive line might be too banged up to keep this Minnesota rushing attack to around the 69 yards a game they’re currently allowing (nice), but expect Chuck Pagano to load up the box to contain Dalvin Cook. Start Roquan Smith in fantasy if you play an IDP league, since I expect him to be around the ball early and often. Look for the Bears to drop HaHa into the box to hopefully stifle those big play opportunities before they get started, because if Cook gets a lane, it’s really just a matter of what angle Eddie Jackson takes to see if he goes to the house or not.

I’ll close this piece by speaking directly to the suburban dads in the audience. Dads, this game was made for you. It’s got everything that will remind you of the football of your childhood:
-Inept QB play
-Playcalling that YOU would do if given the chance (Payton left, Payton right, Payton middle, Punt)
-Hard nosed, smash-mouth football
-Most likely a lot of punts
-Grit
-A “glory boy” wide receiver on the other team for you to root against
-A white, small-school wide receiver on the other team for you to wish the Bears signed
-An early fall game where you can toggle the thermostat once or twice without any wise talk from the wife or kids

Final Prediction:

Dalvin Cook puts up a good fantasy football day, going for 121 and a touchdown, but Kirk Cousins is sacked five times and turns the ball over twice en route to a Bears win.

Bears win, 17-13.

Football

@

Records: CHI 0-1 DEN 0-1

TV: 3:25 pm FOX 32

Radio: WBBM 780 AM/105.9 FM

Joe Flacco joined the mile high club before you: Milehighreport.com

Ah, there it is. That sinking feeling. The one that rushed in as you saw Adrian Amos come down with the back-breaking interception last Thursday night. All those lofty expectations and National media criticism crashing down at once.  All the sudden, a Week 2 trip to Denver and former Bears DC Vic Fangio that looked like a mildly challenging test in August is now a near must-win road game against the guy that probably knows your playbook better than your QB. Luckily, Fangio has many a mess of his own to clean up to make this game look more winnable than it did on Monday Morning.

Denver limps home after failing to come all the way back to beat the rival Oakland Raiders late on Monday night in what was a decent upset, all things considered. The 24-16 scoreline is misleading, as Oakland thoroughly dominated this one, pitching a first half shutout (14-0) and withstanding some late garbage time scores to prevail. The Broncos were bad in just about every phase of this one, lowlighted on defense where they gave up a 98-yard drive for a TD to open the 2nd Q and EDGE savants Von Miller and Bradley Chubb were credited with a combined ZERO pressures. Fangio was also without his former Bear FA signing Bryce Callahan, having to to watch second year DB Isaac Yiadom get picked apart play after play by guy-liner aficionado Derek Carr.

The offense and new QB Joe Flacco did little to provide bright spots, settling for FG attempts through three quarters on 215 for 6 points. Flacco led two scoring drives late, but with Oakland holding a 24-6 lead they were happy to give up completions to keep the clock going. Flacco is not going through a renaissance in Denver if he keep on the path from Week 1, especially if the Chicago secondary can take away Courtland Sutton and Emmanuel Sanders. Those two accounted for 12 of 21 completions and nearly 3/4 of the team passing totals. The ground game is very much a work in progress, with Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay spitting carries and combining for under 100 yards. As stated, the Broncos have a long journey to figuring this thing out.

Matt Nagy drags his bag of tricks, or lack thereof, to the Mile High city with plenty of answers of his own to provide. The focus for over a week has been on the abysmal offensive performance and how exactly they go about getting to average, let alone progressing to the top of the NFL’s offenses like many had hoped for in year two of Nagy-ball. Mitchell Trubisky is continuing to be coddled, with the Bears brass opting against him even speaking about his failures from Week 1. Trubs has plenty of his own work to do with reading the plays and not panicking into awful throws or abandoning pockets in half a second. His offensive line, a major strength of 2018, needs to get their shit together as well after they gave up a near league-worst 19 QB pressures to start the season. It’ll be interesting to see what tweaks, if any, are made with the stable of RBs and what that usage looks like. The major disparity of runs to pass plays will no doubt be better than 15/50, but many were confused by the usage in general of Tarik Cohen, Mike Davis, David Montgomery and Cordarelle Patterson. Unlock the backfield, and things could start to fall into place for the offense as a whole. Trey Burton‘s mystery groin injury doesn’t seem set to heal just yet, and his full participation could also be a key to opening up this offense.

The Chicago defense is hoping it won’t be wasted like many of the stout Bear D’s of the recent past. This unit looked as good as advertised, even with a few new faces and new coordinator in Chuck Pagano trying not to bungle the gift Fangio left him. The Broncos only gave up sis QB pressures in Week 1, but the Oakland rush isn’t exactly what you’d call “remotely passable” for an NFL team, and that was before Denver lost the best RT in football in Ju’Waun James. Khalil Mack and co. have to be more than eager to get after the swiss cheese right side of the line and statuesque Flacco. Eddie Goldman will be a game time decision, but with the emergence of Roy Robertson-Harris last week that may be a moot point.

Neither of these teams probably expected to come into this game with this much uncertainty, and how it plays out for the victor will be very telling of where their seasons go from here. Can Nagy sort out his shortcomings to the point the offense runs smoothly and becomes watchable, possibly even…exciting? I’d settle for boring and good for now. Can Fangio tighten up his defense enough, with so many young/new players and a new system, on a short week?

My money is on Nagy, Mitch and the offense doing enough to lean on another stellar defensive performance to get Chicago it’s first win of 2019. Fangio might know how to solve Nagy, but the personnel doesn’t seem like it’s ready to execute as needed. Remember, it took three full years for the Bears to go from bottom third of the league to top five in DVOA under Vic.

Prediction: Bears 22, Broncos 13 

Football

Welcome to week one of Inside the Matchups: another themed piece to help us break down the upcoming Bears game, where we look in-depth at the numbers and what they tell us about what might happen on the field. Today, our focus will be on Green Bay’s wideouts and Chicago’s defensive backs, since the only thinkpieces about Aaron Rodgers I want to read in 2019 are written for this site specifically. Yes, he’s probably the best QB of all time, and yes I do take an ungodly amount of joy in the fact that despite his talents, he will retire with only one Super Bowl ring. With that said, let’s break down the matchups on the outside for tomorrow’s season kickoff game.

-The Philosophy: How do the Bears plan to cover the weapons of Aaron Rodgers? It’s still somewhat unclear. Vic Fangio’s old system had the Bears line up with 5 DBs on the field on 76% of all defensive snaps, a clip that was 6th highest in the league. However, the true statistical anomaly is that on 95% of plays, the Bears played their outside CBs on their own exclusive sides of the field, with nickelback Bryce Callahan playing on whatever side of the offense he needed to. This will change under Chuck Pagano. I’m wondering how much leeway Pagano will give to his outside CBs to play to their strengths, Kyle Fuller’s softer zone and Prince Amukamara’s bump and run. The new defensive coordinator may roll the defense out in the same way, but I don’t know how it will look. We know Chuck likes to send extra pressure, but does he even need to with a front seven like Chicago’s?

Also, it needs to be noted that famous red-assed doofus Mike McCarthy is gone, replaced with Matt LaFleur. Unlike McCarthy’s dull West-Coast system, LaFleur instilled a truly revolutionary offensive playbook in *checks notes* Tennessee? Ew. Is Rodgers going call runs up the gut 34 times a game? No, but it’s important to know that he has pretty much been the opposite of McCarthy when it comes to formations and run/pass tendencies. Expect a lot of quick screens, and a devotion to keep his QB happy by putting him in the pistol a stupidly large amount of the time.

The Matchups:
-Davante Adams vs. Kyle Fuller: Kyle was a beast last year, not gonna lie to you. Davante Adams was also a dog out there, with over 110 catches, 1300 yards, 13 touchdowns, and a catch rate of 66%. Kyle Fuller can’t cover Adams one on one strongly enough to inspire confidence, but #23 gets the edge because hopefully the Bears get enough pressure with the front four that he can cheat up on short passes and put his faith in Eddie Jackson and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix behind him to keep Rodgers from airing it out deep.

-Geronimo Allison/Marquez Valdez-Scantling vs. Prince Amukamara: Call me crazy, but I’m going to also give the Bears an edge here too. The GB depth chart after Adams is solid if we’re talking fantasy football, but in real life, Allison and MVS are middling wideouts who just so happen to play alongside a true generational talent at QB. They will put up good numbers, but neither of them are game-breakers. I’m less afraid of Prince’s ability to thrive in Pagano’s system than I am Kyle Fuller, so I’m expecting Prince to make a solid break on a short out and pick off #12 on Thursday night.

-Whoever isn’t on the outside vs. Buster Skrine: Okay, I know I had four $9 beers at Wrigley and told everyone in the bleachers that Buster Skrine was making the Pro Bowl as he sang the seventh inning stretch. Now, months later I am $36 in the hole and much more sober and I don’t have that same confidence. Buster will get picked on, since he gave up 8.3 yards per adjusted completion last year in New York. I know he has a much better front seven in Chicago, but I think he gets targeted quite a bit on Thursday. I’m taking the Packers wideouts on this one.

-Bears Safeties vs. Jimmy Graham: Not even a competition. Eddie Jackson for fucking President.

Overall: Bet on Chicago. There are just as many new wrinkles in Chicago’s system as there are Green Bay’s, so it will be exciting to see how those new things play out. Clinton-Dix and Amos both have familiarity with each other’s former team, but there’s hopefully enough new stuff there that nobody is coming in with an advantage, except Khalil Mack who has the advantage of being Khalil fucking Mack.

Prediction: Rodgers will throw 2 touchdowns, one on a busted coverage, but he will also throw 2 picks and be sacked at least 3 times. Bears win 31-17. FTP.

Football

1991, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers.

1991 is the last year the Green Bay Packers had to worry about who might start at Quarterback.

1991 is the last time Chicago fans had anything on Green Bay. It’s been misery since.

Aaron Rodgers (against what have to be wildly absurd odds considering what you see when you scan this hellscape for capable, reliable, nearly indestructible, nevermind no-doubt HOF QBs) extended this misery that started almost three decades ago. Green Bay lucked into Brett Favre and nearly 15 years of his wizardry/bullshit and then hit the jackpot again when Rodgers slid into their lap and became the best QB of this generation. Fight me, all of Boston.

Rodgers, now 35 (!!), isn’t really showing his age. 2019 marks his 15th season and 12th straight as leader of the Pack. He’s coming off a subpar season in record only, as you’d assume throwing for 4,442 yards (2nd best of his career), 25 TDs and only TWO INTs (career low) would get you better than 6-9-1, but that gives a better idea of his surrounding cast of late. The season was basically Rodgers vs. his former Head Coach Mike McCarthy, or the guy that kept trying to get Rodgers killed the last 2-3 years. Rodgers entered 2018 coming off his shortest and worst season in his career, an injury shortened campaign that saw him start only seven games, a product of his garbage offensive line and McCarthy’s aforementioned affinity for putting his meal ticket in the worst situations possible at all times.

Enter Matt LaFleur, Green Bay’s dive into the pool of Sean McVay disciples/clones. LaFleur could barely be described as Rodger’s senior at just 39 himself, and honestly I don’t think most NFL fans know anything about him outside of he’s now the HC of the Packers. This feels a bit like an odd sort of experiment for Green Bay. LaFleur has nothing in the way of a resume, at least not one you’d think would get him the top job for a team trying to get what they can out of the last few years of Aaron Rodgers. This could be the team giving in a bit to their mega star, and trying to catch HC lightning in a bottle at the same time. LaFleur learns from Rodgers on the job and plays 1b to his QB1. This would actually be a pretty interesting and possibly successful situation….but this is the NFL. This is Green Bay thinking they’re getting the next young genius, but will he be smart enough to stay out of his own way?

Rodgers sure hopes so, and the blueprint is really laid out for him. McCarthy’s play calling, while clearly pissing off the most important man in the building, had become stale and easy to solve. Rodgers gets a lot of credit/flack for throwing the ball away so often, but that was mostly a product of the bad play calls. He’s smart enough to know when not to take a chance on a small window or when they play is just busted and he can extend his career with an incompletion. Sure, the meatheads wearing cheese might take issue with this, but doing this his entire career has helped him remain the best for so long.

Rodgers is more than just a guy living for the next play, though, and his ability to get his is something a defense can hope to contain more than stop completely. The Bears at least pose a strong threat to Rodgers and the Packers, being able to rush the quarterback effectively. McCarthy’s ineffective play-action won’t be a factor, though, and we’ll see if/how laFleur’s differ. Aaron Jones should contribute to the latter, with establishing a rushing attack now quite important to aiding Rodgers. Chuck Pagano and his league-best secondary will play a huge role as well, and they’ve got a high bar to clear after Vic Fangio’s work the last few years.

Everyone is well aware of the heartbreak from last season’s opening loss to Rodgers in Green Bay, and Rodger’s 4th quarter comeback is the type of thing he’s always capable of – three TDs in one quarter, two over 35 yards, one of which went for 75. The good news? In seven other quarters the Bears held Rodgers under 400 yards passing, picked him off once and sacked him seven times. Essentially, don’t take your foot off the gas against him on defense. Keep the pressure up and be relentless with it while trusting your coverage to make the plays that rush creates.

Khalil Mack said his favorite part about Packers week is sacking Aaron Rodgers. Chicago will need him and the rest of the defense to start the year the way everyone wants to – atop the NFC North and help Rodgers out of his gatekeeper role for this division.

 

Football

Ooooh, it’s roster cuts time! Now, I’m as bottom left politically as a person can get, so naturally I wish every single body in camp had a future playing professional football. However, until the NFL creates a legitimate minor league, roster cuts make me both sad and excited. Sure, lots of guys are ending their years or careers after Thursday’s game against Tennessee. The game itself is sure to be terrible, and I can’t imagine a worse way to spend my evening. You’ll see people you haven’t seen all preseason logging heavy minutes (bring on the skill position players who have single-digit jersey numbers!), and it will most assuredly be the worst football of the season for any fan that doesn’t routinely watch Washington or Miami play in the fall. So, before the game, I’m going to list some of the most intriguing bubble players/competitions to watch just in case you’re as desperate to kill a weeknight as I am and will be glued to the awful FOX broadcast.

Tight End: Ian Bunting, Dax Raymond, Ben Braunecker, Bradley Sowell, Jesper Horsted
Five guys, one roster spot (maybe two). Hate to say it, Bears fans, but I’m taking Braunecker to make the roster. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of these dudes make the practice squad.

Running Back/Wide Receiver: (I have to combine these because I think C-Patterson screws up how we look at the numbers for this part of the depth chart):
Kerrith Whyte Jr, Taquan Mizzell, Marvin Hall, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, Ryan Nall.
I think Ryan Nall, Smoke Mizzell, and Marvin Hall all fail to make the team. Prove me wrong, Smoke!

Cornerback: Clifton Duck, John Franklin III, Kevin Toliver II, Michael Joseph, Stephen Denmark
I think there’s a chance to find our biggest surprises in terms of roster moves on defense, since who knows how Chuck Pagano wants his DBs to look/play like. We do know they will have to be versatile, since he asks his CBs to shadow receivers instead of play one side of the field like they would in Vic Fangio’s old scheme. If I was a betting man (I am), I’d expect to see Toliver make the 53, Denmark get stashed on the practice squad or PUP list, and what the hell, PUT JF3 ON THIS ROSTER!

Outside Linebacker: James Vaughters, Isaiah Irving, Kylie Fitts
To be honest, I don’t think the Bears will give up on any of their draft picks, even if it means cutting Vaughters. I’d like to see him make the team, and while he very well could, if he doesn’t he will for sure be on another team’s 53.

Inside Linebacker: Josh Woods, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Mathieu Betts
Josh Woods makes this team, y’all. He has been damn near unstoppable this preseason and has a nose for the ball. I can see him being a quality special teams coverage guy, and you can never have enough of those.

So, that’s about what I got in terms of what I’m looking for in the Tennessee game on Thursday. I’m honestly just looking to see who I can envision covering punts and kickoffs, because all the bubble guys that suit up on Sundays this fall will be there because they can play all four phases of special teams.

Okay, I’m not telling the whole truth. I’m also seeing who I should take in my XFL dynasty fantasy draft too. If you say Tanner Gentry I swear to god I will make you watch Tommie Harris film for 24 hours straight and write an essay titled “What Could Have Been.”

Everything Else

Wow. There are moments as a sports fan where you can say “I was there when ______ happened”. The Cleveland Cavilers come back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Warriors. Keith Traylor returns a Mark Brunell interception 67 yards. Mick Foley gets thrown off the Hell in a Cell cage. Mick Foley gets thrown through the Hell in a Cell cage. Mick Foley gets chokeslammed onto thumbtacks. Andrew Luck solidified himself as the subject of a future bomb ass 30 for 30 documentary tonight with his 3rd quarter retirement from football. Dude’s 29 and has seen some shit, and you’ll see some takes about how disloyal he was to the franchise and the fans and blah blah blah. Don’t buy it. This team sucked for Luck, and then they fucked Luck, because Ryan Grigson is a schmuck. New Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano fucked him as well, since both oversaw what was essentially medical malpractice when the stud QB injured his shoulder in 2015 and the team allowed him to play so that the then GM and coach could keep their jobs. He doesn’t owe the team a goddamn thing.

That said, holy shit what a shocker. I’m assuming he didn’t tell the team what was going on, and it’s an almost Aaron Rodgers level of pettiness to be out there shooting the breeze with his teammates knowing he is checking out tomorrow, instantly taking them out of the AFC title hunt. I feel for the dude, I really do, but I feel the most for Jacoby Brissett, because he is the guy that’s gotta cover for the guy who quit mid-shift and now he’s filling orders for two packers because Jeff Bezos needs to keep his profit margins as high as possible.

Oh yeah, the Bears played too. Honestly, if this wasn’t a player who I liked so much that was screwed by his team, I’d be making more jokes about how he retired due to the @CaptAndrewLuck Twitter account getting absolutely ETHERED by Prince Amukamara this week, or because Deon Bush’s pure dominance struck an almost existential fear into the heart of America’s preeminent neckbearded athlete.

Other takeaways from The Luck Game:

-Deon Bush has played himself on the field for the regular season if you ask me. He’s gonna get some snaps, and if HaHa struggles I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start a game or two. I also think James Vaughters makes the 53 man roster, and YES MY BOY SMOKE MIZZELL LOOKED GREAT ON SPECIAL TEAMS. We all have those bubble guys that we root for, and seeing Taquan turn on those jets while covering punts and making tackles on kickoff returns was a thing of beauty.

-Eddy Pineiro crushed that 58 yard field goal and it was a thing of beauty, and nailed all his kickoffs and extra points. Can we stop with the kicker stuff now? Please?

-I said it last week and I’ll say it again, Kerrith Whyte makes this team, Marvin Hall doesn’t. Whyte is gonna get some burn during the regular season, too. Seeing his agility has me pumped thinking about using him in plays using pre-snap jet motion principles. Holy shit hurry up and be September 5th already.

-Nice Fact of the Week: Ryan Nall has a 69 yard run in a preseason game for the second time in two years. Nice.

-Nick Kwiatkoski played great, and I’m warming up to the idea of looking at a second contract for him, but there is no way he should be a starting ILB in 2019. I’m also all in on the idea of Josh Woods as the last ILB to make the roster. Dude has range and makes plays all over the field.

-The entire WR corps played like garbage. I’m still holding out hope for that Riley Ridley hype train to pick me up, but I hope he can play some special teams while we wait.

-The Bears shouldn’t have any tight ends on the 53 man roster for the upcoming season because holy fuck the depth chart after Trey Burton is literally Adam Shaheen and a collection of future suburban Chicagoland gym teachers.

-Duke Shelley is an interesting prospect, but he is not ready for meaningful football on the main roster this upcoming season. He flashes once or twice a game, but he was getting beat all night in coverage and in Pagano’s more man-to-man system, he needs time to hone his technique.

The Bears play their preseason finale next Thursday, and in the meantime I’ll be watching King of the Ring 1998. Hopefully Marcus Mariota survives the game, because if he doesn’t the Chicago Bears of the 2019 preseason will be knocking QBs out of the league at an unheard of rate.

 

Football

…Mitch Trubisky doesn’t make a marked improvement in his game.
I am big Mitch supporter. He is one of the hardest working guys on the roster and he may be the most athletic quarterback in the league. But, (and with Mitch there is always a “but”) you are only as good as your stats, and so far, those stats have been underwhelming. Most preseason prognosticators have the Bears winning a lot games despite Mitch, not because of him. And at this point in his career, Trubisky is a 3rd tier QB.

…Kahlil Mack gets hurt
The success of the entire organization rests on the shoulders on Kahlil Mack. This goes so far beyond his individual numbers. This is a guy who makes everyone around him better – just ask Leonard Floyd, who went from bust to baller in the lone season he played with #52. To take this a step further, Mack’s play greatly affects field position, which in turn affects the Bears special teams units which affects the offense. Walter Payton was the last Bear whose individual success will determine the entire organizations prosperity.

…Playoff Matt Nagy returns
Matt Nagy’s last two playoff game performances can be described anywhere from below average to shit down your leg choke job. For whatever reason, Nagy tightens up the playbook in the playoffs and becomes as predictable as Sam Fel’s being drunk on a weekend night. Nagy is one of the best play callers in the league, but, thus far, this hasn’t translated when it matters most.

…Chuck Pagano Does Chuck Pagano Things
Chuck Pagano has been given the keys to a Lamborghini; his only job is to not crash it (What up Lance Briggs?). Pagano doesn’t even need to improve the defensive unit, just keep the status quo and they will win games. The Bears Defensive Coordinator is one of the best/easiest jobs in football – Pagano’s defensive meetings should play out something like this: “Hey you, number 52, you’re better than every other player in the league. Just be you and the rest of us will be fine.”

Tarik Cohen Is Overused
Tarik Cohen is not an every down back. And while that is a curse, it is also a blessing. The 2nd-year RB cannot withstand the wear and tear of being an every down back and scheming against him becomes easier each time you see him on the field. The Bears need a Robin for their backfield Batman, an Ice for their Fire. While it’s not fair to label him as a novelty back; he is definitely not a player who has all the tools to be your lead back when your need is a 3 yards on 3rd down.

Football

Do you hear anything? No? Me either. No noise. No torches and pitchforks. No jobs on the line (yet). It’s pretty boring around here.

Usually in late July we’re all too eager here in Chicago to begin HOT TAKE SZN surrounding the Bears and the NFL. This July, though, feels different. Is everyone just happy to banter about the Cubs division chase and Sox future potential? No, we’ve been doing that every July since 2015. The NBA had a pretty big summer, but the Bulls largely sat that out and everyone is just content they MIGHT make a surprise run at the 8-seed in the East. Hawks prospect camp and convention?? OK, I’m done.

So with nothing new or exciting going on in major sports around the city, why is this late July so different? The Bears, coming off their first playoff appearance since 2010 and second in the last 13 years, have had the quietest offseason in about as long. No new head coach/GM/Front Office personnel. No major signings/high draft picks. Hardly any turnover on the roster/staff, and no real starting positions up for the taking. GM Ryan Pace didn’t even get to make a draft pick until the third day, and there’s been little discussion about the his team or the impending camp since.

The biggest offseason story? Kickers. Cody Parkey long fired into the sun, the talk of both mini-camp and now training camp is the kicking sideshow. Each day’s camp breakdown thus far has started with the accuracy for that day’s kicker; Elliot Fry is 17 of 20 so far! He’s hit from 60 and banged in from 48 and 51 in the driving rain! Eddie Pineiro hit from 63 after doing his best 80s macho movie hunk routine – after his coaches asked him to try from 60 he replied “nah, how ’bout 63”! Suh gnarly, broseph.

The crowds are another HOT story coming out of Bourbonnais. Attendance day one? OVER 8,000!!! Videos tweeted of fans LIGHTLY JOGGING to get front row standing room to see the Midway Monsters strap on the pads and paw at each other! Whoa, did you see that 50-yard bomb from Mitch to Gabriel?? Kahlil Mack and Eddie Jackson are sooooo goood OMFG!!!! I mean, it’s great to see the guys you want to excel succeed in practice, but that’s the bar here, no? To be as good as advertised?

This shit is BORING. But boring doesn’t really mean bad. Consider:

-There was one major coaching change in the offseason, but not the normal refrain of a deficiency in some area. Vic Fangio left to go be the head coach in Denver because his defense was so amazing (while the rest of the team was total ass for most of his tenure). The ensuing hire? Chuck Pagano, a highly regarded defensive mind in his own right that mostly just needs to keep the ship on course. There also are no ‘hot’ seats to speak of at the moment. Weird.

-The players lost to free agency were seen as priced out of their worth at Halas Hall and nary a tear was shed for Adrian Amos or Bryce Callahan. The replacements and other new signings were mostly budget buys met with a collective “meh”.  HaHa Clinton-Dix and Buster Skine swap in for Amos and Callahan. Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson are here to do something in the backfield. Great, fine. I bet you didn’t even know they signed Ted Larson, again, for O-Line depth or Marvin Hall and Peter Williams. Only one of those guys is made up, but I’m guessing you have to look it up to tell me which one.

-The draft was pretty uneventful as well, unless you count trading up 14 or so spots in the 3rd round “eventful”. Sure, they got their GUY at running back in David Montgomery, or so they’ll tell anything with ears. Even he hasn’t generated much buzz since the draft, a soft spoken type that just does his work and stays quiet off the field. Booooooring. The rest of the draft was all lottery tickets and undrafted free agents because Pace only had five picks to work with. They got a Ridley? No, not the one from Alabama.

-There aren’t any big injuries to get all worked up about, either. Adam Shaheen hasn’t practiced in two days, but that’s basically his whole bag of tricks since being wildly overdrafted three years ago. Someone named Emmanuel Hall is recovering from groin surgery. HaHa is on the PUP list, rehabbing a lower body injury but expected back before too long. Whatever.

So this late July, the start to camp is boring. Embrace the boring, it means that most of us are looking forward to September and could give a shit about what happens between now and then. We don’t even get another open practice for a few days; the team has a shorter, closed practice today and is off Wednesday. There’s a preseason game a week after that, so maybe by the weekend we’ll start to get some real battles for the edge of the roster. Those are the positions that help to define serious championship contending NFL teams from the dregs they beat up.

Boring kinda sucks, but we’ll take it after the last decade worth of summers overstuffed with tough questions. Wait and see how these jokers fighting for their NFL lives fair in game reps in a week or so. If you need your fix the rest of this first week, keep refreshing that twitter account of your favorite beat writer to see where Steady Eddie P tells coach he’s spotting his next kick. HOOOOO BABYYYYY!

@WFrenchman on Twitter

Football

We threatened you. We warned you. And because no one told us no, we’re going to do it. We’re bringing our madness to the Chicago Bears. Because you know they deserve it. So today, we introduce you to our troika of misfits that are going to take this on: Brian Schmitz, Wes French, and Tony Martin. LET’S KICK THIS PIG!

So with vets reporting today, what are you guys looking for in B0urbonnais, other than no one getting hurt?

Brian Schmitz: I personally cannot wait to see Robbie Gould back in a Bears jersey. Too soon?

Defensively, I want to see how how well the players transition from Vic Fangio to Chuck Pagano. The Bears are so talented on defense that a lot a alignment and assignment mistakes will be covered up by pure athleticism.  Offensively, I can’t wait to see who is the first reporter to declare what a great camp Adam Shaheen is having. I’m also excited to see if a healthy Anthony Miller will get more looks. This guy has the skills to be a #1.
Tony Martin: I’m with you on Anthony Miller. Dude is a beast, and I think if he recovers from his shoulder injury he could be a dominant wideout. 

I’m actually interested in seeing if any major names don’t make the team as the Bears start looking towards future salary cap constraints. If Danny Trevathan gets cut I’d be shocked, but if Taylor Gabriel were to be released I wouldn’t be nearly as blown away.  I’m super interested in seeing if Kerrith Whyte Jr makes the squad and how he’d be used. If some of these draft picks pan out, the Bears offense could look like a Madden playbook I created while high at 3am, with like spread formations with  four running backs and a tight end on the field.
Brian: Trey Burton is another guy who needs to have a good pre-season. The organization isn’t exactly happy with the way he ended last season and at this point, it’s more than fair to label him as unreliable and soft.
Tony: I think Burton is the most likely candidate to win “Starter from last year who is cut this year”, but that also implies Shaheen has a good preseason, which isn’t a given. 

So, does Matt Nagy take the next step and open up even more of the playbook this year? I’m all in, let’s get weird. If Akiem Hicks is running for touchdowns in year one, what sort of bananas shit can we expect to see?  Calling it now: Khalil Mack catches a touchdown this year, from someone who isn’t Mitch Trubisky. You heard it here first.
Wes French: I’ll start on defense, where I agree I’m interested to see the shift from Fangio to Pagano, but I want to see if anyone slips/steps up under the new boss. Will we see Roquan Smith become the defensive centerpiece/signal caller he was at Georgia or will that take another season or so under a new coordinator? Quan seemed pretty well ready to take over the defense late last year…Was Vic a “whisperer” to any major contributors to the defense that could fall off under the new boss? Will anyone clash with Pagano/his style? I think we’ll get that answer sooner than later with how camp starts on that side of the ball.  

Count me as the third amigo/musketeer/likely dipshit that’s beyond sold on Anthony Miller as a sure star. Get him the ball, do it often…but will there be enough touches to go around? I also agree Nagy and Co. will get weirder (in the best way) this year, and the guy I am most intrigued by is Corderelle Patterson. He lined up at RB for half his touches in Foxboro and I have to think the versatility is going to bring some funky ass sets this year. 3 RB/2TE? 2RB/3 TE? I can guarantee you that man will be in motion pre-snap basically every time he’s on the field. 
The biggest question about the myriad options with the personnel and playbook is at the center of it all: Mitch. They made the playoffs last year with their signal caller playing WILDLY inconsistent. How, and more importantly if, Mitch has progressed with a full year/offseason under Nagy’s watch is going to be the real driver of this campaign. All the fun that they draw up won’t matter if Mitch keeps sailing balls to wide open targets or missing open reads. I love me some Mitch, but this is a massive year for him and his GM that staked his reputation on Trubs tapping that potential of his.
Brian: I’m honesty glad and proud of each of you for not mentioning the placekicking situation in your early emails. Thank you for that. It’s such an overblown and ridiculous storyline that lazy ass media members continue to talk about only because it’s low hanging fruit and requires no prep work or research.

We are all in agreement that Nagy will continue to get creative in the regular season. Are we also in agreement that he will continue to shit down his leg in the playoffs and choke games away? Asking for a friend.
Tony: Yeah, the kicking game is not really much of a concern for me, it’s literally a meme at this point. Thanks a lot, Cris Collinsworth. Does the lack of a solid kicker worry me? Of course it does, but there’s plenty of time to see who does well this preseason both in Bourbonnais and in other camps and bring them in. 

I’ll also go on the record saying the one downside to having a team that people want to watch on prime time is how many times I’m gonna have to hear Collinsworth or Joe Buck call a game. I’m so used to Fox’s C-level announce team that I want Kenny Albert to do the play by play at my funeral. 
As for Nagy, I think having the ability to use more of his playbook will be a good thing. That “next step” phase that we’re all looking to from Mitch also needs to apply to play calling. Sometimes on 3rd and 3 you need to be able to feel confident in your teams ability to get those yards without having to resort to some play that looks like a deleted scene from Little Giants. I’m not that old school meatball fan who screams about running the ball up the middle the entire time, but I think the offense is good enough to not need to run a triple option to pick up a crucial first down. 
You guys have mentioned a few guys on offense you’re watching closely, and you’ve mentioned Pagano as well. Is there a player on defense you’ll be watching closely, either for a breakout season indications or possibly be a surprise demotion or cut?
Brian: The Bears thought enough of John Franklin III to bring him back again this year. This guy is arguably the most athletic player on the roster and is trying to make the transition from a lifelong quarterback to a DB – to make this position change at the NFL level, you have to be special, and I believe the organization thinks he is. Depending how impressive he is in camp, he could, at the very least provide some insurance for the old and oft-injured Prince Amukamara; and at best, be a value replacement for the 30-year-old who, while having a solid season in 2018, has been on the downside of his career for a while now.
Wes: Whoa, hey, I wanted to get in on the kicker talk since it’s all anyone seemed to care about in the Spring! Not really, I think it’s pretty embarrassing that the mini camp was basically devoted to coming up with wild scenarios for guys to kick meaningless FGs in. They’ll have some rookie or camp cut rookie/vet and that’ll be that. I won’t be shocked if they burn through a couple kickers by seasons end. I can’t help but notice no one has mentioned the new backfield savior, David Montgomery, either. Maybe we’re already tired of hearing about how great his character is and what a steal he’s set to be. To me this screams of future disappointment, but I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

I’m watching the defensive backfield closer than other position groups at camp. Pagano made his money coaching up the Ravens secondary through their years of dominance and I’m interested to see how everything settles with the DBs. That’s the only group that sees new faces in starting roles, so the easy answer is will Buster Skrine/Ha Ha Clinton-Dix come in and keep the status quo or better, or will we see some troubles early on replacing the stud nickel Bryce Callahan and the under appreciated Adrian Amos? The Skrine signing was met with some raised eyebrows and Ha Ha is already on the PUP so we’re off to a very Chicago sports start on that front. 
An individual I’m keying on is probably in direct competition with your boy J Franks the 3rd – Stephen Denmark. If you’re not familiar with the 2019 7th Rd pick, he’s got a pretty winding path to the DB group as well. Denmark is quite new to the defensive backfield, having lined up only one season there at Valdosta St. after playing wide out his whole career prior, with a lot to be desired. You won’t find many 6’3″ Corners around the league, and there’s no guarantee that Denmark sticks there, but he’s got the bloodline (father, three brothers all played some level of D1 college or pros) and the athleticism to make a stand out impression, be it at corner or safety. I’d guess the Bears try to stash him on the practice squad and develop him for the year, but if he shows the kind of promise discussed out of the draft the vultures could circle to pluck him off the squad. 
I’m going to add a player on offense here as well because I’m five hours behind on vacation and feel a bit left out, and there’s nothing you can do about it, Fels (besides edit it out and make this all just wasted time). Riley Ridley seemed like a guy that should not have been around in the late 4th Rd, but there he was and the Bears made him a luxury pick given what they’ve spent on the WR position in the last two seasons. I believe he’s well worth it, though, as an elite route runner dropped into a system predicated on receivers being in the right spot, every time. Someone up there mentioned Taylor Gabriel as a possible shocking, albeit mildly, cut. Thanks to our friends at Over The Cap you’ll see that cutting Gabriel now would have zero cap savings and $6.5M in dead money, but say another team thin at the position or sees a string of camp injuries at wideout and a trade for a future pick materializes. Trading Gabriel is much more palatable with a little under $2M in dead money against almost $6M in cap savings. If the WR room gets crowded this Fall because Ridley, Miller and any one of the many WR fighting for special teams reps force the issue, I’d look for Gabriel to get dealt on the cheap before anyone gets outright cut. 
Tony: I could see Gabriel as trade bait, for sure. In terms of next steps being taken, Bilal Nichols is going to be a beast this year. I don’t see Jonathan Bullard breaking out, but I think this year finds Nichols and Roy Robertson-Harris stepping up in a big way. 

The David Montgomery hype is getting to me, tbh. Let’s see this man suit up and play before he’s anointed the next great Bears RB, ya know? He has to learn the offense, and his scouting report via PFF lists his receiving ability as a weakness, something that might limit his snap count. 
At the end of the day, I’m interested in what sort of formation/personnel wrinkles we’ll see in the new defense. Is Pagano going to consistently use his front 3/4 to generate pressure, or is he going to utilize the greatest buzzword in all of football: “exotic blitzes”. Is Eddie Jackson going to be asked to continue to roam the middle of the field and read the QB, or will he have less freedom in this new system? There’s no doubt that Bryce Callahan is a beast at nickel corner in a Vic Fangio defense, can we even be sure Chuck Pagano will ask Buster Skrine to do something similar? The fit between scheme and player was ideal last year, and I’m hoping this year is more of the same. I think Ha Ha will play well and earn that multi year deal somewhere else next year.