Football

Jordan Howard was sent packing. Tarik Cohen, gem of the 2018 draft, planted his flag as the next Darren Sproles-esque gadget back. Ryan Pace maneuvered ahead of his counterparts in the middle rounds to select David Montgomery, the quiet, no-nonsense, blue collar worker back that was going to excel immediately in the system. Pace also signed veteran Mike Davis on the cheap, seemingly because of fit and personnel package and depth. Then came Cordarrelle Patterson, the do everything secret weapon.

2019 was supposed to be the season the Bears rushing attacked returned to great heights, the season the team got back to its Chicago football reputation of pounding the ball on the ground and using that rushing attack to unleash Matt Nagy’s offense.

2019 did not go to plan.

The Good

Umm…right. Well, there was that one game that Mitch did his best LEEEEEROOOOOY JEEENNNNKKIIIIINSSSS and thrashed the Cowboys for 64 yards. That is to be considered good, I think. But, uh, he’s not a running back.

Montgomery did have his moments, rushing for 889 yards on 242 carries for the season which was highlighted by a 135-yard, 1-TD effort (and 5.0 yard per carry average!) in the heart breaking loss to the Chargers at home. Monty also hit the century mark in the season finale, totaling 113 yards and a TD (albeit against a lot of backups).

Cohen chipped in much more via the passing game, helping the offense where he could with 79 catches on 104 targets for 456 yards, good for 2nd, 2nd and 3rd on the team respectively…which will be an indictment when we get to pass catchers tomorrow but we’ll count it as “good” today.

The Bad..and Ugly

Strap in, dear reader.

To call the rushing game “bad” is a bit of an understatement. The coaching staff/Nagy told us they had their pieces, they were going to fix the underwhelming rush attack from 2018 (buoyed by QB  Mitchell Trubisky‘s 421 yards). We’ve already been over the additions to overhaul the group, which saw only Cohen return from 2018. The results were an unmitigated disaster, as the team rushed for under 1,500 yards as a group, averaging 91.1 yards/game. Chicago had a 3.7 per carry average. The Bears scored all of eight rushing touchdowns on the year. EIGHT! Per AP Style standards I can’t even use numerals for that low of a total.

These totals put them in the bottom of the league for rushing all around, 26th or worse in every category I just listed. You watched it. You probably assumed as much, but hot damn that’s fucking terrible. This team regressed by over 500 yards overall, 30 yards a game, and scored HALF as many rushing touchdowns.

So what happened?

Well, the offensive line was not what was expected and not even really close. The play calling was all over the map as well, seeing the Bears call all of FIVE run plays in the gut punch Week 1 loss to Green Bay..at home…by one score. FIVE RUN PLAYS. This would be a tough theme, as Nagy would get far too pass-happy or lean on the pass in games like the stinker against New Orleans where he abandoned it all together. The Bears ran the ball 395 times in 2019, sticking them in the lower third yet again, while it’s also worth pointing out that no other team rushed as much as they did for fewer yards. The Pittsburg Steelers were very similar, but the totals of the other teams near them in attempts are all 300-500 yards (NOT feral hogs, unfortunately) MORE than Chicago.

Montgomery was fed a decent amount with his 242 carries for a rookie season, but beyond that the division of work is alarming. Cohen only had 64 rushing attempts all season, with the damn QB coming in 3rd as Mitch saw 48 (and most of those were in the latter half of the season as things spiraled to hell). Free Agent additions Patterson and Davis saw a COMBINED 28 carries. Patterson seemed to be the choice short yardage back early on, which was curious at best but really it was fucking batshit insane. Nagy lost his damn mind. Poor Mike Davis never got a shot, and the team mercilessly cut in early November so that Pace could at least recoup a compensatory draft pick.

Not great!

 Any Hope?

I don’t know, man. The Bears have a lot to fix on offense, and the goal should be to get more out of the run game first and foremost. I know everyone wants Trubisky to be a star, but he needs help to even get to an even baseline. The offensive line and play calling must be better, and this team needs a third actual running back that can pick up short yards and block. They have their lead man and pass catcher and their gadget man, as Montgomery, Cohen and Patterson should all be back. They just need to figure out how to use them all properly, which I’m not so sure this regime is capable of. I’d expect them to skip RB completely in the draft and find their fourth back on the market this March. Or maybe they can just use a defensive tackle for the dirty work. Just do better.

Final Grade: D+

Football

We gathered our Bears crew in the aftermath of the preseason opener to take a temperature. We won’t tell you about the thermometer application. And away we go?

Did we learn anything important from the Bears first preseason game?

Tony Martin: What popped for y’all? Nick Kwiatkoski still can’t cover the pass. I’m hoping the Bears go a different direction when his rookie deal expires.

-I sleep better at night knowing Ted Larsen is available in case of an injury on the offensive line. He was wrecking dudes out there last night.
-Kickers kicked some kicks! I’m so sick of all of this. If I have to see another message board post about getting that kicker from Baltimore I’m gonna finally admit I’m going bald and pay for Restore hair treatment (can you tell I was on I-90 today?).
-Ian Bunting looked okay at times, but did he play basketball in college? That makes all the difference.
Brian Schmitz: In an effort to suck myself off, I was happy to see my earlier prediction about John Franklin III come to fruition as he was all over the place last night. Franklin was 3rd on the team on tackles and contributed on both kick returns and kickoff coverage. He will be given a real chance to make this team and thus far, he’s looked good. 

I saw what I needed to see from David Montgomery. Seven touches for 60 yards and a TD. I’m ok with not seeing the rook again until week 1, where he should be the starting RB. 
This time of the year is backup quarterback heaven. This is where guys make teams, showcase for other squads, and most importantly, make career money as a trusted backup. Chase Daniel is everything you want in a reserve QB whom you hope will never play. Guys knows the offense and most importantly, knows his own limitations. I don’t ever want to see him on the field this year, but he’s a solid insurance policy. 
Finally, what we learned from game 1 is that the Bears still don’t know who their kicker will be. Average showings from each on Thursday were expected and unappreciated. I’m convinced the Bears week 1 kicker is not on this roster. 
Tony: JF3 looked good, but I still think he needs to be a 4 phase special teamer to make this roster. As long as you can still contribute to the open threads, I say good luck, but don’t throw out your back trying to taste your successes.
Wes French: Brian, please don’t make any permanent body modifications to go about fellating yourself for JF3’s “breakout” in preseason game one. He was impressive against some paltry competition, but I think we’ll need to see more and, as Tony alluded, especially on Special Teams if he’s going to make the cut. I’ll now flip my thinking completely and overreact to Montgomery’s performance by agreeing we should pack him in bubble wrap and make sure he gets to September untouched.

I’d go as far as to say I was bummed to learn that Baltimore dealt kicker Vedvik to division rivals Minnesota over the weekend. Fry and Piniero are leaving a lot to be desired for what has been the biggest need for Chicago. having already dealt some (potential) draft capital for not-so-steady Eddy, I’d think Pace waits out other teams and picks through those cut as preseason comes to a close later this month. 
Then again, I’ve been out of the loop for a few days, moving my life a mile away and getting sick in the process. Did I miss any glaring transactions or anything else from around the Bears/the League? I know Miller rolled an ankle but sounds like he’s a go for week one…
Tony: I’m hoping for Vedvik to have a great career in Minnesota. May he hit 100% of his kicks against Green Bay and exactly 0 against the Bears. I’m not invested in the Lions enough to even pretend to want to put an arbitrary number on this hypothetical. Seriously, the Lions are the NFL version of the cousin whose name you never bothered to learn because you only see them at holidays and you try to avoid them.

Wes, I think you’re spot on about Montgomery because the more I think about it, the more I think he should be saved for the season. However, I say that because I am super interested in how the competition for the 3rd/4th running back spot goes. I’ve been thinking a lot about it and I think the Bears are going to approach this depth chart a little bit differently, with players like Patterson being on the depth chart as either a running back or wide receiver. So, let’s say the Bears choose to keep a combined 10 of the bunch for the 53. We’ve got:
AR12
Tarik
David Montgomery
Anthony Miller
Taylor Gabriel
Patterson
Mike Davis
Riley Ridley
Javon Wims
And then one of:
Kerrith Whyte Jr/Marvin Hall/Taquan Mizzell Sr (or two if they choose to not keep a FB).
I wanna see the competition for that last couple spots heat up, and as much as I like seeing Montgomery play, I’m here for those reps!
Wes French: I would also like to see more of Whyte/Hall/Ridley/Wims in the next few weeks. I think you’re right that the personnel they have makes it a bit fluid on RB/WR roster selections, but the back end of that list is going to need to show out on special teams as well. I know I keep bringing STs up, but the offense and defense are pretty well set in terms of starters and even most backups. Anyone that has ideas on being the next man up for one of those positions is going to have to contribute via the kicking/return/punt teams in addition to showing they can step in at WR/RB/DB/LB to make this team. That makes me think a guys like Mizzell and Wims have an inside track over Whyte and Hall. The Bears did not sign Davis to play in the kicking game, and Patterson actually hurts those bubble guys with his ability to return kicks in addition to his versatility on offense. 

We haven’t talked much about the defensive side of the ball, but I think fans are sleeping a bit on the lack of depth behind the pass rushers up front. If Kyle Fitts is the best we’ve got to put in rotation after Mack/Floyd….yikes. 
Brian: You’re spot on about the defense; but I guess no news is good news. I’m extremely confident the defense will be who we think they are. 

We need to pump the brakes on Cordarrell Patterson. The guy can’t catch, which is fine, because Devin Hester couldn’t catch either, but in regards to the return game, Patterson is no Hester. I’m also suspect about his character. There has to be a reason he continues to sign one-year deals. 
Tony: I think there’s quality depth on defense since Aaron Lynch will most likely also take rotational reps, and they have solid backup ILBs even if I’m not crazy about them. The DL has a dank rotation in place, especially with Jonathan Bullard still on his rookie contract, but the secondary worries me. The depth chart after Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamura is as bare as my fridge in college. Brian, maybe some autofellatio might lock up your boy JF3 for a roster spot. Keep us posted.
Brian: Just had to google autofellatio. 1. Gross. 2. IT is going to think I am real sicko. O well.
Wes: You brought this on yourself. I think this is a good place to wrap this one up. Until next time, take care sports fans. 
Football

We’ve gathered the kids again to discuss the first full week of Bears training camp. Sadly, adult life called Brian Schmitz away this time, but Wes French (@WFrenchman) and Tony Martin (@MrMartinBruh were happy to pick up the slack. 

After the first full week of camp, is there anything coming out of there that has you excited or worried? Or is it the usual training camp argle bargle?

Wes: My feelings from earlier in the week haven’t really changed – it’s been sort of boring so far, but that’s okay. The injuries to Ha Ha and Shaheen proved to be short lived as both are back as of Thursday morning. Mack and Eddie Jackson look like monsters, tossing around the poor random conditioning coaches that have to hold foam pads in front of them. It’s been fine.

I’m interested to start seeing some position battles emerge, especially in the backfield on the offensive side. Every position returns the starter, while that includes Cohen here, but there are more quality options around him and no one is sure how they all fit. David Montgomery has garnered high praise since his selection, but as a rookie with plenty of veteran competition I’d guess the usage will start low and slowly build. Mike Davis was Pace/Nagy’s pick among a pretty strong secondary Running Back market in free agency, so there is clearly a plan for him. Early reports I’ve seen have him as highly rated in the passing game, especially as a blocker. Struggling on passing downs is what got Jordan Howard shipped out of town, so this isn’t really news but it’ll be interesting to see if certain guys are in to run routes, certain guys to block, or if they get to a level where everyone is trusted to do it all.  And I’m still anxious to see what the hell they have planned for Cordarrelle Patterson.
Tony: The local beat reporters are killing me with the kicker talk still, to be honest. I get the pressure element of it, but there are almost a hundred other players that can get the team in positions where they don’t need field goals to win. I’m not dismissing the importance of the position, but if the Bears break camp with a league average kicker, I’ll still sleep soundly at night if the other 52 are crushing it. 
Wes: The kicking competition is definitely dominating the early camp reports to the detriment of the rest of the team. It’s really early, but we’ve heard hardly anything about the rest of the team. Maybe no news is good news, but it’s a little concerning.

I’ll concede it’s probably too difficult to analyze if Mitch has progressed much from three padded practices, or individual standouts from the small amount of drills they’ve had. I’d still like to hear what looks new/different on a defensive unit with a brand new coordinator and how the group of newly signed/drafted DBs are doing thus far.
I feel like outside of kicking all I’ve heard is Allen Robinson is having a great camp since he’s a year plus removed from the knee surgery. Which is great! But what the hell else is going on?
Tony: You nailed it. This team will live and die with Mitch’s development, but I guess it’s realistic to assume we won’t know exactly how far he’s come until opening night, maybe even later. How will he play when Von Miller, Joey Bosa, or Aaron Donald are lining up to rush the passer? How will he hold up in a shootout? 

I’m no Jon Gruden (mainly because I’d never trade Khalil Mack), so I’m not an expert QB analyst, but what I do know is I’ve watched so many Bears teams that were skilled in all other phases fall short due to incompetent quarterback play. I’m cautiously optimistic, but still guarded.  The one thing I can say for sure, however, is that his weapons are unlike anything I can ever remember a Bears QB having. 
Wes: The world doesn’t need any more Jon Grudens. We don’t even need the one we have. He just said he likes what he’s seen of Nathan Peterman….

You bring up a good point that this has to be about as loaded a Bears team as I can ever remember in my lifetime, both sides of the ball. Kahlil Mack, Eddie Jackson and Akiem Hicks are arguably the best current players at their positions in the league. The offense boasts above average or better players across the entire line and wide receiver positions, they have a good mix of options in the back field and a very progressive offensive mind running everything.
This is the NFL and wild, random things happen all the time, but the feeling is this team has the juice to be a serious contender, but they can’t really be mentioned in that top tier of teams to dethrone the Patriots without improved accuracy and post-snap reads from Trubisky.