Bears

Bears Mailbag: The return of Adam Shaheen?

Bears Mailbag: The return of Adam Shaheen?

With the news that the Bears are apparently only ever going to play on Sunday nights, it would seem that the hype has ARRIVED. 

It'll be a battle for first place at Soldier Field on Sunday night, and we'll surely have way more about that this weekend. (Like, *way* more. Seriously. There's so much. Almost too much.) 

For now, let's get into some fan questions. To the tweets! 

Michael (The Web) - What changes do you expect Nagy to make in the run game?

For all the talk about the Bears' lack of a running game, it's not for lack of trying. Only 5 teams run the ball more than the Bears, who have gone on the ground 45 percent of the time. Honestly, with the way that the Bears' offense has been humming along over the last 6 games or so, I can't imagine there's much change at all. They're clearly going to keep giving Cohen and Howard chances, but between how well the offense is moving right now and how often they're trying to get the RBs going, I'm not sure there's a whole lot more to be done. If anything, I think the Bears' might run the ball less than usual on Sunday - based on Football Outsider's DVOA, the Vikings have the 4th-best run defense in football. Compare that to their 10th-ranked passing defense, and you can imagine what type of gameplan Nagy and Co. might draw up. Speaking of matchups ... 

Keith (Scottsdale, AZ) - What matchup do you consider the most favorable for the Bears offense on Sunday night?

Ian (Las Vegas, NV) - Who should be a key matchup to watch out for this Sunday night?

I'm not sure there's a matchup that jumps off the page in the Bears' favor. The Vikings defense is marginally better against the run than against the pass, but it's really splitting hairs at that point. With that said, the Vikings' defense is tied for 5th in the NFL with 8 plays of 40+ yards against them, so maybe that's a window? It's about the only negatives stat you can find against Minnesota. So I'll say the Trubisky-Robinson deep ball might be the Bears' most favorable matchup. 

Sabir (Minneapolis, MN) - What would a win Sunday mean for the bears in terms of an outlook for the rest of the season?

It would put them in the driver's seat, for sure. They'll still have to play all 3 NFC North teams again, but being in 1st place with a 7-3 record after Week 11 is never a bad spot. With that said, it just feels like the NFC North is going to be decided by the Bears-Vikings game in Minnesota on the final week of the season. 

Matty (Champaign, IL) - Kevin White looked like he was going to maybe be a contributing member of the Bears. What changed that made the Bears essentially end his time with the team?

I think the Kevin White issue is more simple than a lot of people are making it out to be. First and foremost: unfortunately, whether it was injury-based or not, White just hasn't developed into a NFL-caliber wide reciever. It happens. I know he had a slightly encouraging preseason, and that he's been a good blocking WR for them, but a good preason and being able to block isn't going to get you on to many NFL rosters. That's especially true -- and here's my second point -- with how deep the Bears' WR group is. Between Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, and Trey Burton, there just aren't enough passes to go around. 

Ricky (Aurora, IL) - Is there a chance Adam Shaheen plays this week?

Joseph (IL) - When will we see baby gronk play?

The official guess here is that Shaheen makes his 2018 season debut on Sunday night. Between all the murmurs that Shaheen's ready to go and Sims ongoing issues with a concussion, it seems like a natural fit to have Shaheen take Sims spot. If not this week, though, then soon after. He's almost ready. The more interesting question, in my opinion, is how involved in the offense he'll be. 

Lance (The Web) - if u have to beg for questions why do you bother?

It's a great question, Lance. A great question. Why does anyone bother about anything, really?

Under Center Podcast: Shedding light on the Bears new DC from the golf course

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Shedding light on the Bears new DC from the golf course

Former Bears head coach Dave Wannstedt joins Luke Stuckmeyer and Bears insider JJ Stankevitz from the golf course in sunny Florida to shed light on his recent conversation with new Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano (1:30), Ed Reed's Hall of Fame belief in Eddie Jackson (3:00), whether he'd prioritize Bryce Callahan or Adrian Amos in Free Agency (6:15).

Plus how he'd handle the Cody Parkey situation, since he had a similar experience with Jim Harbaugh when he was coaching the Bears (9:30).

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Under Center Podcast

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Bears grades and needs: D-line looks set, from Akiem Hicks to Bilal Nichols

Bears grades and needs: D-line looks set, from Akiem Hicks to Bilal Nichols

2018 depth chart

1. Akiem Hicks
Usage: 16 games, 74.1 percent of defensive snaps
2019 status: $10.1 million cap hit

Hicks is one of the very best interior defensive linemen in the NFL, leading all players at his position with 34 run stops (defined by Pro Football Focus as tackles that constitute a loss for the offense) while contributing eight sacks and 53 pressures. He finally earned the Pro Bowl bid he’s deserved for years and will remain an anchor of the Bears’ defense as it transitions from Vic Fangio to Chuck Pagano. That he played nearly three-quarters of the Bears' defensive snaps, too, is a testmant to A) how tough is was to take him off the field and B) how well he conditioned himself to be able to play that much. 

2. Eddie Goldman
Usage: 16 games, 52.5 percent of defensive snaps
2019 status: $7.55 million cap hit

With so much star power highlight reel appearances surrounding him, Goldman perhaps was under-appreciated outside the walls of Halas Hall. But inside the Bears’ facility, Goldman’s impact was celebrated. His ability to absorb interior double teams allowed inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith to shoot gaps and each rack up over 100 tackles, and coupled with Hicks few teams were able to effectively run the ball on the Bears. 

While Goldman indeed only played a little over half of the Bears’ defensive snaps, that was possible because of good depth behind him. Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers — the lone position coach holdover from Fangio’s staff — crafted a plan that allowed Goldman to stay healthy, fresh and effective all season. With Pagano keeping the Bears’ 3-4 base scheme, Goldman will still have a highly important role a year after signing a four-year, $42.04 million contract with $25 million guaranteed. 

3. Roy Robertson-Harris
Usage: 16 games, 33.6 percent of defensive snaps, 27.1 percent of special teams snaps
2019 status: Exclusive rights free agent

Robertson-Harris’ 28 pressures tied for fourth on the team behind the three guys you’d expect to be ahead of him (Khalil Mack, Hicks, Leonard Floyd). He was a disruptive presence able to play just about every defensive line technique, and he used his 6-foot-7 length to bat down two passes, too. 

Robertson-Harris will turn 26 in late July and could still have some untapped potential as a defensive lineman, a position he switched to only a few years ago. 

4. Bilal Nichols
Usage: 14 games, 31.2 percent of defensive snaps, 5.2 percent of special teams snaps
2019 status: $644,870 cap hit

Nichols came up with one of the biggest plays in the early part of the Bears’ season when he dropped Cardinals running back for a three-yard loss on third-and-two just after the two-minute warning, with Arizona driving in Bears territory. From there, Nichols was good for a few plays per game, immediately fitting in as an adept rotational player a few months removed from being a fifth-round pick.

Nichols tied with Robertson-Harris for fifth on the team with four sacks, and in Week 17 he thoroughly terrorized Minnesota’s offensive line: Four hurries, two hits and one sack (after the sack, he mimicked the “Viking Clap” to a largely empty U.S. Bank Stadium). Ryan Pace appears to have unearthed a solid contributor in Nichols, someone who will be a key part of the team’s defensive line rotation again in 2019. 

5. Jonathan Bullard
Usage: 16 games, 28.3 percent of defensive snaps, 15.1 percent of special teams snaps
2019 status: $1,026,630 cap hit

Bullard hasn’t quite capitalized on the potential that led Pace to draft him in the third round back in 2016, and was passed on the depth chart by Robertson-Harris and Nichols last season. He’s adequate against the run and his cap hit is low enough for him to stick on the roster in 2019. 

6. Nick Williams 
Usage: 2 games, 4.2 percent of defensive snaps
2019 status: Unrestricted free agent

Williams won a camp battle to secure a roster spot, but only appeared in two games (Week 1 and Week 9). 

7. Abdullah Anderson
Usage: Practice squad
2019 status: Reserve/future contract

The Bucknell alum and 2017 Patriot League defensive player of the year hung around the practice squad in 2018, and will get a shot at sticking in that role in 2019. 

Level of need (1-11, with 11 being the highest): 3

Between Hicks, Goldman, Robertson-Harris and Nichols, the Bears have four strong contributors to their defensive line rotation. Add Bullard in there and the “need” lessens, though defensive line is one of those positions where you can never have too many bodies. 

Previous grades and needs: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | OL

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