Bears

Bears-Panthers preview Panthers ball

925713.png

Bears-Panthers preview Panthers ball

If something seems to be too good to be true, it often painfully is, particularly in apparent sports mismatches. USA vs. USSR hockey 1980. Michigan-Appalachian State. Tyson-Douglas.
Bears 2012 defense vs. 2012 Cam Newton.
The Bears field the NFLs best scoring defense, both at preventing other peoples (13 points per game, seven or fewer in three of six games) and doing it themselves (five defensive TDs). The Carolina Panthers are 28th in scoring.
No team has taken the ball away from opposing offenses more than the Bears (21). Only four teams have a worse turnover ratio than the Panthers minus-6
Whither the run?
The thing the Panthers purport and are built to do best is run the ball. But they have match the millions invested in Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams with anything resembling a coherent offensive philosophy or even game plans.
Newton has taken the heaviest criticism for offensive failures. But in the five-point loss to Dallas last Sunday, Panthers running backs carried a total of 15 times, even with Carolina leading through most of the fourth quarter.
In the four-point loss to Seattle, Carolinas three running backs had a total of 11 carries in game where the Panthers took a lead early in the third quarter.
Curiously, the Panthers see to be in some sort of denial.
For the most part, weve handed the ball off an awful lot to those two guys Stewart and Williams,said coach Ron Rivera. I think what we do people dont get as well. A lot of the things we did last year we had success with and this year and people have changed and adapted to what we do, and were trying to adapt as well, so we stay a step ahead.
Weve had some things weve struggled with, obviously, and there are some things we want to get back to.
If the Panthers move to get back to their run game, the Bears will be waiting. They are second in run defense (71.3 yards per game), which has forced teams to become one-dimensional, and that has led to turnovers.
Smith wild card
The Panthers may follow form and come at the Bears primarily with one weapon that has done severe damage to Chicago in the past: wide receiver Steve Smith.
Smith has caught 34 passes in three games against the Bears, beginning with the 2005 regular season, the 2005 divisional playoff and finally last season.
He's a smaller guy but he plays big, said cornerback Charles Tillman, who won his matchup against Detroits Calvin Johnson last Monday but is likely to have duties other than Smith, expected to be shadowed by Tim Jennings. He's a nightmare to defenses, and this will be another good matchup for this defense.
But the Bears won two of those three games, and Rivera was the Bears defensive coordinator in the first two. The defense would be more than fine with Smith getting his 11 or so catches; theyll take the win.
Every coverage has been tried against him, said coach Lovie Smith. But you have to have a plan for him, and we do.

Under Center Podcast: Takeaways from Week 1 of OTAs

bears_helmet_usa_today.png
USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Takeaways from Week 1 of OTAs

JJ Stankevitz and Cam Ellis dive into a few interesting developments from OTAs at Halas Hall on Wednesday, including Bradley Sowell’s position change (0:30) and Leonard Floyd’s upside (5:30). Plus, hear from Eddie Jackson and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix about how the ‘Bama safety pair came to be re-united in Chicago (12:30). 

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Under Center Podcast

Subscribe:

Bears eye position changes in search for improved depth on offense

5-22bradleysowell.jpg
USA Today

Bears eye position changes in search for improved depth on offense

The Bears will try to address one of their more glaring weaknesses — tight end depth — by giving longtime offensive tackle Bradley Sowell some work at tight end in the coming weeks of practice at Halas Hall. 

Sowell, a reliable backup swing tackle the last two seasons with the Bears, was targeted twice as a receiver in 2018 — first, on a nearly-intercepted Mitch Trubisky pass against the New England Patriots, and second on the famous “Santa’s Sleigh” touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams. He also got some work as a fullback in the Bears’ Week 17 thumping of the Minnesota Vikings. 

“We felt like at the ‘Y’ position we could use some more depth,” coach Matt Nagy said. “It’s something we talked about at the end of the season. We discussed it and now we’re giving him a chance.”

Nagy’s assessment of the Bears’ “Y” (in-line) depth is accurate, if not even undersold. The athletic 6-foot-7, 312 pound Sowell will have a chance to be a backup to Adam Shaheen, who has missed 13 games in his first two years due to a string of injuries. Reserve tight end Ben Braunecker can play both the “Y” and “U” positions, and the Bears have a handful of undrafted free agents (led by Utah State's Dax Raymond) competing to catch the eye of the coaching staff in the coming weeks. 

The Bears’ offense struggled with two tight ends on the field last year, especially in Shaheen’s absence as Dion Sims played himself out of the league. It’s far too early to tell if adding Sowell to the tight end mix will help, but at this point, the Bears think it’s worth a shot. 

“He’s shown it repetitively in practice that he has the athletic ability, the hands, he’s very smart, he knows how to block and all that stuff,” Nagy said. “So let’s test it out and see. When I tell you he’s all-in, he’s all-in.”

Center of Attention

As expected, the Bears indeed will flip James Daniels and Cody Whitehair on the offensive line, with Daniels sliding to center and Whitehair to left guard. 

“We feel comfortable with it, so again, this is the time to test it out and see,” Nagy said. “It’s hard right now because we don’t have pads. So, we’ll get into training camp and see how that goes. But I feel pretty good about it.”

Daniels exclusively played left guard during last year’s regular season, with the Bears opting to hold steady with Whitehair at center for the third consecutive season. Whitehair, though, was drafted as a guard back in 2016 and only moved to center after the last-minute signing of Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton. Daniels, too, starred as a center at Iowa and did get a smattering of preseason snaps there before fully committing to playing guard his rookie year. 

The change is the only planned one on Harry Hiestand’s offensive line, which returns every primary starter from 2018 (Daniels, Whitehair, Charles Leno, Bobby Massie, Kyle Long). Perhaps the most significant change for this group, then, will be losing Sowell as its backup tackle. 

Windy City: Smoke Out?

Taquan Mizzell will work as a wide receiver during OTAs, with the now-former running back trading in No. 33 for No. 11 but facing an uphill battle to make the Bears’ roster. 

Mizzell does have a decent track record as a pass-catcher dating back to his college days at Virginia, but it’ll take a massive effort for the third-year player to crack into a crowded receiver room that already has a competitive battle brewing between Javon Wims, Marvin Hall and a group of undrafted free agents. 

While it’s too early to grant rookie running back Kerrith Whyte Jr. a roster spot, shifting Mizzell out of the picture does appear to create a clearer path for the seventh-round pick to stick with the Bears this fall.