Bears

How will the Bears replace Trey Burton and, potentially, David Montgomery against the Rams?

How will the Bears replace Trey Burton and, potentially, David Montgomery against the Rams?

The Bears will be without tight ends Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen against the Los Angeles Rams, and running back David Montgomery will be a gametime decision prior to Sunday night’s contest in California. 

Burton missed all three of the Bears’ practices this week with a calf injury suffered at the end of the Bears’ win over the Detroit Lions last week, while Shaheen popped up on the injury report with a foot issue and missed both Thursday and Friday’s practices. Montgomery rolled his ankle during practice Wednesday, was held out of Thursday’s practice and then returned in a limited fashion on Friday. 

The upshot here is the Bears may need to take a deep dive into their depth at tight end and running back just to staff those positions for a game they can’t afford to lose. The emphasis, though, is on the word “may.” 

Coach Matt Nagy has frequently referred to the “U” tight end position — which Burton plays — as an important “adjuster” in his offense. But he indicated the Bears could look at other positions to be that “adjuster,” meaning the Bears wouldn’t necessarily need to lean on, say, current practice squad tight end Jesper Horsted on Sunday. 

The Bears were already without Shaheen last weekend when they decided to make him a healthy scratch on gameday, and had Ben Braunecker and J.P. Holtz take over the 2017 second-round pick’s snaps as an in-line (“Y”) tight end. Braunecker has the flexibility to step in for Burton at the “U,” so the Bears could wind up feeling okay about having him and Holtz as their two primary tight ends on Sunday. Bradley Sowell is on the roster, too, and could be active for the first time since Week 2 a backup "Y." 

Meaning: Those waiting for Horsted to get a shot two and a half months after his impressive preseason ended may be left wanting. 

“Jesper’s just now learning the position,” tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride said this week, while also praising his work ethic and desire to improve. 
So the best bet here is Horsted gets called up to the active roster but isn’t a significant part of the Bears’ gameplan on Sunday. Notably, though, Nagy did not dismiss the idea of placing Burton on injured reserve — which would end his season — when asked on Friday. 

“It’s been frustrating for Trey,” Nagy said. “You can understand that. And it has been frustrating for us, which you can understand that as well. They’ll be some decisions that we’ve got to collaborate — we’ve got to get together and just talk it through and see what’s best for him and what’s best for us and then decide on that.”

If Burton were to go on injured reserve, it would give Horsted a better chance to be evaluated in 2019 with an eye on if he could contribute in 2020. 

The same goes for Ryan Nall, the second-year undrafted free agent who could play his first regular season snaps on offense if Montgomery is not able to go on Sunday. But the Bears aren’t at the point of looking ahead of 2020 yet, not while they still have a chance — albeit a small one — of reaching the playoffs. 

So instead of Nall, that could mean the Bears use Tarik Cohen and Cordarrelle Patterson as their primary running backs, even if neither is prototypical at the position. 

“There's definite opportunities there (for Patterson),” Nagy said. “Again, there's some flexibility in our roster and the versatility that we have. It can sometimes make it a little bit difficult as a play-caller, as a schemer as to what you want to do, but when things like this come up out of nowhere and they're unfortunate, you just have to be able to not flinch.”

(As an aside: The Bears still made the correct call in releasing veteran Mike Davis last week, as doing so indicates they believe they’ll receive a compensatory draft pick in 2020 through the league’s complex, secretive formula.)

The Bears are 4-5 and have a greater than zero percent chance of making the playoffs (Football Outsiders has it at 3.6 percent entering the weekend). Once this team’s hopes in 2019 are extinguished, then it’ll be time for them to start looking at players like Horsted and Nall who haven’t got a chance this year but perhaps could in 2020. 

But they’re not there yet, meaning it’s not yet to time start throwing undrafted free agents on the field to see what they can do. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

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

roquan.jpg
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). 

RELATED: The Most Recent Bears Trades With Every NFL Team

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. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Who is Ryan Pace's best draft pick as Bears general manager?

Who is Ryan Pace's best draft pick as Bears general manager?

Ryan Pace has been the Bears' general manager since 2015, and while some of his most memorable moments aren't the kind GMs want to be known for, like trading up for Mitch Trubisky in a draft class that included Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watston, he hasn't been a complete failure on draft weekend.

Former Super Bowl-winning GM of the Washington Redskins, Charley Casserly, published a scouting report of sorts for all of the league's top decision-makers that offered a somewhat positive spin on Pace's track record.

After five drafts, Pace has selected five Pro Bowlers: Tarik Cohen, Jordan Howard, Eddie Jackson, Cody Whitehair and Trubisky.

OK, so, maybe we should give him credit for four; Trubisky is entering a training-camp battle for the starting job with Nick Foles this summer. His Pro Bowl berth feels like ancient history.

According to Casserly, Roquan Smith has been Pace's best pick so far.

"He is the complete package as a linebacker," Casserly wrote of Smith, "who has the speed to cover sideline to sideline, excelling vs. the run."

Cody Whitehair checked in as Pace's best value pick after selecting the team's starting center in the second round of the 2016 draft. 

As for how Pace conducts draft weekend?

"There seems to be a very close working relationship between Pace and head coach Matt Nagy," wrote Casserly. "It is a collaborative effort between those two, as well as other scouts and coaches -- all must agree on how the player's skill set fits into the scheme. The organization believes in being aggressive to acquire players, including when they traded draft picks for Khalil Mack, traded up for safety Eddie Jackson and back for OL Cody Whitehair. Those were all good trades for the Bears."

Pace has some ammunition to make a move up the board in the 2020 NFL Draft if he so chooses. Armed with two second-round picks (Nos. 43 and 50 overall), he'll have the ability to move into the back half of the first round if a must-have player slides further than expected. This year's virtual draft environment may make trades tougher to execute, but there's no doubt Pace will be active in an attempt to slide up or down the board.