Bears won’t face two top Panthers starters in Thursday preseason game

USA Today

Bears won’t face two top Panthers starters in Thursday preseason game

Matt Nagy made it clear last season that his starters won’t get much run in the preseason. His first opponent this year is taking a similar approach.

The Carolina Panthers don’t plan on using their top players Thursday against the Bears. Head coach Ron Rivera told reporters this week that Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly are among the starters who won’t suit up at Soldier Field.

Newton is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, and the team is being cautious with their franchise quarterback during the exhibition schedule.

"It's just to be careful," Rivera said. “Everything we are doing with Cam has been mapped out and everything is fine.”

Kuechly is also on the mend, sitting out many recent training camp practices with an injury the Panthers have been quiet about.

He returned to practice earlier this week, but Rivera doesn’t want to push it in a preseason game.

The Bears’ defense will face backup quarterback Kyle Allen, who started in the Panthers’ Week 17 victory over the New Orleans Saints last season. Second-year linebacker Jermaine Carter is expected to take the place of Kuechly in the starting lineup.

Why Bears made Robert Quinn their big signing in NFL free agency

Why Bears made Robert Quinn their big signing in NFL free agency

Only five players were guaranteed more money in free agency than Robert Quinn, whose five-year, $70 million deal with the Bears includes $30 million guaranteed. Somehow, general manager Ryan Pace and cap guru Joey Laine managed to land one of the biggest free agents of 2020 despite not having a ton of money to spend. 

But why Quinn and not a cornerback, safety, right guard, tight end or quarterback? The Bears entered free agency with true, glaring needs at those five positions. So it was not only surprising that the Bears landed a big fish, but also that it was Quinn. 

Meanwhile, Ryan Pace went bargain shopping with Artie Burns and Tre Roberson at cornerback, and Deon Bush/DeAndre Houston-Carson/Jordan Lucas at safety. See also: Germain Ifedi at right guard. Nick Foles and Jimmy Graham weren’t cheap, but also weren’t Teddy Bridgewater or Austin Hooper. 

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But looking at how free agency played out, the Bears’ call to go with Quinn (and jettison Leonard Floyd) does make sense.  

“We just feel like Quinn’s a proven pass rusher,” Pace said. “He’s got excellent edge speed. He’s got outstanding ability to bend the corner and I think we can take a position of strength on our defense and we make it even stronger and more dangerous when you add Quinn and you combine him with the players that are already up there, especially up front.”

The Bears’ 2020 defense feels like a bet on an elite pass rush covering for some potential deficiencies in the secondary. Eddie Jackson and Kyle Fuller are still there, but can a battle between Kevin Toliver II/Burns/Roberson/TBD draft pick produce a true starting-caliber corner? Or can Bush slide into a starting role next to Jackson after spending the last three seasons almost exclusively as a backup?

It’d be ideal for the Bears if the answers to those questions were yes. But what if opposing quarterbacks don’t consistently have enough time to throw because Mack, Quinn, Hicks, Roy Robertson-Harris, etc. are wrecking things in the pocket?

There’s certainly a thought in some NFL circles that great coverage is preferable to a great pass rush — it’s worked well for the New England Patriots, after all — but it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Not every team gets to have an in-his-prime Khalil Mack. The Bears do. Signing Quinn to help maximize Mack’s impact makes a lot of sense. 

The money makes sense, too. Quinn is guaranteed $30 million, sure, but his $6.1 million cap hit in 2020 ranks 32nd among this year’s free agent signings. That’s really how the Bears made this work — big-ticket cornerbacks James Bradberry and Byron Jones are in the top five of 2020 free agent cap hits, while Bridgewater’s $14 million bargain is more than double Quinn’s cost. 

So all those factors led the Bears to Quinn. This feels like the right kind of signing, one that’ll help give the Bears a top-five defense — even if there may still be some holes in the back end of it. Floyd wasn't cutting it, despite his run-stuffing and coverage skills. The Bears needed to make their pass rush better, and did with signing Quinn.

Good thing that coin flip (metaphorical or not) wound up on the Bears’ side of things. 

“It's always been a defensive kind of team what was always presented to me about the city,” Quinn said. “So that was always an exciting thing going into a town like that where they love to see defense. Points of 0 versus 100, you know. So that's always exciting, plus the talent they already have there. Who can't get excited to join up with guys like Mack, Fuller, (Akiem) Hicks, (Eddie) Goldman, (Danny) Trevathan?”


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Here are 5 Bears games to watch while celebrating Roquan Smith's birthday

USA Today

Here are 5 Bears games to watch while celebrating Roquan Smith's birthday

It's Roquan Smith's birthday! Happy birthday to Roquan Smith – so sorry you have to spend it on Zoom. Hope you treat yourself to the finest meal Grubhub can offer. 

You don't really need a reason to, but since it's his birthday, now seems like as good a time as ever to revisit some of Smith's best games. And thanks to NFL GamePass, that's super easy to do. So here are five places to start, and we'll save the best for last. 

Hon mention: 2018 Week 1 vs. Green Bay (sack on first snap of his career); 2018 Wild Card (INT and six solo tackles, but Double-Doink, soooo). 

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2018 Week 9 @ Buffalo

Crazy how this game keeps showing up on Bears highlight lists! Everyone on the defense had a big day against the Bills, but Smith was especially outstanding. He had a game-high 10 solo tackles – 12 overall – despite only playing 86% of the defensive snaps. And even though Eddie Jackson got credit for forcing the fumble that he then returned for a touchdown, it looks like maaaaybe the FF should have gone to Smith: 

Interestingly enough, Pro Football Focus is bearish on his performance – specifically against the run and in pass rush – against the Bills; Smith's overall grade (58.1) is among the worst of his career. Either way, it's still a fun game to watch for a dozen reasons, one of them being his performance. 

2018 Week 12 @ Detroit

There's Roquan Smith, and then there's Roquan Smith against the Lions. In his first game against Detroit, exactly 10 weeks into his career, Smith played 99% of the defensive snaps while putting up nine solo tackles (10 overall), a sack, a tackle for loss, a QB hit, and a pass deflected. Contextually, it was a big sack, too: Smith got to Stafford on a 3rd-and-9 from the Bears'  30, forcing the Lions to bring out kicker Matt Prater for a 55-yard try. They'd eventually call a timeout and choose to punt instead. On top of all that, it was his highest-graded performance of the season according to PFF, so they're not always grumps! 

2019 Week 2 @ Denver

Smith's stat sheet is underwhelming in this game, but don't let that fool you – it's one of his more impressive games. For starters, it was approximately 165 degrees in Denver that afternoon (temp at kickoff was 87 so actually pretty close). A funny thing about being at that close to the sun is that it sucks in every way. The Bears were gassed that afternoon. Smith finished the game with 13 total tackles – the same amount he had against the Dolphins in equally miserable conditions – and was a major part of holding the Broncos to under 100 rushing yards on the day. Come for Eddy Pineiro's game-winning BOMB, stay for Smith's persistent run-stopping. 

2018 Week 14 vs. LA Rams

He's had better all-around games, but there's never a bad time to watch Smith grab the first and easiest interception of his career: 

He finished the game with six total tackles and a pass deflection, but also played 59 snaps for a defense that held the previously 11-1 Rams to 52 rushing yards and 187 passing. He had an equally impressive game against the Rams in 2019, too, so if you want to sub that in here, go for it. You probably have the time to watch both honestly. 

2019 Week 12 @ Detroit

I don't think there's any question that this is Smith's best game as a pro. Playing on three day's rest, Smith set career-highs in sacks (2.0) and total tackles (16)(!!), tackles for loss (2), and QB hits (2) against Detroit on Thanksgiving. He was far and away the Bears' best player on a day when Mitch Trubisky threw for 338 yards and Anthony Miller had nine catches for 140 yards. It was also basically the last time played in 2019 – Smith would suffer a season-ending pectoral injury 17 snaps into the following week's game against Dallas. 

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