Football

Welcome back to the 4th installment of On the Clock: proving that teachers have much more time on their hands to smoke dope and watch NCAA highlight videos than we let on. Speaking of: those last two articles? Yeah, 2500 words that can mean absolutely nothing if the draft doesn’t play out the way that all the pundits seem to think it will. Since I wrote them, I’ve seen several more players mocked to the Bears at 43 and 50, so I’m going to use this last preview piece to try to cover a few more players not included in the original 12 that I DIY “scouted” earlier this week. I’d like to be able to tell you this is the last piece in the series, but when it comes to draft stuff I’m more George Lucas than I’d like to admit; by next Friday I could be publishing “On the Clock 9: the Argument for Taking a Punter at Pick 43”.

 

Noah Igbinoghene- CB Auburn
Once again, while the Bears wait it out and see if teams ahead of them in the early second like Carolina, Jacksonville, and Indy pick up that second wave of potential starting corners, Igbinoghene could be the Bears selection at 43 or 50. However, his frame (5’10”- 198) and his lack of time playing CB (two seasons after being converted from WR) could push teams into using him exclusively as a slot corner. He defends the run super well for such a small player, but I’m gonna be honest, most of his highlight reel is him getting away with pass interference and he only had one career interception at Auburn. I don’t think he’s the fit for this team, but if you’re wondering why I even put him on here, its because he crushed it against Georgia this year and we all know how much Bulldogs tape the Bears front office watches.

Tee Higgins- WR Clemson
Higgins being available when the Bears pick would be a stretch, but crazier things have happened and I think if he’s there at 43 the Bears go and get him. I’ve seen him mocked all over the place (including the first round Raiders pick obtained from the Bears), but it seems like now he’s being talked about like an early to mid second round pick, and possibly one of the better options of that second tier. Higgins would instantly make the Bears offense better and wouldn’t need any sort of real effort to get him touches. He gets open on his own and his tape shows a player who maybe doesn’t have the whole route tree down, but I mean he’s 6’4”, he averaged 19.8 yards a catch last year, oh and he ran a 4.43 at Clemson’s pro day. Several websites have him going to Houston at pick 40, but if Bill O’Brien fucks this one up too the Bears will thank Brandin Cooks and smile politely as they announce a major steal.

KJ Hamler- WR Penn State
If the Bears are looking for a player to provide almost exactly what they’ll be going without now that Taylor Gabriel is off the team, KJ Hamler is the pick at 43. Hamler has juice and all I see is him destroying everyone off the line. He has what looks to be an incredibly similar skill set to Gabriel, and since offenses like Nagy’s are predicated upon finding players that fit the system instead of vice versa, Hamler might be wearing the Blue and Orange next season. He has issues with drops and durability, which means he isn’t the finished product and to be honest I don’t know if I’d want another slot-type receiver, but from looking at it from a purely “let’s stretch the defense” perspective, Hamler is a pick that makes a lot of sense.

Amik Robertson- CB Louisiana Tech
Holy shit, you guys. I had been sleeping on this guy as soon as I saw that he was 5’8, but then I watched his highlight tape. I know JustBombsProductions tend to be a little hyperbolic, and I don’t wanna go too crazy with The Ringer’s player comps, but the names I got from my research were Tyrann Mathieu 2.0 and Steve Smith, but a Cornerback. So I got curious and watched the tape and I was blown away by how physical Robertson is. He’s out there laying dudes out and gave me the same Kyle Dugger vibe of “grown ass man nerfing a bunch of dorks”. His ball skills look great, his physicality is outstanding, and if he’s as scrappy as the tape and his scouting report says, he’s a dark horse for a Bears pick and will certainly win over the fans. Dude looks like Tim Jennings but hits like Adrian Amos. He played for a small school, but if he’s as competitive as they say he is he will be using that as motivation.

Grant Delpit- S LSU
Your desire to see the Bears take Delpit with one of their two second round picks is entirely tied to how many tackles you saw him miss last year (an average of one a game). His sudden inability to wrap up has been shrugged off by those who say he played all of last year injured, but is a frightening thing against NFL competition where one missed tackle can end in misery for the entire defense. If you aren’t dissuaded by his near Chris Conte-esque tackle numbers, Delpit is an absolute stud with great ball skills, a tremendous ability to go sideline to sideline, and the ability to be a playmaker from anywhere on the field. The Bears could do much worse than drafting Delpit, because if he his tackling returns to it’s 2018 form, he could be a major star in the making.

 

Well friends, this series has come to a pause for now, but there’s still quite a bit of time before the NFL Draft comes to us live from a series of bougie living rooms and basements so who knows how much stuff I can crank out before then. Take care of yourselves, wash your hands, and please pay for me to have a PFF Premium account before I have to start an OnlyFans page.

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

Matt Nagy Is The Weirdest Combination Possible – I’m not sure how a coach can both be as far up his own ass as Matt Nagy is that he probably came back around again and also coaching scared all the time. They don’t seem to go together at all, but Nagy has managed it. “Be You” means so many things now.

Let’s get to the top story right here. The end of the game, why are the only results in Matt Nagy’s head are a run for a loss, fumble, or incomplete pass? Why do you just assume that you can’t find one or two plays that you know you can hit to give you just five yards? There’s gotta be something you can just go to.

They’d actually run the ball. You can’t line up in the I-formation and get a few yards? And if you’re so convinced the Chargers are going to know you’re running, you really don’t have a play-action fake with that rollout and the tight end and receiver behind him that every team runs in the holster? That’s a play where even Mitch can probably figure out if I can’t complete this, I can just throw it into row three. Simple stuff, every team runs it, and those yards would have made a difference.

But that didn’t lose the game all by itself. Nagy actually adjusted and ran more conservative formations to run the ball kind of effectively. But then being up his own ass gets in the way. You get to the goal-to-go, and suddenly he has to be Matt Nagy again. Five receivers from the four. A screen to Cordarelle Patterson we all saw coming, including the Chargers. RPOs. Tough reads. Things the Bears haven’t shown they do well. He’s got to do it his way. The one touchdown they got is when they just lined it up and let Montgomery just run the fucking thing in there.

Nagy got out of his comfort zone between the 20s, actually running simple run plays. Play action off it. But when it mattered, Nagy was too scared to stay out of his comfort zone, and went back to what he wants to work. What he thinks has to work. But it doesn’t, and he’s the only one who doesn’t see that.

He coached scared as the Chiefs OC. He coached scared in the playoffs last year. He’s coached scared this year, all while convinced he has all the answers. I don’t you know how you do both. Pick a lane.

It’s Rex All Over Again – There comes a moment with every Bears quarterback who shows any promise or has any billing, where you realize it’s just not going to happen. It’s like my father said about horse racing, “There comes a moment in most races where you say to yourself, ‘I’m gonna lose here.'” A lot of people are long past that with Mitch Trubisky. I’m there now, mostly because I just didn’t want to keep doing this for my entire life.

Mitch has some obstacles. He only started one season in college. He came to the pros into a mess of a team, and basically everything he learned his rookie year had to be thrown out. His coach very well might be a madman who doesn’t know what he can and can’t do. He’s battled injuries. Fine.

But Mitch can’t make the throws. That Taylor Gabriel miss… you can’t miss that. That’s the game. Second tier QBs hit that. He’s not accurate enough to be the cowboy he wants to be. Not being able to move a safety with his eyes, that’s baseline skill stuff. If you don’t have it you don’t have it. You can scheme all you want, but if Mitch misses too many throws that are open, what does it matter?

The thing is if the season is truly lost, and I think it might be, the rest of it probably should be used to see if there’s anything to be salvaged with Mitch. There’s really no other option. Even if it’s just to pump up any value if you decide to swap him out. You know where the Chase Daniel road ends.

I Don’t Want To Hear The Defense Talk Anymore – Yeah yeah, 17 points surrendered is more than good enough to win. They got a couple short fields thanks to Mitch. Whatever.

One sack. One turnover. Up 16-7, and you let aged Marmalard march it down on the field on you. Melvin Gordon drags Eddie Jackson some five yards like a grocery bag. When the Bears have needed a big stop all season, they haven’t gotten it. When the defense could win the game, they didn’t. They let Joe Flacco march it up their ass. Derek Carr got to as well. Now Rivers. Aaron Rodgers is one thing. This is another.

At some point Chuck Pagano is going to have to figure out something else. I don’t know if becoming Blitz-burgh Reincarnated is the answer. But Khalil Mack isn’t getting home through either three blockers or quick passes. Leonard Floyd is at the Kerry Wood Memorial Zoo. Maybe we should see if Roquan or Trevathan can bring it a little more often. You need more turnovers. You need more sacks. The defense isn’t getting them. There’s too much talent on the field for this, even without Akiem Hicks.

Of course, the real question might be can Matt Nagy hold together a team when the defense mutinies. If he keeps coaching scared, I’m fairly sure I know what the answer is.

Football

Hey it’s yr boi DJ Yung Milwaukee- Wes and I decided to collab again on a matchup post for Sunday’s weekly nightmare. One of the greatest things about football is it’s ability to take us away from the problems of the workweek or whatever. Watching the Bears in 2019 is still therapeutic, because no matter how bad things get for me at least I’m not on this team, I just write about them

*sobs to the tune of “Bear Down, Chicago Bears”*

Mornin, Wes! Let’s chop up these Bears/Chargers matchups, shall we? Since I’m a glutton for punishment, I’ll take the Bears offense vs the Chargers defense.
 
Looking at the NFL.com stats for the Bears offense this season is a new, special form of torture. It’s the kind of torture that you know will keep bringing you back for more, but I think hopefully for us the expectations have been completely removed so we can laugh. They say comedy is tragedy plus time, and I’d say it’s time we went full Joker.
 
Look, the Bears live in a society. A society where they have 420 rushing yards in six games. They have gotten 17 first downs this year via the run game, and 15 first downs via penalty. Mitch can’t run a simple RPO. Kids are getting booed at Hawks games for going as Trubisky for Halloween, as if that wasn’t the spookiest costume in Chicagoland right now.
 
Anthony Miller is officially a ghost, Taylor Gabriel exploded for a huge game and is now also a non-factor, and the Bears customary jet sweep motion is bringing extra men into the box to stop the run. They’re shooting themselves in the foot left and right. The line isn’t performing well, but how well can you expect a line to hold up when they’re constantly facing 2nd-and-8 or 3rd-and-10? Hopefully the Bears take advantage of the Chargers allowing for 3rd down conversions literally half the time (39 conversions in 78 tries).
The interior of the Chargers line (Justin Jones and Brandon Mebane) are both out, so hopefully the Bears take advantage of that and establish the run for once. That said, Joey Bosa is still a monster and I’d hope the Bears keep some extra blockers back there to chip and give Mitch extra time to survey the field before eventually taking a sack.
 
Basically I’m afraid that Ryan Tannehill is going to have a better game against this team than Mitch will, but if the Bears watch tape they’ll know that the best way to beat the Chargers is to run the ball. Darwin James has been out all season, which opens up the box for more running lanes. You would think the Bears have plenty of options this Sunday going against a middling defense missing both it’s defensive tackles and safeties, right? The Chargers hemorrhaged yards to Titans receivers last week, with Ryan Tannehill going 12/13 for 181 yards and 2 TDs when targeting the middle of the field last week. Naturally, I’m expecting Matt Nagy to do the opposite.
 
Well, I’m thoroughly depressed now. What ya got, Wes?
I wish I could tell you that I’ve got a pick me up…and I might?

The Chargers offense can boast the third highest average passing yards a game at 293 and change, but they’re only one spot ahead of the putrid Bear rushing attack at 74 yard/game. So while they’ve been able to move the ball through the air with some ease, they are just as atrocious running the ball and the passing yards are nice, but they’re a 11/6 TD/INT ratio through the air and fumbled five times, bringing the overall TD/TO ratio to 14/11. The Bears TD/TO ratio is 10/6.

This is NOT going to be a battle of competent offense/teams; things will be ugly.

Things aren’t getting any easier for the Chargers before they even leave for Chicago. Recently promoted G Forrest Lamp broke his ankle last weekend and will miss the rest of the season. It’s another hit to a line that’s already down Mike Pouncey and Russell Okung, though even with Okung reportedly be back this week you could expect some rust.
Melvin Gordon will continue trying to get up to speed after ending his hold out a few weeks ago, but neither he or Austin Ekeler have gotten much going at 2.3 and 3.6 yards/carry, respectively.

Ekeler is helping to prop up that passing game with 44 receptions for nearly 500 yards and four TDs, most on the team. He’s joined by Keenan Allen with 49/564/3, but after that it’s a steep drop to Mike Williams at just 23 catches. In fact, only TE Hunter Henry is in double digits for receptions on the season, and he’s gotten 14 of them the last two weeks. Philip Rivers has a game plan, and it’s to feed Allen, Ekeler and now Henry.

The Bears will need to get the pass rush back on track to create pressures and get Rivers forcing balls to those guys to early or into what should be some stiff coverage for his three favorite targets. Ekeler gets most of his on designed screens and check downs, so Roquan Smith will need to shake out of his funk to keep himself and his front-7 on task to stymie the few things the Chargers do well. The way that Allen makes more of his catches in the short to intermediate route tree, I’d like to see Prince Amukamara stick with Allen all over the field, but the next time we see the Bears employs such a tactic will be the first.

This really feels like the perfect “get back to basics” opponent for Matt Nagy and Chuck Pagano to hit the reset button. You already spoke to the offense having an opportunity to exploit a battered and ineffective defense. The Bears defense doesn’t really need a full reset, but they need an easier matchup in terms of the game as a whole, and if the offense can put even some semblance of sustained drives together, that alone will make the job a much simpler one for the defense. They’ve also got a strong potential for turnovers, which we know they thrive off of and use to build confidence.

This could game could lift a lot of spirits IF Nagy and Pagano and be simple, be basic and just play a clean game, because Anthony Lynn’s Chargers are more than capable of demolishing themselves if you give them slight trouble and can mitigate the big play here and there. Would be nice to see that from the other side in 2019.

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

This is a feature I used to do at FanSided last season. But it’s not something I want to waste on those evil fucks, so I give it to you, the people, every week. 

Khalil Mack Is The Most Enjoyable Athlete To Watch In Chicago

Oh sure, maybe one say this will be Eloy Jimenez. You could make a case for Lucas Giolito this year. Or Javy Baez every year. Patrick Kane would have an argument, except the best years of his career (statistically) have come as empty calories for useless Hawks teams.

But none of them have redefined a team the way Mack’s arrival has for the Bears, and none of them are consistently making the opposition look like they’re simply not there as Mack. When Mack showed up, the Bears went from an interesting team to the best defense in football. Hope became expectation instantly. And whenever he faces a team that hasn’t made any or all specific plans for him, he simply runs the show.

Note: You should know that this post pretty much is just Mack adulation every week, because he’s just so much fun. You’ve been warned. 

Look at this shit:

Yeah, I know that Washington’s normal left tackle is still holding and out and refusing to play for them (and why shouldn’t he, really?). Still, much better tackles than this don’t even get a hand on Mack. He alters every game he plays, even if it’s offenses shifting three blockers that way and opening up the other side of the field. And yet when you watch games he’s always there, either scaring the piss out of the quarterback or being held on his way to scaring the piss out of the quarterback. It’s real live video game shit. We really are lucky.

It’s Never Enough With Mitch

I think my favorite part of last night’s game was checking on Twitter during the Bears first scoring drive on offense, watching everyone bitch about Mitch’s inaccuracy as he didn’t actually throw an incompletion and the Bears scored. I was sure that was the point of the exercise. Maybe I’m wrong.

Yeah, there were some throws that maybe cost his receivers a few yards after the catch. He also had a rating of 116.5 for the game. Yeah, maybe they didn’t push the ball down the field as much as you would have liked…until he hit Taylor Gabriel on the run in the corner for the killer score. This offense was never going to go from 0-to-60 in one week. They ran the ball a ton in Denver, partly because of the altitude and temperature. The next week they’re going to turn into the Fun-n-Gun? I don’t think it works that way.

All of this felt like it was undone by the simply awful “fade” route throw in the third that was somewhere in the same stadium as Allen Robinson but much closer to the seemingly toast Josh Norman. There’s no way to explain that one. There’s just going to be one or two of those per game, and we can only hope they’re either dropped or so bad they’re not near everyone. But that’s what every QB below the three or four best do. Live with it, because there were other dimes on the night that everyone is neglecting to mention.

Akiem Hicks Is Probably As Important As Mack, Which We Probably Knew

We only have to pray that injury isn’t that serious. Because the one or two drives Washington put together in the third and fourth came without him on the field, and it was the only time Casey Kasum had any time to do anything. The whole thing is predicated on the Bears being able to get pressure with four, especially up the middle when they leave the QB nowhere to go or look. They can’t do that without Hicks, and far better QBs than Keenum will enjoy that more.

That’s what still gnaws about last year. You may never get that health and that level combined from both Hicks and Mack again. Perhaps if the game wasn’t already basically done Hicks could have kept playing. But you’ll notice if he’s hobbled against the Vikings next week, that’s for sure.

Football

Sigh! For the next six days, Chicago can revel in the relaxation of knowing that the Bears are not as bad as we thought they were; the Washington Redskins on the other hand…ho-lee-shit are they terrible.

A victory on Monday Night Football saw a LOT more good than bad, but it was far from perfect. That said, a 31-15 (which didn’t feel nearly that close, until it did for a few minutes) win on national TV is exactly what this team needed for their own collective mental health.

What set the tone for the Bears offensive breakout was Matt Nagy’s decision to come out of the gate going up-tempo, no huddle. This change in philosophy got Mitch Trubisky and the entire offense into an early rhythm that they never got out of. Along with going up-tempo, Nagy got Trubisky out of the pocket far more than he had in the first two weeks. This change obviously caters to the QBs athleticism but also affords the Bears O-Line the chance to get away from their natural pass-pro sets, which have been lacking at various times this season.

Although the first Bears drive didn’t result in a score, the defense handled the points on the next possession as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix turned a Case Keenum overthrow into a 37-yard pick-6 up the Redskins sideline. At this point in the season, the Bears defense had as many TDs as the offense – sooooo, that kinda sucked – but who cares? The Bears were winning a football game and actually looking OK doing it.

After penalties, and more penalties, and a missed kick, and some unwatchable periods of football, the Bears were able to do something they haven’t done since last January 6th – throw a touchdown pass. What was even more encouraging about this play was that it wasn’t the Trubisky’s first, second, or maybe even third read. Mitch was given a lot time, stayed composed in the pocket, went through his progressions, and made the right throw to Taylor Gabriel. This drive, while still littered with some inaccurate throws, was certainly the most promising of the season.

Seconds later, Khalil Mack did some Khalil Mack shit – which is beat his man off the line (again), swipe at the ball on a fly by, and force a fumble. Danny Trevathian recovered the ball deep in Washington territory, which led quickly to another Trubisky TD throw to Taylor Gabriel on a well-designed play action pass. This was the moment you could feel a collective sigh in and around Chicago. The Bears were the better team tonight, and unless they would suffer a historic meltdown over the remaining 35 minutes, a 2-1 record heading into week 4 vs. Minnesota at Soldier Field was a given.

After yet another forced turnover by the best defense in the league, Trubisky & Gabriel continued their historic night as the duo connected on a 36-yard TD pass. Gabriel became the first player ever with three receiving touchdowns in the same quarter in the long history of Monday Night Football. The Bears were now up 28-0, which is 9 more points than they had in their first two games combined.

Aside from a seven-minute span where Washington decided to act like a real-life NFL team, the 2nd half was largely uneventful. The Redskins eventually returned to being the Redskins and this “get-well” for the Bears game was on ice – a 31-15 road win that could have not come at a better time.

Bear Scats
• There are extended periods of time when the only reason to watch this team is to see how dominant the Bears defense is. They are a unit, that with any sort of help from a competent offense, can win a Super Bowl. It’s a rare thing in sports these days to see a defense which is more entertaining to watch than an offense – but this what we are lucky enough to be witnessing in Chicago this season.

• My personal highlight of the Redskins 3rd drive was Adrian Peterson getting stuffed on yet another 1st down run attempt and showing his frustration with his horseshit O-Line. Fast forward then to the 3rd quarter where Peterson was visibly pissed about not getting any red zone carries. To be honest, I’m not sure how much longer we are going to see Peterson in a Redskins uniform. Even though he seems to think its 2009, he’s not a featured back at this point in his career – which means he’ll probably get released, sign with the Patriots, and average 100 yards per game.

• Why was Booger McFarland incessantly calling for the firing of Jay Gruden? Say it once, fine. But to continue to say it over and over shows there is more to his comments than just his own professional opinion. I am a big Jay Gruden fan – I played for Jay and he’s a great dude. He hasn’t exactly been put in a position to succeed in Washington, and on top of that, his boss is a certified weirdo how still doesn’t know how to run a professional football franchise after all these years.

• Mitch Trubisky finished 25/31 for 231 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT – he was much better tonight against a very bad defense, but I still don’t trust his accuracy. Even a handful of his completions were poorly thrown balls, which gave his receivers no chance at any YAC numbers. Sunday afternoon vs. Minnesota will give us all a very good picture of where we are with Mitch Trubisky as the starting quarterback of a team that has very strong Super Bowl aspirations.

• Remember when Tarik Cohen & Anthony Miller were the offensive weapons of the future? How’s this working out? Cohen rushed four times for -2 yards. Miller had one catch. Matt Nagy needs to get these two guys involved if he not only wants to keep them happy, but also wants to see this offense flourish this year and beyond. Aside from QB play, the lack of production from Cohen and Miller is very disheartening.

So, What Does It All Mean?
The Bears won a game they had to win against an opponent that deserved to lose. I am not sure how much we learned this week, but it’s better than the alternative, which would be knowing for certain that Trubisky and Nagy and the O-Line all suck and this teams has no chance. Minnesota on Sunday will be a realty check for this team. I am excited to see how they respond.

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

Once again, our Bears troika comes together to pick up the pieces after Week 2’s breathless win in Denver. 

So do we feel good the Bears gutted out a win while not playing particularly well (at least on one side of the ball) or still apprehensive they don’t look all that imposing?

Brian Schmitz (@_BrianSchmitz): In this league, wins are so hard to come by, you have to be grateful no matter how they look. BUT, this win and this team has a lot of warts. I am starting to believe that they are just not that good. They haven’t faced a good team yet, and the offensive results continue to trend the wrong way. It’s even more alarming that a quick fix doesn’t seem possible. The Bears need to get better with the guys they have, but unfortunately, these guys may not be as good as they thought.

Wes French (@WFrenchMan): Any win in the NFL is a positive, and an especially high energy finish of a walk-off 53-yard FG from a team that has this kicker-shadow hanging over them should be a boost for all involved. 

That said, the images of “Club Dub” in the immediate post-game did not look like many were celebrating. The offense was scaled back to the 1950’s, going way run heavy with mixed results and seeing the same poor ball placement from Trubisky. His pass to Robinson to help complete the comeback on 4th and 15 with 9 seconds left was only his second attempt that far down the field all game, and that first one came on the first drive. 
The defense was great until it wasn’t at the end, and everyone got a glimpse of what too many blitzes looks like from the Pagano playbook. 
A win is a win and 1-1 looks way better than 0-2, but there were not too many answers to the questions that came from the Week 1 debacle. 
Brian: Yes…Trubisky continues to struggle with accuracy issues that have played him his entire career. But as this point, how do you coach this up and improve? I’m not sure you can. Also, I’m trying to figure out if Mitch is bad because of Nagy or is Nagy bad because of Mitch?
Wes: Put me in the camp of “Nagy is bad because of Mitch” for now. 

The plays are there to be made, and you can’t fault the coaching when wide open guys are missed by five yards in any direction. The two most egregious plays were the ball short to Cohen and the one over Gabriel, both of which were going for big yards if your QB can simply throw a remotely catchable ball. I don’t know if it’s coachable or how you fix it, but this is going to be a very disappointing season if they don’t find out how to manage the offense to the point they can get to 20 every week. 
Tony Martin (@MrMartinBruh): There’s an old Bomb the Music Industry song called “Even Winning Feels Bad” and that’s the best way I can describe what we saw on the field Sunday afternoon. Oof, that was an ugly one. It felt like watching the Kyle Orton years, and I’d be devastated if this team wasted another year of this defensive core and couldn’t fix the offense. 

I agree with the overall sentiment in this thread so far that the scheme doesn’t matter if the QB can’t execute, and Nagy schemed some guys wide open and those plays were not converted. 
On the plus side: David Montgomery is going to get better and better, and the offensive line was better than it was last week (not like that’s saying much). The defense got their clutch turnover, the pressure was consistent, and Eddy drilled that kick. For every holding call, there were three more that could’ve been called and weren’t. This defense beat a team that is run by someone who knows them inside and out, and maintained some level of domination considering the offense only had the ball for 28 minutes for the entire game. Mitch ran a great 31-second drill. There is room for hope, but I’m not sold yet and I doubt I will be until we see consistent QB play. 
It’s at this point it feels like the truly optimistic would point out that the offense started out extremely slowly last year too, aside from the first half against Green Bay. But they gutted out wins against Seattle and Arizona before coming alive against the admittedly terrible Bucs. Do we think there’s no chance this could be the same situation?
Wes: There is still plenty to be optimistic about, but it’s more being optimistic that the coaching staff can find a way to carry their QB until he turns their advice into action. Trubisky is still very inexperienced at the position, but has the athletic ability to be capable enough to be in most games. He still seems to do better in hurry up situations and when he’s on the move, and while that’s not ideal it’s something they could lean on in the meantime. 

Maybe getting reps in preseason would have helped mitigate some of this bullshit, but this is where we are. Monday will be another tough road test, even though Washington doesn’t look very good. The coaching staff rubbed everyone’s nose in it by becoming a running team in Week 2, now let’s see if they can balance things out and make this look like a decent, NFL level offense. 
Brian: I don’t. I am very down on this team and I think they just may not be very good. Like six or seven wins bad. The Bears haven’t scored over 27 points since last November 11th. My concern is that Matt Nagy has been figured out and hasn’t yet figured out how to counterpunch.