Bears

Adam Gase has these Bears on the run, in more ways than one

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Adam Gase has these Bears on the run, in more ways than one

The specifics aren’t really important as much as the overall. And while individual plays and schemes were generally vanilla, the underlying offensive philosophy wasn’t.

The ’15 Bears ran the football, just as offensive coordinator Adam Gase said they would. Interestingly, they did it in a hurry much of the time.

In Thursday’s first half the Bears went to the line of scrimmage without a huddle 16 times. Two of the snaps were nullified by penalties but that still had them running 14 of their 29 plays in the half without a huddle.

“I like it,” said quarterback Jay Cutler. “I like it a lot. It gives us a lot of time on the clock; if we want to change a play, want to go to something else, we can. I think it kind of wore the defense out as we progressed throughout the game. The way the game got going there toward the end, I think that was because we ran so many plays.”

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Gase, in line with the thinking of coach John Fox, said that the Bears will run the football. Without starting running back Matt Forte, the Bears rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns, and, more important, did it with a balanced game plan that may be the template for 2015.

Gase stayed the course despite a spate of offensive penalties and gave the offensive line a chance to right itself. He called six run plays vs. three passes in a first quarter that saw the Bears manage just 49 yards. But the pattern was set: The first half ended with the Bears throwing on their last seven plays, in a hurry-up situation over 1:02. But prior to that, Gase sent in 11 running plays and exactly 11 pass plays.

The game planning may have been simple and intentionally non-revealing, but the overall was revealing: 33 runs, 34 pass plays, and the latter with those seven straight in the final hurry up minute of the first half.

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“All the running backs did great tonight,” said quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who played the majority of the game. “I thought they did a great job, as well as the offensive line up front, opening holes for those guys.”

Not that the past means anything, but in last year’s opening first half under Marc Trestman the Bears piled up 14 points and 197 yards but in what turned out to be an ominous foreshadowing, threw the ball 24 times and ran it just 12. Meaning: a 67-33 pass run ratio. For the Trestman regime, the ratio turned out to be 63-37.

That time, and not so much the football, is passed.

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

The first major move of Ryan Pace’s 2018 offseason hit on Tuesday, as NFL Network reported the Bears will not exercise Josh Sitton’s $8 million option for 2018. 

The move accomplishes two things for the Bears: 1) It frees up about $8 million in cap space and 2) Removes a veteran from the offensive line and creates a hole to fill, presumably by a younger free agent or draft pick. 

The 31-year-old Sitton signed a three-year deal with the Bears after Green Bay cut him just before the 2016 season, and was a Pro Bowler his first year in Chicago. Sitton played 26 of 32 games in two years with the Bears, but him being on the wrong side of 30 was likely the biggest factor here. If the Bears saw his skills eroding, releasing him now and netting the cap savings while going younger at the position does make sense. 

“Going younger” doesn’t guarantee the Bears will draft Notre Dame brawler Quenton Nelson, though that did become a greater possibility with Tuesday’s move. Nelson might be one of the two or three best offensive players in this year’s draft, and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand knows him well from the four years they spent together at Notre Dame. 

There’s a natural fit there, of course, but a few reasons to slow the Nelson-to-Chicago hype train: Would he even make it to No. 8? Or if he’s there, is taking a guard that high worth it when the Bears have needs at wide receiver, outside linebacker and cornerback? Still, the thought of Nelson — who absolutely dominated at Notre Dame — pairing with Hiestand again is tantalizing, and Nelson very well could step into any team’s starting lineup and be an immediate Pro Bowler as a rookie. 

If the Bears go younger in free agency, Matt Nagy knows 26-year-old guard Zach Fulton (No. 25 in Bleacher Report’s guard rankings) well from their time in Kansas City. Fulton — a Homewood-Flossmoor alum — has the flexibility to play both guard positions and center, which could open the door for Cody Whitehair to be moved to left guard, the position he was initially drafted to play (though the Bears do value him highly as a center, and keeping him at one position would benefit him as opposed to moving him around the line again). There are some other guys out there — like Tennessee’s Josh Kline or New York’s Justin Pugh — that could wind up costing more than Fulton in free agency. 

Or the Bears could look draft an offensive lineman after the first round, perhaps like Ohio State’s Billy Price, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn or UTEP’s Will Hernandez. How the Bears evaluate guards at the NFL Combine next week will play an important role in how they go about replacing Sitton. 

The trickle-down effect of releasing Sitton will impact more than the offensive line, too. Freeing up his $8 million in cap space -- which wasn't a guarantee, unlike cutting Jerrell Freeman and, at some point, Mike Glennon -- could go toward paying Kyle Fuller, or another top cornerback, or a top wide receiver, or some combination of players at those positions (as well as outside linebacker). The Bears were already in a healthy place cap-wise; that just got healthier on Tuesday. 

Bears cut ties with linebacker Jerrell Freeman

Bears cut ties with linebacker Jerrell Freeman

The Bears began their slew of offseason moves by releasing inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Freeman, 31, signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Bears in 2016.

In his first year in Chicago he amassed 110 tackles in 12 games but was suspended four games for PED use. He played in just one game lsat season before suffering a pectoral injury that placed him on IR. He then tested positive again for a performance-enhancing drug, resulting in a 10-game suspension that bleeds over into 2018 for two more games, wherever he winds up.