Grades: Bears still need more from defensive line


Grades: Bears still need more from defensive line

The defense allowed just 12 total points and took the a weakened San Diego offense out of a balanced approach as the game went on. But pass rush from the down linemen was nearly non-existent.

Even when the Bears did get to Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, they couldn’t “get” to him. Rivers was under virtually no pressure early, saw the rush pick up occasionally in the second quarter to force several throwaways, but too often the outside rush allowed Rivers to ease away from pressure.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

“We knew we were going to be up against a big test,” said coach John Fox.

Jarvis Jenkins was credited with three solo tackles but also was penalized for roughing the passer with 15 seconds to play in the first half, helping set up the Chargers for a field goal on what had been an incomplete pass.

“I thought all-in-all we hung in there pretty well defensively and that was a pick-six that we gave up offensively,” Fox said.

Moon's Game Grade: C

Personnel upheaval hit the defensive line hard at a time when the scheme was changing to a 3-4, and off-field incidents cost the unit two (Ray McDonald, Jeremiah Ratliff) of its projected starting three down-linemen, ones who knew the 3-4 system. Then five-technique Ego Ferguson was lost to a knee injury, further depleting what was expected to be at least a respectable position group.

[MORE: MNF win over Chargers a 'starting point' for Bears playoff run?]

Rookie Eddie Goldman added power to the interior with his work at nose tackle, and indications are that Goldman will develop into what Vic Fangio’s 3-4 needs as an anchor in the middle.

Jenkins has been a solid addition, delivering more pass rush (3.5 sacks) than he had previously in his career combined (2 sacks). More important, he has been a leader in the locker room and on the field, where he is second on the Bears with 4 tackles for loss. 

Moon's Mid-year Grade: C+

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.