Broncos' opener was underwhelming, but Bears should beware Denver early in the season

Broncos' opener was underwhelming, but Bears should beware Denver early in the season

In case you didn't stay up until midnight to watch it: Vic Fangio’s head coaching debut produced an uninspiring result on both sides of the ball in the Denver Broncos’ 24-16 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Monday. 

The Broncos didn’t score their first touchdown until just before the two minute warning (though Bears fans reading this might appreciate that they even scored a touchdown). This Joe Flacco-led offense shouldn’t inspire much fear in a Bears’ defense that stifled Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last week, with sloppy, inconsistent play defining this group's evening. Losing high-priced free agent right tackle Ja’Wuan James to an apparent knee injury is something to watch this week — if he doesn’t play, an already-shaky Broncos offensive line will have an even tougher challenge blocking for a largely-immobile quarterback on Sunday. 

Perhaps more worrying for Denver was how sub-optimal their defensive performance was. The Broncos appeared to miss ex-Bears slot corner Bryce Callahan, who was scratched with a foot injury: 

Callahan suffered a season-ending foot injury in Week 14 against the Los Angeles Rams last year. The Raiders picked on his backup, Isaac Yiadom, with receiver Tyrell Williams and tight end Darren Waller finding plenty of success when matched up against him. Along with James, Callahan’s status on a short week leading up to Sunday’s game should be closely monitored in Chicago. 

The Broncos allowed 6.6 yards per play and were surgically picked apart by Derek Carr, who completed 22 of 26 passes for 259 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Credit the Raiders’ offensive line and scheme here, too, as Carr wasn’t sacked by a Broncos front featuring Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. The Broncos didn’t generate a takeaway, either. 

We’ll dive deeper into this matchup later in the week, but on the surface, Denver’s Week 1 showing was underwhelming. For what it’s worth, it did come on the road in a charged-up atmosphere (anyone watching the game on TV could hear the “F*** AB” chants). The Coliseum did not look like an easy place to play Monday night. 

Returning back to Colorado should help. Bizarrely, Denver is an incredibly difficult place to play early in the season: The Broncos are 22-2 in Week 1 or Week 2 home games since John Elway retired before the 1999 season, and have won a dozen such games in a row. More narrowly: The Broncos haven’t lost at home in Week 2 of the regular season since 1979, a streak spanning 22 games.  

Is that relevant for the two teams that’ll meet this Sunday? Not entirely. But for whatever reason, there’s something in the thin air of Denver that's consistently given the Broncos an advantage early in the season for 40 years, whether Elway, Peyton Manning or Case Keenum is the quarterback. 

“All streaks are a little different,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “I don’t know the relevance behind early in the season. I just know for us that we know where we’re at right now. And whether it’s in Denver or at home, we want to be able to play better football.”

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Bears not among 8 teams in attendance at Colin Kaepernick's workout

Bears not among 8 teams in attendance at Colin Kaepernick's workout

So much for free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick throwing in front of 25 teams in a workout orchestrated by the NFL on Saturday in Atlanta.

Instead, he ran through a 40-minute session at Charles R. Drew High School in Riverdale, Georgia, and only eight teams were there: Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, and Tennessee Titans.

No Ryan Pace. No Bears.

The bizarre twists and turns in what was supposed to be a formal private workout for the one-time 49ers' star have been hard to keep up with. But one thing is certain: At this point in the regular season, it seems like an awfully distracting proposition to consider adding Kaepernick the Chicago's roster.

"I've been ready for three years,'' Kaepernick said, via ESPN. "I've been denied for three years. We all know why I came out here. [I] showed it today in front of everybody. We have nothing to hide. So we're waiting for the 32 owners, 32 teams, Roger Goodell, all of them stop running. Stop running from the truth. Stop running from the people.

"We're out here. We're ready to play. We're ready to go anywhere. My agent, Jeff Nalley, is ready to talk any team. I'll interview with any team at any time. I've been ready.''

The originally scheduled workout was derailed over Kaepernick's camp changing the language of the liability waiver players sign before participating in private workouts. They wanted the workout open to the media, too, something the league refused to allow.

"We are disappointed that Colin did not appear for his workout," the NFL said in its statement Saturday. "He informed us of that decision at 2:30 pm today along with the public. Today's session was designed to give Colin what he has consistently said he wants -- an opportunity to show his football readiness and desire to return to the NFL. Twenty-five (25) clubs were present for the workout, and all 32 clubs, their head coaches, general managers, and other personnel executives would have received video footage of the interview and workout."

The NFL said the rewritten liability waiver provided by Kaepernick's representatives was "insufficient" and that although the league had agreed to allow Kaepernick's representatives on the field for the workout, it would remain mostly private. 

The disagreement over the workout's particulars isn't overly surprising. It was an odd situation to begin with considering the NFL was controlling the "who" and the "how" of the event. You can't fault Kaepernick for wanting some say in it all, especially since he's been waiting three years for the opportunity.

And even though he didn't get the chance to showcase his skills in front of as many teams as advertised, Kaepernick still made a positive impression on the field.

Where this all leads is anyone's guess. But it doesn't appear it will end in Chicago. 

How Tua Tagovailoa's injury will impact Bears' quarterback situation

How Tua Tagovailoa's injury will impact Bears' quarterback situation

Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered a devastating season-ending hip injury late in the first half of  Saturday's game against Mississippi State, one that likely marks the end of his career as a member of the Crimson Tide. 

Next stop: NFL.

"Tua Tagovailoa sustained a right hip dislocation that was immediately reduced at the stadium," Alabama Team Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Lyle Cain said in a statement following the game. "He is undergoing further testing to determine the best course of treatment. He is expected to make a full recovery but will miss the remainder of the season."

As Dr, Lyle pointed out, Tagovailoa is expected to make a full recovery. His timetable to return is unknown, but it's at least a positive sign that his team of doctors is optimistic about his future.

The harsh reality, however, is that Tagovailoa's injury is going to have a significant impact on his 2020 NFL draft stock, which before Saturday seemed like a top-five lock. After suffering ankle injuries in back-to-back seasons and now a disastrous hip injury, teams selecting in the top 10 will be extremely careful before hinging the future of their franchise on a player with major medical red flags.

And while the Bears were never in the mix to draft Tagovailoa, they will be in the quarterback market this offseason assuming Mitch Trubisky continues to struggle down the stretch. Tagovailoa's injury will make it more difficult for Chicago to land a veteran free agent who prior to Saturday may not have been on a team like the Dolphins' wish list.

That's all changed now.

If Miami had planned for Tagovailoa to be 'the guy' in 2020, their objective in free agency would've been to sign a veteran who can serve as an extra coach in the meeting room rather than a threat for reps on the field. But with Tagovailoa's health now a huge question mark, the Dolphins may not have a choice but to add a player like Cam Newton or Marcus Mariota who can come in and start not only in 2020, but for the foreseeable future as well.

The Bears aren't going to find their 2020 starting quarterback in the draft. If it isn't Trubisky, it has to be a veteran who has a resume of production that can take advantage of a championship window because of the talent on defense. But the price has to be right, and even adding just one team into the free-agent bidding war can have a massive impact on whether Ryan Pace is able to land his guy at his price.

Remember: It's not just the Dolphins whose draft and free agency plans will be impacted by Tagovailoa's injury. Quarterback prospects like Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts and Georgia's Jake Fromm could get pushed up the draft board because they have cleaner medicals or because teams realize they can't assume next year's prospect pool will offer them the answer they're looking for.

Tagovailoa's injury proves there's no such thing as a long-term strategy in a sport where one play can completely derail the best-laid plans. The club that may be eyeing Clemson's Trevor Lawrence in 2021 could choose to snag Oregon's Justin Herbert instead simply because he's healthy and available.

As a result, a run on quarterbacks might occur before the Bears are ever on the clock. That, combined with the free-agent market getting more expensive, could turn one hip injury into another season of Trubisky or bust in 2020.

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