Bears

How Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson have teamed up to solidify the Bears at safety

amosjacksonbears.png
USA TODAY

How Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson have teamed up to solidify the Bears at safety

Games against divisional opponents inherently are ideal for measuring progress, with straight lines able to be drawn between Games 1 and 2 against the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions.

Sunday’s rematch with the Packers — who beat the Bears, 35-14, in Week 4 — will be scrutinized heavily for signs of progress, especially for an offense that has a different quarterback under center.

The absence of Aaron Rodgers muddies things a bit for the Bears’ defense, but Sunday will mark the sixth game of the Adrian Amos-Eddie Jackson safety pairing, with those players starting together for the first time at Lambeau Field in late September. And since that rough evening in Wisconsin, the pair of Ryan Pace draft picks (Amos was a fifth rounder, Jackson a fourth) has played well.

“The ability to play together, feeding off one another,” Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson said of the improvements Amos and Jackson have made. “I think they play well down in the box, they move well in the back end. Jackson had a big game a couple weeks ago with a pick and a fumble return, so guys that are always around the pile and ready to make a play when they get that opportunity.”

Both Jackson and Amos have pick-sixes and fumble recoveries this year, with Jackson’s going for a score against the Carolina Panthers. Amos is fourth on the Bears in tackles (35) and third in tackles for a loss (four) despite barely playing on defense until Quintin Demps’ suffered a broken arm Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jackson is second on the team with four pass break-ups.

While both made some mistakes against the New Orleans Saints in Week 8, they’ve played at a high enough level together that the Bears haven’t missed Demps, the veteran and team captain who signed a three-year contract back in March.

“You have to have a trust factor there with your partner on the back end,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I think those guys have it.”

Amos sort of struggled to explain the chemistry between he and Jackson, beyond saying “we just work well together.” That’s not a bad thing — it just works and makes sense for the pair, and that speaks to the natural fit between Amos, who’s strong in the box, and Jackson, who’s strong in coverage.

“He’s a better tackler than I am, so he’s more in the box than I am,” Jackson said. “I’m in the field, covering receivers most of the time. We just really try to balance it out.”

The Bears liked Demps’ experience next to Jackson to begin the year, but Amos has played over 2,000 snaps in Fangio’s system at this point, which has helped the pair mesh. The Bears seem to have found the right mix at safety, and potentially without a key defensive player (linebacker Danny Trevathan, who didn’t practice this week due to a calf injury) against a scuffling Green Bay offense, will need to keep trending in the right direction for continued defensive success on Sunday.

“Amos is a smart guy,” Jackson said. “He’s been around so long, if I’m confused on something, I can look at him and he’ll give me the check real quick. And if he has a blur in his mind, he can look at me and I’ll give him the check. So it’s just, you help each other out, you can be a crutch for one another.”

Bears ’18 offseason dramatically different from ’17 but with difficult money-management issues looming

ryan_pace.jpg
USA TODAY

Bears ’18 offseason dramatically different from ’17 but with difficult money-management issues looming

About this time a year ago the Bears were setting up for the annual NFL beauty pageant in Indianapolis, sitting with the No. 3 pick in the 2017 draft and with myriad roster decisions to address with both that draft and free agency. Because of the Bears’ lofty draft position, even more scrutiny and attention swirled around the college prospects (Deshaun Watson, Jamal Adams, Solomon Thomas, not enough on Mitch Trubisky as it turned out, a testimonial to GM Ryan Pace’s ability to keep a secret).

But what was developing in free agency was arguably of even greater significance in what was then the short term, at least for John Fox, as it turned out. And the changed landscape this year bodes considerably better for Pace and the Bears. At least in one important respect.

First, a perspective from last year’s pre-Combine period...

Because of the unsettled quarterback situation – the Bears were working toward Mike Glennon and cutting Jay Cutler two weeks later – and concerns about a possible lame-duck situation for Fox, free agents and their agents were willing to look at the Bears but only if the Bears would pony up excessive guaranteed dollars. The worry any time a coach is heading into a tipping-point year is that if things go badly, the coach and staff are gone, and the resulting changes will alter the job situation of that particular veteran player.

So the likes of cornerbacks A.J. Bouye or Stephon Gilmore opted for less total money from Jacksonville and New England, respectively, because the Bears weren’t offering higher guarantees to compensate for the uncertainty.

(One of the reasons then-President/CEO Michael McCaskey stated to this reporter for firing Mike Ditka after the 1992 season was a concern over the negative pall Ditka cast over playing for the Bears as the NFL prepared for the 1993 start of free agency. A quarter-century later, Pace didn’t fire Fox because of free agents’ aversion to Fox, but the overall wasn’t making Pace’s job any easier.)

Would Alshon Jeffery have stayed if...

On a slightly different tack: Would Alshon Jeffery have given the Bears a more receptive look had the quarterback position been addressed sooner in the Fox/Pace tenure? Jeffery took less from the Eagles in a one-year prove-it deal, not because Philadelphia was so much warmer than Chicago, but in large part because of where the offensive arrow was pointing in Chicago with Fox, Dowell Loggains and an unsettled quarterback situation.

Not insignificantly in the Jeffery case: Jeffery had four choices – Bears, Indianapolis, Minnesota, Philadelphia. The Colts weren’t sure about Andrew Luck, coming off shoulder surgery and ultimately missing all of ’17. The Vikings were resting then on brittle Sam Bradford, whose knee broke down early, and Case Keenum wasn’t CASE KEENUM at that point. The Bears with Loggains and Glennon? Jeffery didn’t go with Philadelphia, Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz only for the money, which did come anyway.

The Bears have “fixed” all of those issues in the year that’s played out since Jeffery signed with the Eagles almost concurrent with the Bears moving on from Cutler. None of that matters now in the least with Jeffery, Bouye, Gilmore or any other options that demanded too much guaranteed money or spurned the Bears back then, but it does matter going into the run-up to free agency over the next couple weeks.

Why this in fact matters more than the draft is that, while sound organizations are grounded in quality drafting, the reality is that in virtually every offseason, more starters for that season are acquired via free agency than the draft. Last year’s draft centerpiece was Trubisky, though he wasn’t supposed to start last season. But free agents Glennon, Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper, Quintin Demps and Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright were.

The money pit

Longtime Bears and NFL personnel chief Bill Tobin once remarked back in the beginning of free agency, “Just because you pay a guy $2 million doesn’t make him a $2-million player.” That still applies, adjusted for inflation. And that could make this free agency dicey for the Bears.

Because price isn’t always determined solely on quality; it’s a matter of supply and demand. And while the Bears are among those with the greatest estimated space under the projected cap of $178 million, the others way up on the list include Cleveland, Indianapolis, the Jets, Houston and Tampa Bay – all teams with five or fewer wins in ’17 and expected to be the most aggressive in using free agency to fix gaping holes. The Bears have a lot of money to spend, but so do a whole lot of others.

Meaning: A lot of dollars will be chasing a select few players, which will make some of them overpaid, not unlike Glennon was last offseason (how many apparently better options were there?) or a couple of others, who will be paid like $2 million players even if they aren’t, adjusted for inflation.

The result is another offseason of brinksmanship for Pace, this time in need of better results than his first three free agencies if the outcome for his second head coach is to be better than it was for his first.

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

jlandry.png
USA TODAY

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

The Bears are looking for an upgrade at wide receiver this offseason, and there may be one available.

The Dolphins used the franchise tag on wide receiver Jarvis Landry on Tuesday, in a move that many believe signals the team's desire to deal him instead of losing him in free agency for nothing.

Landry put up excellent numbers last season, catching 112 passes for 987 yards and nine touchdowns. He led the league in catches and was fourth in touchdown receptions but was just 17th in yards. His yards per reception ranked 108th of 139 qualifying players.

Still, it's no secret he'd be an upgrade for the Bears at wide receiver. Though they'll get Cam Meredith and Kevin White back from injury, the corps largely struggled and didn't give rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky much help.

Luckily, they may be interested in Landry, per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.

"There are a couple teams that we should keep an eye on as far as a potential Jarvis Landry landing spot......the Chicago Bears are looking for receviers," he said.

Rapoport also mentioned the Titans, Panthers and Saints as options for Landry. The franchise tag will pay Landry about $16 million before he becomes a free agent in 2019 (or has the franchise tag used on him again).