Bears

Three Bears necessities to a win over the Cardinals

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Three Bears necessities to a win over the Cardinals

OK, so these Bears actually hung in there, in a game you expected to look a lot like the 2014 Bears-Packers blowouts. The light at the end of this year's tunnel suddenly seems a bit brighter with the possibilities of coaches finding ways to put their team in position to win. That should've been a given. This isn't the first rodeo for John Fox, Vic Fangio and so many others on this coaching staff. Unfortunately, I felt more confident about winning this game after last Sunday's game than I do now, after learning and watching more of how these Cardinals have a .667 win percentage since they — not the Bears - hired Bruce Arians. But here's our weekly trio of ways to potentially avoid just the second 0-2 start (via two home losses) in franchise history:

[MORE: Bears’ success creates potential 'problem' vs. good Cardinals run D]

The Carson Show

It was a hit last week at home as Carson Palmer returned from the second torn left ACL of his career. He was surprisingly active and accurate rolling out, not getting sacked once. Part of that may have been by design, since his offensive line is without starters Mike Iupati (knee) and Bobbie Massie (suspension). Here's where we find out whether there are genuine concerns about the Bears' pass rush out of their "base" 3-4. Can they find ways to get to a quarterback much less "slippery" than Aaron Rodgers last week, versus a patched-up line. But the man's found a way to win seven straight and 14 of 16 starts. Pressure up front means less pressure for a defensive backfield playing an eight-time Pro Bowler in Larry Fitzgerald and downfield speed in John Brown and Michael Floyd.

[RELATED: Complete Bears-Cardinals coverage on CSN]

Johnson & Johnson ... & Forte

With Andre Ellington down (knee), can the Bears defense contain rookie David Johnson and fading veteran Chris Johnson, forcing Palmer to become more one-dimensional? Throw in Kerwynn Williams, who was activated from the practice squad Saturday and owns one of just two 100-yard Cardinal rushing efforts over the past two years. Props to Arizona for limiting the Saints to 2.7 yards a rush. But they don't have Matt Forte. Can the Bears' offensive line dictate the ground game, as they did last week, versus a much more stout defense? If they can manage to break the 100-yard barrier and provide balance, consider it a huge step, because....

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

Forget Cardinals — they're ballhawks

If Richard Sherman (whom the Bears see next week) isn't the best cornerback in the NFL, Patrick Peterson joins Darrelle Revis in the argument for No. 2. Don't be surprised if Arizona stacks the box to lock up Forte (with safety Deone Bucannon) and force Jay Cutler to throw. And who knows if Alshon Jeffery will be there to battle Peterson at less than 100 percent in attempts to keep the Cards honest? Tyrann Mathieu (think a faster Mike Brown), Rashad Johnson and Jerraud Powers complicate matters in that defensive backfield. Thirteen of Drew Brees' 30 completions last week were checkdowns to his running backs. This defense only ranked 24th last season (and amazingly, 29th versus the pass despite 18 interceptions from the DBs), yet only three of the last 17 opponents have managed more than 20 points. 

**Get ready for Sunday's noon kickoff when former Bears Lance Briggs, Jim Miller and Dan Jiggetts join Chris Boden for "Bears Pregame Live, brought to you by Meijer," at 11 a.m. on Comcast SportsNet. As soon as the first half ends, log on to CSNChicago.com for "Bears Halftime Live, brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois," as Jim and Chris recap the opening two quarters and go over second half adjustments. Then, as soon as the game goes final, flip to Comcast SportsNet Plus for "Bears Postgame Live, brought to you by Nissan," as Lance, Jim, Dan and Chris bring you 90 minutes of postgame press conferences, locker room interviews, reaction, and analysis**

 

Bears ’18 offseason dramatically different from ’17 but with difficult money-management issues looming

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USA TODAY

Bears ’18 offseason dramatically different from ’17 but with difficult money-management issues looming

About this time a year ago the Bears were setting up for the annual NFL beauty pageant in Indianapolis, sitting with the No. 3 pick in the 2017 draft and with myriad roster decisions to address with both that draft and free agency. Because of the Bears’ lofty draft position, even more scrutiny and attention swirled around the college prospects (Deshaun Watson, Jamal Adams, Solomon Thomas, not enough on Mitch Trubisky as it turned out, a testimonial to GM Ryan Pace’s ability to keep a secret).

But what was developing in free agency was arguably of even greater significance in what was then the short term, at least for John Fox, as it turned out. And the changed landscape this year bodes considerably better for Pace and the Bears. At least in one important respect.

First, a perspective from last year’s pre-Combine period...

Because of the unsettled quarterback situation – the Bears were working toward Mike Glennon and cutting Jay Cutler two weeks later – and concerns about a possible lame-duck situation for Fox, free agents and their agents were willing to look at the Bears but only if the Bears would pony up excessive guaranteed dollars. The worry any time a coach is heading into a tipping-point year is that if things go badly, the coach and staff are gone, and the resulting changes will alter the job situation of that particular veteran player.

So the likes of cornerbacks A.J. Bouye or Stephon Gilmore opted for less total money from Jacksonville and New England, respectively, because the Bears weren’t offering higher guarantees to compensate for the uncertainty.

(One of the reasons then-President/CEO Michael McCaskey stated to this reporter for firing Mike Ditka after the 1992 season was a concern over the negative pall Ditka cast over playing for the Bears as the NFL prepared for the 1993 start of free agency. A quarter-century later, Pace didn’t fire Fox because of free agents’ aversion to Fox, but the overall wasn’t making Pace’s job any easier.)

Would Alshon Jeffery have stayed if...

On a slightly different tack: Would Alshon Jeffery have given the Bears a more receptive look had the quarterback position been addressed sooner in the Fox/Pace tenure? Jeffery took less from the Eagles in a one-year prove-it deal, not because Philadelphia was so much warmer than Chicago, but in large part because of where the offensive arrow was pointing in Chicago with Fox, Dowell Loggains and an unsettled quarterback situation.

Not insignificantly in the Jeffery case: Jeffery had four choices – Bears, Indianapolis, Minnesota, Philadelphia. The Colts weren’t sure about Andrew Luck, coming off shoulder surgery and ultimately missing all of ’17. The Vikings were resting then on brittle Sam Bradford, whose knee broke down early, and Case Keenum wasn’t CASE KEENUM at that point. The Bears with Loggains and Glennon? Jeffery didn’t go with Philadelphia, Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz only for the money, which did come anyway.

The Bears have “fixed” all of those issues in the year that’s played out since Jeffery signed with the Eagles almost concurrent with the Bears moving on from Cutler. None of that matters now in the least with Jeffery, Bouye, Gilmore or any other options that demanded too much guaranteed money or spurned the Bears back then, but it does matter going into the run-up to free agency over the next couple weeks.

Why this in fact matters more than the draft is that, while sound organizations are grounded in quality drafting, the reality is that in virtually every offseason, more starters for that season are acquired via free agency than the draft. Last year’s draft centerpiece was Trubisky, though he wasn’t supposed to start last season. But free agents Glennon, Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper, Quintin Demps and Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright were.

The money pit

Longtime Bears and NFL personnel chief Bill Tobin once remarked back in the beginning of free agency, “Just because you pay a guy $2 million doesn’t make him a $2-million player.” That still applies, adjusted for inflation. And that could make this free agency dicey for the Bears.

Because price isn’t always determined solely on quality; it’s a matter of supply and demand. And while the Bears are among those with the greatest estimated space under the projected cap of $178 million, the others way up on the list include Cleveland, Indianapolis, the Jets, Houston and Tampa Bay – all teams with five or fewer wins in ’17 and expected to be the most aggressive in using free agency to fix gaping holes. The Bears have a lot of money to spend, but so do a whole lot of others.

Meaning: A lot of dollars will be chasing a select few players, which will make some of them overpaid, not unlike Glennon was last offseason (how many apparently better options were there?) or a couple of others, who will be paid like $2 million players even if they aren’t, adjusted for inflation.

The result is another offseason of brinksmanship for Pace, this time in need of better results than his first three free agencies if the outcome for his second head coach is to be better than it was for his first.

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

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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).