Bears Grades: Players "don't know" what problems are with stagnant offense

Bears Grades: Players "don't know" what problems are with stagnant offense

Two weeks into the 2016 season the Bears’ offense has scored a total of three touchdowns. The actual production, or lack of, would be concerning enough. But adding to the concern is the fact that as far as what’s wrong, “I don’t know, I don’t know,” said quarterback Jay Cutler. “But it’s not where it should be. That’s definite.”

Cutler insisted that coaches had in place a good game plan and coordinator Dowell Loggains called a good game, but “we’ve got to figure it out.

“Nothing’s gotten going the way we want it to. A lot of that falls on me; it falls on the rest of the offense. We’ve got to take a look at it and whatever’s bothering us on offense, we’ve got to get it fixed.”

The “it” needing fixing looms larger and larger. An offense that committed to the run netted 10 yards – that’s one-zero, 10 – in the first half while converting just one of five third downs. This against the same Philadelphia defense that was allowing the Cleveland Browns more than 5 yards per carry last week.

The offense lost the football on three of its first four possessions of the second half and had no possession longer than eight plays while the game still mattered.

[RELATED: Check out the grades for the Bears defense]

Quarterback: C-

Jay Cutler performed creditably early with 10-for-13 passing for 145 yards in the first half in the face of pressure from the Philadelphia front. He distributed the ball to six different targets in the first half.

But Cutler also lost the football on a strip-sack that was not entirely his fault as protection faltered early in the second half. “That’s what turned the game, I think,” said Eagles defensive end Connor Barwin.

“I’ve just got to hold onto the ball,” Cutler said. “They did kind of cover [receivers] up okay. I just have to secure the ball there.”

And his careless, back-foot throw toward Alshon Jeffery was intercepted by Philadelphia linebacker Nigel Bradham was devastating, leading to a touchdown that put the Bears down 22-7 after three quarters.

Cutler, suffering from a thumb injury of undisclosed severity, completed 12 of 17 passes for 157 yards, no touchdowns and the interception. Brian Hoyer completed nine of 12 passes for 78 yards in relief of Cutler.

But the turnovers, which Cutler effectively reduced dramatically last year, were deadly.

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Running back: D-

The offense utilized Jeremy Langford starting and Ka’Deem Carey in early and often, and turned to rookie Jordan Howard with good effect in the second half. Langford carried 11 times for 28 yards, Carey twice for three yards, and Howard 22 yards on three runs.

Langford’s fourth-quarter fumble gave the Eagles field position at the Chicago 47 and led to a Philadelphia touchdown. Fullback Paul Lasike provided a perfect seal block on a Langford TD run in the second quarter.

Pass protection was generally poor although exact assignments were difficult to assess right at the time.

Receiver: B

Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal established their presences against struggling Philadelphia defensive backs. Jeffery picked up 22 yards on a first-quarter completion, then 49 when he broke deep behind coverage in the second to set up the Bears’ first touchdown. Royal was exceptional with quick throws to the outside, breaking tackles and turning short completions into long ones with yards after catches.

Jeffery led the Bears with five catches for 96 yards and Royal caught four for 52 total yards.

Kevin White remained a relative non-factor, not what the Bears need from a seventh-overall draft pick. He finished with four receptions, one for 19 yards, but has given the Bears nothing down the field either because of route issues or other factors.

The Bears opened with “12” personnel (one back, two tight ends) and got less than nothing from tight end Logan Paulsen, who let safety Malcolm Jenkins blow in and sack Jay Cutler on the game’s second play and effectively end an important opening possession.

Offensive line: D-

The run game failed again to materialize and Bears quarterbacks took three sacks and six hits on a total of 32 drop-backs. Kyle Long was beaten for a strip-sack in the third quarter by rookie defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao that gave the Eagles field position and momentum after the Bears appeared to be mounting a drive. Josh Sitton was flagged for holding on the second series.

Coaching: F

Maybe the Eagles are simply too stout to run against but the Bears appeared flummoxed early and ran the ball just seven times vs. 15 pass plays in the first half. The offense was able to isolate wide receivers on second-tier corners but calls on third downs were curious.

The defense managed a couple of sacks of Carson Wentz but only three total hits, and Wentz was able to pick apart Bears coverage as the Eagles effectively created some mismatches with linebackers on receivers in space.

Special teams benefitted from a TD return but the return game is puzzling, with the Bears failing to get the ball to the 25-yard line on any of the four kickoffs they elected to bring out.

The overall concern was the lack of fire in the team, which falls on the players. But some component is missing, and sloppy play and ball security points to a problem.

Do you realize just how many things have to break right for a Bears 2018 rebound?


Do you realize just how many things have to break right for a Bears 2018 rebound?

Not all that long ago, back in the seemingly promising Dave Wannstedt days, something of an annual narrative began around the Bears. All too frequently since then it has been the refrain of more offseasons than not, including last year’s. And if there is a cause for very, very sobering realism in the wake of the heady wave of free-agency signings in the first days of the new league year, it lies in what has so often transpired to put the lie to that optimism.

The mantra then, and now, has been various iterations of, “If these three (or four, or six, or 12) things work out, the Bears are gonna be good this year.” Because the reality is that all those what-ifs seldom, if ever, all come to pass, whether because of injury, mis-evaluated abilities or whatever.

Look no further than this time last offseason, just considering the offense:

If Kevin White can come back from (another) injury, if Markus Wheaton flashes his Pittsburgh speed, if Dion Sims takes that next step from a promising Miami stint, if Kyle Long is back from his lower-body issues, if Cameron Meredith comes close to those 66 catches again, if Mike Glennon has the upside that led the GM to guarantee him $18.5 million, and hey, Victor Cruz, too, if… and so on.

And exactly zero of those “if’s” came to pass, with the result that John Fox and Dowell Loggains became idiots.

The point is not to a picker of nit or sayer of nay. But the fact is that a lot of the offseason moves and player development ALL need to come down in the plus-column for the Bears to be even as good as they were back in, say, 2015, when the offense had Martellus Bennett at tight end, Alshon Jeffery at wide receiver, Eddie Royal coming in at slot receiver (with 37 catches in an injury-shortened season), Kyle Long at his Pro-Bowl best, and Jay Cutler about to have the best full season of his career. And a new (proven) head coach and defensive coordinator, and an offensive coordinator with head-coaching talent.

All those things “worked” for a team that would wobble to a 6-10 year.

Now consider 2018:

The current top two wide receivers are both – both – coming off season-ending ACL injuries;

The incoming slot receiver has never had a season as reception-productive as the one (Kendall Wright) he is replacing (59) or as many as Royal had in just nine 2015 games (37);

The new tight end has never been a starter and has fewer career catches (63) than Bennett averaged (69) in three supremely disappointing Bears seasons;

The best offensive lineman (Long) is coming off missing essentially half of each of the past two seasons with injuries, and the co-best (Sitton) is gone from an offensive line that was middle of the pack last year and has high hopes for two linemen (Hroniss Grasu, Eric Kush) who’ve been largely backups, and a third (Jordan Morgan) who missed his rookie season with an injury;

And the quarterback (Trubisky) upon whom the franchise rests, who needs to overcome any so-called sophomore jinx and improve from a rookie level (77.8 passer rating) that was barely better than Cutler’s worst NFL season (76.8).

All of which sounds negative, but it really isn’t, just a perspective. Offseasons are about hope, but realism isn’t all bad, either.

In moving forward with Dion Sims, the Bears will keep a mix of skillsets at tight end

USA Today

In moving forward with Dion Sims, the Bears will keep a mix of skillsets at tight end

When the Bears signed Trey Burton to a four-year contract worth a reported $32 million (with $18 million of it guaranteed), the natural thought was this: So long, Dion Sims. But the Bears are all but certainly going to hang on to the 27-year-old tight end after his $4 million roster bonus became fully guaranteed on Friday, barring a trade. 

“We like Dion Sims, a well-rounded tight end,” general manager Ryan Pace said on Thursday. “We’re excited we got him.”

Cynically — or, perhaps, fairly — Pace’s comments could’ve been interpreted as part of a play to trade Sims, who signed a three-year contract in 2017. The Bears saw Sims as a strong run blocker with pass-catching upside, but still gave themselves an out after one year that would’ve netted $5.666 million in cap savings. 

Sims didn’t show any of that receiving upside last year, though, catching 15 of 29 targets (51 percent) for 180 yards with one touchdown. Crucially, the Bears have the cap space to keep Sims, even with the flurry of signings they’ve announced this week -- and Kyle Fuller's reported four-year, $56 million extension -- and contract extensions looming for Eddie Goldman and possibly Adrian Amos, too. 

So hanging on to Sims means the Bears value his contributions as a run blocker and are willing to shoulder a $6.3 million cap hit for him to primarily be used in that role. The Bears expect Shaheen to be their primary in-line tight end, with Burton and Daniel Brown, who signed a one-year contract Friday, the more pass-catching-oriented “move” guys in Matt Nagy’s offense. But Sims will still have a role as the Bears look to maximize their production from the tight end position. 

“I think we can use all our tight ends,” Pace said. “I think the Super Bowl champions are a recent example of that, of using a lot of tight ends. They’re all valuable weapons. They’re all a little different. I think they all complement each other. It fits together nicely.”