Bears

Bears grades: Mixed bag for Trubisky, coaching staff after loss to New Orleans

Bears grades: Mixed bag for Trubisky, coaching staff after loss to New Orleans

QUARTERBACKS: C-

Sunday was a mixed bag for Mitchell Trubisky, with some good throws like his 45-yarder to Tre McBride and what would’ve been a 25-yard touchdown to Zach Miller had it not been overturned on replay. His 46-yard scramble was an outstanding athletic play against a Saints blitz. But he was inaccurate on other throws and nearly was picked off twice on the Bears’ only touchdown drive of the game midway through the fourth quarter. The Bears, ideally, wouldn’t have had Trubisky throw 32 times, and his 43.7 completion percentage and 46.9 passer rating was what came of that. Trubisky’s decision-making was better than it was against Carolina, but he still missed some open receivers. New Orleans threw plenty of defensive looks at Trubisky he hand’t seen yet, which made things more difficult, and he only completed five of 15 passes when under pressure, according to Pro Football Focus. 

RUNNING BACKS: C+

Jordan Howard broke a 50-yard run that got the Bears outside the shadow of their own end zone and led to a Connor Barth field goal, but he averaged 2.4 yards per carry on his other 22 runs. Explosive plays are hugely important but Howard struggled to break tackles, and probably won’t want to re-watch being brought down by safety Kenny Vaccaro inside the 10-yard line in the first quarter. His drop of what should’ve been a touchdown in the fourth quarter was poor, too. Tarik Cohen said he needed to have better attention to detail on some of his routes, and he managed just one catch on three targets for six yards. Cohen did record his first career rushing touchdown when he leaped over the line in the fourth quarter. 

WIDE RECEIVERS: D+

McBride had three catches for 92 yards to lead the team in receptions and yards, flashing as a downfield threat with good vision with the ball in his hands a few times. But this group again struggled to create separation for Trubisky on a consistent basis: Kendall Wright had two catches for 23 yards on eight targets, while Tanner Gentry wasn’t open the only time Trubisky targeted him. 

TIGHT ENDS: D+

This grade probably would’ve been higher had Zach Miller’s 25-yard touchdown — on which he suffered a dislocated leg — not been overturned by replay officials. Fair or not, that left this unit with a collective four catches for 24 yards on nine targets. Adam Shaheen couldn’t get open when Trubisky looked his way in the end zone on third and goal early in the second quarter, leading to a field goal. Dion Sims had three catches for 15 yards, and without Miller, he, Shaheen and Daniel Brown (one catch, nine yards) will need to make more of an impact in the passing game going forward.  

OFFENSIVE LINE: C-

The losses of Kyle Long (hand) and Cody Whitehair (elbow) during the game hurt, and Trubisky was under pressure on 18 of his 37 drop-backs during the game, according to Pro Football Focus. This group generated a decent push for Howard early but struggled as the game went on, with Josh Sitton having to fill in as the emergency center. 

DEFENSIVE LINE: A-

Akiem Hicks had a sack, a tackle for a loss and two hurries as his excellent play continues in his return to New Orleans. Jonathan Bullard critically stripped Mark Ingram in one of the bigger plays of the game, while Eddie Goldman was solid again. Mitch Unrein didn’t record any disruptive stats but his pressure helped knock Drew Brees to the turf, leading to Leonard Floyd’s sack. This wasn’t the D-line’s best game of the year, but 19 of Ingram and Alvin Kamara’s 26 runs went for five yards or fewer, which reflects well on this bunch. 

LINEBACKERS: B

Danny Trevathan again played at a high level, leading the Bears with 13 tackles and adding a tackle for a loss. Christian Jones had seven tackles and recovered a fumble, while Leonard Floyd had a sack, hurry and pass break-up (on the sack, yes, he merely touched an on-the-ground Brees, but his athletic hurdle on the play gave him the opportunity to get that easy sack). Keeping the explosive Kamara to 28 yards on eight carries is a nod to this group, though he did have three catches for 48 yards — including a 34-yard back-shoulder grab with Floyd in coverage. 

DEFENSIVE BACKS: C+

The Bears saw some uncharacteristically poor tackling from this group, with Bryce Callahan whiffing on bringing down Brandon Coleman on a 54-yard play in the first quarter and Adrian Amos whiffing on a tackle (it’s worth noting he did make an excellent tackle, holding onto Ingram after a screen pass for a loss of yards in the first quarter). Eddie Jackson couldn’t make a play on an ill-advised Brees deep ball that wound up being a 53-yard completion to Ted Ginn Jr. On one hand, not allowing Brees to throw a touchdown was an accomplishment, on the other, he completed 23 of 28 passes, though plenty of those were short, safer concepts designed to limit the effectiveness of the Bears’ pass rush. Amos deserves a ton of credit for forcing an Ingram fumble late in the game that gave the Bears an opportunity to win the game. 

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-

Connor Barth missed a 48-yard attempt and is now seven for 11 this year, which puts his job in jeopardy heading into the bye week. Fuller lining up offsides on a Will Lutz attempt was a brutal mistake that directly led to the Saints scoring seven points instead of three on their opening drive, and long snapper Andrew DePaola was whistled for a false start in the second quarter. Saving this grade: Tarik Cohen’s 42-yard kick return with the Bears down by eight inside the two-minute warning, which also had a 15-yard horse collar penalty tacked on to it. Had the Bears been successful in their last-ditch comeback, that return would’ve been looked at as being critical. 

COACHING: C-

Fuller — who replaced Sherrick McManis on field goal defense — lining up offsides was a brutal penalty that didn’t reflect well on him or special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers, and that flag resulted in the Saints getting seven points on their first possession instead of three. Long snapper Andrew DePaola was whistled for a false start on a Pat O’Donnell punt in the second quarter, too. Some of Dowell Loggains’ playcalls deserve scrutiny, like having Trubisky pass on third-and-one and fourth-and-one when down five around the two-minute warning. It’s worth noting, though, that Loggains schemed to allow Trubisky to get the ball out quickly: He was 9/19 on passes thrown within 2 1/2 seconds of receiving the snap and 5/14 on passes thrown 2.6 seconds or later, per Pro Football Focus. It was disappointing to see the Bears come out flat to start the second half, too, with an uninspired three-and-out on the opening possession of the third quarter. But defensively, Vic Fangio’s adjustments helped keep a lid on the Saints’ offense in the second half, with New Orleans managing six points in the final 30 minutes (three of which came after Trubisky’s late turnover on downs in Bears territory). 

Three questions for Bears CBs: Will continuity breed success?

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USA TODAY

Three questions for Bears CBs: Will continuity breed success?

 

Pre-camp depth chart

Outside corner

1. Kyle Fuller
2. Marcus Cooper
3. Michael Joseph
4. Tyrin Holloway

1. Prince Amukamara
2. Sherrick McManis
3. Kevin Toliver II
4. Rashard Fant
5. John Franklin III

Nickel corner

1. Bryce Callahan
2. Cre’Von LeBlanc
3. Jonathon Mincy

1. Can Kyle Fuller build off a 2017 breakout?

A year ago, it would’ve been unbelievable to hear Fuller would be fifth highest-paid cornerback in the NFL by average annual salary, ahead of two guys (A.J. Bouye and Stephon Gilmore) in whom the Bears had interest in free agency. This was a guy who — justifiably, given he missed all of 2016 with an injury — didn’t have his fifth year option picked up and wasn’t even assured of a roster spot coming into training camp.

But Fuller earned that paycheck with an outstanding season. Consider:

No cornerback was targeted more times than Fuller last year, even though only 51 percent of those targets were caught and he led the NFL in passes defended with 17, according to Pro Football Focus. Fuller held opposing quarterbacks to a rating of 69 when they threw his way, good for 17th among all cornerbacks.

“His preparation Is second to none,” fellow cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “How he prepares for games and how he anticipates what’s going on —  I feel like I prepared enough but when I watched him and how he does it before games there’s a lot I can learn from him and I’m just glad he’s back because he’s going to improve my game a little more and hopefully I can help him improve his.”

Why opposing teams targeted Fuller so much when Amukamara allowed a higher quarterback rating (89.1), didn’t have an interception and only broke up five passes is still a head-scratcher of sorts. But if Fuller wasn’t respected last year by opposing offensive coordinators, he will be in 2018.

So the goal for Fuller will be to be even more stifling when the ball is thrown his way. Adding a few more interceptions — he only had two last year, and both came in December — would go a long way toward him earning that four-year, $56 million offer sheet the Bears had to match.

2. Where will the interceptions come from?

The Bears are the only team in NFL history to record eight or fewer interceptions in three consecutive seasons, and Ryan Pace doubled down on an outside cornerback pairing of Fuller and Amukamara that only produced two interceptions in 2017. Nickel corner Bryce Callahan showed a bit of a playmaking streak last year with two interceptions (and a pretty sweet punt return touchdown in Week 1).

But that only accounts for four picks, a number which was equaled or eclipsed by 13 cornerbacks in 2017. All the pressure to get takeaways isn’t on Amukamara, Fuller, Callahan and a handful of reserves — Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos will need to contribute more too — but given the questions surrounding the Bears’ pass rush, increasing the interceptions generated from this unit will be important for the overall success of the defense.

So if you see Fuller or Amukamara pick off Mitch Trubisky in Bourbonnais, perhaps look at it as good thing (it’ll be a learning experience for Trubisky, too, which isn’t a bad thing either).

3. Will any of the intriguing UDFAs make the team?

The Bears, a little surprisingly, didn’t draft a cornerback in April, but did sign a handful of undrafted free agents that will have an opportunity to fight for a roster spot in training camp. Two players in particular will be interesting to watch in July and August: Kevin Toliver II and John Franklin III.

Toliver is a former five-star recruit who didn’t live up to that hype at LSU, only intercepting two passes in 31 career games. The 6-foot-2 Toliver has projectable size and length, but his lack of production was why he went undrafted after leaving Baton Rouge following his junior season. He’s the kind of high-upside guy undrafted free agent who could garner some attention in training camp with a few good practices, but will have to consistently prove to the defensive coaching staff and special teams coordinator Chris Tabor he’s worthy of a roster spot.

Franklin may be more of a long shot, but the former “Last Chance U” star nonetheless will be a fascinating watch in Bourbonnais. The former quarterback-turned-receiver is now trying to not only make an NFL roster, but is trying to do so while learning an entirely different position on the side of the ball on which he’s never played before. Franklin had a healthy perspective on learning how to play cornerback during OTAs and minicamp (https://www.nbcsports.com/chicago/bears/last-chance-u-john-franklin-iii-chicago-bears-nfl-defensive-back-quarterback-wide-receiver), and the Bears saw something in his raw speed and athleticism to give him a shot on defense. It’d be a surprise if Franklin earned a spot on the 53-man roster, but it’d be one heck of a story if he even wound up on the Bears’ practice squad come September.

Allen Robinson appears on latest 'Big Guys in a Benz'

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USA TODAY

Allen Robinson appears on latest 'Big Guys in a Benz'

New Bears wideout Allen Robinson appears on the latest episode of 'Big Guys in a Benz' hosted by Anthony Adams. In the episode, Robinson touches on a number of topics from growing up rooting for the Minnesota Vikings despite being from Detroit, his favorite Chicago baseball team and how he went about free agency.

When asked where the Bears were ranked when looking at teams in free agency, Robinson said the Bears were No. 1 on his list.

...especially once they hired coach Nagy, you know, I had been watching his work over the past couple of years and I know it's a system that I would definitely fit into and flourish in. 

As far as growing up a Vikings fan?

Bears fans can forgive Robinson as he grew up idolizing Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss. He went on to explain that once a year for his birthday he would get to go see the Vikings play in Detroit. Things came full-circle for Robinson when he was able to train for four weeks straight with Moss last summer, which Robinson said "took his game to the next level". 

When pressed to choose White Sox or Cubs, Robinson quickly responded "Cubs", making his allegiance to the North Siders known. 

And though the interview didn't touch on Robinson's ACL rehab, it did show how Robinson is quickly endearing himself to Bears fans as he prepares for a bounce-back season.