Football

The Chicago Bears Secondary was not a problem in 2019. There were concerns heading into the season; how would the team do replacing Adrian Amos with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Bryce Callahan with Buster Skrine? How would Eddie Jackson do moving over to accommodate his new safety partner? Would Chuck Pagano taking over the unit upset the chemistry with a new scheme?

For the most part, the players answered these questions with a “no worries, we got it”…but unfortunately “it” was not enough to overcome deficiencies elsewhere. At least it didn’t keep Eddie Jackson from getting PAID.

The Good

I mean, everyone? The team ranked top-10 in the league for passing yards allowed/game and again kept opponent passing TDs to a minimum en route to a top five ranking in points allowed. Eddie Jackson wasn’t the same factor in the passing game as his breakout 2018, but then again it’s tough to repeat that kind of performance for anyone…especially when the league collectively decides to never throw it at you. Jackson still found ways to contribute, setting a career high 5.5 tackles for loss as he played more up at the line to help stuff opposing rushers.

Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara were again a dominant pair on the outside, accounting for 12 and 10 passes defensed (respectively). Skrine stepped into the nickel corner position vacated by Callahan perfectly, defending five passes of his own. Clinton-Dix probably didn’t have the kind of season he was hoping to on a one-year prove it deal, but he also didn’t put much in the way of bad tape out there either. He was steady in all aspects throughout the season and did register the lone TD scored by Bears secondary players in 2019.

Amukamara did deal will some injuries late in the season, which gave Kevin Toliver a chance to impress a team that could soon look to replace the aging Prince.

The Bad

The biggest obstacles facing the 2019 secondary were the ghosts of 2018. 27 interceptions and six defensive TDs (three by Jackson alone) is an incredibly tough performance to follow. The 2019 unit didn’t come close to replicating it, though, contributing to the overall let down.

The drop from 36 turnovers to 19 is felt exclusively in the drop from 27 INT to 10. Fuller went from seven to two. Jackson six to two. Prince three to 0. I’m no math wizard, but that right there is a 12 fewer turnovers. The Bears went from leading the league in turnovers created to middle of the pack, and the drop also brought them to even in differential after being +12 (3rd in the NFL) in 2018.

The lack of turnovers kept the defense on the field more often and contributed to worse field position for their floundering offensive counterparts. I discussed on Monday why the loss of Akiem Hicks impacted the rest of the defense in a negative way and the effect on the secondary could most easily be seen in the severe dip in turnovers. Without a massive force wrecking the opponents backfield and pressuring the quarterback there were not nearly as many opportunities for takeaways.

Any Hope?

The hope for better returns in the turnover department should be realized with some positive regression…and a return to a third place schedule.

The Bears have nearly every cornerback under contract for 2020 but only see Jackson locked in at safety. Did Clinton-Dix do enough to price himself out of town? Was he the right compliment to the rest of the unit/defense? I’m going to guess he’s looking for more than Pace is willing to give. Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson are also free agents, and though neither saw many reps in games they were both big contributors on special teams and should return on cheap deals. Add safety to the list of things needed, which is growing like a sink hole as we work through these recaps.

Amukamara will be an interesting case for Pace as well, contracted for $8M in 2020 though he can be cut for a mere $1M in cap casualties. A reworked deal for a cheaper cap hit in 2020 and the chance at a second year/bonus should do it if everyone is amenable, and you’d think they are. Prince bounced from NYG to JAC and then to Chicago where he finally found his rhythm and most of his success. If they cut him and he walks…we’re looking at a bigger sink hole.

Final Grade: B

 

 

Football

The Bears season is not going to end with any kind of post-season glory, so in lieu of a CHI/KC match up, we’re looking at some internal match ups this week of positions/players with something legitimately left to play for. Enjoy.

Tony: Wes, I appreciate the idea of re-focusing this week’s matchup on some of these end-of-roster players that we’d like to see more of in the last two weeks. It’s a lot easier than trying to figure out 400 words or so each that basically says “The Chiefs should win this one very easily”. So, since you’ve gifted me the offense, here’s 4 guys I’d like to see get some real run in the last two meaningless games.

Ryan NallFor no other reason, to finally appease the people who think Nall is a franchise-caliber RB; you know, the same people who thought Dane Sanzenbacher was the next Wes Welker. I know he’s had a couple nice 69 yard runs in consecutive pre-seasons, but let him get some carries against the starters and see what happens.

Javon WimsJuice has been out there quite a bit this season, but he doesn’t get much in terms of looks in the passing game. We all remember his outstanding Week 17 game last year; I’d like to see what we get from Wims with somewhere between 5-7 targets a game. He knows the offense much better than…

Riley RidleyHe’s been hurt, but he doesn’t seem to know where to line-up ever and I’m starting to believe he shouldn’t be out there and the coaching staff is exposing him to an unnecessarily high number of situations where he isn’t prepared. It would be nice to have a package of plays he can confidently run and we can see if he has more to offer the team than just a somewhat relevant last name.

I wrote half a paragraph about Ben Braunecker before I remembered he was in concussion protocol and is now on IR, which should tell you how high my hopes are that he makes the team next year. So instead, let’s talk about:

Jesper HorstedIn his 3 career games, Horsted has 7 catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. In Braunecker’s 47 games, he’s produced 13 catches for 142 yards and one TD. In my mind, Horsted is the only TE that is a lock to be on the roster next season, since Burton has underwhelmed and The Adam Shaheen Experiment needs to be chalked up as a loss before Mitch gets his head taken off when he misses his chip. Yeah, I know, the Bears passed on George Kittle in that draft but WWE never signed Pentagon Jr, so I guess just shut up or I’ll hit you with a package piledriver, nerd. The Bears will draft a TE high, and Horsted could be a capable #2. Bradley Sowell is a total team player and will always be Matt Nagy’s Taysom Hill, but with less of a chance to fuck your fantasy team. He might be there next year too, but with a strong showing I think Horsted sticks.

Wes: Tony, the Bears and the trash they give us to discuss every week is the true gift this season. Thank Matt Nagy, Ryan Pace and whoever else helped get us here more than ya boy. You covered a couple interesting players on the offensive side, so I guess I’ll toss out a few names on defense, especially hoping the Bears just put Akiem Hicks on IR and give him the rest of this lost campaign off. Apparently the starters will play the last two games, but here’s to hoping we get some decent looks at the younger pieces on the roster.

Also, thank YOU for the gift of reminding everyone that Dane Sanzenbacher exists.

Leonard Floyd: Not really an end of roster player I guess, but ho-boy that fifth year option is looking pretty bad right now. Floyd flew out of the gates with two Sacks in Week 1, but he’s totaled all of ONE since and had his best stretch of stats during the mid-season losing streak. Not exactly standing out in 2019. Methinks his $13M, non-guaranteed contract is going to find him cut before June 1 unless they can come to some other agreement. He’s probably playing more for his own film at this point, but you never know.

Josh Woods: Woods was a favorite of all of ours this pre-season, and while he didn’t get any game action until four weeks ago in LA (a game we’d all like to kind of pretend didn’t happen, ugh) he’s seeing some defensive snaps and work on ST. With Roquan and Trevathan both on IR, and the future of the latter a big question mark, Woods (along with current starter Kevin Pierre-Louis) has a chance to keep his name in the queue at ILB and make Pace believe he’s got plenty at the position to make it a lower priority this upcoming off-season.

Deon Bush: The Bears will have a decision to make at Safety opposite Eddie Jackson (who himself is due new money in 2021) as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, DeAndre Houston-Carson and Bush are all coming up on Free Agency. Unless Dix wants to take a similar small money/1-year pact (doubtful), getting to see a lot more of Bush (Phrasing, I know) these last two weeks should be the plan. He’s still only 27 and shouldn’t demand a high salary for sound, steady work at the position, and cap-flexibility will be key with not much readily available for Pace

Kevin Toliver II: Toliver has been a nice bright spot these last few weeks as Prince Amukamara dealt with nagging injuries. The 2nd year player out of LSU has 10 tackles and two passes defended the last two weeks, and speaking of cap space the Prince can be cut to save $8M against $1M in dead money. Again, unless Amukamara wants to restructure it’s looking like the Sophomore CB is making Pace’s decision easier come March and he can further solidify it with continued solid play against tough offenses in KC and Minne-HO-ta.

Eddy Pineiro/Pat O’Donnell: I’m cheating a little here as these are not defenders, but who isn’t thinking the Bears could move on from both their kickers in 2020? Pineiro has done nothing to stake his claim since his walk-off winner Week 2 in Denver and carries no cap penalties, though I can’t see Pace committing much over a minimum to the position. O’Donnell can also be cut for next to nothing, and while he’s not really any worse than last season he’s been treading water at bottom-third rankings in punt AVG, NET and Returns. If the Bears are going to get better they really need to improve consistency in these positions.

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

Bad football rules because you know that it’s only a matter of time before the games start to count and I gotta say I was super geeked to watch the Bears play again. I’d say that the game tonight went about as well as the first preseason game could be expected to go, especially in the modern age when keeping starters out is the standard. Was it boring? Yeah. But it was a PRODUCTIVE boring. So, since the clock has just struck zero on 60 minutes of Bears football, I have some quick reactions I’d like to share even though I’m three White Claws deep and have to get up for work in 7 hours.

-Deon Bush was all over the field, which was more impressive than the interception he was gifted via an awful throw. If a starter gets hurt, he is a player easily above replacement level and could fill in nicely (and has in the past). I can see the Bears having a tough time deciding if they want to extend him for next year.

-Please keep David Montgomery off special teams FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. He looked so good, and the more time he gets in this offense, the better he’ll get. He and Cohen are gonna be sick together. I want Matt Nagy to unironically use those two and Patterson in a T-Formation. Can a play call be ironic? Whatever.

-Josh Woods flashed a lot in run support (and forced a fumble), but got sucked inside twice on two big runs. I’d like to see more of him this preseason and maybe he can challenge for a backup ILB spot this year.

-I love the pass interference challenge rule, but only because the one thing I want more of when watching preseason football is insurance commercials. I wrote this joke sober and I was lukewarm on it, but it’s preseason for Bears writers just like the players so I’m keeping it in and I’ll look at the tape tomorrow and make adjustments.

-Javon Wims popped off the screen again. I think this dude is legit, and will make the team. I think he’ll be used like Nagy used Demarcus Robinson in Kansas City. I can see him catching 20 passes for this team and scoring a couple times.

-Speaking of that Wide Receiver room: Marvin Hall is FAST, and yes, these are the kinds of takes I get paid the big bucks to formulate. I’m pumped to see what he can do with the first team punt return unit, if he makes the squad (I hope he does). Unfortunately, I think Taquan Mizzell Sr is the odd man out, which is a shame. Unless Kerrith Whyte really screws up or the Bears decide to keep 4 Running Backs on the 53, he won’t make it. Hopefully he catches on somewhere else because I like Smoke a lot and I think he can contribute to a roster somewhere.