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

2019 is going to be the type of football year that you just want to throw in the trash, hoping that things get sorted out in a positive manner and you can mostly forget the things that transpired on the field. That’s essentially the case for the Bears pass catchers save for what passes as the brightest spot from the team, but also includes arguably the darkest, deepest hole (outside of QB…) and Ryan Pace’s second biggest miss of the 2017 draft.

On one hand, you have Allen Robinson being the monster wide out everyone wanted when he signed in the 2018 off-season and the emergence of second-year receiver Anthony Miller into a legit threat on any play. On the other, you have an underwhelming group of wide outs behind them, a one-dimensional backfield passing attack and a tight end room that’s stinkier than David Kaplan’s nose (because it’s firmly planted somewhere inside Tom Ricketts colon, GET IT??).  The team ranked in the lower third in just about all receiving categories, and if you read the rushing post from yesterday and quarterbacks on Monday you don’t have to squint to pick up on the theme of the 2019 Chicago offense. It sucked.

The highs were the type that felt squandered, the lows all disasters that played a part in the unacceptable offensive output – to varying degrees.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

The Good

Allen Robinson. That’s essentially your list. Robinson was the steady, go-to security blanket all season and pulled in 98 of 154 (!!) targets for just under 1,150 yards and seven scores, roughly one third of the entire receiving production on the team. He’s been everything the team needed and wanted when they gambled and signed the oft-injured Robinson two years ago, and Pace would do well to rip up the final year of his contract because 1) He’s more than earned new paper/$, 2) a new deal would actually improve the Bears cap situation for 2020 and beyond (ARob counts $15M against the cap with just $10.5 in actual dollars in 2020) and 3) who in the fuck else are you trusting on this roster going forward, especially after 2020?

Anthony Miller shone at times this season, especially standing out on Thanksgiving in Detroit with a 9/140 line. While he came up big during the min- revival stretch later in the season, he was inconsistent on the whole. But you if you want to argue that was more product of his environment in this slap dick offense you’d get no more than a “fair” from me. Miller is still an injury case, however, as he’ll rehab this spring from the exact same shoulder surgery that ended his 2018-19 campaign. Still, he lands in the positives and the Bears will need him back and building on his success in 2020.

The Bad

The rest of the wide out group left a whole lot to be desired. Taylor Gabriel was the benefactor of three TD catches in a half against the atrocious R-words in Week 3, but again suffered from concussion issues and only played parts of nine games. Rookie 4th round pick Riley Ridley hardly saw the field, working through a litany of nagging foot and leg injuries before totaling a whopping six catches over the final three contests. Javon Wims filled in admirably, again, but when he’s consistently on the field you’re probably in some trouble with your personnel; he’s best suited for ST duty in the opinion of yours truly.

Tarik Cohen was the only real contributor out of the backfield, and while he was used quite a bit (79 catches, 104 targets) all but 19 of his 456 yards were via YAC, meaning he was hardly targeted past the line of scrimmage all year. That’s your #2 in targets, averaging 5.8 yards/catch, often being targeted BEHIND the line of scrimmage. Fun!

The Ugly

The tight end group may have been the worst ever in Chicago Bears history, at least in terms of the modern game. No individual player went over 91 yards FOR THE SEASON, and the two leaders at 91/87 were preseason practice squad players JP Holtz and Jesper Horsted. Big money man Trey Burton got hurt in August, never really got to full health, and submitted to injury in November, landing on IR with all of 24 catches for 84 yards. Pace’s pet Adam Shaheen continued to impress no one but his boss, again dealing with a myriad of injuries and totaling 9/74 line. He now boasts 26 catches in 27 career games since being drafted in the 2nd round of 2017. Blocking TE Ben Braunecker was used in the passing game. Bradley Sowell was active at the position for a few games; that should tell you all you need to know about this shit ass group.

The RBs outside of Cohen weren’t as bad as the TEs, but that group was paced by David Montgomery‘s 25/185/1 line, a bit underwhelming after all the buzz about him “doing it all well” after the draft. FA Mike Davis caught all seven of his targets before he was cut, and the coaching staff failed to get $5M man Cordarrelle Patterson involved in any meaningful way.

Any Hope?

No? Not really? Robinson should get a new deal, possibly very soon, but after that it’s a big ol’ shit sandwich. Miller has the injury history, Gabriel might need to retire (but at least they can save $4.5M in cutting him) and Ridley looks to have a long way to go. This group lacks speed…so maybe just try Patterson out there instead of running him on 3rd and short?? Whoever gets hired to help run the offense would do well to get Cohen involved more down the field and in the slot, potentially, along with Patterson. The speed exists on the team, just not sure these dummies can harness it properly. Maybe some further passing work for Montgomery to keep teams guessing too.

The TE room is all signed for next year, and Burton somehow has so much guaranteed money that they can’t just cut him. The depth pieces are all okay, but this group screams for improvement. Can they sign Austin Hooper if he hits FA? Pace will need to get creative to clear enough space for such a move.

Pace and Co. have quite the overhaul on their hands this off-season.

Final Grade: C-

Football

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything Else

Wow. There are moments as a sports fan where you can say “I was there when ______ happened”. The Cleveland Cavilers come back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Warriors. Keith Traylor returns a Mark Brunell interception 67 yards. Mick Foley gets thrown off the Hell in a Cell cage. Mick Foley gets thrown through the Hell in a Cell cage. Mick Foley gets chokeslammed onto thumbtacks. Andrew Luck solidified himself as the subject of a future bomb ass 30 for 30 documentary tonight with his 3rd quarter retirement from football. Dude’s 29 and has seen some shit, and you’ll see some takes about how disloyal he was to the franchise and the fans and blah blah blah. Don’t buy it. This team sucked for Luck, and then they fucked Luck, because Ryan Grigson is a schmuck. New Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano fucked him as well, since both oversaw what was essentially medical malpractice when the stud QB injured his shoulder in 2015 and the team allowed him to play so that the then GM and coach could keep their jobs. He doesn’t owe the team a goddamn thing.

That said, holy shit what a shocker. I’m assuming he didn’t tell the team what was going on, and it’s an almost Aaron Rodgers level of pettiness to be out there shooting the breeze with his teammates knowing he is checking out tomorrow, instantly taking them out of the AFC title hunt. I feel for the dude, I really do, but I feel the most for Jacoby Brissett, because he is the guy that’s gotta cover for the guy who quit mid-shift and now he’s filling orders for two packers because Jeff Bezos needs to keep his profit margins as high as possible.

Oh yeah, the Bears played too. Honestly, if this wasn’t a player who I liked so much that was screwed by his team, I’d be making more jokes about how he retired due to the @CaptAndrewLuck Twitter account getting absolutely ETHERED by Prince Amukamara this week, or because Deon Bush’s pure dominance struck an almost existential fear into the heart of America’s preeminent neckbearded athlete.

Other takeaways from The Luck Game:

-Deon Bush has played himself on the field for the regular season if you ask me. He’s gonna get some snaps, and if HaHa struggles I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start a game or two. I also think James Vaughters makes the 53 man roster, and YES MY BOY SMOKE MIZZELL LOOKED GREAT ON SPECIAL TEAMS. We all have those bubble guys that we root for, and seeing Taquan turn on those jets while covering punts and making tackles on kickoff returns was a thing of beauty.

-Eddy Pineiro crushed that 58 yard field goal and it was a thing of beauty, and nailed all his kickoffs and extra points. Can we stop with the kicker stuff now? Please?

-I said it last week and I’ll say it again, Kerrith Whyte makes this team, Marvin Hall doesn’t. Whyte is gonna get some burn during the regular season, too. Seeing his agility has me pumped thinking about using him in plays using pre-snap jet motion principles. Holy shit hurry up and be September 5th already.

-Nice Fact of the Week: Ryan Nall has a 69 yard run in a preseason game for the second time in two years. Nice.

-Nick Kwiatkoski played great, and I’m warming up to the idea of looking at a second contract for him, but there is no way he should be a starting ILB in 2019. I’m also all in on the idea of Josh Woods as the last ILB to make the roster. Dude has range and makes plays all over the field.

-The entire WR corps played like garbage. I’m still holding out hope for that Riley Ridley hype train to pick me up, but I hope he can play some special teams while we wait.

-The Bears shouldn’t have any tight ends on the 53 man roster for the upcoming season because holy fuck the depth chart after Trey Burton is literally Adam Shaheen and a collection of future suburban Chicagoland gym teachers.

-Duke Shelley is an interesting prospect, but he is not ready for meaningful football on the main roster this upcoming season. He flashes once or twice a game, but he was getting beat all night in coverage and in Pagano’s more man-to-man system, he needs time to hone his technique.

The Bears play their preseason finale next Thursday, and in the meantime I’ll be watching King of the Ring 1998. Hopefully Marcus Mariota survives the game, because if he doesn’t the Chicago Bears of the 2019 preseason will be knocking QBs out of the league at an unheard of rate.

 

Football

Do you hear anything? No? Me either. No noise. No torches and pitchforks. No jobs on the line (yet). It’s pretty boring around here.

Usually in late July we’re all too eager here in Chicago to begin HOT TAKE SZN surrounding the Bears and the NFL. This July, though, feels different. Is everyone just happy to banter about the Cubs division chase and Sox future potential? No, we’ve been doing that every July since 2015. The NBA had a pretty big summer, but the Bulls largely sat that out and everyone is just content they MIGHT make a surprise run at the 8-seed in the East. Hawks prospect camp and convention?? OK, I’m done.

So with nothing new or exciting going on in major sports around the city, why is this late July so different? The Bears, coming off their first playoff appearance since 2010 and second in the last 13 years, have had the quietest offseason in about as long. No new head coach/GM/Front Office personnel. No major signings/high draft picks. Hardly any turnover on the roster/staff, and no real starting positions up for the taking. GM Ryan Pace didn’t even get to make a draft pick until the third day, and there’s been little discussion about the his team or the impending camp since.

The biggest offseason story? Kickers. Cody Parkey long fired into the sun, the talk of both mini-camp and now training camp is the kicking sideshow. Each day’s camp breakdown thus far has started with the accuracy for that day’s kicker; Elliot Fry is 17 of 20 so far! He’s hit from 60 and banged in from 48 and 51 in the driving rain! Eddie Pineiro hit from 63 after doing his best 80s macho movie hunk routine – after his coaches asked him to try from 60 he replied “nah, how ’bout 63”! Suh gnarly, broseph.

The crowds are another HOT story coming out of Bourbonnais. Attendance day one? OVER 8,000!!! Videos tweeted of fans LIGHTLY JOGGING to get front row standing room to see the Midway Monsters strap on the pads and paw at each other! Whoa, did you see that 50-yard bomb from Mitch to Gabriel?? Kahlil Mack and Eddie Jackson are sooooo goood OMFG!!!! I mean, it’s great to see the guys you want to excel succeed in practice, but that’s the bar here, no? To be as good as advertised?

This shit is BORING. But boring doesn’t really mean bad. Consider:

-There was one major coaching change in the offseason, but not the normal refrain of a deficiency in some area. Vic Fangio left to go be the head coach in Denver because his defense was so amazing (while the rest of the team was total ass for most of his tenure). The ensuing hire? Chuck Pagano, a highly regarded defensive mind in his own right that mostly just needs to keep the ship on course. There also are no ‘hot’ seats to speak of at the moment. Weird.

-The players lost to free agency were seen as priced out of their worth at Halas Hall and nary a tear was shed for Adrian Amos or Bryce Callahan. The replacements and other new signings were mostly budget buys met with a collective “meh”.  HaHa Clinton-Dix and Buster Skine swap in for Amos and Callahan. Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson are here to do something in the backfield. Great, fine. I bet you didn’t even know they signed Ted Larson, again, for O-Line depth or Marvin Hall and Peter Williams. Only one of those guys is made up, but I’m guessing you have to look it up to tell me which one.

-The draft was pretty uneventful as well, unless you count trading up 14 or so spots in the 3rd round “eventful”. Sure, they got their GUY at running back in David Montgomery, or so they’ll tell anything with ears. Even he hasn’t generated much buzz since the draft, a soft spoken type that just does his work and stays quiet off the field. Booooooring. The rest of the draft was all lottery tickets and undrafted free agents because Pace only had five picks to work with. They got a Ridley? No, not the one from Alabama.

-There aren’t any big injuries to get all worked up about, either. Adam Shaheen hasn’t practiced in two days, but that’s basically his whole bag of tricks since being wildly overdrafted three years ago. Someone named Emmanuel Hall is recovering from groin surgery. HaHa is on the PUP list, rehabbing a lower body injury but expected back before too long. Whatever.

So this late July, the start to camp is boring. Embrace the boring, it means that most of us are looking forward to September and could give a shit about what happens between now and then. We don’t even get another open practice for a few days; the team has a shorter, closed practice today and is off Wednesday. There’s a preseason game a week after that, so maybe by the weekend we’ll start to get some real battles for the edge of the roster. Those are the positions that help to define serious championship contending NFL teams from the dregs they beat up.

Boring kinda sucks, but we’ll take it after the last decade worth of summers overstuffed with tough questions. Wait and see how these jokers fighting for their NFL lives fair in game reps in a week or so. If you need your fix the rest of this first week, keep refreshing that twitter account of your favorite beat writer to see where Steady Eddie P tells coach he’s spotting his next kick. HOOOOO BABYYYYY!

@WFrenchman on Twitter