Football

For the purposes of this article, I’ll be considering edge rushers as linebackers.

Roster/PFF Grade/Stats:

Kevin Pierre-Louis (90.5) 27 tackles, 0 sacks
Khalil Mack (86.2) 34 tackles, 9 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
Nick Kwiatkoski (72.6) 51 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception
Leonard Floyd (69.8) nice 32 tackles, 3 sacks
Danny Trevathan (61.9) 54 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble
Isaiah Irving (61.1) 8 tackles
James Vaughters (60.0) 3 tackles
Roquan Smith (52.4) 76 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 interception
Joel Iyiegbuniwe (42.1) 2 tackles
Aaron Lynch (36.0) 2 tackles, 2 sacks

First, let’s parse out the data. Irving and Iyiegbuniwe aren’t on the team next year, Vaughters might be. Aaron Lynch needs to go, though. I can shrug off Irving and Iggy’s small sample size, but Lynch played in every game this year. He logged 244 snaps, about 15 a game, and he sucked. I thought he was only brought here to be part of Vic Fangio’s defense as an old friend from San Francisco, but they kept him around for another season and it was a season too long. As low as I am on Irving, I’d rather see him get some run, or see if James Vaughters can play with the starters for a spell. Lynch has to be gone next year, right? Right?

Roquan Smith started off slow, got hot in the middle of the season, and cooled off before his injury against Dallas in week 14. Opponents caught 75% of the passes he was credited as the primary defender on, which is about right given the amount of swings and dumpoffs he was required to stop. His tackling is still his best quality, and he maintained the same level of dominance there in 2019 as his stellar rookie campaign. His only two sacks both came against Detroit in week 13 against first-time starter David Blough, so take that with a grain of salt too. Chuck Pagano needs to make sure to scheme better for Roquan to move in space. If Danny Trevathan doesn’t come back next year, the pressure will be on Smith to do all the things he does so well while also being the main focus of all the second level blocking on inside runs. For what it’s worth, Smith was rated highly for his block-shedding coming out of college, so at least there’s hope.

If the Bears think they could do okay with replacing Trevathan with Nick Kwiatkoski, it would be Kwit’s excellent last few games that made his resume too much to pass up. He hadn’t played as many snaps as he did in 2019 since his rookie season, and the team and fans saw a kid who has developed from playing behind outstanding veterans and learned how to be a Swiss Army knife. He is a stud on special teams, but if the Bears end up letting Trevathan go and sign the cheaper Kwiatkoski, they might have to find a new replacement inside linebacker that can go make the plays he does on kick coverage. One of these two dudes leaves and is starting in a new uniform Week 1 of next year, it’s just a question of who. I personally think the Bears pay AR12 and let Danny walk, which hurts my heart but it is what it is.

I’m a sucker for Leonard Floyd but I kinda waxed too poetic about him in my team defense review, so I’m gonna skip it now. Just know, I say nice things about his ability to set the edge and I think the Bears should seriously consider re-signing him depending on how this year goes.

Khalil Mack is a hard player to write about because he really reminds me how amateur I am in all ways, even in talking about how awesome he is to watch. So many real journalists have poured over Mack that it almost feels pointless to say anything. His numbers could never truly represent exactly how much shit he ruins and how much his being on the field alters the very concept of the way the game is played. You know whenever any referee apologist says something like “well, there’s holding on every play” they’re right, but it’s kinda hard to focus on long enough to prove? Yeah, Khalil Mack gets chipped, double-teamed, and held on literally every single play. It’s like watching a created player in Madden that you just said “fuck it” on and made everything a 99 overall, but instead of shredding CPU lineman while quarterbacks takes seven-step drops, the AI actually gameplanned to stop Mack and half the time it still didn’t matter. The game would stop every play if they called holding on Khalil Mack the way they do for most other players, which is truly a blessing and a curse.

Basically, this linebacker corps has studs in all spots and maybe two quality backups. This offseason is gonna be a tough one, but hopefully the Bears linebackers go into 2020 being their strongest unit once again. That’s a special feeling that makes all Chicagoans do three things: look for that old Bears starter coat in their closet, pretend for one fleeting moment that Mike Ditka wasn’t a hardcore right wing drunken buffoon, and just vibe, baby.

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.