Bears

Eddy Piñeiro secured his job status for 2020, even if he'll be the last one to admit it

Eddy Piñeiro secured his job status for 2020, even if he'll be the last one to admit it

You know Lori Lightfoot must have some political power when she can fix the Bears’ kicking game with one public statement. It’s been six weeks since Chicago’s mayor went in front of TV cameras and challenged Eddy Piñeiro to “find [his] leg” again after an 0-for-2 performance against the Rams. The Bears’ kicker hasn’t missed since, converting all 11 attempts. 

“I honestly want the season to keep going,” Piñeiro said after hitting his second game-winner of the season, a 22-yarder to beat the Vikings 21-19 Sunday. “It’s sad the season is over at this point in time. I’m just happy that I ended on a good note. It’s now time to get ready for next year where I’ll need to compete in order to get my job back.”

He was staunchly uninterested in postgame job speculation, even though his 4-4 performance was the latest example of why there probably won’t be much this offseason. He scored 13 of the Bears’ 21 points – it’s not like they can really afford to start over again, and after last offseason, why would they want to?

“For us, you all know, that was a huge, huge, big void that we had going into this year,” Matt Nagy said. “I feel pretty good that that void is filled. I feel like that’s a positive from this year.”

Piñeiro finished the season kicking at an 82% rate, which falls in the middle of the pack (19th) in the league. He went 27-for-29 on extra points, which puts him a bit lower (25th). Still, the Bears have consistently applauded the kicker’s ability to respond to adversity, and finishing the season perfectly after his worst performance of the year is a testament to the 24-year-old’s resolve. 

“The slumps, again, are natural,” Nagy added. “I think making sure that we don’t panic when you go through that slump is the most important part.” 

Piñeiro said that what helped him rebound this season was changing (read: improving) his technique. He admitted that he came into the season “kicking like a soccer player,” and that the way he was coming around on the ball wasn’t producing clean kicks. And while many point to the Rams game as his season’s low point, it was actually missing what would have been the game-winner against the other Los Angeles team that Piñeiro felt was his season’s turning point. 

“I think the biggest thing is handling adversity,” he said. “This one was big for me, especially after I lost the game against the Chargers. This was a big moment for me."

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Why Tom Waddle believes Nick Foles will be Bears' QB1, not Mitch Trubisky

Why Tom Waddle believes Nick Foles will be Bears' QB1, not Mitch Trubisky

The central issue surrounding the Bears heading into the upcoming season concerns the starting quarterback situation, and that previous statement could apply to many more seasons than just 2020. Longtime ESPN 1000 host Tom Waddle is no stranger to QB drama, as the former Bears receiver has been a leading voice in analyzing the team for over a decade on the station’s highly-successful “Waddle & Silvy” show. When the Bears made their move to trade for Nick Foles in March, Waddle’s immediate reaction was a strong one, as he recounted to Laurence Holmes on the Under Center podcast.

“You don’t trade a fourth-round pick and give up $20 million guaranteed to a quarterback and sit him behind a QB that you don’t have full faith in,” Waddle explained. “I immediately thought this is going to be their starting quarterback. I think the familiarity that Nick Foles has with John DeFilippo and Bill Lazor and Juan Castillo and obviously Matt Nagy, I think you put that all together and you couple the familiarity with the uncertainty that is in the mind of the head coach about what the existing quarterback is capable of doing, and to me, it all added up to they got a guy that they trust and a guy that they see as their starter from Day 1.”

That doesn’t mean Foles will be an automatic savior. Of course, he led the Eagles to a Super Bowl title with a brilliant string of play in January and February of 2018, eventually outdueling Tom Brady to win the title in a shootout. But Foles has started more than eight games in a season just twice in his eight-year pro career, the last coming in 2015 with the then-St. Louis Rams.

RELATED: 2020 Bears Roster Review: Breaking down the Mitch Trubisky-Nick Foles battle

However, the fact that the Bears were aggressive in identifying Foles and then trading with Jacksonville speaks volumes about how they feel about him and it’s that conviction that truly sells Waddle on Foles being the starter. “If you were just looking for somebody to compete with Mitch, you could have waited out the Bengals, who were more likely to release Andy Dalton,” hypothesized the former Boston College Eagle. “You could have signed Case Keenum, but I don’t think the Jags were releasing Nick Foles at any point because of the contractual obligation they had to him. They had to go get him and once they went and got Nick Foles, that was the surest sign of all, in my world, that Nick’s got the edge.”

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Khalil Mack didn't rank as high as you might think on PFF's top 50 players

Khalil Mack didn't rank as high as you might think on PFF's top 50 players

Chicago Bears edge rusher Khalil Mack didn't have the kind of season fans were expecting in 2019, but to be fair, Chicago's entire defense went through a bit of regression last year. Mack ended 2019 with just 8.5 sacks. It was the first season that he failed to crack double-digit sacks since his rookie year (2014).

Still, there's no denying Mack's place among the NFL's elite players, regardless of position. Barring injury, he's a surefire Hall-of-Famer and certainly one of the 10-best players in the league.

According to Pro Football Focus, that may not be the case.

In PFF's ranking of the NFL's top 50 players, Mack ranks 18th.

Pro Football Focus is counting down their top 50 on Twitter, and so far the following players have been ranked higher than Mack:

17: Bobby Wagner
16: Chris Jones
15: Fletcher Cox
14: Richard Sherman
13: J.J. Watt
12: Stephon Gilmore
11: Drew Brees

All of those names are worthy of being ranked in this range, especially following a 2019 campaign that brought Mack back to the pack. 

2020 should produce different results for Mack and the Bears after adding Robert Quinn in free agency. The healthy return of Akiem Hicks will be a huge plus, too, giving Mack some much-needed help along the Bears' front-seven.

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