Bears

After running through a gauntlet of tough defenses, can Mitchell Trubisky take advantage against Green Bay?

After running through a gauntlet of tough defenses, can Mitchell Trubisky take advantage against Green Bay?

Going by points allowed, Mitchell Trubisky faced defenses ranked third (Minnesota), fourth (Carolina), seventh (Baltimore) and ninth (New Orleans) in his first four NFL starts. 

If you’re into advanced stats, all those defenses rank in the top 10 of Football Outsiders’ DVOA: Baltimore is No. 2, Carolina is No. 5, New Orleans is No. 8 and Minnesota is No. 9. That’s quite a gauntlet for a rookie quarterback to try to get through. 

On Sunday, though, Trubisky will face a Green Bay Packers defense ranked 22nd in points allowed and 20th in defensive DVOA. He’ll have a new weapon at his disposal — wide receiver Dontrelle Inman is expected to make his Bears debut — and may get another one back, with Markus Wheaton saying on Wednesday he “absolutely” expects to play Sunday. 

The Bears believe they’re close to breaking through offensively, and facing a defense that's trending the wrong way may be the perfect opportunity for it. 

“I think we’re a team on the rise,” Wheaton said. 

When Trubisky took a bigger-picture evaluation of his first half, he noted that opposing defenses rarely followed their tendencies when he faced them. To wit: the Ravens ran a lot more Cover-2 against the Bears than they did in their previous games, while the Saints executed a couple of blitzes Trubisky hadn’t seen before on film. 

“Usually tendencies are a big thing you like to pick up on defenses,” Trubisky said. “But if they’re not showing us, we’ll have to adjust on the fly and take what the defense gives us.”

Trubisky expects Dom Capers’ Green Bay defense do to the same — “they look at their tendencies and try to mix it up,” he said —  but can it be as effective as what Minnesota, Baltimore, Carolina and New Orleans did?

The stats say probably not. And this game against Green Bay begins a run of seven consecutive games against defenses ranked outside the top 10 in both points allowed and DVOA: Detroit is 20th in points allowed and 11th in DVOA, Philadelphia is 12th and 10th, San Francisco is 31st and 25th, Cincinnati is 11th and 14th, Detroit (again) and Cleveland is 28th and 18th. 

Those numbers will change as November rolls into December, but for a Bears offense feeling optimistic about its second-half outlook, the opposing defenses it'll face could be conducive to better production.

Bears do not believe Leonard Floyd tore his ACL, but expect him to ‘miss some time’

Bears do not believe Leonard Floyd tore his ACL, but expect him to ‘miss some time’

Bears coach John Fox said doctors do not believe linebacker Leonard Floyd tore his ACL, but stressed the 2016 first-round pick is still being evaluated to determine the exact nature of his knee injury. 

Fox, though, admitted Floyd is “going to miss some time” due to the injury, which was suffered when cornerback Kyle Fuller awkwardly fell into Floyd’s leg early in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the Detroit Lions. Placing Floyd on injured reserve, which would end his season with six games remaining, is an option, per Fox.

“He’s one of our top players,” Fox said. “Obviously disappointing. He was having a heck of a game, he was playing extremely well. It’s unfortunate, but it’s reality.”

With Floyd out, the Bears are down to three healthy outside linebackers in Pernell McPhee, Sam Acho and Isaiah Irving. McPhee is third on the Bears with four sacks and 10 hurries, while Acho has half of a sack and four hurries this year. Irving — an undrafted free agent signed off the practice squad last month — has only played three defensive snaps in six games, and mostly has received special teams snaps. 

“I think (Irving’s) kind of caught our eye on some special teams, our fourth down things,” Fox said. “He’s played sparingly as an outside backer but he’s a guy that obviously we’ve had in the system and he’s been working and I think he’ll get more opportunities moving forward.”
 

With Connor Barth waived, trying to make sense of why the Bears signed him in the first place

With Connor Barth waived, trying to make sense of why the Bears signed him in the first place

The Bears addressed an open wound at the core of their special teams with the waiver of kicker Connor Barth and signing of former Kansas City Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos.

Not to spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror, but a question still lingers, the kind of inevitable second-guessing that follows any failed personnel decision, because so many of those moves made a lot of sense at the time: What were the Bears thinking when they opted at the end of the 2016 preseason to replace Robbie Gould with Barth?

An easy question to ask at this point, with Barth missing a game-tying field-goal try from 46 yards to leave the final Bears-Lions score at 27-24 on Sunday. It’s also easy to forget that Gould’s exit traced to a missed 36-yarder for a win over San Francisco to reach .500, followed a week later by a 50-yard miss for a tie to reach overtime against Washington. Even though Gould made his final seven field-goal attempts of that season, he missed two PATs during the 2016 preseason, reopening a confidence wound and sealing the deal, because when the head coach loses confidence in a player, that player is gone.

Easiest to forget, particularly right now, is that Barth converted 15 of 16 field-goal attempts in 2014 with the Denver Broncos — coached by John Fox. Barth was successful that year on four of his five attempts from beyond 40 yards, a range at which Sunday’s miss against Detroit left him 6-for-10 as a Bear.

Jettisoning Gould two years into the four-year, $15 million contract he signed in late 2013 wasn’t entirely about money. But it remains head-scratching if only because Gould was successful on 84.6 percent of his field goals in 2015. But in fairness to Fox, general manager Ryan Pace and Bears evaluators, Barth had been successful on 86.5 percent of his field goals (115-for-133) in the five seasons before the Bears signed him.