Football

Welcome back to uh, football season? With the uncertainty of COVID 19’s impact on the logistical aspects of the upcoming NFL season (not to mention everyone’s life), this league year is off to the most unique start any of us have ever seen. I’m not going to wax poetic about how this unique situation is allowing teams to manipulate players with the rescinding of contracts that were agreed upon in principle, my condolences to Leonard Floyd. 

I’m a big fan of the NFL Draft, mostly because a majority of my Bears fandom since my birth in 1986 has found the Bears drafting fairly high in the first round. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years reading mocks, dreaming of the perfect draft scenarios that would allow the team to select whoever it was that I had fallen in love with during the process. Of course, I am almost always wrong and I’d like to once more extend my condolences to Leonard Floyd. 

The last two seasons, however, I haven’t been as in love with the draft because I have no idea how to scout or watch tape on players in the top 50, compared to the top 15. The national media doesn’t spend as much time looking at the differences between Jeremy Chinn and Antoine Winfield Jr as they did looking at the differences between Malik Hooker and Jamal Adams, the ladder comparison being irrelevant since the Bears would end up drafting our savior Eddie Jackson in the 4th. However, I’ve been doing some research on a lot of the players being mocked to the Bears and I think I’ve got some takes on who might be available in round two. 

This year, like last year, the Bears are without a first round pick. However, unlike last year, the Bears are in a unique position, if I’m reading the tea leaves correctly. I have a feeling that lots of teams will be putting forth effort to compile picks for next year’s draft. With the pandemic shutting down various pro days and private workouts, teams are going into the later rounds with less of a feel for those late round gems simply due to a lack of exposure. I believe the Bears can use this to their advantage. 

Ryan Pace never stays put in the draft, and he has to know how hesitant other teams will be to invest capital into players they haven’t seen personally. Is this the time to try to move up with some of those later round picks? Currently, the Bears hold picks 43, 50, 140, 163, 196, 200, 226, and 233. I believe that they can maximize their picks by moving up and sacrificing some of next year’s mid to late round draft capital. I keep hearing about the quality of depth in this draft, and I would be thrilled if the Bears maneuvered their way into getting 5 picks in the top 150. 

I have confidence in Pace’s ability to find gold in the later rounds of the draft, but if you’re like me and you think the Bears are 3-4 impact players away from seriously competing for a championship, it might be worth it to sacrifice quantity for perceived quality. If the Bears find 3 above average starters in this draft, the value of next year’s sacrificed picks also goes down by way of being lower in the draft order. 

This week, I’ll be looking at several of the players being mocked to the Bears at 43 or 50, in the hopes that not only do the Bears stay put, but they land two instant contributors and those players fill those spots admirably. The players we’re going to take a look at will be:

Xavier McKinney (S, Alabama) 

Antoine Winfield Jr (S, Minnesota) 

Lloyd Cushenberry (IOL, LSU) 

Brandon Aiyuk (WR, Arizona) 

Jaylen Reagor (WR, TCU) 

Cesar Ruiz (OL, Michigan) 

Jeremy Chinn (S, SIU) 

Michael Pittman (WR, USC) 

We’ll break them up into two different articles, one looking at offense and one looking at defense. On a side note: it’s good to be back and I hope you and yours are safe in this crazy ass time. 

Football

AKA #Chuckstrong

The Bears dropped from the 1st overall defense in DVOA in 2018 down to 8th in 2019, the first year under Chuck Pagano’s watch. Why is that? Was it the offense constantly trying to get off the field as quickly as possible? Was it the key injuries to certain starters, or the loss of half the secondary in free agency? Was it due to the Bears playing Football Outsiders’ #1 toughest schedule of 2019, or simply just statistical variance?

I don’t know, if I did I’d be coaching the Bears defense (spoiler alert: I run a lot of 0 coverage so I’m sorry in advance). However, I did smoke a bunch of LEGAL weed and read PFF and Football Outsiders to get to the bottom of this hypothetical question.

The Good:

Roquan Smith is gonna be the fuckin dude in the middle, y’all. The Bears numbers against the run aren’t very impressive on paper, but metrics put the Bears as the 3rd and 6th overall defense from the Second-Level and Open Field metrics (runs beyond the defensive line). Pagano is letting his second level swarm to the ball, and the groundwork is there for the Bears to once again have the best LB corps in the league, provided they resign Danny Trevathan.

The defense looked good against the teams they should have. I know, that seems like a backhanded compliment, right? It’s not. 2018’s loss to the Giants (even with Chase Daniel at QB) was caused by a defense that could not stop Saquon Barkley and an awful Giants offense. This year’s Bears defense put shitty teams down and held them there, but of course the offense still managed to blow it against both LA teams, Oakland (debatable), and the first Packers game. As Bears fans, we gotta take pride in beating the teams they should beat because this franchise plays down to their opponents so much you’d think it was commonplace.

This is where I officially state my case for Leonard Floyd: he is absolutely a starting-caliber outside linebacker. His numbers as a pass rusher are not great, but Pagano utilized him in the best possible way: setting the edge in the run game. He was most certainly not worth the price the Bears paid for him in the draft, but if he walks the Bears will most likely downgrade with his replacement.

The Bad:

If we can expect variance to be part of the year to year process, we see it in turnovers. The Bears simply did not take the ball away like they did last year. The Bears averaged 1.2 takeaways per game in 2019, compared to 2.2 per game in 2018. The other defenses with a 1.2 takeaway per game average in 2019? Jacksonville, Atlanta, Cleveland, Philadelphia. The Eagles were the only team that made the playoffs that finished outside the top 13 in that stat. If the Bears defense wants to come back to elite status, here is where the change needs to come.

Pagano was touted as a man-blitz schemer, but these Bears only blitzed on 23.5% of snaps, the 8th lowest percentage in the league. Going back to the Leonard Floyd bit, Pagano needs to scheme this guy free with blitzes or some other wizardry, because he still has elite closing speed (though sometimes struggles to finish). The Bears have elite blitzers in the back 7 at all levels, and Pagano needs to bring that heat from weird places more often.

According to Football Outsiders, the Bears ranked 22nd in the league in pass rush efficiency, and I’d say that’s about right. The loss of Hicks and the preponderance of man-coverage fronts instead of the Fangio Man/Zone hybrids created less pressure from the Bears 4 man rush. As a result, this defense didn’t play up to the lofty expectations we all had.

The Weird:

Pagano let the DBs play their preferred style all year long, which is maybe a good thing or a bad thing. I’m not sure so I’m putting it here.

The Future:

Here are the names of the starting players on the defense with expiring contracts:
Trevathan
Clinton-Dix
McManis (special teams counts and you know it)
Kwiatkoski

You gotta assume at least two of these players leave, right? There’s no way the team splits their core special teams up entirely by getting rid of Kwit and McManis, so one of them stays. I think the Bears re-sign Danny and McManis, and they will look to get another one year prove it deal with a former first round safety. My money is on Karl Joseph.

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.

Football

Our Bears wing gets together to sift through the rubble of the now-over 2019 season.

So now that the season will officially end in two weeks, what are you feeling?

Brian Schmitz: To be honest, I actually feel better about this team than I did 4, 8, 12 weeks ago. I was never on this Super Bowl bandwagon, because it had, and has, some gaping holes. But it’s encouraging to know that Mitch Trubisky can play and excel at this level, with this team. Montgomery is in the same boat.

 The coach needs a re-boot this off-season, and it starts by looking at himself, which leads to his in-game play calls. An improved O-Line and a real tight end will make a huge difference next season. Finally, the Bears will play a 3rd/4th place schedule next season, similar to 2018.

 

Tony Martin: This season just hurt a little bit more because while I was also doubting the Super Bowl hype, the regression was painful to watch and the Bears did not play fun football. It makes me wonder if it’s worse to lose like a Jameis Winston team or like a Mitch Trubisky team. I hope the tight end room grows stronger, the offensive line gets their shit together, and the playcalling improves. Since Week 1, Nagy has called plays that resemble the gameplan of a 14-year-old playing Madden online while using a new playbook. I’m hoping Mitch calling him out again in the post-game will reap benefits next year, because Mitch is sticking his neck out to win, not simply to start a pissing contest. 

As for how this season makes me feel, like I said it felt like a nightmare. Even when they won it felt gross. Even when they lost games we expected them to lose they made it close enough to sting more than usual. This team has quite the offseason ahead of themselves, and it’s going to tell us exactly what Nagy and Pace can do and if they’ll be part of the future. Or fuck it, if next year starts off poorly the Bears have enough assets to get 10 picks in the first two rounds of the 2021 draft, which they will immediately use seven of on undersized small school skill position players. 

Wes French: I’m feeling more like Tony than Brian.  The regression was stark, and while we all knew it was inevitable on defense the offense was supposed to take a leap. Nagy went from Coach of the Year to potential first firing of the 2020 season if he can’t get the playcalling and offense as a whole sorted out. Mitch calling him out in the media lately is very telling; I think it speaks to more people in the room agreeing with him than Nagy. We’ll see what they do about it. 

The Bears dealt with some key injuries as well, but Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd and Roquan Smith have to go down as major disappointments. Mack and Floyd seemingly disappeared after Week 4 and Smith had that weird inactive stretch. He did come back and look good only to go down to injury, leaving him with questions to answer instead of being discussed as an anchor in 2020.

Tony: The last play of the Packers game is a perfect encapsulation of the Bears season: they backed themselves into a corner, Nagy drew something up that was unique/interesting, and it wasn’t a fit for the personnel they had on the field. Look at the guys who ran that last route: Allen Robinson, Tarik Cohen, Cordarrelle Patterson, Anthony Miller, and… Jesper Horsted. Naturally the ball fell into Horsted’s hands and his lack of awareness in that moment caused him to hold onto the ball too long, and just like the 2019 Bears he wasn’t prepared to make the play to win the game (or tie it, to be more accurate). 

Riley Ridley, maybe? Javon Wims? David Montgomery? Players you expect to have the ball skills to advance a lateral like that, a la Kenyon Drake in last year’s Miami Miracle? The 2019 Chicago Bears: a real fuckin head-scratcher.

 

There will obviously be time for season autopsies in a couple weeks, but let’s turn to the defense. If there’s one criticism of them this year is that they didn’t take the ball away enough. The defensive scoring is not something you can count on, but are the turnovers just cyclical/market correction too? Or is that going to have to be a focus next year?

Wes: The Bears paced the league in 2018 at 36 takeaways, which currently leads the league in 2019 (Evil Empire NE). The 2018 top five was rounded out by CLE, LAR, HOU and DEN. All five teams have dropped to the middle of the pack in 2019, landing between 16-18 total takeaways so far. I think this speaks to the cyclical nature of the turnover game, and the Bears were even more of an outlier because we did see them score so many times off of them in 2018. 

You can argue you’d expect them to do better than halving the number from the year before, but even that’s picking nits IMO. I do think you could say the lack of consistent pressure on the QB and getting hands on the ball at the line of scrimmage helps deflate those numbers. It’s also a new scheme, so even though the personnel is near identical they’re not doing the same things as last year that likely helped produce some of those takeaways. Playing a 3rd/4th place schedule in 2018 doesn’t hurt things, either. 

Brian: The shocking thing about the lack of turnovers forced is the fact they haven’t exactly faced a murderers row of QB talent this season. They have also been trailing in a lot of games, which lends itself to a much more conservative playbook for teams playing with their 2nd or 3rd string QB. Above all however, I think turnovers caused is most often a matter of chance.

Tony: I tend to believe that numbers like that are always prone to regression to the mean, but let’s be real here: pressure creates turnovers, and the 2019 Bears defense hasn’t gotten consistent enough pressure to make those things happen. Interceptions and fumbles happen when QBs are swarmed, and the speed with which the defense got to the QB last year forced a lot of quick routes that the Bears jumped for turnovers and scores. When the pressure comes back, the defense looks more like 2018s.

 

Football

Tony Martin: Today’s matchup post is going to look a little different than usual- since this year has been anything but normal, we are having to seriously discuss how to spend our Sunday afternoons. I just started a new job, I’m still in grad school, and I still play in multiple bands- that time of the weekend would be perfect to spend it on anything other than shitty football that I’m emotionally invested in.

Yet I know for a fact that I’ll be parked on the couch this Sunday, watching the lifeless Bears play against the Giants. I’m not sure if I’m watching to see if they have something to prove or if I do it out of sheer tradition. I feel like if there was a Dawn of the Dead style zombie apocalypse, instead of lurking to the mall you’d find my dead ass sitting on the couch with a half cashed bowl and a LaCroix within arms reach of my rotting arms, waiting for the Bears to come on.

What do the Bears have to prove over these last few games? Is this just a talent evaluation process by now? It could be. I’m thinking they need to assess what options they have at so many different positions- both sides of the line, tight end, linebacker, kicker, and the defensive backfield. At this point, let’s see what this team has going forward. A lot of what Pace and Nagy should be focusing on where the holes in this leaky sink are coming from, because even though Mitch is the most glaring problem, the reason we are where we are is deeper than bad QB play. If Kyle Orton can win games as a starting QB, so can Mitch, but the franchise needs to build and play to his strengths. A great game plan can help mitigate a lot of deficiencies if done right.

This team absolutely has a playoff core, but Pace/Nagy need to spend the offseason figuring out what the identity of the franchise actually is and then building towards it. The end of last season covered up a lot of the problems with this roster from an identity standpoint on offense. They had a bruising running back and then a scatback, an all-star caliber wide receiver and a bunch of undersized speedsters, and a tight end that was not worth the money. All they did was replace the running back with a much better prospect that fits the offense, but they get away from running as soon as they fall behind, even if it’s by something as small as a first half field goal. Now might be the time to find those things to build upon, but it’s going to be boring as shit from a fan perspective to see it.

To wrap this part up, I’ll tell you what I’m looking for as the Bears play us off (insert Bill O’Reilly impression here):

-Is there an NFL-caliber tight end on the roster?
-Is Anthony Miller consistent enough to warrant a spot as the starting slot WR?
-Which defensive linemen could create pressure on their own in the absence of Khalil Mack?
-Does Leonard Floyd still play for this team?
-Eddie Goldman somehow has a grade of 74.3 so far from PFF- how much of 2018’s 88 rating from PFF was aided by the presence of Akiem Hicks?
-Do the Bears look to extend any of the following players: Danny Trevathan, Haha Clinton-Dix, Aaron Lynch, Nick Williams, Nick Kwiatkoski, or Roy Robertson-Harris?
-Are the Bears interested in taking a harder look at Javon Wims or Ryan Nall?

 

Wes French:Tony, I have to admit – If there is a Dawn of the Dead style scenario, I’d like to come find that couch and help you finish off your party favors. Barring a Hollywood situation on Sunday, though, I think I’m checking out on the Bears for a week.

It’s the Sunday before what’s basically a holiday week – yeah, I’ve got to work a few days at the beginning, but am I REALLY working? Fuck no. And the fact the Bears don’t really seem to be working the last month+ makes me unsure about investing another 3-4 hour block of my weekend, especially against a putrid trash heap like the New York Giants. I guess this might be the BEST time to check in, since the Bears should be able to get a W against the rookie-QB led G-Men, but the last time we had that narrative was all of two weeks ago against Detroit and that game was about as entertaining as a wet fart. Plus we’ll get that same wet fart four days later, bright and early before we’re all stuffed.
Am I interested in another slog between trash teams trying to sort out how exactly to best use the players they employ? No, no I’m not. Tony outlined plenty to look for in terms of WHY you may want to check in to this game on Sunday, and beyond the Bears sorting themselves out for a hopefully more spirited run in 2020 I could see you being mildly interested in who this Daniel Jones character is playing QB for NYG and wanting to see the sometimes electric Barkley do what he does. Outside of those two, the Giants have nothing to hold the interest of anyone but the diehards in the Big Apple and even those dummies are probably on to other things by week 12 of a 2-8 season. The Giants are pretty terrible and deserve no one’s attention, and in the immortal words of Local H – And Fuck New York, Too.

So what else should you be doing on Sunday? I’m going to play hockey and casually catch a nice dose of Red Zone with NINE noon games. Why the NFL can’t sort themselves out enough to have a better division of games through the day (there are only TWO late afternoon contests, but one is DAL @ NE) remains a mystery, but I digress. There are some strong teams on bye this week (KC/MIN), but while the schedule at first glance looks like a mirror of Bears/Giants, I’d say we’re in for a noon slate of some wild football with goofy fun matchups galore: 
– SEA @ PHI: The best game on paper at noon, Seattle looks to keep the Eagles down as they chase the 49ers for the NFC West/#1 seed. The Eagles are maddening, but always capable of a breakout performance and still have a shot at their own shitty Division
– TB @ ATL: Human Turnover Machine/Piece of Shit Jameis Winston goes into Hotlanta, quietly one of the best defensive units in the league since Week 5; I’ll guarantee at least 3 INTs and a DEF TD
– DEN @ BUF/ OAK @ NYJ: On the surface, the Bills and Raiders should cruise, but the Broncos have proved a difficult out and the Jets are scoring in bunches of late. The Bills and Raiders also remain the Bills and Raiders, so place those bets cautiously
– PIT @ CIN: A once fierce rivalry reduced to Mason Rudolph against Ryan Finley. I’ll be honest, this one excites even less than the Bears, but it does produce a decent opportunity for the Bungals to get their first win…it could totally be worse, Bears fans
– CAR @ NO: This sees two teams heading in wildly opposite directions, with the Panthers looking like they might be onto their third QB of the season and just about dead in the NFC at 5-5. Saints are aiming for NFC’s top spot. Divisional games can be weird, though
– MIA @ CLE/DET @ WSH: These two matchups pit four of the leagues worst franchises (of late, at least) against each other, and while on the surface the matchups look shit you should NEVER discount a game between the worst of the worst. How will Cleveland respond after the brawl to end last week’s game? Can Miami make it 3 wins in 4 after starting 0-7? Will the Lions continue to be the tonic that aids young/under-performing QBs for Dwayne Haskins and the Racial Slurs???
TUNE IN TO FIND OUT
Football

So, is there anything to be gleaned from an actual win? Or just too much effort to get past a Lions team with no Matthew Stafford?

Brian Schmitz: What I really liked was the success we saw when Nagy went no huddle and got Mitch outside of the pocket. I’ve been screaming for it all year. It’s the only way this team has a chance to be successful. Another positive was the “touchdown to checkdown” mentality we saw from the QB.

Do they lose to a Lions team with a healthy Matt Stafford? Probably? But a win is a win.

Tony Martin: Yesterday was ugly. Yesterday was the type of date you go on where you would qualify it as a success, but it didn’t feel good in any way whatsoever. Bears fans and their 2019 team went to Olive Garden and had the most authentic Italian food that Chicago had to offer, went to the finest Bar Louie location in the city for that big city corner bar experience, and then we all went back to their place and had consensual sex, but every step involved lacked passion. This Bears team is not a team you bring home to meet your folks, this is the team you call when those highlight videos of the 2006 team just don’t do it for you like they used to. I apologize for the overly erotic metaphor, but this team has been fucking me since September and I haven’t even sniffed the unlimited salad and breadsticks.

Wes French: I think the Bears (and maybe Capitalism/social constructs?) have finally broken Tony, and after a win no less.

To me it was a lot more of the same, papered over with the fact that Matt Patricia is a bad head coach and was without his QB1. Sure, we got a decently competent looking Trubs for a stretch, and hopefully there was enough there to build off of. The offense still only produced 226 yards, while the defense gave up 357. The first four possessions for the Bears saw three three-and-outs and another that gained all of 12 yards before a punt. seven of 12 drives ending three-and-out is not exactly a recipe for success.
The bookend TDs before and after the half were great to see, but Nagy still couldn’t get the right game plan or execution to put the game away fully and we had to watch as the Lions nearly came all the way back to tie the game late. The defense gave up a four-play, 81 yard TD drive with a few minutes to play, then were aided by an offensive PI call to help close out the game as the Lions drove deep into Chicago’s end on the final drive.
A win’s a win, but it wasn’t real encouraging.
Tony: I’m frequently jostled from sleep trembling, shaking, in a cold sweat. I’ve been out of work for 21 days, my money is running out- I feel like Tarik Cohen taking an RPO up the middle on 1st and 10. Scrambling, nervous thoughts fill my days as I email and call potential employers. Mitch Trubisky haunts my indecision about taking a job offer in Freeport; am I just checking down when the Allen Robinson of jobs is just breaking free downfield? Did I make the right choice? Or am I Matt Nagy: unable to take criticism and adapt to a rapidly changing landscape?

The 2019 Chicago Bears have been playing this season like a depressed 33-year-old, and it took me until Week 10 to realize it.

(Off the record: I’m good, y’all. Just leaning in a little bit)
How big of a problem will Danny Trevathan’s absence be going forward? This was already a team hurting down the middle of defense without Akiem Hicks…
Wes: Not as big of an issue as all the other problems? The Nicks (Kwiatkoski and Williams) stepped up on Sunday, but Roquan is still MIA for the most part.  Trevathan and his intangibles will be noticeably missed, but the Bears could do worse than giving the load to Kwiatkoski. Maybe Roquan can use this opportunity to turn his season around, and that would be a welcome positive storyline in a season full of shitty ones.
Tony: I feel for Danny on more of an existential sense than for what his loss means for the team, because let’s be real, without Hicks both Danny and Roquan have struggle to consistently fill the gaps like they’re used to.  I’m afraid this is the last time we’ll see Danny Trevathan in a Bears uniform, because as we know his contract expires at the end of this season. I think how the organization handles Danny’s contract situation will tell us a lot about where they think they are in the championship window. Hoping they bring him back and he retires a Bear.
Brian: The defense will probably be worse off, but it’s not like the unit is a world beater right now. They are having trouble getting to the QB, and although Trevathan is a beast, he, like most of the defense, isn’t having as good of a year as last. God forbid anyone on the team from UGA decides to step up and be as good as they were supposed to be.

 

Football

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.

Football

Club Dub is open for business after the Bears outlasted the Racial Slurs of Washington in a true tale of two halves, 31-15. Mitchell Trubisky was more encouraging than not, but still had some WTF moments. The defense asserted itself early and often but left a lot to be desired in closing out the win. Matt Nagy had his best game in along time, but will need to overcome some injuries to key players to keep this win streak alive.

Trubs was as accurate as he’s been since before the shoulder injury last Winter, throwing for 3 TDs and capping a fantastic first half with an absolute dime to Taylor Gabriel for a long TD on 3rd and long. Mitch went into the half 20-23, 173 yards and those three scores with a 28-3 lead. The second half turned on Mitch, though, after he made an atrocious throw on an attempted fade route that landed well short of Allen Robinson and into the arms of Josh Norman for another Red Zone interception.

That turnover flipped the game, as Washington would close the gap to 28-15 early in the 4th quarter while the Bears offense stalled to a halt. The defense was there to bail out their Quarterback with a late fumble recovery to help ice the game, but it can’t be ignored that Mitch was not the one to put the emphatic exclamation point on this one. David Montgomery did what everyone has been saying he can do and iced the game with some very nice work on the ground, ensuring Washington no opportunity at a shock finish. Trubs finished just 25-31 for 231 yards and those three first half scores.

Khalil Mack was in the Washington backfield all night, accounting for two sacks including a sack fumble that set up a short TD drive early in the second quarter. That was just one of five turnovers created on the evening, with Kyle Fuller adding an interception on top of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix double and one for a score. Akiem Hicks added a fumble recovery but also aggravated his nagging knee injury and will be re-evaluated Tuesday at Halas Hall. The secondary is still a work in progress as well despite the INT binge, giving up massive chunks at times while sitting in Pagano’s favored zone scheme. Maybe that’s just the give to the take aways, but it looked real ugly as Case Keenum and Scary Terry McLaurin gouged the defense in the 2nd half.

Taylor Gabriel, who caught all three touchdowns, left in the second half with a concussion, and while the hit in question didn’t look all that bad you just never know how long those things will linger. Leonard Floyd was shaken up in the first half, but returned and closed out the game – still probably something to monitor as the Bears head home for a date with rivals Minnesota.

 

 

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.
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