Eric Kush, not James Daniels, in line to start Week 1 as Bears' offensive line comes into focus

Eric Kush, not James Daniels, in line to start Week 1 as Bears' offensive line comes into focus

It took 24 practices and five games, but the Bears’ preseason is finally over. Hallelujah. The real fun begins in just over a week with a Sunday night trip to Lambeau Field. 

So we’ll leave the preseason behind with some final thoughts after the Bears’ 28-27 loss to the Buffalo Bills Thursday night at Soldier Field:

And the starting O-line is…

While Matt Nagy wasn’t ready to officially name his starting offensive line, it was noteworthy that Eric Kush did not play Thursday while James Daniels did for the entire game at left guard. And because of that disparity, it’s fair to pencil in Kush as the starting left guard for Week 1. 

“I’m not going to say 100 percent, but we would probably lean toward that,” Nagy said. 

Daniels won’t turn 21 until next month and still has some things on which to work. Specifically, Nagy pointed to Daniels needing to improve his recognition of fronts and blitzes and play with better leverage. He brought up one play on Thursday on which Daniels “over-reached” on a run, which led to him getting beat for a tackle by a Bills defender. 

That Daniels all but assuredly won’t start Week 1 doesn’t change the Bears’ long-term outlook for him, but it is a reminder that a player as young as him does have some work to do before he can be a starting offensive lineman in the NFL. 

“He’s a rookie,” Nagy said. “He’s young. He’s going to be tested and we just want to stay away from making those same mistakes twice.”

And the O-line depth is…

Kush, Daniels, Charles Leno, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long and Bobby Massie are locks to make the 53-man roster. Swing tackle Bradley Sowell seems likely to make it, too, despite suffering a sprained in last week’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. So that gets us to seven.

Teams usually take nine or 10 offensive linemen on their roster, but the Bears do have some versatility among those seven guys (Daniels can play guard and center, for instance), so let’s say the number is nine. Could Rashaad Coward, the converted defensive linemen who’s played a ton of snaps at right tackle, be part of the 53-man roster?

“He showed me a lot, he really did,” Nagy said. “This is a kid that was playing defensive line last year. And last week, for him to be lining up against Justin Houston and Dee Ford and hold his own, pretty good. We’re proud of him. That’s a kid that is continuing to grow. You see him growing every day in practice. He’s very, very coachable, so when Harry tells him something, he usually gets it done. And that’s a benefit for us.”

That sounds like a decent endorsement, especially given the upside the Bears believe Coward possesses. If he’s the eighth, the ninth is less clear, with interior guys Will Pericak and Hroniss Grasu likely topping the list of players there. 

Grasu, though, is only a center, and with Whitehair and Daniels on the roster he may not have a spot. 

“It’s hard when you start thinking about that, but once you train your brain to think that way (control what you can control), you’re at peace with a lot of things,” Grasu said. “I truly believe in that and it has helped me out to get to this point.”

Notable injuries

Tight end Daniel Brown (shoulder) and outside linebacker Kasim Edebali (leg) both left Thursday’s game with injuries suffered in the second half. 

Brown seemed ticketed for a spot on the 53-man roster given his receiving upside and special teams ability, but his injury could potentially throw that into question. 

“I don’t know how long or if it’s day by day or week by week,” Nagy said, adding the Bears would have an idea of the severity of the injury soon. 

Edebali’s injury looked serious when it happened in the fourth quarter, with the veteran linebacker being carted to the locker room after not being able to put weight on his right leg. The good news, though, is that Nagy said he only had a “leg whip,” which is “more of a contusion.” That, theoretically, shouldn’t prevent the Bears from taking Edebali on their 53-man roster if they’re so inclined. 

Javon Wims, come on down

While Ryan Nall's day was notable for what he did on the field, Javon Wims' evening was notable for what he didn't do. Specifically: Wims didn't play on offense, perhaps signaling that, yes, the seventh-round pick will make the cut onto the 53-man roster. 

Wims did see the field on two special teams units (punt return and onside kick), which was probably a good sign for him, too. But his 15 catches, 227 yards and one touchdown compiled over the Bears' four preseason games likely got him on the roster regardless, as other teams were able to take note of his big frame, good hands and improved route-running ability on tape. He's a player that exits the preseason trending in the right direction.

"I just want to go out there, not stay stagnant and just keep growing," Wims said. "If it’s something small, just grow and I just think every practice, every game, every opportunity I just showed that I’m getting better, I’m growing, I’m getting more comfortable." 

Still, the next 48 hours can be stressful for anyone on the cut-down bubble. So how is Wims going to spend his time?

"Relax, get in the playbook," Wims said, "and hopefully the Georgia Bulldogs win on Saturday."

(Georgia opens its season against FCS opponent Austin Peay. They'll win on Saturday.)

Recalling Chet Coppock – snapshots of a character, who also had character

NBC Sports Chicago

Recalling Chet Coppock – snapshots of a character, who also had character

The news that came out Thursday, that Chet Coppock had died from injuries suffered in an automobile accident earlier this month in Florida, was sad on so many levels. That you didn’t have a chance to say “good-bye,” that you didn’t have a chance to say “thank you,” that you won’t have more of “those” kinds of Chet moments.

But one of my favorite movie moments is at the end of “The Last Samurai” when Tom Cruise, the wounded ex-U.S. soldier who’d fought with the Samurai, is asked by the young Japanese emperor about the death of Ken Watanabe’s Samurai character Katsumoto, “Tell me how he died.” To which Cruise says, “I will tell you, how he lived.”

Somehow that’s the feeling thinking about Chet – little fun snapshots of how he lived.

Snapshots like listening to Coppock on Sports, and appreciating that Chet deserves a spot in the pantheon of those who created a genre.

Like how we in the media laughed imitating Chet’s questions, which routinely went on long enough for you to run out for a sandwich and be back before he was finished. But the chuckle was how Chet wouldn’t directly ask a guest, “So why did you make THAT idiotic play?” No, Chester had this tack of, “So, what would you say to those who would say, ‘You’re an idiot?’” Of course, it would take a minimum of two minutes for him to wend his way through the question, but the results were always worth waiting for.

Like “Your dime, your dance floor.” 

Like grabbing lunches with Chet while I was working on the ’85 Bears book, but in particular while I was writing “100 Greatest Chicago Sports Arguments.” The specific in the latter told me a lot about Chet, far beyond just the information he was sharing.

The “argument” was over who was the greatest Chicago play-by-play broadcaster. Now, Chet of course suggested tongue-in-cheek that he belonged in the discussion; after all, as he pointed out, a high school kid at New Trier games, sitting by himself in the stands, doing play-by-play into a “microphone” that was one of those cardboard rollers from bathroom tissue, oughta be worth something.

Chet’s nomination for the actual No. 1 was Jack Brickhouse, the WGN legend who Chet noted had done play-by for every conceivable sport.

But the reason for Chet’s vote for Brickhouse wasn’t about any of that. It was, Chet said, because Brickhouse beginning back in the mid-‘50s, when the Cubs were integrating with Gene Baker and Ernie Banks, had very intentionally made it clear with his broadcasting and behavior that Baker and Banks were “Cubs,” not “black Cubs.” Brickhouse’s principles had left an impression on a then-young Chet.

I hadn’t known any of that. But Chet did, and that he had taken a lasting impression from what he’d heard growing up said something about Chet as well as Jack. That impressed me, and frankly has always been my favorite Chet story.

So losing an institution like Chet is sad; Chet did say that, no, he wasn’t an institution, but rather that he belonged IN one. But at least he came our way.

Behind Enemy Lines: Looking at where the Bears fall in their opponents’ schedules


Behind Enemy Lines: Looking at where the Bears fall in their opponents’ schedules

Week 1: Packers at Bears (TNF / NFL Season Opener)

It’s NFL Opening Night. Really not much else to say here. The Packers do host the Vikings in Week 2, so there’s that.

**10 days off**

Week 2: Bears at Broncos

No shortage of juice for the Broncos here. On top of Vic Fangio getting the opportunity to take down his former team, it’s the Broncos home opener. There’s also some ridiculous stat out there about the Broncos being something like 75-2 in Week 2 at home or something (*Not the actual stat, it’s buried in TweetDeck somewhere), so this one will be tough.

Week 3: Bears at Washington (MNF)


Washington’s schedule

Week 1 at Eagles

Week 2 vs Cowboys

Week 3 vs Bears MNF

Week 4 vs Giants

Week 5 vs Patriots

So Washington hosts the Bears in the midst of facing all three of their divisional opponents in the first four weeks of the season. I don’t know what it means, I just know I found it interesting. Worst case scenario for the Bears is that Washington is (more than likely) 0-2 and needs to throw the kitchen sink at the Bears to “save” their season on Monday Night Football. But then there’s this: Washington is 2-14 on Monday Night Football since November of 2008.

Week 4 Vikings vs Bears


Vikings Schedule

Week 3 vs Raiders

Week 4 at Bears

Week 5 at Giants

Week 6 vs Eagles

Divisional games aren’t typically let down or look ahead spots and that certainly holds true for both teams here. I’d watch out for that Giants game in New York sandwiched between the Bears and Eagles if I were a Vikings fan though.

Week 5 vs Raiders in London


Raiders Schedule

Week 2 vs Chiefs

Week 3 at Vikings

Week 4 at Colts

Week 5 vs Bears in London

Week 6 BYE

All bets are off for these London games. The Khalil Mack trade revenge game certainly should be a Bears win, and after facing a murderers row of the Chiefs, Vikings and Colts, the Raiders could be limping across the pond.

Week 6  BYE

Week 7  Saints vs Bears


Saints Schedule

Week 6 at Jaguars

Week 7 at Bears

Week 8 vs Cardinals

As JJ Stankevitz, Cam Ellis and I talked about on the Under Center podcast I actually think it’s a good thing the Bears are facing a likely Super Bowl contender coming out of the bye week. Last season, they faced the Dolphins and Giants coming out of the Bye, and the extended post-Thanksgiving break respectively and they lost against bad teams. No excuse for not getting up for this game. And as you can see, there’s nothing to distract the Saints from the defending NFC North champs.

Week 8   Chargers vs Bears


Chargers Schedule

Week 6 vs Steelers

Week 7 at Titans

Week 8 at Bears

Week 9 vs Packers

So the Chargers were 7-1 on the road last season, but I think their road success and their 12-4 record come back to earth in 2019. Last season was their first season winning 10+ games since 2009. And we saw the real Chargers (not) show up against the Patriots when it mattered most in the AFC Divisional Round. Give me a healthy dose of Philip Rivers throwing a temper tantrum after Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks combine for the Bears fourth sack of the day.

Week 9 at Eagles


Eagles Schedule

Week 7 at Cowboys (SNF)

Week 8  at Bills

Week 9 vs Bears

Week 10 BYE

Week 11 vs Patriots

The already tall task of avenging last season’s double doink playoff heartbreak gets even tougher with the way the schedule falls for Jordan Howard’s new team. Having the Patriots looming could have been advantageous for the Bears, but this being the Eagles’ last game before the bye nixes any chance Doug Pederson’s team will be looking past the Bears and ahead to a Super Bowl LII rematch. Big game at a big point of the season for both teams.

Week 10 vs Lions


Lions Schedule

Week 9 at Raiders

Week 10 at Bears

Week 11 vs Cowboys

Week 12 at Washington

Week 13 vs Bears  (Thanksgiving)

Nothing jumps out from the Lions perspective here. Should be a ‘get right game’ for the Bears coming off IMO their toughest stretch of the season. There is some letdown potential with the lowly Lions dropped into this otherwise murderer’s row 5 game stretch.

Week 11 at Rams (SNF)


Rams schedule

Week 10 at Steelers

Week 11 vs Bears  (SNF)

Week 12 vs Ravens (MNF)

Super Bowl hangover anyone?? The Bears laid the defensive blueprint for how to beat the Rams – and the thing I can’t still get over: it’s great that a mic’d up Sean McVay realized the Patriots were using the Bears scheme early in the Super Bowl. But how did he not have a counter for it at that point? A team beat you this exact way? The Bears finish what they started a season ago by sending the Rams into a tailspin while Mitch cements himself as a household name.

Week 12 vs Giants


Giants Schedule

Week 11  BYE

Week 12  at Bears

Week 13 vs Packers

We’re doing this again are we? Huge letdown spot for the Bears against what should be a really bad team coming off their bye week and the Bears have a short Thanksgiving week looming. I don’t like it. Not even a little bit.

Week 13 at Lions (Thanksgiving)


Lions Schedule

Week 12 at Washington

Week 13 vs Bears  (Thanksgiving)

Week 14 at Vikings

We saw the Bears handle a brutal 85-hour turnaround from Sunday Night Football to Thanksgiving last season – so they’ve been here. Last year’s Thanksgiving game did actually come down to Kyle Fuller making a game-saving INT in the end zone at the end of the game. Definitely edge Bears but anything can happen on Turkey day.

**update! I found the Broncos stat!  51-8-2 in weeks 1-2 at home.  Carry on.****

Week 14 vs Cowboys (TNF)


Cowboys schedule

Week 12 at Patriots

Week 13 vs Bills

Week 14 at Bears (TNF)

Week 15 vs Rams

Getting funky with back to back Thursdays. The Bears did do this in 2014, losing against the Lions and Cowboys in that order as the Trestman era was coming to its Real Football Coaches of Chicago (in)glorious ending. For my money, I have this as the most pivotal game of the season. With 10 days off afterward, a win could propel the Bears into their crucial home stretch (and the playoffs) in the driver’s seat.

**10 days off**

Week 15  at Packers


Packers Schedule

Week 13 at Giants

Week 14 vs Washington

Week 15 vs Bears

Week 16 at Vikings

Week 17 at Lions

Well here’s some fun with schedules. The Packers finish with three straight against the NFC North. And they get to warm up for it with back to back games against the NFC East’s least. Does the Matt Nagy era come full circle from Lambeau heartbreak in the 2018 opener to cementing his second straight divisional crown in enemy territory?

Week 16 vs Chiefs (SNF)


Chiefs Schedule

Week 14 at Patriots

Week 15 vs Broncos

Week 16 at Bears (SNF)

Week 17 vs Chargers

Definitely a roll of the dice by the schedule makers to have the Andy Reid – Matt Nagy, mentor vs pupil, reigning MVP vs reigning top defense this late in the season. This game very well could mean nothing to either or both teams. But for everyone’s sake, let’s hope we all get the primetime early Christmas present of watching Patrick Mahomes vs the Bears defense with everything on the line.

Week 17 at Vikings


Vikings Schedule

Week 14 vs Lions

Week 15 at Chargers (SNF)

Week 16 vs Packers (MNF)

Week 17 vs Bears

Another fun schedule wrinkle where another NFC North opponents close with a division heavy final stretch. Normally I would have a problem with the Vikings getting to end the season with all three of their NFC North home games in the final month. But we saw what the Vikings did at home with their season on the line against the Bears in the final week last season, so I have my doubts as to whether they’ll even still be alive at this point.

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