Football

Welcome back to our short series to hopefully get you a little more fired up for the draft that takes place in two short weeks, but let’s be real: anything that falls under live sports is just going to kill it since we’re all dying for something that isn’t a rerun. I’ll gladly take watching Mel Kiper talking over college football highlights instead of rewatching The Town for the tenth time in April.

Today we’ll be looking at some of the players that I’ve seen mocked to the Bears should they happen to stand pat and select players at picks 43 and 50.

 

The Linemen: 

The case for going after someone on the offensive line is painfully obvious to anyone who watched the Bears play offense last year. Protection was inconsistent and the run blocking was spotty at best. With the retirement of Kyle Long, the Bears need to shore up the inside of their line and hope the outside of the line continues to progress. Below you’ll find short scouting reports on two players the Bears could be looking at if they are still available in the second round.

Lloyd Cushenberry: IOL, LSU
I’ve seen Cushenberry mocked to the Bears, admittedly a lot less recently than initially. Throughout this process it looks like his stock has dropped a little bit after a superb week of workouts at the Senior Bowl lifted his stock to right around where the Bears pick. It looks like he will be there when the Bears pick in the second round, and while he has been touted as an almost immediate starter, there will undoubtedly be people wondering if Guard could be better filled between Alex Bars and Germain Ifedi while the Bears make a sexier pick here.

Caesar Ruiz: C, Michigan
Ruiz presents a similar upside if picked by the Bears as Cushenberry, however Ruiz is unquestionably the best interior offensive lineman in the draft this year. Bears fans might be bored by the pick, but watching any of his highlights will shut their stupid mouths quickly. His tape is dominant and it’s quick to see why he’s the most heralded prospect of the bunch. He would fit perfectly in Matt Nagy’s offense, since he has the speed and strength to peel off combo blocks and get to the second level on runs out of Nagy’s preferred read option look. The real question is if Ruiz will still be there at 43, given that he is being mocked anywhere from there on the low end all the way up to picks in the mid 20s.

 

The Receivers:

The 2020 wide receiver class is so stupid stacked with talent that it could go down as one of the best classes in NFL history. Since the Bears won’t have a crack at any of those top prospects, they could be looking at a wide receiver that isn’t the total package yet and needs a bit of time to develop. This is unfortunate when you look at how slow Javon Wims and Riley Ridley are coming along, but if the Bears added any of the following players I think the offense would instantly improve drastically. However, be advised that all of these players have also been previously mocked to any and all of the Bears division opponents.

Brandon Aiyuk: Arizona State
Aiyuk brings the speed and ability to go over the top that Taylor Gabriel brought the Bears when healthy, but while Gabriel was 5’7” and 168, Aiyuk is 6’0” and 205. Watch his highlight video and get excited. Aiyuk has tremendous breakaway speed and can take any route to the house. He causes separation that just can’t be coached or schemed, and on his highlight package there’s a double move he puts on an Oregon DB that made me laugh out loud.

Jaylen Reagor: TCU
Apparently Jaylen Reagor can squat 620 pounds, which is absolutely bonkers, but watching his tape shows someone who looks much faster than his combine 4.47 40 yard dash (and instead more like his preposterous 4.22 hand-timed 40 at TCU’s recent pro day). His pro comps are Stefon Diggs and Percy Harvin according to The Ringer, but unlike Harvin his tape is filled with him making high-point catches that you wouldn’t expect a 5’11” guy to make. He might make a better outside WR and therefore a better fit for the offense, but who knows if he can still win those jump balls against CBs that are 2-4 inches taller than him. As an added bonus, he runs the reverse so well it reminded me of early Randy Moss, back in those Vikings days when you held your breath every time he touched the ball.

Laviska Shenault Jr: Colorado
I had no idea who this dude was until draft season, but if there’s someone with better tape out there I haven’t seen it yet. I love this dude’s tape and will be a sucker and probably draft him in fantasy, which might actually be me putting a curse on him. Shenault is all over the field, bodying out DBs on slant routes, making contested catches in traffic, and also running the Wildcat with crazy success. Basically, he looks like Cordarrelle Patterson. He breaks away with a beautiful second gear, and if he does get caught, well, he led all draft eligible receivers with 46 broken tackles in the last two years. Most of the scouting reports I’ve seen on Shenault mention his lack of polish as a proper WR and how he will need an innovative offensive mind to get him involved, and maybe that makes Chicago an optimal fit for him.

Michael Pittman: USC
Most scouts don’t expect Pittman to be around when the Bears pick, which would be a shame because damn, he is so polished. When watching him play, he looks a lot like Allen Robinson and throughout this draft process he has often drawn comparisons to the Bears’ best offensive player. With that in mind, he is unbelievably talented and blocks as well as he runs routes. He has highlight tapes of him straight up Mossing college DBs, and while he might not fill the Taylor Gabriel/Tyreek Hill burner role in the offense, he is certainly capable of dominating NFL defensive backs. If the Bears got him and had him line up opposite Allen Robinson, I think Anthony Miller makes the Pro Bowl simply because safeties would be so preoccupied with shading towards the outside guys that Miller would feast on single coverage looks or filling the middle seams against Cover 2 or Cover 3 looks.

Is drafting an IOL or WR irresponsible when the Bears defensive secondary is missing half their starters from last year, and 3 of the 5 DBs that were on the field during their phenomenal 2018 season? I guess that’s up to the front office to decide. I have a feeling if the Bears stay at 43 and 50, you could see one of these names in a Bears jersey next season, and that’s not too bad. I think a lot of the signings Pace made in the second wave of free agency were designed to allow him to look at the best player available at almost every slot, so we’ll see! Shit, now I’m excited for draft season all over again. I hope you are too. We’ll be back on Thursday for part 2: the DB Derby.

Football

There is no other position on the football field that is judged more by the eye test and the offensive line. The QB was sacked from the left? Blame the left tackle. The inside run was stuffed out? Blame the guards. The center got called for holding? He sucks, bring in a new center. It’s a meathead’s paradise and we are all guilty of doing it.

Thankfully, offensive line statistics are available and provide us with actual proof that our eyes are not entirely tricking us into thinking someone sucks – they often do.

It’s not a surprise that the 2019 Chicago Bears O-Line was bad. Both visually to any fan of the team, and through the following stats that up the garbage up front.

Overall

  • Average Yards Per Rush = 3.7 yards (Ranked 28th of 32 Teams)
  • Rushing Touchdowns = 8 (28th of 32)
  • Sacks Against = 45 (12th most in the league)
  • QB Hits Against = 86 (18th most)

When Rushing To The Left Side

  • 1st Downs = 40 (8th of 32)
  • Negative Rushes = 13 (18th most)
  • 10+ Yards Rushes = 17 (18th most)
  • Power Rushes (Percentage of rushes on 3rd or 4th down with two or fewer yards to go that achieved a first down or TD. Also includes rushes on 1st-and-goal and 2nd-and-goal from the opponent’s 2-yard line or closer.) = 38 (Ranked last in the league)

When Rushing Up The Middle

  • 1st Downs = 16 (30th of 32)
  • Negative Rushes = 4 (29th most)
  • 10+ Yards Rushes = 5 (31st most)
  • Power Rushes =27 (Ranked last in the league)

When Rushing To The Right Side

  • 1st Downs = 29 (22nd of 32)
  • Negative Rushes = 13 (17th most)
  • 10+ Yards Rushes = 6 (Last)
  • Power Rushes =82 (6th most)

In taking a macro look into these numbers, you can see the 2019 Bears O-Line had the most trouble getting production from the center and both guard positions. James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, and Rashaad Coward are responsible for most of the damage, with Kyle Long and Ted Larsen also taking a portion of the blame.

James Daniels was a 2nd round pick from Iowa. This season was his 2nd with the Bears and I’m pretty sure this is yet another early pick by Ryan Pace that has yet to live up to the expectations set by being the 39th pick in the draft. Everyone likes to say that these young guys need experience, and that is true sometimes, but you expect a 2nd round pick to come in, play immediately, and improve dramatically in his second season. I am not sure we saw that improvement from Daniels.

Cody Whitehair is fine. He is Bears good, which makes him just OK on most other teams. His ability to play both guard positions is valuable as is his durability since 2016. Unbelievably, Whitehair had played in 99% of the team’s offensive snaps since becoming a Bear. Whitehair is a reliable guy who you can build an O-Line off of. Aside from Eddie Jackson, Whitehair has been the best Bears draft pick during the Pace regime.

If the Bears want improved play from the front-five, then Rashaad Coward is a guy who has to go. When you have a QB who needs time to get through his progressions, Coward is the last person you want protecting him. At best, he is a journeyman lineman who would be best serving as a 7th lineman that can play guard or tackle.

A year ago, Charles Leno was coming off a season in which he played in 99% of the team’s offensive snaps and did not commit single penalty. Fast forward a year later and Leno, who played the same amount of snaps as last year, committed 12 penalties. 12. With one more year remaining on a $38M contract, 2020 is a huge season for Leno, but only if he will be back with the club.

After a career in which he has played in every game from 2014-2018, Bobby Massie has gotten old quickly. Massie played his 7th season in 2019 and managed 10 starts. I believe Massie will be back against next, but this is due more to his pass protection than his run blocking. The tackle was called for only two penalties in 2019, which, as you know, was 10 fewer than his bookend tackle Charles Leno.

Offensive Line 2019 Grade: D

Football

vs

Saints (5-1) at Bears (3-2)

TV: FOX 32, 3:25 PM (GAME OF THE WEEK™)

Radio: WBBM 780 AM/105.9 FM

Aaaaaaand we’re back. The Bears come out of the bye and welcome the Teddy Bridgewater-led Saints into Soldier Field with a lot to prove.

The Saints arrive winners of four straight, games that can best be described as “winning ugly” – but wins nonetheless. New Orleans holds a slim lead in the NFC South on the back of this steak, but they’re no juggernaut. They rank middle of the pack in DVOA on offense and defense and really don’t do anything great, but they’ve done enough in most of their six games to eek out victories. Bridgewater is getting a lot of love for his play since Drew Brees went down, but it’s not exactly warranted. 41.2 QBR, 217 yards/game but seven TDs against two picks and only 10 sacks in a little under five full games. He’s protected the ball and moved the offense juuuuuust enough to get the job done, winning all four of his starts by one score.

Bridgewater looks like he’ll be without some of his better supporting cast on Sunday as Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook have both missed practice all week. The two rank second and third in targets, but team leader Michael Thomas will still suit up for what will be a tough matchup against Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller. The Saints boast one of the most under-appreciated weapons in the league’s best punter Thomas Morstead, recent special teamer of the month of September and the honor for last week after having five punts downed inside the 15-yard line. The Saints keep winning the battle of field position, and without some key offensive weapons that will be important on Sunday.

The Bears should be ready for all this, having two full weeks to prepare and get themselves in order after the semi-shock loss in London to the Raiders. And it’s really time for Matt Nagy to show everyone what he’s got. The 2018 coach of the year spent all off-season saying this offense was all set to hit a new gear, ready to score at will and produce touchdowns while running a special defense out every week – a championship contender in every sense. The results thus far leave a lot to be desired, injuries or not. Mitchell Trubisky is back, albeit with a restrictive sling on his non-throwing shoulder, and he has as much if not more to prove than his play-caller.

Will we see the inventive offense that was promised? Don’t expect fireworks out the gate, though it’s fair to think that the offensive line should be improved after the merciful IR-ing of Kyle Long. In comes Rashaad Coward and Alex Bars to save the day, or at least save the running game some space at the line of scrimmage and, hell, maybe even getting to the second level now and then. There have been a great many plays that appeared dead before the ball made it to a running back or the QB had finished his drop back. The Bears had to know as soon as the game ended in London that the switch from Long would be made and it’s fair to expect some immediate results against an up and down Saints defensive front. The key will be executing on first and third down, and Nagy spoke to the former earlier this week. Making first down plays count, run or pass, to keep themselves out of third and long will dictate success. It’s really that simple.

Chicago’s defense and Chuck Pagano will be ecstatic to see Kamara sidelined, but Latavius Murray (remember him?) has been solid in his own right playing backup, averaging 4.3 yards/carry in his limited role. There’s plenty to be concerned about after letting Josh Jacobs run wild seemingly all over England, but containing the run game and making Bridgewater try to beat them through the air is likely to lead to success. The loss of Akiem Hicks definitely hurts, but this is where Pace can show his drafting/signings are worth it with the depth he’s created.

This is the Show Me game for Chicago and Nagy. Show me you’re that Coach of the Year, and not a Juron-esque fluke. Show me you can game plan for your young, struggling QB to be successful. Show me you can clean up the lapses on defense and stop an NFC leader on your home turf.

SHOW US WHAT YOU GOT!

Prediction: Bears 19, Saints 10

Football

Daaaaaaa Bears are back at Halas Hall and practicing this week after the long week off following the loss in London. They’re not whole, though. Kyle Long was mercifully decommissioned on Monday, hitting IR without a designated to return rider. Akiem Hicks isn’t on IR, but Matt Nagy casually said he hopes to see his disruptive DT back THIS SEASON…so, uhh, maybe we’ll see him by Turkey Day?

Mitchell Trubisky, Taylor Gabriel and Bilal Nichols were all back, though, so it’s not all bad. And the Bears look out at an odd, changing NFC that still holds a path to the postseason if they can navigate it all well from here.

Where we left off

The Bears are 3-2, good for third in the division. They lost two games they probably should have won, but won at least one they shouldn’t have, so we’ll call it even. The fairy tale of a near injury-free 2018 has turned into a crowded trainer’s room in 2019: Trubs, Gabriel, Nichols, Hicks, Trey Burton, half or more of the O-Line…all missing time through five games.

The off week comes at a good time getting a good amount of that list back for Week 7, and while the loss of Long may actually end up being a positive (more on that later) the arm injury to Hicks is a major blow. Nichols will need to step in and contribute right away and more is needed from the already pleasant surprise of Roy Robertson-Harris. Hey, it’s not all bad. They still have Khalil Mack.

Trubs back under center remains an uncertainty, but anyone that wants to argue they’re better with Chase Daniel is lying to you and themselves. Mitch is the guy, for better or worse. Nagy getting the best out of him and the offense is still the key to the way this team is built. The revamped offensive line helping to open up the run game is probably what helps Mitch and Nagy more than just getting the QB1 back.

Dan Durkin at the Athletic penned a massive article you can go read if you want, but it basically boils down to the big bodies up front getting to the second level and giving the backs something to work with. There’s more to it than that, but it boils down to better play in the trenches going a long way to offensive success.

State of the NFC…and path to the playoffs? 

The NFC North is incredibly tight. The Packers are in control at 5-1 after a very, um, oddly officiated MNF win over the Lions last night. Detroit drops to 2-2-1, but they look better than expected thus far. Minnesota is going to look great and then awful week to week, but currently sit at 4-2 after a big win over Philadelphia. So the Pack sit in the driver’s seat, but they’re banged up on offense and might be carried by the defense for the first time in…ever? The division is still very much in play, but for a team that needs to create their own identity, the Bears should focus on winning each week one at a time.

That mentality starts now, with a home date and the 5-1 Saints ahead. Beyond that, games against the Eagles, Lions x2, and Rams will all hold bigger weight than a single win as they could come into play as tie-breakers in the NFC playoff picture. If the Bears aren’t at eight wins by December, that big SNF matchup with Dallas won’t be big at all. Can Nagy get it all going well enough to go 5-2 from now until December? A final month of games with the Cowboys, Packers, Chiefs and Vikings sets up for some real excitement if this team can get things sorted out.

That’s a very big “if” at the moment.

Football

Woof. I know. Let’s just move on.

As the Bears return from their off-week (Eric Zorn correctly pointed out that calling it a “bye” isn’t correct, and we have only the highest of standards here as you well know) they certainly aren’t without some news. And none of it is particularly good or up-lifting.

This morning head coach Matt Nagy made it clear that Akiem Hicks is going to be out a while, and quite possibly the rest of the season. When you’re saying you’re hopeful he can return before the end of the season, we can safely assume that nothing before Thanksgiving is a possibility and quite possibly a couple weeks after that. Whether Hicks can even be effective after so much time out and not really being able to use his arm the whole time is another question, though one we’d like to find out more than just seeing him not return at all.

We saw what the defensive line looked like without him last week, which was not life-affirming. Bilal Nichols‘s return helps a little, but he is not the Hot Gates that Hicks has been the past couple seasons. And while the win against the Vikings proved the Bears do have some depth, you don’t want to be pressing into that too much more before you don’t have that depth.

On the plus side, at least for one week, the Saints offensive line isn’t the mass of humanity that the Raiders’ one is, depending on more of the zone-blocking and nimbleness that the Bears cut through against Minnesota. On the downside, that Raiders game is now on film and whatever team can in any way emulate that is going to. And Sean Payton, despite being a world-class asshole, is also one of the brighter offensive minds around. Didn’t stop him from getting stonewalled by the Jaguars, so there’s that. Bite down on something and get through it is going to be the order of the day with the defensive line for the foreseeable future.

The less surprising, but in some ways more sad, was the report yesterday that Kyle Long will be IR’d. Long has looked awful all season, with the word “finished” becoming more and more often used to describe him. He has graded out as one of the worst linemen in the league each week, and it would appear that all the injuries he has dealt with in the past few years have completely caught up to him. He couldn’t get to the second-level, as his mobility that was once a feature is completely gone. He couldn’t even avoid getting blown off the line at the first level, run or pass, which has complicated what the Bears want to do and prevented them from either running the ball or getting it down the field in the air. Long wasn’t the only problem on the line, but he was not an insignificant one either.

The options behind him are either unappetizing or unknown but, and I take no pleasure in saying this, they almost certainly can’t be worse. Ted Larsen has his own injury issues, which would leave either Rashaad Coward or a promotion from the practice squad for Alex Bars. The latter holds some real promise, even if it comes in a very un-shapened mass of clay right now. He has the biggest upside, though to go from the practice squad to effective in games is a huge leap.

It’s hard not to feel that the biggest bummer of Long’s season ending is that it almost certainly ends his Bears career, if not his career altogether. Long will join the list of many, many Bears of recent vintage who were great players on only bad to mediocre teams. He got to play in one playoff game, which was last year. Most at the time greeted his drafting as a missed opportunity (or worse if you’re Hub Arkush), and then he went on to immediately be just about the only bright spot on the offensive line for years. He quickly became a team staple and leader, and it just sucks that he mostly won’t get to participate in what we still hope is the top part of the cycle for the Bears. The dude is like half bionic now, and yet he kept getting out there and until this year was mostly very good at his job.

He deserved better than this, but football has a tendency to not really care about that sort of thing. Time catches up to you hard in the NFL, and it appears it snagged another captive in Long.

Football

So what do we make of this loss and the 3-2 record at the bye? On the one hand, the Bears looked bad for most of three quarters against a bad team and the game was still there to be won and they gave it away. On the other, they were missing two of three starters on the d-line, and were with a backup QB who proved last year he can get you out of one game but not much more. Just one of those days?

Tony Martin (@MrMartinBruh): For about ten minutes, I was optimistic that the Bears would’ve somehow gotten to the bye at 4-1 and had a week to get healthy and make a real push. This one stung, for more reasons than one. The defense got pushed around, that special teams sequence that gave Oakland a first down on the eventual game winning drive was awful, and the offense once again abandoned the running game.  Honestly, Daniel played well enough to win the game, but they just didn’t have enough. That first half was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen as a football fan.

I didn’t see Chuck Pagano blitz too much today, and the Bears got run on in a way that I haven’t seen in a long time. Get well soon, Akiem.
Brian Schmitz: As I wrote, I am under the impression that this team may not be as good as everyone thought they were. The offensive line is either really hurt or really bad, but they are probably both. The run game is nonexistent. But MOST importantly, the offense is getting out-schemed at every turn. That is where the truth lies.
Tony: I’m pretty sure Kyle Long is either done mentally or no longer physically effective. He is becoming an actual detriment on the offensive line. In fact, the line is one of the biggest problems with this team. No matter who is at QB, they’re being rushed and there are no real seams opening up for the running game unless David Montgomery is creating them via the cutback.
Is there any tweak to the o-line or offense over the bye that you’d like to see? Or is even possible? Obviously new personnel isn’t really an option. 
Tony: The offensive line simply needs to improve, by any means necessary in my opinion. You’d think it would be obvious to Nagy, who works with the most fearsome defensive line in the NFL, that if his offensive line isn’t holding up to switch it up to shorter dropbacks and quick hitting plays. The Bears have been beaten this year on defense when the quarterback gets rid of the ball quickly and the running game is established; I’m wondering when he game plans similarly for his own offense.
Brian: The only way to tweak the O-Line would be to put them in a better position to succeed. Which would entail more roll outs in the passing game and more outside runs in the running game. Getting outside in the run game requires your TE’s and receivers to be responsible enough to block. So basically, we are asking out skill guys to run block because the line cannot. This will assuredly end well.
Tony: Kyle Long- as Lizzo said: “I’m crying because I love you (but you probably shouldn’t be starting at guard)”
Football

Hello! This is something I did at FanSided last year. But Fansided is dumb and evil, so I’m bringing it to you, the people. It’s not mean to be serious, because you shouldn’t take the NFL and the Bears seriously.

You Can Only Get Away With A Backup Defensive Line For So Long

For one week, the Bears rolled in backups, beer vendors, and a couple janitors into the rotation against the Vikings and they were all getting to pose behind the line after making a play. They didn’t need Akiem Hicks or Bilal Nichols that week, and you wondered if they were just unearthing people like Sarumon and the Urukai. But there’s a reason Hicks is an All-Pro level player, and you’re supposed to struggle to replace him. Trying to do it for a second straight week showed that.

Without Hicks, the Raiders seemed to figure out they could throw multiple people at Khalil Mack and Eddie Goldman, and no one else was going to be able to make them stop. And that’s how it proved. We’re doing the Leonard Floyd early-season thing, where we wonder why he isn’t running wild when only facing one guy. Backups proved to be backups. It’s football, injuries happen, and they determine a lot of what will happen in January. It went well for the Bears last year, which is why it still feels like such a missed opportunity.

If Hicks’s elbow suddenly putting up a carnival tent inside his skin keeps him out long-term, it’s a huge problem. Especially for however long Nichols is out along with it. Once you get your backups on film, you give everyone a chance to see what they can and can’t do. The Raiders and Jon Gruden pretty quickly figured out what they couldn’t. At least the Bears will know what’s coming.

You Can Only Get Away With Your Backup QB For So Long

It shouldn’t have been a surprise, because we did this last year. Chase Daniel gets you out of the Thanksgiving game, as backup QBs are kind of designed to do. Get you out of a game. One. Two is pushing it. So the next week, Daniel made enough plays to keep the Bears in it against the Giants when the defense took the week off, but he also made enough plays to get you beat. He got you out of the Vikings game. Here comes a second straight game with him behind center, and boy didn’t it look the same? Enough plays to give you the lead, enough plays that put you in that hole to begin with and then lost you the game. That’s kind of what a non-starting QB in the NFL looks like. There’s a reason every rule is meant to protect starting quarterbacks. Your season is fucked if they get hurt.

There were two sacks at least that were from Daniel holding the ball too long, possibly because he’s not much taller than a fire hydrant. In more Rex Grossman comparisons, he has a nasty habit of running straight backwards when under pressure instead of stepping up, possibly because stepping up into the pocket would cut off his vision even more. He should have had three INTs, got bailed out by a roughing-the-passer call for one (and game-changing penalties appear to just be things that are going to happen every week). The other two were bad.

He didn’t get much help. It went a touch overlooked in the buildup to the season, but the Bears couldn’t really run the ball last year. We pinned it on Jordan Howard or Matt Nagy’s over-creative nature, but there weren’t many places for Howard to run. We wanted to think the more explosive and elusive David Montgomery and another year of Nagy’s schemes would get around it. Yeah, well, Kyle Long is made of more spare parts than the car they give Matt Damon at the end of “Good Will Hunting.” Charles Leno was doing his own version of Hamilton out there, and has been. Again, switching Whitehair and James Daniels…was that really so clean?

The difference in football is that you can’t solve it from outside the organization. In the other three sports, if your right fielder can’t hit or your second-line left-winger gets hurt or you need a new small forward, there’s a trade deadline for that. Football doesn’t work that way. How do you solve this internally though?

Everyone Is An Expert On Jet Lag Now

This was an argument making the rounds right around the second quarter, and it was the Bears decision to fly out to London on Thursday evening, arriving Friday morning. What it ignored was that the last time the Bears had to do this, they thwacked the Buccaneers after flying out on Thursday. Most teams fly out on the Thursday. They get a plane you and I will never see. They have experts on this we don’t. They weren’t attempting to sleep in a coach seat next to the smelly guy while sitting up. It’s fine. Whatever. They lost because they got their ass whipped, not because they were groggy. Shut up.

Football
This week the major matchups seemed to be the same on each side, so Tony Martin and I split the work for your reading pleasure. He wanted to be called “DJ Yung Milwaukee”. Please, ask him about it. 
Tony on the Broncos Defensive Front vs. Bears Offensive Line:
I’ll be spending this guest verse breaking down the Chicago offensive line and how they line up against the front 7 of Denver. I think most of us will have our eyes on this matchup but on the other side of the ball (no pressure, Wes), but honestly the Bears offensive line was a wet fart last Thursday night so there’s a real concern there for me.
Our boys came out and got blown up by Green Bay in week one. Lorin Cox @TheBearsWire has an outstanding All-22 breakdown, but the TLDR is that it’s fucking bad out there. Missed assignments, poor communication, and an overall inability to read the scheme that Green Bay was running plagued the offensive line all night. The Packers literally rushed three men and still got pressure because the Bears had no idea what they were looking at pre-snap.
Cody Whitehair looked lost when the Packers started running stunts, and James Daniels looked over-matched all night (see: that 3rd and 1 FB dive with Patterson). Pressure came from all sides of the pocket, and Mitch struggled to even set his feet or make his second read before the line was getting pushed back.
It’s not easy to think about these problems, especially paired with the fact that Vic Fangio knows this team already and has an idea of what sort of looks or schemes will work against the Bears’ offensive line. Derek Wolfe might have a huge game, but he has the potential to underwhelm if last week was any indication.
You don’t need me to tell you that Bradley Chubb and Von Miller are gonna wreck shit. Expect a lot of chips, extra blockers, and a reliance on whatever back they feel gives them the best pass protection on 3rd and long.
This one might get ugly, gang. The silver lining is that it’s still early and those tweaks can happen as the line gels, with 40% of them moving back to their “original positions”. I’m expecting this to be an area where Denver is stronger than the Bears, but I’m hoping the offense can still establish some consistency and give the skill position players opportunities to shine.
Wes on the Bears Defensive Front vs Broncos Offensive Line:
Thanks, DJ Yung Milwaukee. I feel zero pressure (as I’m hoping Mitch will as well on Sunday) since you actually asked to be called that. Anyway….
Denver Offensive Line coach Mike Munchak is likely as nervous as he’s ever been, given he’s got at least one, possibly two, starters on the shelf as he preps for Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks, Roy Robertson-Harris and the rest of the vaunted Chicago pass rush. No pressure, Mike.
The parts of the Denver OL that were able to stay healthy in Week 1 actually graded out really well (per PFF’s metrics), with steady LT Garett Bolles leading the unit to allowing only six QB pressures all night. Rookie LG Dalton Risner was actually graded the highest, likely getting a slight bump from playing between the veterans Bolles and C Connor McGovern. But you have to factor in that Oakland’s defensive front will never be mistaken for the Bears (unless it’s 2016-ish), so take those grades with a small pile of salt.
Now, those injuries. RT Ja’Wuan James is rated (and paid) as a top tackle in the league, so missing him will be a massive blow for this unit. Add in that starting RG Ronald Leary could also miss the game and Mack, Hicks, et al have to be fighting over who gets to line up over the right side all Afternoon.
Third year pro Elijah Wilkinson will take over for James, and while he filled in capably enough in a losing effort on Monday, facing the Bears is a whole other level of Hell he’s never seen. If Leary is even a partial participant we’ll see a steady dose of rookie Austin Schlottmann at Guard on the right side as well, meaning 2/5 of the line and 2/3 of the interior will be essentially starting their careers. The emergence of Roberson-Harris last week is not looking like it’ll slow down in Week 2.
The top unit was also stymied for the most part in being able to run block efficiently, helping the team to one rush of 26 yards but only producing 69 (nice) on over 20 other total carries. Chicago allowed only 47 yards to Green Bay on 22 carries of their own last week, so Denver could find the sledding quite difficult in Week 2.
Overall, this appears to a glaring mismatch, one that could potentially put the Bears over the edge so long as they can protect the football when they have it. Chicago’s edge and interior, not to mention the improving Roquan Smith and highly intelligent Danny Trevathan behind them, should have their way with the battered Denver OL all day.
I expect a lot of posing and maybe a spike or two if the Bear defense can get into the end zone on Sunday.
https://twitter.com/AdamHoge/status/1171856309454540807
Football

Hello there. This is something I did at FanSided last year, except FanSided is evil and you deserve it more here. This isn’t meant to be totally serious, because nothing with the Bears can ever be totally serious. If you’ve come for hardcore analysis, you’ll have to wait on that. But at least now I don’t to worry about fucking slideshows and tagging photos correctly. Much more my style. 

10 Days Is Far Too Long For A Narrative

Because you know that’s what you’re going to get. Adding three days between games means everyone is going to talk about PRESEASON for 42% longer than they normally would have, and what they normally would have would have been insufferable anyway. Most of the bleating about starters not taking reps in four games that don’t mean anything and can only get you hurt is going to come from guys who went through two-a-days while getting cat o’ nine tail’d by a very angry dipshit with sunburns on 75% of his body, and they’re going to take those regrets out on someone on TV and in print. And if it’s not those guys doing it, it’s guys who wanted to be those guys doing it, or guys who went drinking with those guys doing it, and so on.

Yeah, the Bears offense looked like shit last night, and so did the Packers’. Neither did anything with the real jerseys on in August, and it’s easy to connect those two things. It’s probably not even wrong, though it seems to ignore that the Bears did the same thing last year and the offense looked pretty zippy when it came out in Green Bay before Matt Nagy somehow turtled under his visor (and let’s face it, the reason the Bears lost is because Nagy didn’t keep wearing the fedora he entered the stadium with throughout the game).

No one can argue that everyone wouldn’t have benefitted from a rep or two more, but that won’t change the NFL preseason to not being stupid and evil and greedy. And considering the vanilla stuff all teams run in preseason games to not give anything away, I’m unsure how much it translates to when teams run their real stuff in the first game. Oh, there will be teams that look ultra-sharp come Sunday, and a lot of pointing with exclamations of, “SEE?!” But then the next week a whole different set of teams will look sharp and the teams that looked sharp will look like shit and what will be the explanation for that? It’s just annoying that there will be more space to fill.

Critics Of Mitch Will Get Through The O-Line Faster Than The Packers Did

Any rational Bears fan, if such a thing is in the wild, knew before the season that inconsistency was going to be part of the game with Mitch. I’m inclined to toss his whole rookie season out, given the horse-feed-brain nature of the coaching staff. So this is at most his 2.5th (nd? rd?) year. The fact that it came against the Packers, in primetime, in the first game of the year, after last year’s first game of the year, has this amazing ability to white-out any logic from our minds. But you didn’t become a fan to be rational and logical, and that’s ok. We save that for the rest of our lives (maybe).

What’s of more concern is that the offensive line put up as much resistance to an oncoming force as the volunteers at Wicker Park Fest. Little seemed to have been made in the preseason of the switching James Daniels and Cody Whitehair between center and left guard, and I guess I took that to mean it was always coming. And yet any blitz the Packers came up with, or even a simple line stunt…sorry, let me correctly Doug and OB that…LINE STUNT the Packers did, the entire line became a Dali painting.

We can bemoan the play-calling and QB play, and you’re not wrong, but what contributed to that was Matt Nagy not being sure what they could actually block. There wasn’t time, most of the time, to get the ball down the field, or to open up holes for a run game (that would have gone to Sec. 106’s beer vendor ahead of the three RBs on the roster, apparently). That should be of much bigger concern, because neither Nagy or Mitch are going to be able to do much if the roving hordes get to plunder and pillage in the backfield at their leisure.

Perhaps it’s just a fit and time thing, and not that Kyle Long might just be old and completely bionic at this point and Bobbie Massie never felt like he was all that good anyway. But not even Mitch can torpedo this season as quickly as a dysfunctional offensive line will.

Creativity Is Going To Spill Over At Times

I get as angry as anyone at times when Matt Nagy appears to get way too cute with his play-calling. But it’s hard to think of mad offensive geniuses who don’t. Andy Reid has been wearing that label for 20 years. Certainly all of his proteges have. You lived through the Mike Martz Route Tree (which isn’t as hard as any of the defensive systems the Hawks run, or so they’d have you believe). Brady and Belichick never get that label, but that’s something you clearly can’t recreate. Perhaps we just have to accept it’s going to happen at times and just pray it’s not at the critical juncture. Which sadly, it’s been the last two times we’ve seen the Bears.

And even if I could get past that, it’s on Nagy that his team, and himself, didn’t look ready to play. And the one that sticks out is the second delay of game penalty one a 3rd quarter drive, and getting two delay of games on one drive is some serious how-does-this-work-what-does-this-button-do shit. Somehow, in my new phase of trying to be positive and forgiving (it’s going great), I could let the first one with 10 guys on the field go, even though that’s also a sign of massive unpreparedness. I think sometimes coaches are too panicky with timeouts, and five yards–depending on field position and time–isn’t worth losing the timeout.

However, the Bears had gotten to the Packers 28 in the third, and took the second one. Was no one paying attention to the clock? Did no coach start screaming about it? Because 3rd-and-5 is something you want to keep ahead of 3rd-and-10 and is worth a timeout, especially when it becomes the line between trying a field goal or not. Or having a makable 4th down. How does everyone miss this?

If all these things are relegated to the first week and kink-ironing-out (back to the cat o’ nine tails, I see), fine. But that is some disheartening-ass shit right there.

Football

That time again. Our Bears wing breaks down whatever they thought was important, and wasn’t, from the Bears’ trip to New Jersey. 

What did we learn in the second preseason game?

Tony Martin: Marvin Hall does not make this team, unfortunately. If Kerrith Whyte Jr can provide 4 phase special teams play, Hall is toast since Whyte can return kicks if Patterson can’t and will have more use in the offense. I was pumped to see what Marvin Hall could bring to the team, but he’s really just mini Taylor Gabriel and with how low-accuracy Trubisky has been on his deep throws, we don’t need two pure burners on the 53.

-James Vaughters looked good, and the backup LB competition is going to be the most fun story these last few weeks of preseason.
-Do the Bears have any serviceable tight ends behind Burton? Is Burton even going to be healthy this year?
-Kyle Long is making me nervous.
Wes French: Matt Nagy is making himself the story, and it might be that he’d stupid like a fox…or John Fox is going to be super excited to rip him when this blows up in his face. 

The head coach’s decision to keep his first unit out of the preseason almost completely is the new narrative for me. Teams have come to treat preseason about the same all around the league for years in the four game format, with starters playing maybe 1-2 series in game one, a quarter or so in game two, a full half+ in the game three “dress rehearsal” and then not at all in the final game. Recent years have seen more discussion about the length of preseason, if it’s necessary, if the risk of injury is worth it as men work to get up to game speed. 
To my knowledge, Nagy and Ryan Pace are the first HC/GM to use the padded practices (also becoming increasingly restricted) mainly on the first units and leave the preseason games to focus on the deeper aspects of the roster. There won’t be any way to tell what effect it has on those units until the season opens for real, but I have to admit I’m a fan of the process so far. More reps against tougher competition for the guys fighting for roles and roster spots will give Nagy and Pace that much more to work with when final cuts come at the end of the month. 
Maybe we’ll get the first teams for a few snaps in the penultimate game, but I say they should just lean into this exercise fully and let anyone currently “on the bubble” start next week. I want to see if Kerrith Whyte can do more than 10 yards on six carries or James Vaughters can repeat that electric performance against a very good Colts offensive line. 
Oh, and just toss Carolina a conditional pick for Joey Slye already. Fry missed his lone FG attempt, Pineiro was 2/2, but it just doesn’t feel like they believe in him. Slye is now 5/5 with two of those from over 54 yards, one of which came at Soldier Field. 
Tony: I like Nagy’s approach, not gonna lie. Keep the starters out of the preseason. Might it affect how quickly they start executing when the season begins? Possibly, but I would gladly trade a slow start in week one for the ensured total health of the starters for this team.
…Aaaaaaaand Fry got waived. Hello Canada!
Wes: Good for him.  What’re your thoughts on trading for Slye? I know they already did that for Pineiro but teams don’t just discard kickers anymore when they’ve got one. I think if there was someone worth signing off the street they’d already be here. 
Brian Schmitz: I am a firm believer that whatever the patriots do is the right thing to do, so in this case, I’m with Wes in thinking that the starters need to get a little burn in the preseason so the live bullets aren’t completely foreign to them when they line up against the pack in less than 3 weeks. 

Pat O’Donnell has had a great preseason thus far. This is important because of the subpar season Pat-O had last year. Punting is a position that is as much about confidence as it is about talent, so for a guy who may have some doubt in his mind coming it to this season, coming out and averaging over 50 per pop is a huge relief for a team that is not very good on special teams at this point. 
Sidenote: John Franklin had one of true great pass break ups these eyes have ever seen…just sayin. 
Tony: People like Slye a lot, and I can see why. Screw it, bring him in. Can’t hurt.