Bears

Arena League Revenge and Great Boxing: How the Bears are getting ready for their rematch

Arena League Revenge and Great Boxing: How the Bears are getting ready for their rematch

What a difference 24 hours makes. 

Here’s Mitch Trubisky, from his weekly Wednesday press conference, talking about the Bears-Packers rivalry. 

“I mean, the rivalry is important for sure,” he said. “The rivalry is very important. But I just feel like where we're at as a team, we're just hungry, that whoever is on our schedule next, we're going to come ready to play where we're playing with confidence. We don't really care who shows up next. The rivalry game is important, but I just sense overall a hungry team that's pretty focused, and hopefully that just drives us to get better throughout the week and come ready to play on Sunday.” 

How diplomatic! Despite this Sunday’s game in Green Bay being the 200th meeting between two of the NFL’s original franchises, there’s been a surprisingly large amount of water thrown on the whole notion of rivalry games around Halas Hall this week. That is, until Thursday. When Nagy was asked about Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who’s returning to Green Bay for the first time since being traded last year, the coach wasted no time showing that time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds. 

“I mean, on a much smaller spectrum, I've been traded away as a player,” Nagy said. “And I know what that feels like when you play them again. To each their own. I'm sure he'll be fired up. But it's a personal deal with him. I know he'll be focused there to help his defense out.” 

Nagy, of course, is talking about the earth-shattering Arena Football League trade that sent him from the Georgia Force to the Columbus Destroyers in 2007. Nagy got his shot at revenge in the playoffs, when he took the 6-seed Destroyers (7-9) into the Arena at Gwinnett Center and beat the 2-seed Force (14-2), 66-56. Nagy was 23-of-34 for 209 yards and five touchdowns. 

“We played them in the NFC championship game of the Arena League, and we dominated them!” he said. “I'll never forget that game.” 

The Bears now seem happy to embrace the revenge narrative, among a half dozen other motivational colloquialisms they’ve adopted during this three-game win streak. On offense, they’re trying to avoid watching too much of Week 1’s loss, and schematically speaking that’s probably not a bad idea. On defense, they’re watching hand-to-hand combat. It's probably a little on the nose, but when is football not? 

“We like showing boxing stuff,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “You ever watch the Gatti-Ward fight, Round 9?”

Ring Magazine named the bout Fight of the Year in 2002, and Hall of Famer Manny Steward called that ninth round the “Round of the Century.” Micky Ward was a former prodigy who never quite fulfilled his potential, but he managed to find his way back into boxing after a hiatus spent paving roads and upset the heavily favored Arturo Gatti. Though he won by majority decision in 10 rounds, knocking Gotti down in the ninth is widely considered Ward’s crowning achievement – so much so that they got Mark Walhberg to play him in a movie.

It’s not a perfect analogy, but the Bears don’t need complete accuracy to find the motivation behind an underdog landing a late-round, knock-down blow. 

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Bears show interest in Tulsa pass rusher Trevis Gipson

Bears show interest in Tulsa pass rusher Trevis Gipson

It's early (extremely early) in the 2020 NFL draft process, and the Bears' team needs between now and when their first pick (No. 43 overall) is on the clock are certain to change. The general consensus right now is that offensive line, tight end and quarterback will be early draft targets, but edge rusher can't be overlooked.

Leonard Floyd's failure to emerge as the pass rusher the Bears need to complement Khalil Mack is a bigger problem than GM Ryan Pace or coach Matt Nagy want to admit. In fact, Floyd's ineffective style of play could cost Chicago a chance at becoming a truly elite defense and potentially limit the astronomical upside Mack has as a generational talent.

If the Bears decide to pull the fifth-year option from Floyd, they'll have no choice but to attack the position early in the 2020 draft. It appears like they're doing their homework for that scenario, too.

Bears scouts met with Tulsa edge rusher Trevis Gipson at length following Wednesday's Senior Bowl practice, an indication that the position is at least high enough on their wish list that extensive homework on pass rushers is being done.

Gipson helped his draft stock at the Senior Bowl and was an early winner among edge rushers at the game. His practice reps confirmed his tape; the dude knows how to get to the quarterback. He had eight sacks in 2019 and plays with a high-energy style that's certain to entice Chicago's coaching staff. He isn't an elite athlete, but he has an appealing frame (34-inch arms) and powerful hands.

Gipson began the week as a late-Day-3 prospect. He helped his stock and may have jumped a round or two along the way.

Bears' rookie class ranked 8th-best in NFL

Bears' rookie class ranked 8th-best in NFL

The Bears didn't have much of a rookie class in 2019. Last April's draft produced just five picks, two of which didn't appear in a regular-season game for the Bears.

But the production of running back David Montgomery was enough to carry the rookie class to a top-10 ranking, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Bears checked-in at 8th.

The Bears have a strange class. They had only five picks, none before Round 3, with three of those five selections coming after Round 6. As a result, their expected return was low. Running back David Montgomery was really the only Bears' rookie to play significant snaps, and he managed to provide enough return from his third-round selection to land them at No. 8.

It's pretty remarkable that Chicago's 2019 rookie class -- essentially, Montgomery -- garnered this much respect from PFF. Wide receiver Riley Ridley showed signs of life late in the season and cornerback Duke Shelley will be given an opportunity to carve out a role on defense next season, but with running back Kerrith Whyte, Jr. and cornerback Stephen Denmark making no impact whatsoever (Whyte is no longer with the team), the 2019 class won't be remembered as one that laid a championship foundation in Chicago.

Sure, Montgomery has a chance to become one of the NFL's more talented starting running backs (he ended his rookie season with 889 yards and six touchdowns), but if Ridley and Shelley don't turn into legitimate contributors in 2020 or 2021, the class will go down as an epic failure for GM Ryan Pace.

Remember: The Bears didn't have a first-round pick because of the trade for outside linebacker Khalil Mack. That's a win for Pace, but it doesn't change the fact that he had five selections at his disposal and ended up with what appears to be just one impact player after their rookie seasons.