Bears

How much longer can the Bears keep betting on Mike Glennon?

How much longer can the Bears keep betting on Mike Glennon?

GREEN BAY, Wisc. — Back in late April, when the Bears executed their stealthy plan to draft Mitchell Trubisky, general manager Ryan Pace quickly tamped down speculation that the franchise’s highest draft pick since 1951 would start over the guy who signed a $45 million contract a month prior. 

“We’ll focus on Mitch’s development and Mike Glennon winning games for the Chicago Bears,” Pace said. 

Glennon hasn’t won games for the Bears. Well, the Bears won on Sunday against Pittsburgh, but that was with Glennon barely throwing for 100 yards and Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen gouging an oddly-schemed Steelers defense. But Glennon’s debacle Thursday against the franchise’s No. 1 rival, in front of a primetime national audience, was a clear sign that the Bears’ plan isn't playing out the way they had hoped back in the spring. 

"The No. 1 thing we have to fix is turnovers, because I’m not giving our team a chance when you turn the ball over like that," Glennon said.

Glennon held on to the ball too long on the Bears' first offensive snap of what wound up being a 35-14 loss, failing to check down to an open Zach Miller and getting slammed by Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews for a sack/strip the Packers recovered at the Bears’ three-yard line. That spotted Aaron Rodgers a 14-0 lead six minutes into the game, an advantage that helped mask all the significant injuries the Packers dealt with this week (most notably both starting tackles and, by the end of the first half, their top two running backs).  

“(I) just have to get the ball out of my hands quicker,” Glennonsaid. “Didn’t quite like what I saw but I have to move on in the progression.”

The Bears looked able to respond, though, after spotting the Packers a two-touchdown lead. Glennon completed passes to Kendall Wright and Josh Bellamy for 30 yards, and an unnecessary roughness penalty tacked on an extra 15 to Bellamy’s catch to bring the offense to the Green Bay 25-yard line. 

After Adam Shaheen couldn’t hold a block on Ahmad Brooks, who dropped Jordan Howard for a four-yard loss, disaster stuck again: Glennon and center Cody Whitehair couldn’t get on the same page, and as Glennon took a step toward the line of scrimmage, Whitehair snapped the ball. It comically careened off Glennon’s knee past the line of scrimmage and into the waiting arms of Packers linebacker Blake Martinez. 

“Miscommunication,” Glennon said. “Falls on both of us. Gotta do a better job communicating in the huddle to make sure the cadence is correct.”

The Bears’ defense did its part after that fumble, forcing three consecutive Green Bay punts sandwiched around a lighting delay between the first and second quarters. Maybe the Bears would have some life after going back to the locker room for an unexpected break. But Glennon threw his first of two interceptions at the 5:41 mark of the second quarter when he misfired toward Markus Wheaton into the waiting hands of Packers safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix. 

“I went through the progression a little too quick, didn’t let it develop quite enough and it sounds a little crazy getting the ball out of your hands too quick but that’s basically what I did,” Glennon said. “I didn’t give the receiver time to run his full route and that caused it.” 

Consider what Wheaton, who only returned to full practice last week, said when asked if there was miscommunication between the receivers and Glennon, and if developing better communication remains an ongoing process:

“Speaking for myself, I haven’t had a catch,” Wheaton said. “So we obviously have got some stuff to work on.” 

By the time Glennon threw his fourth interception, the game was a laughingstock. Ryan Switzer, the Cowboys receiver who was Trubisky’s roommate at North Carolina, posted a less-than-flattering viral meme on Twitter. Andy Phillips, the undrafted kicker who the Bears cut back in August, piled on, too. This loss, while not as egregious a the scoreline, had the same air of embarrassment as Marc Trestman’s final trip to Lambeau Field (a 55-14 defeat in 2014).

“I think it starts at the top,” coach John Fox said. “We got out-coached, out-played in every area. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Could that involve dumping Glennon and starting Trubisky Oct. 9 against the Minnesota Vikings?

“We need to make a lot of changes,” Fox said. “We’ll evaluate everything and we got a lot of work to do here before we line up against Minnesota on Monday night. And we’re going to look at everything.”

Fox is now 10-25 as Bears coach, and is 5-19 since beating the Packers on Thanksgiving in 2015. More of the same from this 2017 team will not only cost the Bears another season, but it could cost Fox his job — every Bears coach, save Trestman, in the last 40 years has reached the playoffs at least once by their third season in charge. 

The most obvious area for Fox to make a change in this next week and a half is at quarterback. Will that solve all the issues plaguing this team? No. But if a big point in Glennon’s favor was his ability to win before the snap, he hasn’t done that — and he hasn’t won after the snap, either. And in turn, he hasn't won many games.

From a bigger sense, can Fox really afford to bet his coaching future on Glennon? After a night like Thursday, and a month like September, it looks like it could be a bigger risk than playing the kid. 

How Tarik Cohen is thriving as the Bears continue to put more on his plate

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USA Today

How Tarik Cohen is thriving as the Bears continue to put more on his plate

Mitchell Trubisky shook his head and grinned when he fielded yet another question this week about the touchdown pass Tarik Cohen threw against the Baltimore Ravens.

“Dang, you guys can’t get enough of this,” Trubisky said. “I talked about it after the game. Dowell (Loggains) was saying it was the best pass of the game. I’m like, ‘All right, geez, let him play quarterback.

“… He threw a dime ball. I love how he was fading away on it and celebrating on the 50-yard line. Zach (Miller) made a great catch. So A-plus; really impressive spiral, especially with the gloves on. Can’t count any of that out. Tarik’s a special player and it was an awesome throw.”

The point here is less about Cohen’s throw and more about the Bears finding yet another way for the rookie running back to make an impact. So far this year, Cohen has rushed 50 times, caught 26 passes, returned 14 punts and now thrown that historic touchdown. He’s been asked to block in pass protection more frequently, allowing him to be on the field more. And he’s worked with wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni and Kendall Wright (who Cohen referred to as another receiver coach for him) to expand his route tree, leading him to be the most-targeted player (33 targets) on the Bears through six weeks. 

That may seem like a lot to put on the plate of a fourth-round draft pick from an FCS school, but it hasn’t been too much for Cohen. 

“We need Tarik to be that guy for us — the best playmaker we have,” Loggains said. “There’s no secret there. And he’s a guy who we’ll continue to use, and people are aware of him. So how creative can we get with him? How many different things can we do with him? 

“Like, we’re stretching him. Mentally, he’s stretched to the max playing all these positions — motioning out to wide receiver, playing running back and doing more in the backfield with more carries. So we have to keep stretching him and keep using him in the offense.”

Opposing defenses have keyed on Cohen since his explosive debut Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons, scheming to muffle his playmaking ability. But he still managed to nearly have a walk-off 73-yard run against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3, and then in Week 6, with defenses figuring they could crash down on him on sweep plays to the edge, he (literally) threw another wrinkle into how to gameplan against him. The next time the Bears run a toss sweep to Cohen, opposing safeties will have to think twice about bolting toward the line of scrimmage to stop him. 

Every time Cohen seems to hit a rookie wall, he and the Bears find a way to knock it down. The discussion a week ago about Cohen was that he was dancing too much and not cutting upfield quick enough; this week, it’s all about his perfect quarterback rating. 

“Our coaches do a good job of continuing to put him in places so he can be successful,” fellow running back Benny Cunningham said. “But ultimately I feel like he has such a genuine love of the game, I don’t see that happening (hitting the wall). Since the day he’s been here, from Day 1 to today, I’ve seen no drop-off in his desire to be successful and to help this offense.”

The Bears have known this about Cohen's mentality since they scouted and drafted him back in the spring, and his potential only blossomed after getting him into Halas Hall in May — “Early on, we knew Tarik was going to be pretty special,” coach John Fox said. But Cohen wouldn’t be able to reach that potential without the ability to handle the responsibilities of all the different tasks the Bears have asked of him so far. 

Cohen’s ability to do so many different things makes him an important player for this team, and his ability to do them with an exciting, playmaking flair has made him a fan favorite since training camp. So what’s next for the 5-foot-6 rookie?

“I think we’ve got something — I’ll punt the ball this week,” Cohen joked. “Naw, I’m playin’. I can’t put the ball for nothing, I don’t think. It’ll probably go like 20 yards.”

The Bears defense is trending up, and could get Nick Kwiatkoski back as soon as this weekend

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USA Today

The Bears defense is trending up, and could get Nick Kwiatkoski back as soon as this weekend

Nick Kwiatkoski was a full participant in Bears practice on Friday, marking the first time the second-year linebacker has done that since he suffered a pec injury Sept. 17 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, Kwiatkoski sounded confident he could make his return five weeks after suffering that painful injury. 

“It’s not really my decision,” Kwiatkoski said. “I’m preparing like I am, so we’ll see. … “In my head I am (playing). But we’ll see.”

The Bears’ defense, despite placing three key players — linebackers Willie Young and Jerrell Freeman and safety Quintin Demps — on injured reserve, has been solid at worst so far this year. Pro Football Focus has Vic Fangio’s group as the third-best defense in the NFL through Week 6, behind only the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars. 

While Christian Jones played some quality snaps next to Danny Trevathan (and John Timu — he struggled after Timu’s injury against Minnesota), Kwiatkoski represents an upgrade at inside linebacker. The Bears liked what Kwiatkoski did last year in place of an injured Trevathan, and were confident they wouldn’t miss a beat with him filling in after Freeman’s Week 1 injury. 

“He’s a smart guy who has been willing to work,” coach John Fox said. “And I’ve seen that improvement from last year to this year. And anytime you get whacked or injured or taken out for some reason, you’ve got to kind of regain that again. It’s like a do-over. So he has had a good week.”

Kwiatkoski stayed sharp by going through meetings and film study as if he were playing while that pec injury — which he said felt like a “bad pulled muscle” — kept him sidelined for practices and games. If Kwiatkoski indeed is active and/or starting Sunday against Carolina, the hope is he can step in and pick up where he left off in Week 2. 

“I have all the confidence that he'll do fine,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said prior to Kwiatkoski’s injury. And that confidence, in all likelihood, still exists.