How Mitch Trubisky can re-set the Bears’ running game


How Mitch Trubisky can re-set the Bears’ running game

For the Bears’ offense to be successful, it has to consistently and effectively run the ball. The Green Bay Packers, and every other team in the league knows that and (except, oddly, the Pittsburgh Steelers) schemed against that strength. 

“It’s a copycat league,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “When they see you’re efficient in one area, they’re going to do things to take that away.”

So two in every three times Jordan Howard carried the ball last week at Lambeau Field, he did so facing eight or more Packers in the box, according to NFL’s Next Gen stats. Only two running backs have faced a higher percentage of loaded boxes in a game this year: Tennessee’s Derrick Henry (71.43 percent, Week 2) and Carolina’s Mike Tolbert (72.73 percent, Week 3). 

Henry isn’t necessarily a pure short-yardage/goal line back, but at 247 pounds and splitting carries with DeMarco Murray, he’s built to grind out necessary yardage. And Tolbert, as a 5-foot-9, 243 pound bowling ball, has made a career out of snagging touchdowns from short-and-goal situations. 

Neither player is a feature running back in the way Howard is. But as long as Mike Glennon was quarterback, the secret was out: Load the box, stop Howard and that’ll stop the Bears’ offense. 

The good news for Howard: Mitchell Trubisky’s arm strength and mobility could alleviate some of that pressure at the line of scrimmage. 

The Bears won’t put a lot on Trubisky, at least not yet, in terms of making run checks — an area of Glennon’s game that Loggains pointed out was a strength — but his own running ability will open up more for the offense. 

“The threat of the other things—the zone-reads and the nakeds and the boots and the sprint-outs and all those other things definitely can help and affect the run game in a different way,” Loggains said. 

Trubisky’s arm strength, too, could force defenses to back off stacking the box if he shows he can complete downfield throws to guys like Markus Wheaton or Deonte Thompson (it’s also incumbent on those receivers to catch the ball when given the opportunity). Opposing defensive backs will have to deal with the threat of having to cover receivers for longer if Trubisky is rolling out or making something happen on a broken down play, too. Specifically: Cohen's quickness could result in some big gains on broken plays. 

"You have to always be available for him because you never know what he’s going to do," Cohen said. "He’s very mobile. Just keeping the play alive is something that’s he’s going to do and we’ve got to be ready for it."

Also helping for the run game: The Bears’ offensive line is in the midst of its first full week of practice together (Charles Leno, Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long, Bobby Massie) in 2017. 

“It’s just great cohesion and stuff like that because the more games they play together, they better they work off each other,” Howard said. 

The Minnesota Vikings have held opposing ball-carriers to 3.1 yards per rush, the third-lowest average in the NFL, and this defense ranks 8th in rushing DVOA. So while the thought is Howard and Cohen could help ease things for Trubisky, it can work the other way, with the first-time starter giving the running backs some breathing room against a top-tier run defense. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who should the Bears sign, Allen Hurns or Cam Meredith?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who should the Bears sign, Allen Hurns or Cam Meredith?

On this episode of SportsTalk Live, Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times), Chris Emma (670 The Score) and Ben Finfer join Luke Stuckmeyer on the panel.

Allen Robinson’s former Jaguars teammate is a free agent. Would signing Allen Hurns make sense for the Bears?

Plus, Loyola has traffic problems on the Road to the Final Four and the guys debate the biggest need for the Blackhawks heading into a long offseason.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Kyle Fuller believes he's a Top 5 cornerback in the NFL

USA Today

Kyle Fuller believes he's a Top 5 cornerback in the NFL

Kyle Fuller caused a bit of a panic late Friday afternoon when a report dropped that he signed an offer sheet with the Green Bay Packers. For a few hours, the prospect — even if it was always unlikely — of the Bears losing their best cornerback to their arch rivals to the north loomed over Chicago. 

For Fuller, though, he said he barely had time to think about the possibility of cashing in on his breakout 2017 season with the Packers. The Bears quickly matched the offer sheet, officially announcing the four-year deal Tuesday that makes Fuller one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL. 

“It was crazy not really knowing what to expect,” Fuller said. “I would have never expected it. But when (the Packers’ offer sheet) came, it was definitely something to consider, just on the business side of it. At the end of the day, how it all played out, I’m definitely happy.”

Fuller sounded like someone who took a more passive role to his quasi-restricted free agency that was set about when the Bears placed the transition tag on him, allowing them to match any offer sheet that he were to sign. Fuller said he didn’t know all the details of what was going on with offer sheets coming in and negotiations with the Bears.

“I kinda was just getting the information from (my agents) and going with the flow of everything and knowing that at the end of the day it would end up working out,” Fuller said. 

The $14 million average annual value of Fuller’s contract ranks fifth among cornerbacks, behind only Washington’s Josh Norman ($15 million), New York’s Trumaine Johnson ($14.5 million) Minnesota’s Xavier Rhodes ($14.02 million) and Arizona’s Patrick Peterson ($14.01 million), according to Spotrac. 

Fuller said he considers himself a top-five cornerback in the league, and he played like someone who could wind up in that discussion in 2017. The 2014 first-round pick was one of four players to break up 20 or more passes last year, and he picked off two passes in December while providing excellent support against the run. 

“We could not be happier to have Kyle under contract for four more years,” general manager Ryan Pace said. “We feel he is an ascending player on our top 10 defense and we look forward to him having many more productive seasons here in Chicago.”