Bears

Bears cut Chris Blewitt as kicking competition takes another turn 

Bears cut Chris Blewitt as kicking competition takes another turn 

The Bears waived kicker Chris Blewitt Wednesday morning, leaving Eddy Pineiro and Elliott Fry as the remaining members of the twisting-and-turning kicking competition at Halas Hall. 

Blewitt initially signed with the Bears after a tryout in February and, along with Fry, emerged from rookie minicamp’s eight-kicker tryout with a roster spot. The Bears traded for Pineiro shortly after rookie minicamp. None of those three kickers has ever kicked in a regular season NFL game. 

Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor described Blewitt as having a “big leg,” though the Bears are able to quantify just how big that leg is. The team has used tracking devices to collect data on ball speed and trajectory, as well as charting makes and misses and evaluating each player’s mental approach, to paint a full picture of their kicking competition. 

“A guy could make a field goal and the ball goes through sideways and it doesn’t look like an NFL kick,” Tabor said. “And everyone says boy, he made it — but that’s what I call an ugly make. And when you’re doing that in practice it’s probably going to translate into ugly misses in the game. So when you look at ball speed, how fast does he get the ball up and those type of things, those are important factors that are realistic at their position.”

During Tuesday’s veteran minicamp practice, though, Matt Nagy called for each of the team’s three kickers to attempt a 42-yard field goal with “Augusta silence,” and all three missed. 

“For today, we can't have that,” Nagy said. “We are going to figure this thing out but 0-for-3 today, no good."

As things stand with two days of veteran minicamp left, the Bears will head into their summer break with two kickers on their roster. That could change for the start of training camp, though Nagy has previously indicated some discomfort with carrying more than two kickers on the roster, let alone to Bourbonnais. 

So Fry and Pineiro will battle in front of throngs of fans at Olivet Nazarene University still scarred from Cody Parkey’s miss, and still hoping Robbie Gould could wind up getting his way and returning to Chicago. That’ll provide a pressure-packed environment for both even before Nagy throws each a few curveballs (which may or may not involve the media). 

There’s a chance one could be cut during camp and another kicker could be brought in. And there’s similarly a chance the Bears could declare a “winner” by granting a roster spot on cut-down day, and then release that “winner” a day later in favor of a player added via the waiver wire. 

"We have to just keep trusting our evaluation of these three kickers,” Nagy said Tuesday, prior to the team cutting Blewitt. “It's not just one person, it's all of us together. We talk it through and we figure it out and we do everything we possibly can to make sure that in the end when we get to the very end, we have the right guy there."

Should the Bears sign free agent running back Devonta Freeman?

Should the Bears sign free agent running back Devonta Freeman?

Former Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman remains unsigned after being released earlier this offseason following a 2019 season that totaled 14 games and a career-low 3.6 yards per carry.

Freeman, who earned back-to-back trips to the Pro Bowl in 2015-16, was at one time considered one of the NFL's top dual-threat running backs. His best season came in 2015 when he ran for 1,056 yards and 11 touchdowns while adding another 578 yards and three scores as a receiver. In 2016, he ran for a career-best 1,079 yards and 11 scores.

Injuries derailed what was a promising start to his career. He hasn't played a full 16 games in any of the last three years and in 2018, he missed 14 games with foot and groin injuries. 

Are Freeman's best days behind him? Maybe. Running backs tend to decline the closer they get to 30 years old, and at 28, Freeman is inching closer to the end of his career than its beginning. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have value for a team like the Bears, who lack any semblance of depth behind starter David Montgomery.

Chicago's running back depth chart is void of any real NFL talent behind Montgomery and Tarik Cohen, and let's face it, Cohen is more of a satellite weapon than he is a true running back.

So what's stopping the Bears from pursuing Freeman? Money.

Freeman is holding out for a reasonable payday that, apparently, involves demands beyond what the Seahawks offered in May (one-year, $4 million). The Bears, who still have in-house business to take care of, including an extension for wide receiver Allen Robinson, aren't going to offer Freeman a contract in that range. And they shouldn't. Montgomery is the unquestioned starter and that won't change even if a player like Freeman is added. As a result, he'll get a contract consistent with what's paid to a backup with starter's upside.

Remember: Freeman signed a five-year, $41.2 million extension with the Falcons in 2017, and like most players who believe they still have a lot left in the tank, he doesn't appear willing to lower his value by such an extreme amount.

Still, the market will determine Freeman's next deal. And if he's still hanging around and unsigned as training camp approaches, the Bears could find themselves in a favorable position to land an extremely talented running back at a mega-discount.

Chicago's offense will hinge on how productive the running game is in 2020. It would make sense to improve its chances of success by adding more talent. Freeman could be that guy, at the right price.

What would 1985 Chicago Bears look like if they played in 2020?

What would 1985 Chicago Bears look like if they played in 2020?

“We’re gonna do the shuffle then ring your bell,” sang Gary Fencik back in 1985. 

The updated lyrics in 2020 would be: “We’re gonna do the shuffle then get a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty.” 

Football today is a largely different game compared to when the Bears won their only Super Bowl in franchise history. You’ll see that when Super Bowl XX is aired on NBC this Sunday at 2 p.m. CT. But as I went back and watched some highlights ahead of catching the full game on Sunday, I wondered: What from the ’85 Bears would still work in the NFL today?

MORE: 10 crazy stats about the 1985 Bears

Talent, of course, transcends eras. Walter Payton would still be a great running back in 2020. Richard Dent would still be one of those pass rushers offenses have to gameplan around. Mike Singletary’s versatility, toughness and instincts would make him one of the league’s top linebackers. But that’s not what I was wondering. 

The Bears’ first offensive play of Super Bowl XX — on which Payton lost a fumble — came with two wide receivers, one tight end, one running back and one fullback on the field, otherwise known as 21 personnel. There was nothing odd about it back then. 

Only 8 percent of the NFL’s plays in 2019 used 21 personnel. 

The San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings were the only two teams to use 21 personnel on more than 20 percent of their plays, and both teams made the playoffs. Jimmy Garoppolo, remember, threw eight passes while the 49ers throttled the Green Bay Packers on their way to the Super Bowl back in January. 

Payton and Matt Suhey would’ve been just fine in today’s NFL running from under center quite a bit. But consider this: Jim McMahon’s passer rating in 1985 was 82.6, good for seventh-best in the league. Mitch Trubisky’s passer rating in 2019 was 83.0, ranking him 28th. 

How about Buddy Ryan’s 46 defense? 

I dug up this video we did a few years ago with Rex Ryan explaining his dad’s defense — which, while it turned out to be great at stopping the run, was actually designed to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Check it out:

The Bears’ defense in 1985 is, arguably, the best in NFL history. The Bears held opponents to 3.7 yards per carry and 12.4 points per game, the lowest averages in the league. Dent led the NFL with 17 1/2 sacks and, maybe the most mind-blowing stat of all: The Bears’ defense allowed 16 passing touchdowns and had 34 interceptions. 

But putting eight guys in the box doesn’t seem like a sound strategy in today’s pass-happy, 11 personnel-heavy league — a league that often forces defensive coordinators’ base packages to be in nickel. To wit: San Francisco’s Tevin Coleman faced the highest percentage of “loaded” boxes in 2019, with 40.2 percent of his 137 rushing attempts coming with eight or more defenders near the line of scrimmage. 

The Bears’ defense only had to defend multiple backs (i.e. a running back and a fullback) on 120 plays in 2019. 

So the 46 defense might not work in 2020. Then again, who would doubt Ryan’s ability to coordinate a good defense against today’s modern NFL landscape?

This is all building to my overarching feeling thinking about the 1985 Bears: They'd be fine in today's NFL. Greatness can transcend era. It might take a few tweaks and they wouldn't look the same as you'll see on NBC Sports Network on Sunday afternoon. 

But who am I to say one of the greatest teams of all time wouldn't be great in any era? 

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