Bears

Bear Witness: Taking stock of what we saw in Bourbonnais now that camp has ended

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USA Today

Bear Witness: Taking stock of what we saw in Bourbonnais now that camp has ended

The first checkpoint of this hellish, swampy plod to September that we call preseason has been reached: training camp is over. The days of the Bears practicing 90 minutes south of Chicago are over; now they practice 90 minutes north. 

All things considered, it was a pretty quiet camp. There were no fights, no serious injuries, and no frostbitten feet. The flashiest moment in Bourbonnais happened within the first couple hours of the first day, when Tarik Cohen rolled up to the dorms in a crazy car -- something Matt Nagy and Co. did not love. (Been a pretty quiet camp for Cohen since then, huh?) 

Two weeks later, do we know anything more? Let's find out! 

Mitchapalooza 

Going in: Say what you want about kickers or Chuck Pagano or unsustainable turnover rates from 2018 (they're unsustainable! 8-8 hErE wE cOmE!!!) but the single-most scrutinized player on the roster was always going to be Trubisky. What does the Next Step look like, and would he show that in camp? 

Coming out: A mixed bag, at best. Trubisky's play looked awfully familiar through the first half of camp, as the usual knocks against him (forcing throws, deep ball inaccuracies) were very much present during those early sessions. Trubisky -- and the offense in general -- got better as camp progressed and, outside of a sloppy last day, looked pretty crisp towards the end. He's not going to get many, if any, snaps in the preseason, so final judgements on whether The Leap was actually A Hop or even A Small Skip will have to wait. There's also something to be said about Trubisky struggling against what is, statistically, one of the best defenses in NFL history. All in all, Trubisky's camp was probably not what Bears fans would have hoped to see, but buying/selling stock after two weeks in August is masochistic. 

The money quote: "For me it’s just completing a lot of balls, getting in and out of the huddle, and taking care of the football. It all starts for me just good eyes and good footwork." - Trubisky on what he focused on during training camp. 

Kickin' it in Bourbonnais

Going in: Who even knows. Eddy Pineiro and Elliot Fry were the chosen ones, plucked from the fires of an especially underwhelming kicker battle with all the forced humor of a failing Second City bit. Which one would win the distinct honor of watching his roster spot go to Robbie Gould? 

Coming out: Robbie Gould's staying in San Francisco, his agent deserves a big ol' promotion for playing the entire city of Chicago, and yet the Pineiro-Fry bout has been ... not a disaster? It was a competitive camp for both, and while Pineiro undoubtedly has a stronger leg, Fry matched him kick-for-kick. In fact, the roster spot that felt like Pineiro's to lose is still extremely up for grabs after the first Preseason game saw him miss a 48-yarder. Fry, in the meantime, was good from the Double-Doink spot, which shouldn't be *that* impressive, but, you know. The Bears seemed to be in on Ravens' kicker Kaare Vedvik before he got traded to Minnesota, so the notion of bringing in a guy hours before Week 1 isn't unrealistic yet. 

The money quote: "Oh yeah, it’s fun. He’s pushing me. I’m pushing him. He makes one. I make one. It’s a good competition. It’s probably the best competition I’ve ever had to be in." -- Eddy Pineiro on the Battle Royale  

The Best Defense is a Historically-Dominant Defense 

Going in: Noted curmudgeon and defensive wizard Vic Fangio is gone, replaced by noted NOT-a-curmudgeon and defensive wizard Chuck Pagano. Would the schemes be as complex? Would Havoc still be wreaked? Surely they cannot have as many turnovers as they did last year. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has always been better than Adrian Amos and we always maintained that opinion, don't bother double-checking. 

Coming out: Gotta say, they still look pretty good. The defense was far better throughout camp, and probably "won" 75-80% of the drives when it was 1's-vs.-1's. Khalil Mack is not of this earth, and Roquan Smith got the best press of anyone in camp. Buster Skrine and Duke Shelley headline what looks like a pretty deep group of cornerbacks. If the opening drives of the Bears' first preseason game told us anything, it's that Pagano's going to blitz a *bunch* this season. There is so, so much talent on that side of the ball, which is something Bears fans should constantly remind themselves of as they watch Richard Sherman on the 49ers or Earl Thomas with the Ravens. 

The money quote: "You get frustrated because you’re so competitive and you want to win every drill. It’s not realistic to win every drill, but that’s what you strive for, especially going against our defense. I mean, they’re tough. They create a great challenge for us every day, but you gotta believe that’s making us stronger and better." -- Trubisky on what it's like to go against the Bears' defense every day. 

Tight Ends Sitting Makes for Tight Rope Walking 

Going in: Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen make for an intriguing pair, on paper at least. Burton's credentials and production need no validating, but can he stay on the field? Shaheen's potential is sky-high, but his bill of health has been far from clean too. Help us, Dax Raymond, you're our only hope. 

Coming out: You know that scene in Animal House at the end when Kevin Bacon is screaming All Is Well as the parade descends into madness around him? Both Burton and Shaheen have missed multiple practices with various injuries, though Nagy has been lightning-quick to point out that it's all a part of The Plan. That very well may be the case - there's no use in playing Burton before Week 1, and Shaheen probably doesn't need too many reps either. With that said, it was an underwhelming camp for the tight ends. The depth in that room is an issue, and a competition that features two undrafted free agents and a converted lineman is not exactly making for exciting offense. Ian Bunting looked all the part of a backup U during their first game, both in his ability as a receiver and his penchant for penalties. 

The money quote: “They’re growing slowly, but that’s as expected. Whether they’re a ‘U’ or a ‘Y,’ we’re able to see a little bit more of whether they can hold the point blocking and then what they can do in the passing game as a ‘U’ tight end. For the most part I’ve liked where they’re at, but we’re really going to be able to evaluate them in the preseason.” -- Nagy on what the young tight ends have done in the absence of Burton/Shaheen

Cordarrelle Patterson named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month

Cordarrelle Patterson named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month

Bears do-it-all wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month on Thursday following an outstanding November slate of games that included 294 return yards, four tackles and two punts down inside the 10-yard line.

Patterson's productive November was a continuation of what's been a great year on special teams for one of the Bears' free-agent signings last offseason. He's averaging an NFC-best 30.9 yards per kick return in 2019.

Patterson was the first Bear since Devin Hester (October 2011) to be named Special Teams Player of the Month.

The Bears welcome the Dallas Cowboys to Soldier Field Thursday night in a game that may come down to field position and a big play or two from special teams. As a result, Patterson could be the difference between a win and a loss as Chicago begins the most critical four-game stretch of 2019.

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Barring a total disaster, Matt Nagy's job is safe according to hot-seat list

Barring a total disaster, Matt Nagy's job is safe according to hot-seat list

Bears coach Matt Nagy was the darling of the NFL coaching fraternity in 2018 after he led his team to a 12-4 record and Chicago's first NFC North title in nearly a decade. But that was last year, and with the Bears sitting at 6-6 and falling way short of preseason expectations, some of the shine from his 2018 Coach of the Year Award has worn off.

But even though 2019 hasn't gone as predicted, Nagy isn't among the list of coaches who are on the hot seat, according to a new list compiled by ESPN. Instead, Nagy's seat is 'cool' and his job is safe barring a complete meltdown over the final four games of the year.

"Nagy doesn't have the same job security he enjoyed last season when he was the NFL Coach of the Year, but it's a stretch to think the Bears will fire him," ESPN's Jeff Dickerson wrote. "The team has struggled across the board on offense -- Nagy's specialty -- and the coach has shouldered his share of the blame. Still, the Bears are 18-10 in the regular season under Nagy. For comparison sake, John Fox went 13-34 in Chicago. Nagy isn't going anywhere."

It's pretty remarkable how far the Bears have come in two seasons under Nagy, even though their record this year doesn't scream success. If Chicago doesn't win another game this season, their six wins would equal the highest total in the four years preceding Nagy's arrival. If the Bears finish 8-8, it would be only the third time since 2011 that they were .500 or better. Chicago had just eight wins combined in 2016 and 2017.

Sure, Bears fans were hoping for a Super Bowl run in 2019 and Nagy was supposed to be the offensive genius who spearheaded the charge. It's true he's regressed as a play-caller this year, but it's only his second season as an NFL head coach. Much like his young quarterback, he's going through some growing pains and learning on the job.

But compared to the coaches who came before him -- John Fox and Marc Trestman -- Nagy is a beacon of hope for a bright future in Chicago.

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