Bears

Moon: Cleaning out the notebook the day after...

326254.jpg

Moon: Cleaning out the notebook the day after...

Monday, Nov. 29, 2010
10:14 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Any doubt about the absolute importance of the Bears running the ball often as much as well, hopefully in Mike Martzs mind, should be forever dispelled after what the offense did to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Matt Forte ran for 117 yards on 14 carries and now has a rushing average of 4.2, something that has been the case too seldom in his two-plus year career. But Sunday was his seventh 100-yard rushing game, it was the first 100-yard rushing game against Philadelphia this season, and the Bears are 7-0 in games when Forte runs into triple figures.

Dont for a moment dismiss the yardage total because 61 of the yards came on one run and 28 on another, meaning that Forte averaged 2.3 on the other 12 runs. Big runs come because they have enough chances to happen and Martz is giving his tailback enough chances.

And also dont dismiss entirely the lack of production from Chester Taylor, who had minus-3 yards on 6 carries. The 6 carries and pass protection were contributions and thats what the Bears need from their backs. The yards will come, either passing or running, if the offense shows it can and will do both.

Nice calls

Compliments to old buddy Jay Glazer, NFL maven for FOXSports.com, who told CSNChicago.com back in training camp that the Bears were his NFC darkhorse. Glaze also had the Miami Dolphins as a quiet one to watch in the AFC. The Dolphins problem is being stuck in an AFC East with the New England Patriots and New York Jets, but thats a team that is 5-1 on the road and managing to play with huge injury issues at quarterback.

Lets not be too hard on another good friend, Peter King, for still ranking the Green Bay Packers (No. 4) ahead of the Bears (No. 5) in his excellent Monday Morning Quarterback". Peter still has doubts about the Bears offensive line, which is reasonable. But Peter somehow doesnt seem to have significant questions about Green Bays ability to run the football and he still sees the Packers playing in the NFC Championship game.

Peters in-depth look at the goofy Josh McDaniels-videoGate situation in Denver, plus Ron Riveras great job in San Diego, are definitely worth looks.

Stat-ing

On the subject of handling the football

Martz called 16 pass plays in the first half vs. 7 handoffs to Forte and Taylor. Jay Cutler was sacked four times and ran twice. In the second half, with a run game established in the form of Fortes 61-yard excursion, Martz had Cutler throw 11 times vs. Forte, Taylor and Devin Hester (handoff from Wildcat QB Earl Bennett) running ball 14 times. Cutler wasnt sacked, although he did set off on runs five times, which ultimately takes a toll on defensive linemen forced to pursue and put that threat in the minds of opposing secondaries.

Of those 11 second-half passes, five went to other than wide receivers, who were the only targets in the first half. Tight ends were 2-for-2 with Greg Olsen scoring on his one catch and Brandon Manumaleuna creating a first-and-goal with his. Forte was targeted three times in the second half, meaning that Cutler threw six times to wideouts in the second half and five times elsewhere. Good distribution.

Cutler morph

Jay Cutler has been a passer throughout his career. What he has become over the past four games is a quarterback. Theres difference, a huge one.

As Ive stated previously, Cutler is in no way a game manager, which has wrongly been assigned a negative connotation by some. (No one calls Tom Brady or (usually) Peyton Manning a game manager but are there any better ones?) Kyle Orton wasis a game manager and the Bears went 10-5 behind him in 2005 so thats not a bad thing necessarily.

But Cutler becoming a quarterback is without question the most significant development of 2010, bigger even than the signing of Julius Peppers. Taking a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty in Sundays fourth quarter for continuing a rant at an officials non-call was beneath stupid and beyond immature. But Cutler has grown up as a football player as this season has gone on. And if he can grow up as a football player, finally, the suspicion would also be that he can grow up as a person as well, which is what being a quarterback and a leader is all about.

Hell be back?

Could Brett Favre be swayed into coming back for one more year one more time? Theres suddenly a little buzz coming out of Minnesota with the elevation of class guy Leslie Frazier to head coach and all Favre ever seems to need is a little buzz from somewhere.

Frazier earned a Gatorade shower (the invention of the 1984 Bears, by the way, not the New York Giants) with the Vikings win over Washington. Next they have the Buffalo Bills coming, a probable win in the first of three straight home games. After that they host the New York Giants and finally the Bears on MNF.

The Minnesota answer doesnt lie in Tavaris Jackson. I dont see Frazier or any more teammates traveling to Mississippi to beg Favre back this time, but Favre leaving on a down note (which his 010 has been) somehow doesnt seem like the gimme it did a little while ago with Brad Childress there.

Ya never know, ya know?

Hell be back!

A little bit of your football heart has to go out to Buffalo Bills wideout Steve Johnson, who has been nothing short of an emerging star playing to the limit for a team with nothing to play for each week. Johnson had and dropped what would have been a game-winning touchdown against none other than the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday and was near tears standing up to the questions afterwards.

Ill never get over it, said Johnson, who burned the Bears for 11 catches and 145 yards up in Toronto. Ill never get it. Ever.

Just guessing, but Johnson will. And you want him to. Hes never stopped caring and thats a good thing.

Oooops

Still think the Bears should have gone after Randy Moss so they could finally have a true No. 1 receiver (whatever that is)? Call the Tennessee Titans; you can probably still get him. Moss line: three games, all losses, 4 receptions, zero TDs.

Sad story

Sympathies go out to those close to the young man who died in a fall at Soldier Field Sunday. Police were still investigating late Sundayearly Monday but regardless of circumstances, that puts a sad pall over the day.

Lez talk

Probably one or two things to e-talk about tonight on the Monday night chat, 7-8 p.m. on CSNChicago.com. Let me know what you think.

Will check in about 4:40 p.m.with Larry and Don and central Illinois on SportsRadio 1450 WFMB-AM in Springfield for our weekly Bears catch-up. Always fun with the guys and that area of BearsNation.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

jlandry.png
USA TODAY

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

The Bears are looking for an upgrade at wide receiver this offseason, and there may be one available.

The Dolphins used the franchise tag on wide receiver Jarvis Landry on Tuesday, in a move that many believe signals the team's desire to deal him instead of losing him in free agency for nothing.

Landry put up excellent numbers last season, catching 112 passes for 987 yards and nine touchdowns. He led the league in catches and was fourth in touchdown receptions but was just 17th in yards. His yards per reception ranked 108th of 139 qualifying players.

Still, it's no secret he'd be an upgrade for the Bears at wide receiver. Though they'll get Cam Meredith and Kevin White back from injury, the corps largely struggled and didn't give rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky much help.

Luckily, they may be interested in Landry, per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.

"There are a couple teams that we should keep an eye on as far as a potential Jarvis Landry landing spot......the Chicago Bears are looking for receviers," he said.

Rapoport also mentioned the Titans, Panthers and Saints as options for Landry. The franchise tag will pay Landry about $16 million before he becomes a free agent in 2019 (or has the franchise tag used on him again).

 

2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 grade: D+

For these purposes, “management” encompasses the coaching staff and front office. We don’t need a lengthy re-litigation of the failures of the John Fox era, so briefly: The offense was unimaginative, predictable and unsuccessful; there were too many head-scratching coaching decisions, punctuated by that backfiring challenge flag against Green Bay; the defense was solid but not spectacular; special teams had plenty of highs (three touchdowns) and lows (Marcus Cooper’s gaffe against Pittsburgh, Connor Barth’s missed field goal against Detroit). Fox didn’t win enough games to justify a fourth year, even if he left the Bears in a better place than he found them back in 2015. But that 5-11 record drags the management grade down. 

But the larger thing we’re going to focus on here is the hits and misses for Ryan Pace in the 2017 league year. The hits: 

-- Drafting Mitchell Trubisky. Will this be a long-term success? That’s another question. But Pace hitched his future in Chicago to a quarterback last April. For a franchise that hasn’t had a “franchise” quarterback in ages, what more can you ask for? If Trubisky pans out, nobody should care that Pace traded up one spot -- effectively losing a third-round pick for his conviction in his guy -- to make the move. 

-- Moving quickly to hire Matt Nagy. As with Trubisky, Pace identified his guy and made sure he got him. The Bears hired Nagy just two days after the Kansas City Chiefs’ season ended with that playoff collapse against the Tennessee Titans, and with the Indianapolis Colts -- who eventually got burned by Josh McDaniels -- sniffing around Nagy, Pace made his move to hire a young, energetic, offensive-minded coach to pair with Trubisky. It’s tough to argue with any of the coaching hires made by Nagy, who had a head start on the competition: He retained defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and that entire defensive staff, kept Dave Ragone to be Trubisky’s quarterbacks coach and hired Mark Helfrich to bring some different concepts as offensive coordinator, and hired a special teams coach in Chris Tabor who must’ve been doing something right to survive seven years and a bunch of coaching changes in Cleveland. Like with Trubisky, it’s too early to say if Nagy will or won’t work out long-term, but it stands out that Pace had conviction in getting a franchise quarterback and a head coach who will make or break his tenure in Chicago. 

-- Drafting Tarik Cohen and Eddie Jackson in the fourth round. In Cohen, the Bears found an offensive spark (who was nonetheless under-utilized) who also was a key contributor on special teams. In Jackson, the Bears added a plug-and-play 16-game starter at safety who looks to have some upside after a solid rookie year. Both picks here were a triumph for the Bears’ amateur scouting department: Cohen wasn’t on everyone’s radar (special teams coach Chris Tabor, who previously was with the Browns, said Cohen’s name never came across his desk in Cleveland), while Jackson was coming off a broken leg that prematurely ended a solid career at Alabama. These were assuredly two hits. 

-- Signing Akiem Hicks to a four-year contract extension. The Bears rewarded Hicks a day before the season began; Hicks rewarded them with a Pro Bowl-caliber season (despite him only being a fourth alternate) and was the best player on the team in 2017. 

-- Signing Charles Leno to a four-year contract extension. Leno may not be an elite tackle, and still has some things to clean up in his game, but he’s 26 and his four-year, $37 million contract is the 14th-largest among left tackles (for what it’s worth, Bleacher Report ranked Leno as the 20th best left tackle in the NFL). The Bears believe Leno is still improving, and could turn that contract into a bargain in the future. But this is important to note, too: Players notice when a team rewards one of its own, especially when that guy is a well-respected former seventh-round draft pick. 

-- Signing Mark Sanchez to a one-year deal. This wasn’t a miss, certainly, and while it’s not much of a “hit,” Sanchez was exactly what the Bears wanted: A veteran mentor to Trubisky. While Sanchez was inactive for all 16 games, he and the No. 2 overall pick struck up a good relationship that makes him a candidate to return in 2018 as a true backup. 

-- Releasing Josh Sitton when he did. Whether or not the Bears offensive line is better off in 2018 is a different question, but file cutting Sitton on Feb. 20 -- when the team had until mid-March to make a decision on him -- as one of those things that gets noticed by players around the league. 

-- Announcing the expansion to Halas Hall. The plan has Pace’s fingerprints on it, and should help make the Bears a more attractive destination to free agents in 2018 and beyond. 

And now, for the misses:

-- Signing Mike Glennon. That completely bombed out. While the Bears weren’t hurting for cap space a year ago, and Glennon’s contract essentially was a one-year prove-it deal, his play was so poor that he was benched after only four games -- when the initial plan was for him to start the entire season to give Trubisky time to develop. The wheels came off for Glennon on his seventh pass in Week 2, when after completing his first six he threw the ball right to Tampa Bay’s Kwon Alexander for an interception from which he never seemed to recover. He’ll be cut sometime soon. 

-- Signing Markus Wheaton. After signing a two-year, $11 million deal in the spring, Wheaton struggled to stay healthy, with an appendectomy and finger injury limiting him in training camp and the early part of the season, and then a groin injury knocking out a few weeks in the middle of the season. When Wheaton was healthy, he was ineffective, catching only three of his 17 targets. That places him with eight other players since 1992 who’ve been targeted at least 15 times and and caught fewer than 20 percent of their targets. He’s another one of Pace’s 2017 free agent signings who’s likely to be cut. 

-- Signing Marcus Cooper. The Bears thought they were signing an ascending player who picked off four passes in 2016 and would be a better scheme fit in Chicago than he was in Arizona. Instead, Cooper was a liability when he was on the field and didn’t live up to his three-year, $16 million contract (with $8 million guaranteed). Dropping the ball before he got in the end zone Week 3 against Pittsburgh was a lowlight. The Bears can net $4.5 million in cap savings if he’s cut, per Spotrac. 

-- Signing Dion Sims. Sims isn’t as likely to be cut as Glennon and Wheaton, and even Cooper, but his poor production in the passing game (15 catches, 29 targets, 180 yards, one touchdown) puts a spotlight on how the Bears evaluate how he was as a run blocker in 2017. If that grade was high, the Bears could justify keeping him and not garnering a little more than $5.5 million in cap savings. If it was low, and the Bears are confident in Adam Shaheen’s ability to improve, then Sims could be cut as well. 

-- Signing Quintin Demps. The loss here was mitigated by the strong play of Adrian Amos, but Demps didn’t make much of an impact on the field before his Week 3 injury besides getting plowed over by Falcons tight end Austin Hooper in Week 1. He’d be a decent guy to have back as a reserve given his veteran leadership -- he was a captain in 2017 -- but given how well Amos and Eddie Jackson worked together last year, he’s unlikely to get his starting spot back in 2018. 

-- The wide receiver position as a whole. Kendall Wright led the Bears in receptions and yards, but his numbers would’ve looked a lot better had he been surrounded by better players. The cupboard was bare at this position, and after the worst-case scenario happened -- Cameron Meredith tearing his ACL in August, and Kevin White breaking his collarbone in Week 1 -- the Bears were left with an overmatched and underperforming group of receivers. For Trubisky’s sake, Pace has to work to make sure 2018 isn’t a repeat of 2017. 

-- The kicker position as a whole. Since we’re focusing solely on Pace’s 2017 moves, the decision to release Robbie Gould and replace him with Connor Barth doesn’t fall into this grade. But Barth had struggled with consistency prior to this season, and Roberto Aguayo didn’t provide much competition in his short-lived stint in training camp. The Bears eventually released Barth after he missed a game-tying kick against Detroit in November, then replaced him with a guy in Cairo Santos who was coming off an injury and, as it turned out, wasn’t completely healthy yet. So the Bears then had to move on from Santos and sign Mike Nugent to get them through the rest of the season. Better consistency from this position will be important to find in 2018. 

A couple moves fall into the neither hits nor misses category:

-- Drafting Adam Shaheen. Tight ends rarely make a significant impact as rookies, but Shaheen was only targeted 14 times last year. He did catch three touchdowns and flash some good chemistry with Trubisky before suffering an injury against Cincinnati that wound up ending his season. The gains he makes with a year of experience under his belt and during his first full offseason as a pro will be critical in determining his success in Year 2, and whether or not taking him 45th overall was a hit or a miss. 

-- Signing Prince Amukamara. This was neither good nor bad, with Amukamara playing solidly in coverage but not making enough plays on the ball and committing a few too many penalties. 

Pace still has decisions to make on a few other potential cuts, including right tackle Bobby Massie ($5.584 million cap savings per Spotrac) and linebackers Willie Young ($4.5 million cap savings) and Pernell McPhee ($7.075 million cap savings). Whether or not to place the franchise tag on Kyle Fuller and potentially pay him $15 million in 2018 is another call Pace has to make before the official end of the 2017 league year. 

But for Pace, did the hits out-weigh the misses in 2017? The Glennon signing imploded, but Trubisky showed signs of promise during an average season for a rookie quarterback. Cooper was a bust, but Fuller emerged as a potential long-term option to cover for that. The most glaring misses, then, were at wide receiver and tight end where, after injuries sapped those units of Cameron Meredith and Zach Miller, there weren’t reliable targets for Trubisky. 

We’ll probably need more time to determine if Pace’s “hits” on Trubisky and Nagy truly are “hits.” But if they are, the misses of 2017 -- Glennon, Wheaton, Cooper, etc. -- will be nothing more than amusing footnotes to a successful era of Bears football.