Why NaVorro Bowman would and wouldn’t make sense for the Bears

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Why NaVorro Bowman would and wouldn’t make sense for the Bears

A little after ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the San Francisco 49ers were putting linebacker NaVorro Bowman on the trading block, the 49ers released the four-time All-Pro inside linebacker. That begs the question: Would he make sense with the Bears?

The Bears need help at inside linebacker, with Jerrell Freeman out for the year, Nick Kwiatkoski still working his way back from a chest injury and John Timu out with an ankle/knee injury he suffered Monday night against Minnesota. Bowman, too, had some of his best years playing for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio with the San Francisco 49ers, with 2013 a high point (120 tackles, five sacks, two interceptions, six forced fumbles). 

Bowman is a big name, but his play hasn't matched his star power recently. The 29-year-old suffered two serious injuries over the last four years: An ACL and MCL tear in the 2014 NFC Championship, and a torn Achilles’ that limited him to just four games last year. That the 49ers couldn't find a trade partner, or didn't think they would before the NFL's Oct. 31 trade deadline, speaks to how much Bowman's stock has fallen. 

The money owed to Bowman may have been a deterrent in trade talks (he carries a cap hit of around $9.5 million in 2017 and a little under $12 million in 2018, according to Spotrac). If the Bears were to sign him, they wouldn't be on the hook for that much cash

But this doens't take into account two things, the first being how much the Bears like Kwiatkoski. Coaches felt confident he could seamlessly step in for Jerrell Freeman back in September before he suffered a pec injury of his own in Week 2. The 2016 fourth-round pick was limited in practice this week, and while he’s officially listed as questionable, that he’s worked with the scout team this week wouldn’t indicate he’ll play in Baltimore on Sunday.

But it does seem that Kwiatkoski is moving closer to a return, and when he does, the need for an aging, injury-prone former Pro Bowler would diminish at that position.

Then there's point No. 2: Why would Bowman want to sign with a team that's 1-4? Even if he still has a strong relationship with Fangio, he's nearing 30 and has played in three NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl. It's more likely he would push for a spot on a contender to chase a ring than go to a team lagging in last place in its division. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma ( and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing.