Bears

Humble Eifert has made huge strides

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Humble Eifert has made huge strides

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The confidence Tyler Eifert has in his biggest decision, when he bypassed the NFL draft and returned to school to improve his skillset, is evident as he discusses his all-around game.
A lot of time, sweat and study have been poured into developing the Notre Dame tight ends blocking and route running this season.
Already an elite pass catcher before 2012, the humble senior wont try and quantify just how much his entire game has improved.
But he doesnt need to, as his coaches and teammates are more than willing to douse you with a long list of superlatives about Eiferts play. And then of course theres Eiferts 2012 Mackey Award trophy, awarded annually to the nations top tight end.
While Eifert wont say how much he has improved, he does admit he sees the difference whenever coaches pop in game film from previous seasons.
When I go back and watch (2011 tape) its just like, Yeah, what are you doing out there right now? Eifert said earlier this week as Notre Dame ramped up its preparation for its Jan. 7 meeting with Alabama in the BCS Championship Game in Miami. When we watch film on other teams, we see ourselves with teams weve already played, like Boston College, and you see yourself out there. Ive definitely gotten better every year.
Eiferts play in 2011, when he set a school record for tight ends with 63 catches and 803 receiving yards, made him aware success in the NFL isnt a far-fetched dream.
He already has been evaluated as a potential third-round draft pick in last Aprils draft. But with two years of eligibility left, the Fort Wayne, Ind.-product returned to campus in hopes of refining his game.
Tight end coach Scott Booker has no doubt Eifert made the right choice. Booker said Eifert has been determined since then to better understand his role as a blocker, to improve his blocking technique and how to improve his receiving routes.
Right off the get-go he did a great job of understanding where he wanted to improve, Booker said. Hes able to stay in there and block anybody in the country now and (you see) his ability to be able to separate from cornerbacks when hes out there one-on-one or inside getting separation from second-level defenders.
Said Eifert: I try to get better every week, try to watch the film and see what I did wrong and try to fix that stuff.
While Eiferts overall repertoire has clearly improved, it appeared earlier this season to come at the cost of his own offensive production. With the team in the middle of a quarterback transition from junior Tommy Rees to freshman Everett Golson, the opportunity for Eifert to make plays hasnt been as plentiful.
Eiferts production has picked up of late, but through the teams first five games he had only 11 catches and also saw his 22-game catch streak -- the longest among FBS tight ends -- snapped on Sept. 15 against Michigan State.
But through it all, if ever there was frustration on Eiferts end, wide receiver Robby Toma admits hes impressed because he has never heard a peep from the tight end.
'Eif' is one of the great examples of being selfless, Toma said. The first couple games I had more catches than 'Eif,' and he had a chance to go to the NFL. For him to come back and not complain about not catching enough balls, not getting enough touchdowns just spoke volumes to Eifs character.
Eifert has had little to complain about down the stretch. Twenty-two of his 44 grabs this season have come over Notre Dames last four games. Eifert also has the comfort knowing that 32 of his 44 grabs have resulted in either a touchdown or a first down.
Everett has done a great job of finding him and putting the ball where it needs to be placed and Tyler has done a good job of getting into position to make the plays, Booker said.
Despite it all, the gains he has made on the field and in the locker room, where Toma identified him as a leader because of his character, Eifert wont budge on just how much he has developed.
I dont know how much better Ive gotten, Eifert said.
Booker isnt as humble. He believes Eifert has a successful road ahead of him.
The sky is the limit for him, Booker said. You see a lot of guys in the NFL with the same skillset being very productive for a lot of different teams and a lot of different type of offenses.

Bears grades: The return of D's and F's, except for the linebackers

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USA Today

Bears grades: The return of D's and F's, except for the linebackers

QUARTERBACKS: D

Mitchell Trubisky threw three interceptions, with two of them particularly deflating: His first pick came on the second play of the third quarter when he overthrew Kendall Wright while rolling to his left; his second came in the end zone on third down. The last one came late in the fourth quarter when he and tight end Daniel Brown weren’t on the same page. Those mistakes were disappointing for a guy who hadn’t thrown an interception since Week 12, and now has as many interceptions as touchdowns (seven). But Trubisky did make a number of good throws, like when he stared down a blitz and found Markus Wheaton for a 22-yard gain. He also appeared to be the reason why the Lions to jump offsides twice, a good sign for his development with his cadence. But while he threw for over 300 yards for the first time in his career, the turnovers are the most important thing here. 

RUNNING BACKS: D

While some of the Bears’ running issues on Saturday were the product of some shaky run blocking from an offensive line that lost its two starting guards (Tom Compton and Josh Sitton) to injury, Jordan Howard wasn’t able to do much, either. According to Pro Football Focus, he didn’t break a tackle, and Howard finished with only 37 yards on 10 rushing attempts. Tarik Cohen didn’t get on the field much, playing only 25 of the Bears’ 63 offensive snaps and gaining one yard on two rushing attempts. The good news, perhaps, for this group: Howard caught all four targets he received for 26 yards, and he, Cohen and Benny Cunningham combined for 12 catches on 15 targets for 75 yards with the Bears’ only touchdown (which went to Cunningham). 

WIDE RECEIVERS: D

The stats for this group are inflated by the Bears’ having to try to pass their way back into the game in the second half, but while Kendall Wright (seven catches, 81 yards), Josh Bellamy (five catches, 70 yards) and Markus Wheaton (two catches, 42 yards) seemed to be productive, that trio only caught 14 of their 24 targets. Trubisky’s accuracy issues had something to do with that, but there were some poor plays in there too, like when Wright couldn’t hang on to a pass on the Bears’ first drive that was dislodged by safety Quandre Diggs. Also concerning here: Dontrelle Inman was invisible for the second straight week, only catching one of two targets for five yards six days after Trubisky didn’t look his way at all in the Bears’ blowout win over Cincinnati. Bellamy was also whistled for two penalties. 

TIGHT ENDS: D

Not having Adam Shaheen (chest) on Saturday was a blow to this group, especially after it functioned so well with the rookie in there last weekend in Cincinnati. Dion Sims caught his only target for nine yards, while Daniel Brown caught three of four targets for 32 yards — but that one target he didn’t catch was intercepted. That the Bears struggled to run the ball falls some on the tight ends, too: Only three of the nine plays with Sims and Brown on the field at the same time were runs, and those went for a meager nine yards. 

OFFENSIVE LINE: D

Four penalties were assessed to the Bears’ offensive line: Holding and a false start for Charles Leno, holding for Hroniss Grasu and illegal hands to the face for Cody Whitehair. Losing Sitton and Compton stretched this group to its max, and the Teryl Austin’s Lions defense had some success run blitzing the Bears. But it’s hard to find positives when the production from the Bears’ running game wasn’t there, especially a week after this offensive line dominated the Bengals’ front seven. 

DEFENSIVE LINE: C-

Akiem Hicks hit home on a sack for the first time since Week 8 and added a tackle for a loss, but he whiffed dropping Matt Stafford on that 58-yard heave to Marvin Jones in the second quarter. The Lions averaged 4.6 yards per carry, over a yard higher than their season average (3.4, 31st in the NFL). Eddie Goldman returned to the defense and only got on the stat sheet because of a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty he committed on the first play of the game. 

LINEBACKERS: A-

Sam Acho (one sack, one TFL, one hurry and a forced fumble) and Lamarr Houston (two sacks, two hurries, two tackles for a loss) each had huge games, while Nick Kwiatkoski had a solid game (eight tackles) as well. Pernell McPhee, prior to suffering a shoulder injury, had a few decent pressures and sniffed out a screen to Ameer Abdullah for a loss of six (he was injured on that play). This unit was not the problem with the Bears on Saturday, to say the least. 

DEFENISVE BACKS: D-

Eddie Jackson did some good things in the open field, but allowing Jones to catch that 58-yard jump ball in the second quarter — which was on a third-and-18 play and set up Detroit’s first touchdown of the game — was rough. Kyle Fuller struggled, too, allowing catches all five times Stafford threw his way for 61 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. Fuller was flagged once, while Prince Amukamara had two penalties assessed on him. Stafford has been kryptonite for this group, with passer ratings of 120.2 and 115.3 and no interceptions against the Bears in 2017. 

SPECIAL TEAMS: D-

There were two bad penalties assessed to the Bears on special teams on Saturday: First, DeAndre Houston-Carson was flagged for holding on what was otherwise a 90-yard kickoff return by Cohen. And John Timu was whistled for holding on a shanked punt that only went 24 yards, leading to the Bears beginning a third quarter possession at their own 36 instead of own 46. 

COACHING: F

Another week of undisciplined play (13 penalties) doesn’t reflect well on the coaching staff. John Fox’s decision to punt on fourth-and-one from the Bears’ own 45-yard line in first half was head-scratching for a team without anything to lose. Not kicking an onside kick down 10 with about two and a half minutes left was odd, but made more confusing by Mike Nugent kicking a pooch kick instead of going deep. This postgame quote from Wright about why the Bears played so poorly six days after playing so well wasn’t necessarily meant as a criticism of the coaching staff, but can be read as sort of an inadvertent one:

“I have no idea,” Wright said. “I have no idea. That’s a question I can’t even answer. I would say we came out flat, but I don’t really think so. I think everybody was ready to play and everybody had the energy to play. It’s not anything I can put on that.”

Under Center Podcast: What’s the game plan!?! Bears lose 10th game to Lions

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: What’s the game plan!?! Bears lose 10th game to Lions

Laurence Holmes, Alex Brown and Jim Miller break down the Bears 20-10 loss to the Lions on Saturday.

Why didn’t the game plan include more runs for Jordan Howard? How did Mitchell Trubisky play so poorly despite a career-high in pass yards? And where is the leadership on this team? Plus – could the Bears actually lose to the Browns and hit rock bottom?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: