Bears

After Connor Barth's crunch-time miss, will Bears move on from veteran kicker?

After Connor Barth's crunch-time miss, will Bears move on from veteran kicker?

Sometimes the kick just doesn’t go through the uprights.

But that’s likely not going to be a satisfying conclusion for seething Bears fans.

Connor Barth’s latest bout of inaccuracy was in too high-leverage a moment for anyone to excuse, the Bears’ kicker pushing a game-tying field-goal try wide, wide right in the waning seconds of Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the visiting Detroit Lions.

The miss stung, no doubt about it, especially after Mitch Trubisky led the offense down the field on an impressive two-minute drill that featured the rookie quarterback converting a fourth and 13 with a weaving scramble that is sure to be on No. 10’s highlight reel for years to come. With the youngster putting his team in position to advance to overtime, it was up to the veteran leg — and the veteran leg missed. Bears lose.

Barth, to his credit, had the right attitude after the game, explaining that sometimes you just don’t make the kick. Not everyone can be Adam Vinatieri, right?

“I think I hit the ground a little bit and didn’t make good contact. Tough one,” Barth said. “You never want to miss. I’ve been a positive guy. This one kick’s not going to define me.

“It’s a team game. Everyone makes mistakes. Of course I want that one back, but at the end of the day, it happened. You move on. I’ll take it, it’s on me.”

But here’s the thing. This is far from the first time this has happened.

In his second season with the Bears, Barth has missed 10 field-goal tries in 26 games. He’s 11-for-16 so far in 2017 after going 18-for-23 a year ago.

Add to that the way in which Barth got the job in the first place — benefitting from the ouster of longtime kicker Robbie Gould — and a large number of fans have always seemed ready to run Barth out of town on a rail.

It’s important to note to those sharpening their pitchforks, however, that Gould matched a career worst with six missed kicks in 2015, his last year with the Bears. Since leaving the Bears, Gould has made 29 of his 31 field-goal attempts with the New York Giants (2016) and San Francisco 49ers (2017).

But fans pining for a return to those Gould-en days aren’t the only ones who have put the heat on Barth in recent weeks. Andy Phillips, a kicker the Bears had in training camp, sent out a eye-popping tweet after Barth missed a field-goal try in last month’s loss to the New Orleans Saints.

So now more than ever — with Barth’s his field-goal percentage dropping lower thanks to a critical missed kick — the question looms: Is this it for Barth in a Bears uniform?

Head coach John Fox didn’t exactly give a ringing endorsement of his kicker following Sunday’s defeat.

“It’s like everything. We are a production-based business. That’s what we get paid to do, whether it is winning games as a head coach or whether it’s making kicks as a kicker. We will evaluate it,” Fox said. “Like I said, every time we go out there, we will do everything we can to put the best team we can out there.”

Of course, it’s easy to rush to judgments when an athlete screws up with the game on the line. The situation magnifies the mistake, whether it be a closer blowing a save, a free-throw shooter coming up empty at the foul line or a kicker missing a potential game-tying field goal with eight seconds left on the clock.

But for Barth, the more worrying part of this whole thing is the trend. Ten missed kicks in 26 games.

Missing might be part of the job, and fans should understand that. But miss a lot, and there might be no more job at all.

“That’s just the way it is. I signed up for this,” Barth said. “You’re going to make some, going to miss some. That’s the way it goes.”

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

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USA Today

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21. 

Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.

All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.

The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players. 

The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.

Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons. 

Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.

Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.

CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.

The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.

It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.

We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.