Bathing in the rainwater of victory.
Welcome back, Bears fans! Today, Friday, and Monday Wes and I will be doing a 3 part roundtable about the draft and going forward. Just like every website that somehow has access to our email addresses, I’d like to include the phrase “in these uncertain times” before we go too far- so be on the lookout for that.
It’s been a minute since we were together here at the roundtable. Since we last spoke, I wrote 3500 words about a bunch of players the Bears didn’t draft, but they selected 7 new dudes and picked up 11 UDFAs.
How do we feel, in these uncertain times?
Wes French: I’m a little…skeptical. I was ECSTATIC when Josh Jones, Antoine Winfield Jr., Grant Delpit and Jeremy Chinn were all there at 43 only to see the Bears pop Cole Kmet. I was still pretty happy when Jones and Chinn were available at 50, but Jaylon Johnson is also a very good gamble given his ability and “slide” was due to some cranky shoulders that might not be that scary.
Ryan Pace has made his mark in the middle rounds across his drafts, so I didn’t mind spending a little draft capital next year and using existing later round picks this year to create three Fifth Round 2020 selections. Trevis Gipson especially stands out for me.
Tony Martin: As everyone that reads the site knows, I was a major mark for Winfield Jr throughout the pre-draft process and I was so pumped when he was still on the board at 43. I have mixed feelings about the draft, but Jaylon Johnson isn’t one I’m mixed on. I saw projections of him as a day 1 player, and “immediate starter” is a phrase I’ve seen in a lot of his scouting reports. If both he and Kmet live up to their potential, this was a power move by Pace.
I don’t really know what to feel about the Kmet pick. I mean, I guess this is more Nagy’s chance to prove that the offensive shortcomings can be changed if they have that prototypical TE, I just wish the Bears fans on Reddit can see that he’s not a complete prospect and his blocking is suspect. Tell me more about why you like the Gibson pick, I’ll tell you why I think Kindle Vildor shines in this system and then we can probe the late round picks and UDFAs.
Wes: I was WAY in on Winfeild Jr. Man, the possibilities with playing next to Eddie Money, allowing Jackson to basically be unleashed to do ANYTHING in the defensive backfield…fuck. Oh well.
Matthew Judon: 6-foot-3, 261 lbs., Arm length: 33 7/8 inches – Drafted: 5th round, No. 146 overall in 2016
Trevis Gipson: 6-foot-3 3/8, 261 lbs., Arm length: 33 7/8 inches – Drafted: 5th round, No. 155 overall in 2020
Tony: Before we put the Winfield Jr stuff to rest, I’d like to agree and also point out that I’ve seen a lot of chatter that the Bears needed an “in the box” safety, without acknowledging that EJax also plays close to the line and makes plays in the run game as well, and having two incredibly versatile athletes at Safety gives the team crazy amounts of flexibility.I think your love for Gipson will pay off, to be honest. He looks like he can contribute to the rotation and will certainly be an upgrade over Aaron Lynch almost no matter what. As an added bonus, he also gets to learn from two all-star edge rushers, which no doubt inspires confidence in his future development.While we’re dreaming of big things, I wanna talk about two guys that I think not only make this team but contribute: CB Kindle Vildor and WR Darnell Mooney. Vildor is a man corner who won’t challenge for starting reps anytime soon, but he will make major contributions on special teams and I believe can eventually come in and make plays in sub packages. He’s got a major chip on his shoulder and I have major love for gritty players from small schools. Mooney, on the other hand, is going to come in and make plays. He’s quick, tall, and can win contested catches. His highlight tape is basically him winning jump balls and taking slants 70 yards to the endzone, and ironically as I was writing this the Bears signed Ted Ginn Jr, so I guess there’s time for him to develop that route tree.
Any thoughts on the later round guys or UDFAs?
Wes:I agree on Vildor, and I’d like to tie this into baseball (RIP) a little bit and steal a phrase – This entire Bears draft is full of 70/80-grade names. Love it. I do think taking two CBs and no safeties tells you how they feel about the personnel in house. I was pretty happy with what I saw from Kevin Toliver at the end of last season, but he’s going to have a real battle just to make this team now.For the 7th rounders/UDFAs I think it’s those last two picks/two signings on the Oline that stand out, another few 80-grade names in Arlington Hambright and Lachavious Simmons (7th Rd) and Dieter Eiselen/Badara Traore (UDFAs). The more I think about the process the more I like the idea of swinging for a handful of OL late with the idea you stash them on the practice (or possible taxi squad this Fall…) and let them come along that way instead of a project in the 2nd round. Pace keeps telling us that Juan Castillo was the big acquisition on the OL this offseason and this draft only solidifies that sentiment.
You feeling good about any of the other UDFAs?
Tony: Simmons has some awesome tape, and with a new offensive line coach I’m excited to see how the young guys develop, given that most of them won’t have the time to take physical reps, given the state of the world. I’m hoping at least one of the late round linemen makes the team, and a couple of the UDFAs make the practice squad. Is LeDarius Mack a viable prospect? I’m hoping the name gets him in the door and he makes the team, but the ones I like the most are Artavis Pierce, the RB from Oregon State, and Rashad Smith, another OLB from Florida Atlantic who I think is going to get kicked inside and back up Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith. Rashad Smith put up preposterous tackle numbers and can cover as well as play the run. I’d like to see Pierce make the team, especially if the Bears don’t intend to resign Tarik Cohen after this season. I think Ryan Pace’s ability to find quality running backs has been understated in his time here, and Pierce might make the team given where the depth chart sits today.
Wes: I feel like Mack was a nice nod to Khalil, and if there’s anything that will get him as motivated as possible it’s big brother on his ass all offseason in the same training program. I’m not sure if he can become a rotation player given what they have at the position, but he can win a job by going hard on special teams and showing some versatility – he’s smaller than Khalil so maybe a hybrid edge/coverage option in the middle.
I really, really like Pierce as well, the lightening to our fan favorite Ryan Nall’s thunder at OSU. I feel like overall there are some good opportunities for the guys drafted/signed to make this team one way or another. I’ll especially be keeping my eye on Pierce and Mooney as returner options and a path for either to make the team outright.
That’s all I have for now…which looks like quite a bit as I scroll back up this marathon. Great chatting you up about sports again with the uncertainty surrounding everything else right now. Stay safe out there, dear readers, and remember – fuck landlords and mortgage lenders #cancelrent Now!
Tony: It’s always a pleasure chopping up the finer points of this shitshow with you, Wes. Football was a nice distraction from the dystopian shithole our world is at the moment. I hope everyone reading this is making the best of it that they can, unless you’re a landlord expecting rent today. Happy May Day!
Welcome back to another installment of On the Clock, where I scour mock drafts and pretend that I watched any college football last year (which I did not- fuck the NCAA).
Previously, I made the argument that the Bears need to stay at 43 and 50 and not trade back, instead looking to solidify two areas of need with rookie starters. We looked at the consensus top two interior linemen, and 4 potential second-tier receivers that could be game breakers. However, with two major holes in the defensive backfield, an instant starter (or two) in the secondary could pay bigger dividends than a lineman or wideout. One consensus between all the mocks I’ve seen is that the Bears most likely wait until the later rounds to find depth for both the linebacker corps and defensive line rotation, so we will spend this entire section looking at the secondary.
What the Bears need:
The Bears need a Safety and a Cornerback immediately. Deon Bush is a great depth piece, but he is not a starting safety (look back at last year’s opening week Packers game for an understanding of how easily Bush can look too hard in the backfield and get beat deep; also his inability to make plays on the ball in the red zone). Similarly, Kevin Tolliver, Artie Burns, and Tre Roberson are either career backups or unknowns. If Roberson plays in the NFL the way he did that made him the CFL’s premiere defensive free agent, that eliminates the need for a top pick on a CB, but as of now he’s still an unproven commodity. Since most mocks have the Bears looking Safety or Cornerback in the second round, let’s take a look at some of the prospects.
Xavier McKinney- Alabama
Xavier McKinney is a game-changer on defense and there’s no debate about it. In Chuck Pagano’s defense, he would have the ability to be a matchup nightmare. He lined up all over the field last year, as a sort of hybrid defender who can do it all. He’s got tremendous ball skills and watching his tape shows someone who is an instinctual blitzer. Pagano would be able to be super creative with a talent like this. He’s a playmaker, forcing turnovers at ease and always being around the ball. I’ve seen him mocked as early as pick 20, but if he falls it would be difficult to see the Bears pass on him.
Antoine Winfield Jr- Minnesota
How interested you are in the Bears taking Winfield sort of depends on what you want the safety opposite of Eddie Jackson to be: should he be an inside the box safety, someone who can play the deep middle to free up Jackson to read the QB, or a hybrid? Watching Winfield’s tape, it’s clear he plays a very similar game to Eddie Jackson. He is an absolute ballhawk and when he gets the chance, he’s a threat to take a fumble recovery or interception to the house every time. He picked off seven (!) passes last year. He has a long injury history, so there is risk to the pick, but if healthy, he and Eddie Jackson as a 1-2 Safety combo would be an absolute nightmare.
Jeremy Chinn- Southern Illinois
Aching for a return to the Bears defense of 2018? Jeremy Chinn’s pro comp is Adrian Amos, so if that holds true you should be rooting for the Bears to pick Chinn in the second round. Chinn has been talked about as everything from the first Safety off the board to someone that can be available for teams with a pick in the 60s, so if the Bears trade one of their first two picks to fall back in the second round, Chinn could be available as a value pick. I’ve also heard him talked about like a lighter version of Isaiah Simmons and could be asked to bulk up and play the roaming defender role in some defenses, which presents some interesting pairings with who the Bears already have. Let’s hope if the Bears take Chinn he can beat up on NFL teams like he did your Youngstown States (Youngstowns State?).*
Trevon Diggs- Alabama
Diggs is another Alabama DB that the Bears could be looking at to fill their other outside CB spot. He’s a bit more of a raw athlete than a polished defensive back at this point in his career, but the mocks that link him to the Bears indicate a belief that the talent around him can help him build those skills and make him a top-tier corner. He won’t play the run as well as it was played last year, but he has the ability to close off one side of the field. In short, Diggs is a stud that got ethered on prime time television last year by LSU, so there’s naturally going to be some question about how well he can hold up against top competition.
Bryce Hall- Virginia
Hall, like Diggs, is a big, physical CB (both are over 6’ and 200lbs) with injury histories. Neither of them are the ideal run stopping CBs, but the Bears secondary doesn’t necessarily rely on outside defenders to stop the run (save for Kyle Fuller’s game winning tackle against the Lions last year). Hall is effective close to the line on bubble screens, corner blitzes, and quick slants. He limited opposing QBs to passer ratings around 50 the last two seasons and led the nation in pass breakups two years ago. Hall is more of a zone CB, so it would be interesting to see if that scheme fit would work in Chicago. I’ve also seen him mocked to Denver in multiple places, where he would also make a lot of sense.
Kyle Dugger- Lenoir-Rhyne
The Ringer really must have Ryan Pace figured out, tabbing Dugger to be the Bears pick at 50. It all makes sense, a D-2 player that was absolutely dominant? That’s absolutely on-brand for Pace and Dugger’s tape is pretty ruthless. Not only is he an outstanding returner with tremendous ball skills, he honestly looked like a grown ass man playing against little kids, because he was. I mean it’s D-2 so like you’ve got this dude that runs a 4.49 and put up 17 reps of 225 at the combine, and he’s going against the pud from your high school who went to Middle Tennessee Grand Canyon Valley Technical Institute A&M and Dugger is hitting dudes so hard they quit on the spot and go back to their hometowns to sell life insurance with their dads. Of all the prospects he’s the oldest (24) and with the level of his college competition he’s probably the biggest question mark, but I am seeing Dugger mocked to a lot of teams in the second round, so he’s doing something right. He could be another Bears player to come from D-2, or the Bears could instead choose to invest in a more proven commodity.
With all the garbage presented to us fans as “The 2019 Chicago Bears Offense”, it might be tempting to focus on that side of the ball with the first two picks in the second round. However, the holes in the defensive backfield are huge and glaring and if the Bears go out and take a defender with one of these first two picks, I think the potential for the Bears D to return to form in 2020 is much higher, ESPECIALLY if Tre Roberson is as good as advertised. Just imagine a Bears secondary of Roberson, Fuller, Skrine, Jackson and Antoine Winfield Jr., and you can hear the crowd after the Bears hold Green Bay to their 9th straight 3 and out chanting “Holy Shit” like Braun Strowman just sidewalk slammed some cruiserweight into the shadow realm.
*While looking for a good cover photo for this article I stumbled upon the one of Jeremy Chinn that I ended up using because the size of that man’s arms literally turned me into Vince McMahon: WOULD YOU JUST LOOK AT HIM? THAT’S SUCH GOOD SHIT!
Tomorrow will be Part 4 of On The Clock: The Leftovers!
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.
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 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.
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
Well, no one can say Ryan Pace has no idea what he’s doing. He locked in All-Pro Safety Eddie Jackson on a Four year, $58M contract extension on Friday afternoon and managed to deflect at least a little bit of the unsilent majority that’s been killing him for his NYE press conference the last few days.
Jackson takes home $22M in guarantees at signing and $33M overall, so you can assume he’s been given a healthy bonus, small cap number in 2021 (unless this tears up his 2020 $735K of his final rookie year, either way the team will really need it) and the first two years at least fully guaranteed. Jackson, deservedly so, becomes the highest paid Safety in football at just under $15M/season.
Jackson earned that top-salary-in-the-league title with his play, starting way back in 2017 when he picked off Cam Newton and scooped up a fumble, taking both to the house with each TD return going over 75 yards. That’s a single game NFL record and Jackson did nothing but build his resume as a playmaker and takeaway specialist from there. He had monster pick-six returns in huge moments to seal wins down the stretch for the 2018 Division Champion team, though he didn’t record a TD in 2019 as opposing teams avoided throwing his way almost exclusively. Not matter, Jackson just set a career high with five tackles for loss as Chuck Pagano used him more in the box and mixed him in with blitz coverages closer to the line. And the whole “don’t throw at Eddie” game plan helped the Bears hold opponents to a top three finish in plays of 20+ yards at 40 total.
Eddie Jackson is the real fucking deal and he earned this contract. The team is better with him in it, period.
So what does this mean for the rest of the offseason? Well, it’s definitely good that Pace got this order of business out of the way early in the offseason and didn’t let anything linger into OTAs or training camp and the specter of a hold out. Jackson would have gotten all this and possibly more if he’d hit UFA status, so the deal is timely and warranted. This could, however, impact what they do at the opposite Safety position. Jackson is now the lone (true)Safety on the books for 2020 and beyond, with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson all UFAs come March.
Bush and Houston-Carson should be cheap enough to bring back, assuming they’d both like to be here. Dix is the more curious case, as he didn’t exactly shine in his new home. He was very steady, though, and didn’t really show the issues of poor tackling that have plagued him in the past. Pace would do well to lock him and one of the lesser depth Safeties up next to save himself from scrambling later this offseason, though he doesn’t have a ton of cap room to work with. If Dix wants a big, 3+ year deal he’s likely going to have to find it elsewhere, so it might come down to how much he wants to continue with his Alabama alum partner and the rest of this defensive core.
You can probably bet that this move will seal Danny Trevathan‘s fate unless he takes a huge pay cut, but Nick Kwiatkowski is also due new money and he showed he’s ready to step into that role after Trevathan and Smith’s injuries this season. The offense is noticeably absent from the any discussion of core players locked up. Pace would be wise to prioritize a new deal for WR Allen Robinson, who was arguably the only good thing the Bears can point to from 2019 on his side of the ball.That, though, can be left for later as everyone celebrates Steady Eddie and his new paper. This gives the Bears a very sound, solid defensive core locked in through at least 2022 including Jackson, Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Kyle Fuller, Roquan Smith, Eddie Goldman and to a lesser extent Buster Skrine and Bilal Nichols.
Enough of the future what-ifs, enjoy some of Eddie’s best work. Congrats to #39. Roll Damn Tide.
Our Bears wing gets together one last time to work out their feelings about whatever it was that just went down.
So now it’s all over, and we couldn’t glean anything from the finale. Where are you? How far away do you think the Bears are from getting back to contending next year? What’s most important to you this offseason?
Brian Schmitz: As I have clearly shown this season, I am a Bears pessimist. And to be totally honest with everyone, I took some pleasure in watching this team self-destruct time and time again. That probably says more about the person I am than anything; but…whatever.
With that, I think the 2020 Bears, with a few tweaks, are a 10-win playoff team. The schedule will get easier next year and you have to expect improvement from the major cogs of this team: coaching, QB, d-coordinator, kicker, tight end to name a few.
Tony Martin: I’m excited to see what the front office does to right this ship, you know? It should be pretty clear where the faults lie, and the question is now wether or not the front office can fix the personnel holes with their limited cap space, and if they can wrestle away play calling duties from Matt Nagy.
Wes French: I, too, am very interested to see what Pace has planned for this offseason. His and Nagy’s fates are predicated on a run at the playoffs if not a division crown in 2020. They’ve got some big decisions to make between QB, OL and a few key contract decisions on defense.
I can say I didn’t take much pleasure in watching this team punch itself in the dick over and over again and I sure hope they have more of a plan for next season.
Did you guys take anything out of the postseason press conference at Halas Hall? Other than as an organization the Bears are extremely weird…
Brian: My biggest takeaway is that the entire organization is trying to build up a quarterback that clearly has confidence issues. Pace’s job is tied into his quarterback, so in order to protect his own best interests, he is forced to ride or die with Trubisky.
Wes: I was a bit disappointed with the press conference as a whole. I know, you can’t expect them to come right out and declare the QB sucks and needs to be replaced, but to continue to talk up his development and that he was very raw coming out of college is like….why did you take him at #2 then??
I think the thing that pissed me off the most though was talking up Adam Shaheen in a similar fashion. Pace almost seems more like he has to defend that pick more than Trubs, citing the same stuff of him being raw, playing at a small school, etc. Then why take him in the 2nd round? Why reach on a guy you know is going to be a major project when you’re trying to set up for a SB run?
The OC/his staff took the blade as they were mercilessly let go, and I’m curious to see if they bring someone in with a big pedigree that would wrestle play calling or at least game prep away from Nagy. Juan Castillo is familiar with the type of stuff Nagy wants with the O-line/run game to do given his background with the Reid coaching tree. I’m trying to remain optimistic but until we see other hires/FA-roster moves I don’t think anyone at Halas Hall gets the benefit of the doubt right now.
Tony: This is the last offseason that I’m going into with the full faith in Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy. They’ve had their fingerprints all over this trainwreck, and it should be noted that this is their chance to reflect on the job they’ve done thus far. It’s one thing to assess the talent left on your roster and to try to build around it, but now we get to see how they’ll address the setback that was the entire 2019 campaign. As a professional educator, I embrace mistakes because they are an important part of the learning process. True learning comes from identifying where you went wrong, understanding the error, and fixing it, and I hope the dudes at the top are willing to look at their faults in an honest way for the benefit of the organization and most importantly my Sunday afternoons.
Well, the Bears won. Somehow. Just barely. The local boys escaped Ford Field victorious and are now the least convincing .500 team in the league at 6-6. Are we going to spend another week and a half pretending this win is symbolic of a team finally putting it all together? The offense looked better than it did almost all season, save a handful of stupid penalties. Anthony Miller feasted on a pisspoor Lions defense, Allen Robinson looked good, and Mitch made a handful of great throws. The gameplan was solid, but once again it’s hard to differentiate between a mediocre team looking good because they planned well and a team who just happened to beat a far inferior team. Mitch went 29/38 for 338, finishing his line with 3 TDs and 1 INT, but still made a handful of head-scratching plays. That 3rd down in the red zone where he decided to run laterally instead of get the almost assured key first down? Great QBs don’t do that unless their name is Lamar Jackson.
The Bears came out making David Blough look like the next great Jeff Driskel-esque QB, but after the first 14 points that Detroit put up in the first quarter, they managed 6 the rest of the way. The Bears bent but didn’t break, and it was nice to see them bring pressure in key moments. It’ll be interesting to see if Prince Amukamara comes back healthy, because any serious winning streak will require a healthy defensive backfield since Dallas, Green Bay, Kansas City, and Minnesota are the teams left on the schedule.
The Good: Mitch looked great, the wide receivers played outstandingly (even Javon Wims put up good numbers), and David Montgomery runs HARD. If the Bears invest heavily in the offensive line this offseason he could put up some incredible numbers next year. Nick Kwiatkoski looked great again, and it makes me wonder if this is indeed the last season Danny Trevathan will be playing for the Bears. Kyle Fuller saved the game with a key third down tackle inside the 5 yard line, holding Detroit to a field goal. He played great all game. Eddie Jackson is back in the stat column and everything feels right.
The Bad: The Bears were determined to lose this one in the 4th, didn’t it seem? Bad penalties plagued the last Detroit drive before Roquan and Eddie teamed up to end the game, and though the Bears committed only one more penalty for four more yards than the Lions, it sure seemed like they came at the worst times. Once again the line play was uneven, and the Bears couldn’t bring consistent pressure with the front four once again.
The Ugly: I had to watch this game with my family who I love but also my mom’s friend who was pretty much yelling “OMG SPORTSBALL DID WE WIN” for the entire second half. I need a fucking nap.
If this team wins 10 games, they deserve to make the playoffs because the changes they’d need to make to get there would signify a serious righting of the ship and who knows? Stranger things have happened.
RECORDS: Lions 3-4-1 Bears 3-5
TV: CBS 2
THAT DORK LOOKS LIKE JAM: Pride Of Detroit
Do you get the impression the Bears would rather play on the road these days? A home date with the Lions should be a joyous occasion, and it usually has been in the past, but considering the air around the Bears and the suddenness with which Soldier Field can turn toxic, you really feel like the Bears had better score on their first drive or it’s going to bet poisonous in a hurry. They might be booing at the pregame tailgate. Mitch Trubisky pointing at the TVs screaming, “DEATH!!!” isn’t going to help the cause much.
So the Bears will have to turn it around against what’s normally their favorite punching bag, and really everyone’s favorite punching bag. Luckily, the Lions contain some things that could really help the Bears if they’ve conditioned themselves during the week to change. Sadly, they also contain the Bears destruction within them as well.
First the good news. As my father would say, “The Lions defense stinkums.” They’re 27th in rush yards against per game, 31st in pass yards per game against, 27th in sacks, 27th in interceptions, and 27th in points against. So yeah, you’d think with the lack of pass rush and the lack of ballhawks and the lack of linebackers total, the Bears could actually find something they could do successfully against this outfit. Whether that’s lining up in the I more often and simply running the ball, or getting to play-action off of that, or rolling Mitch out where he’s clearly more comfortable, the Lions offer a fucking buffet of things you can get to them through. Then again, the Chargers were dressing their bus driver as a d-linemen and the Bears couldn’t crack that code until late. So no guarantees here.
The Lions defense has had various problems, including health in the secondary, but this chart is pretty telling (stick-tap to Jeremy Riesman at PoD for linking it):
Brain genius with birds living in his beard, and probable rapist, Matt Patricia hasn’t been able to get any pressure from his front four and they haven’t brought much heat either to try and make up for that. So maybe the Bears offensive line can hold up against this? And give Mitch time? Which won’t cause his eyes to drop to the rush? And maybe he can just pick-and-stick some guys in the open spaces? Am I asking too much? I probably am, aren’t I? More pissing in the wind, YAY!
Of course, it’s not that simple. On the flip side of the ball, Matt Stafford is playing at a ridiculous level, which Brian laid out here. I suppose the good news, if there is any on this front, is that he’s done his best work flinging the ball deep, which is something the Bears have given up next to nothing of this year. The plan against them has always been to get it out quick to avoid Khalil Mack ending your world, and the hope would be if Stafford and the Lions insist on taking their shots that Mack and Leonard Floyd (brief flickering signs of life last week) and others can get to Stafford to either bring him down or force errant throws. Then again, Stafford’s been so good at this he might be able to find the shots others haven’t. Then it could be trouble.
But hey, more good news. The Lions can’t run the ball for shit. Have they ever? This is just like the Lions condition, right? Like the Bears and quarterbacks? The Hawks and power plays? It’s just something they’ll never do. Anyway, Ty Johnson is averaging barely 3.5 yards per carry, and they don’t even go to him much as he’s gotten over 10 carries just once this season since he took over for Kerryon Johnson, who’s on IR with knee-knack. So whereas the Chargers and Eagles and Raiders and oh fuck let’s just stop it here pretty much ran it up the Bears giggy, that’s not something the Lions are built or even motivated to try.
The things is though, the Lions are a couple inches from being 5-2-1 or even better. The refs screwed them over in Green Bay. They had a last-second loss to the Chiefs. They probably should have beaten the Raiders last week. So they have just as much reason to look at the Bears and think they can get healthy against them as the Bears do looking the other way. Other than Mack, who will be heavily watched, Stafford is the best player on the field and is capable of winning this on his own given the right breeze.
Still, the Bears are basically built to not have a quarterback beat them. Yeah, sure, the defense hasn’t gotten the big stops they’ve needed the past two games, and even Denver drove right down the field against them in the 4th. But a lot of that was predicated on rushing attacks, which the Lions just don’t have. And does Stafford really have the patience to five- and six-yard outlet his way down the field? He might, but you have to feel there’ll be a shot or two that Eddie Jackson or Kyle Fuller can get their hands on.
So if they can keep Stafford from going power cosmic, you have to believe the Bears offense will find SOMETHING against this team. Maybe not 35 points something, but like 24? Detroit has given up 23 or more points in every game save one. The fucking Giants hung 31 on them. If Daniel Jones can go for 322 yards against this collection of lost souls, surely Mitch can have at least a decent game? Right? Right?!
This is it for the Bears, this next month. They get the Lions twice and the Giants, and a Sunday night in LA. Win those three and sneak some weird victory out of the Coliseum (where they come to see ’em), and the season isn’t lost. Hell, just take the three you’re supposed to and you’re 6-6 with at least something to hope for in December. But it has to start with one. If you can’t get this one, it’s pack up the cats time.
That time again. Please don’t take this seriously. That’s not what you come here for.
We’re All Watching Matt Nagy’s Descent Into Madness
At some point later this season, I fully expect Matt Nagy to fall over on his back, and his eyeballs to be replaced by the rainbow spinning wheel of death and basically be frozen until the McCaskeys and Ryan Pace figure out how you actually reboot a human. Where’s the Command-Option-Escape button on a human (all you pervs out there can make a sex joke here)? There are just too many conflicting plans and feelings within Nagy for him to last like this much longer.
The Bears first play of the day was out of the I-formation, and was a decent enough gain of four yards. If you were to draw conclusions from one play–which would be folly with this outfit because you can’t draw conclusions from whole games–you would say that Nagy had learned from last week and this is what the team needed to run the ball and then hence open up the passing game through play-action.
That was the last time in the first half they did that.
Nagy is hellbent, and it’s getting beyond an Ahab-like fixation at this point, to succeed with the offense that he sees, and not what his offense can actually do. Not only that, it has to succeed with Mitch Trubisky being the quarterback Nagy thinks he can be, and not the one in front of him or the one we saw last year.
And yet at the same time, Nagy doesn’t trust Mitch to throw the ball beyond the line of scrimmage, or didn’t for the first half. So while he wants Mitch to be the QB in his mind to make the offense in his mind work, he won’t actually let him do any of that stuff on the field. It’s like he figures these two things will just be conjured somehow through hope.
And then for a brief period of time he’ll give up, go back to what’s worked the past two weeks, and it will work, and yet he can’t let go. That’s how you get Tarik Cohen trying to run the ball in on the goal line–or having your shortest player try and leap and extend into the endzone–instead of Montgomery on 2nd down. Thankfully Nagy’s brain snapped back the other way for 3rd down and Montgomery got in to make the game at least interesting for a half minute. It feels as if he’s fighting two or three different voices in his head, all wanting and seeing different things. And hey, we’ve all been there, I just paid $10 a pop for the chemicals that got me there.
There are just too many conflicting threads in Nagy’s head. What the offense should be but what it is, along with what he thinks Trubisky can be but actually is, and what he wants to do versus what he can actually do. The reason the Bears can’t find an identity, as they keep saying, is that their coach is seeing about four or five different realities at a time. It’s like Griffin from MIB III, which none of you saw.
This Defense Sure Likes To Talk…Tackle, Not So Much
In this town, favoritism will always bend toward the defense. That’s thanks to ’85 and that they’ll never go away, and even bending back to Butkus and Buffone. Fine, accepted that long ago. So even in the most desperate times, the defense’s failings will get pinned or shared with the offense until it’s obvious we can’t do that anymore.
So yes, while they don’t get any help from the offense, there’s no rule that says they have to let the opponents drive right down their throat on three of the first four drives of the game. Or when the offense does put up points and they are back in the game, to let the Eagles have an eight-minute drive to end it with four third-down conversions, including two screen passes that went over 10 yards.
I understand it’s long-standing Bears tradition that they can’t defend nor run a screen pass. From Ditka to Wanny to Jauron to Lovie and on, the Bears have never done either. The Hawks will never have a power play, the Bulls will never land a free agent worth a shit, the Sox will never draw, and the Bears will never be on the right side of a screen pass. These are universal Chicago sports truth.
But having it in such demonstrative fashion–where Montgomery drops what would have been a game-turning play and then those two–is a mound of salt in the wound.
Overall, the defense had a chance to win the game for the Bears, or put them in a spot to do so. Just like last week. And it got run over. And for too much of the game, the Eagles could do what they wanted and worst of all, the Bears defense didn’t look like it wanted to bother much. Eddie Jackson and HaHa shirked off a couple tackles they didn’t seem all that interested in making. They were in wrong gaps.
There was one play in the third quarter where Leonard Floyd chased down Carson Wentz from behind where all three linebackers just watched. Maybe they were worried about hitting the QB and getting flagged for breathing too had, but this was beyond the line of scrimmage. It looked more like they just left it to someone else.
And that’s scary.
There Are Like Three Good Football Announce Teams
When you find out who’s doing the Bears game on TV a couple days before, what team actually makes you say, “Oh, that’s good.” Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts? I don’t mind Buck and Aikman, but a lot of people hate both. Thom Brennaman spends anytime broadcasting Chicago sports with a can of gasoline and a Zippo. Michaels and Collinsworth are fine, except you can’t escape the fear of the Bears being embarrassed on national TV. Maybe Kenny Albert? Maybe Kevin Burkhardt? Except he sounds like he’s asleep for half the game, and maybe he is.
Dick Stockton doesn’t know where he is. He’s 117 years old and while he is something of an institution, if he were a dog they would have put him to sleep long ago before he got to the state where he falls into his own shit. Mark Schlereth is the king of “Football Analyst Holding A Football.” I’m fairly sure he was erect describing some pulling guard yesterday, on a play that didn’t go anywhere. Yesterday sounded like two drunk stockbrokers trying to do a Statler and Waldorf routine without actually ever having seen Statler and Waldorf.
It was brutal, and it doesn’t have to be that way. There have to be better announcers than what we’re being given, even if the Bears have fallen to the bottom of the heap. Please stop making watching the Bears worse than it already is.
Worst title I’ve ever given an article? Yeah, it’s up there but the season is still young, folks!
This week the Bears were gifted a game against a high-octane offense with a backup quarterback under center. Teddy Bridgewater is playing his 6th game this year, his 5th start running the Saints attack. The first question is, who is Teddy Bridgewater? Pick 32 of the 2014 NFL Draft, that’s who. The game managing QB who made his money handing off to Adrian Peterson and throwing to, uh, I’m not really sure. Is Mike Wallace a real person or just a collective fever dream we all went through together, like that one year where Brandon Lloyd was king?
Teddy Bridgewater was the 2014 Rookie of the Year as sponsored by Pepsi and voted on by fans, which is somehow different than the NFL AP vote which pegged Odell Beckham Jr as the best offensive rookie that year. The NFL AP made the better decision, but I still love and respect the concept of the fan vote, since this isn’t the NBA and Yao Ming can’t keep being selected to All Star games even though he didn’t play (Free Hong Kong, while we’re here). 2014 seems like such a different time, and Bridgewater’s path here has been so long and winding that it’s almost surreal to think about OBJ and Teddy coming into the league at the same time. Shit, Teddy was in the Pro Bowl the next season!
…and then you know the rest, I’m assuming. HOWEVER, my bandmate Katie reads these articles for some reason and she has no clue what I’m talking about most of the time, so this one’s for the Katies out there. Bridgewater suffered a non-contact knee injury in practice that was so bad the doctors thought his leg would have to be amputated. He dislocated his knee, tore his ACL, and had significant structural damage. The words that doctors used to describe it sound like metal band song titles:
“Worst knee dislocation I’ve seen in sports”
I reached out to my buddy who is a Physical Therapist and asked him his take, and he responded by telling me that a knee dislocation like that can destroy your entire leg and compromise all four ligaments, and the fact that he has anything resembling stability in that knee to this day is beyond him. Shouts out to my homie Virak for the insider tip.
Teddy recovered from an injury that had people fearing he’d never walk again and has now started four games, three years and a handful of months removed from the kneepocalypse. It’s really hard to not root for this guy, but he is at best a replacement-level QB on a team loaded with weapons.
The numbers are nice (69% completion percentage, 7/2 TD/INT ratio), but he isn’t passing the eye test (trust me, I have a number of Saints players in fantasy leagues). Four of those seven scores were against a Tampa Bay defense that plays with the urgency of a pug who just walked a mile and a half. He’s been hot and cold. He was stellar against Tampa Bay and Seattle, and not good against Dallas and Jacksonville.
His stats will give Bears fans Shane Matthews/Kyle Orton flashbacks. His average completed pass travels 4.5 yards in the air. He throws what Football Outsiders defines as a “bad throw” 12% of the time, and he does NOT go deep. The Bears might have an advantage here, with Eddie Jackson lurking on some of those crossing routes underneath. Bridgewater still hasn’t mastered the Drew Brees classic “know exactly which option route Alvin Kamara is going to run and hitting him for a 12 yard gain six times a drive”, but he has weapons.
Teddy is a game manager with an outstanding backstory, but the Bears match up well here against him. If the pass rush can shake him or make him get rid of the ball quickly, I like their odds. Hopefully the defense doesn’t have to send too much extra pressure to get after the plucky Saints QB, because the big play potential is there if Kamara or Michael Thomas find themselves in man coverage with no safety help. Make no mistake, the Saints have some burners and they can turn a short toss into a big gain. Their screen game is tight, and Ted Ginn can stretch the field. If the line can get to Teddy, the Bears have a chance to slow this offense down dramatically.