Bears

How much stock should the Bears put into Mitch Trubisky torching a bad Lions defense?

How much stock should the Bears put into Mitch Trubisky torching a bad Lions defense?

Mitch Trubisky fought his way into the north end zone at Soldier Field and spiked the ball with the kind of arm strength he’d usually reserve for fitting a throw into a tight third down window. He then let loose a primal yell, knowing he and the Bears had complete control of a game against an NFC North opponent for the first time in his career.

Maybe there was a little extra meaning behind that emphatic celebration, too.

“The passion he had spiking the ball — I saw a whole lot of passion with him spiking the ball — I’m like, oh, that’s it right there,” running back Tarik Cohen said. “That’s how he responds to the critics, him getting in the end zone and showing that passion.”

A Sunday after two sharp criticisms of Trubisky ran rampant across the Bears’ corner of the internet — The Athletic’s Michael Lombardi saying he wouldn’t buy Trubisky if he were on a discount rack at Filene’s Basement, and ESPN’s Bill Barnwell writing that Trubisky wasn’t guaranteed to be on the Bears in 2020, the fourth year of his rookie deal — the 2017 No. 2 pick put together what coach Matt Nagy called his best game of the season. That wasn’t hyperbole, or damning with faint praise, either: Trubisky completed 23 of 30 passes for 355 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions, a passer rating of 148.6 and that rushing score.

“He’s right up there with any of the good ones in this league right now when he plays at a high level,” tight end Trey Burton said.

Or, as wide receiver Anthony Miller put it: “I think he played like a veteran quarterback.”

The Bears scored touchdowns on their first four drives of the afternoon, and set the tone on that first possession by going up-tempo with a no huddle attack against a depleted and struggling Lions defense. Trubisky had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 at halftime and didn’t have any of the badly-missed throws or poor decisions that cropped up at times during his first eight games of the season.

“Laser focused today,” Nagy said. “Not that he hasn't had it before, but you could just see it and you could feel it.”

The pessimistic point of view is that the Lions’ defense — led by a defensive guy in Matt Patricia — is awful. Football Outsiders’ DVOA ranked Detroit’s defense 29th entering Sunday, only three spots ahead of the dead-last Tampa Bay Buccaneers — the team against which Trubisky had his other best game of the season.

In those two games against the Lions and Buccaneers, Trubisky completed 75 percent of his passes for 709 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions. In his other seven games, Trubisky completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,595 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The combined average DVOA ranking of those seven opponents’ defenses is 11th. The Minnesota Vikings’ defense, which Trubisky will face next week on Sunday Night Football, ranks ninth.

But no matter how bad the defense in front of him, games like Trubisky had on Sunday are important. Drilling down into it, Trubisky’s timing was excellent with his receivers — specifically, Allen Robinson (six catches, 133 yards two touchdowns) and Anthony Miller (five catches, 122 yards, one touchdown), both of whom had their best games in a Bears uniform on Sunday. He clicked through his progressions and made smart decisions, buoyed by an excellent pass-blocking performance by the offensive line, too.

“It would probably be one of my best games,” Trubisky said. “Just felt really comfortable out there, thought the O-line played fantastic today and we got open on the outsides and it was just me doing my job, sitting back there and getting the ball to the playmakers. So I just felt really comfortable today. I put the ball where it needed to go and it's all a credit to my teammates and the work we put in in practice.”

The Bears believe Trubisky’s arrow is pointing up, and that he can have a game like this against a better defense when given the opportunity. Trubisky appreciated that his teammates had his back in the face of that outside criticism this week — Cohen sent a snappy tweet to Lombardi, for instance— but isn’t worried about what’s being said about him.

If he can parlay what he did against Detroit into a good showing against a team with a defensive-minded coach that actually has a good defense next weekend, that outside noise just might turn into outside praise. And his teammates won’t need to have his back publicly anymore.

“I don’t have to talk too much,” laughed Cohen. “I don’t gotta run my mouth when he does stuff like this.”

Jay Cutler plays wingman in latest 'Very Cavallari'

Jay Cutler plays wingman in latest 'Very Cavallari'

If you are like a sizable chunk of Chicago and just watch "Very Cavallari" for Jay Cutler moments, this week’s episode won’t make be your favorite.

After stealing the show last week as the “biggest a-hole on the planet,” Cutler had a more muted role. That didn’t stop the former Bears quarterback from having some very Jay moments.

Cutler opened by offering some advice to his wife, Kristin Cavallari, about issues at her work. His solution was to fire someone, which she noted is always his answer. (Did he have the same reaction when things weren’t going well for the Bears?)

“Cut off the head of the snake,” Cutler said, trying to offer wisdom. “There’s something else that goes with that line, I just don’t know it.”

Cutler tried to sound philosophical and realized mid-thought that that is not his brand and quickly adjusted.

Cutler later talked to his friend Chuy while tending to his massive yard/forest. He asked his friend, who is gay, how his dating life is going and asked "Don't they have like apps for that?"

Cutler then offered more dating advice (which was a theme for him this episode): "I would 100 percent do somebody rich if I was you."

There you have it. In another life, Jay Cutler might have been a gold digger.

Later on, Cavallari walks in on Cutler making a fire in the fireplace. She commented that this is the first fire in their new home.

“This is more of a me fire,” Cutler said. “I didn’t know you were attending.”

Classic Cutler. He had every opportunity to use this to gain some brownie points with his wife, but no, that would be too easy. This is Cutler forcing a deep ball instead of hitting the open checkdown.

Cutler’s last notable scenes this week involved him playing wingman for Cavallari’s best friend, Kelly. He volunteers his services to help her in her single love life. Cutler begins by describing the type of man she would be interested in and the two women cut him off to say he is describing the perfect man.

“I don’t think he exists,” Cavallari said.

“Oh, I was just describing myself,” Cutler responded without missing a beat.

Cutler did go out with Kelly for a drink to talk about how he can help her in her dating life. The solution is to have him run her profile on a dating app. Nothing materialized from this yet on this episode, but there’s definitely potential Cutty gold there.

Oh, and also, this week featured FULL CAMO CUTTY:

Questions linger at running back, kicker as Bears arrive in Arizona for NFL meetings

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USA Today

Questions linger at running back, kicker as Bears arrive in Arizona for NFL meetings

PHOENIX — As the NFL annual meetings begin this week at the extravagant Arizona Biltmore, the storylines that’ll dominate the next few days won’t involve the Bears a whole lot. Robert Kraft’s solicitation charges, Rob Gronkowski’s retirement, instant replay for pass interference and guaranteeing both teams possess the ball in overtime: These are the topics that’ll drive the national conversation about the NFL this week. 

The Bears come to the warmth and sun of Arizona as one of the NFL’s most relevant teams, coming off a 12-4 season with a dynamic coach, elite defense and an under-construction quarterback. But there’s no drama surrounding the organization. They didn’t trade away one of the best receivers in the NFL or go on a spending spree. They’re not in the market for Kyler Murray. They’re not agitating for rule changes after getting wronged in the playoffs by anything other than the Soldier Field's north end zone upright and crossbar. 

But there still remain some unresolved questions surrounding the team beyond, of course, the biggest one (how good will Mitch Trubisky be in 2019?). A few important topics to note: 

What’s left to shake out at running back?

Jordan Howard is still on the Bears’ roster a few weeks after a report surfaced that the Bears were discussing trading the 24-year-old running back. That’s hardly surprising: The running back free agent market, after Le’Veon Bell signed that massive deal with the New York Jets, didn’t deliver any other large contracts. Only three other free agent running backs received more than $5 million in guaranteed money (Mark Ingram from Baltimore, Latavius Murray from New Orleans, Tevin Coleman from San Francisco). Guys like Isaiah Crowell, T.J. Yeldon and C.J. Anderson are all still available on the free agent market, too. 

The point: Why would a team give up a valuable draft pick for Howard right now, when there have been and still are options available for a more modest cost?

The Bears don’t have to trade Howard, hardly, given a healthy cap situation (more on that later) and the simple fact that they haven’t drafted a running back yet. It may seem like a safe assumption that Ryan Pace will select a running back with a third/fourth/fifth-round pick, but then again, it seemed like a safe assumption that Pace would take an outside linebacker before the sixth round in last year’s draft. 

Howard very well could have a role on the 2019 Bears if the running backs the team likes aren’t available, or aren’t among their “best available” options when they’re on the clock in April. Pace could move Howard during the draft to improve his draft position by a round or two, or in a given round, but it’s unlikely to be a drastic improvement. 

Still, the Bears need to improve their running game for the overall health of Matt Nagy's offense. Signing Mike Davis should help with those efforts, but that move may not be the entirety of the solution. There’s still plenty left to play out here. 

Will the kicking competition add more names?

So far, the Bears have two kickers on their roster: Chris Blewitt and Redford Jones. Neither have kicked in an NFL game despite last appearing at the college level since 2016 and 2017, respectively. 

Pace said at the NFL Combine last month he envisions a “major competition” to determine who the Bears’ kicker will be in 2019, and that could result in more than two kickers being a part of it. Blewitt and Jones both emerged out of tryouts earlier this year; it seems likely, though, that the Bears will bring in at least one more kicker who at the least played somewhere in 2018. 

The Bears do currently have the cap space to sign Stephen Gostkowski, though coupled with Cody Parkey’s dead money that could mean sinking upward of $8 million into a position on which teams usually don’t spend. It also may be telling that the 35-year-old Gostkowski is still available despite kicking for the New England Patriots for the last 13 years. 

Perhaps a more likely path is the Bears using one of their two seventh-round draft picks on a kicker, or signing an undrafted free agent. This “major competition,” too, also isn’t guaranteed to result in anything: The Bears, after all, could find their 2019 kicker on the waiver wire after cut-down day in September. 

Capping it off

Per the NFLPA’s public salary cap report, the Bears have $17,795,716 in available cap space. Even with that amount, the contract edge rusher Justin Houston signed with the Indianapolis Colts (two years, $24 million) was probably too rich, and it’s unlikely he would’ve wanted to come to the Bears anyway without a clear path to a prominent role. 

Cap space can roll over from year to year, so the Bears don’t have to spend all of that money. There was an assumption making the rounds on social media — after the team created a sizable chunk of cap space by converting some of Khalil Mack’s base salary to a signing bonus — that the Bears were lining up for a big-splash move, but Pace was keen on using it to make smaller acquisitions. The team could still use an edge rusher to slide into a rotational role behind Mack and Leonard Floyd, which Aaron Lynch (who's still a free agent) filled last year. 

The Bears’ cap situation in future years, though, is more interesting. Without any rollover cap, increase in the league’s cap space and roster moves, Spotrac estimates the Bears have a little under $3 million in cap space in 2020. That, though, will go up — but then also come down via Floyd’s fifth-year option salary and, potentially, a new contract for Cody Whitehair. 

2021 is when the Bears’ cap situation will be fascinating, too, with Mack’s cap hit checking in at $26.646 million, per Spotrac. A fifth-year option for Trubisky will be worth north of $20 million, meaning nearly $50 million in cap space could be tied up between those two players. Pace and his front office have managed the cap well during their time in Chicago, but building a competitive roster will become more of a challenge beginning in 2021 when Trubisky’s salary will escalate. 

Then again, it’ll be easier to build a competitive roster if Trubisky develops into the kind of quarterback who can make an entire team better.