Bears

Matt Nagy offers a glimpse into what the Bears’ kicking competition may look like 

Matt Nagy offers a glimpse into what the Bears’ kicking competition may look like 

PHOENIX — The Bears’ kicking competition hasn’t exactly started yet, even if the team signed two kickers who emerged in tryouts at Halas Hall earlier this year. But Matt Nagy is already thinking about ways to enhance the competition when it does get underway, with the acknowledgement the Bears have to find a solution to the problem that double-doinked them out of the playoffs in January. 

Generating pressure on kickers during OTAs/minicamp/training camp/preseason practices isn’t easy, given the laid-back nature of those compared to an actual game situation (though fans, surely, will be closely monitoring every field goal attempt that occurs in Bourbonnais). So something Nagy hinted at Tuesday at the Arizona Biltmore: A reward, or punishment, for other players based on if a kicker makes or misses a field goal. 

“I want to do everything I can — we’ll make sure that somehow, without having 70,000 screaming fans at Soldier Field and kicking it in Soldier Field we’re going to put pressure on them, and we’re going to make it so they kind of tighten up a little bit, as much as you can,” Nagy said. “You sit here and you watch these kickers at the Combine — you can hear a pin drop and they’re out there kicking with no pads on, no nothing. I want the real thing. How can you make that happen? You gotta kind of draw it up. When you have 90 players out there with an incentive of you gotta do this or they gotta do that if you make it or miss it, there’s a little bit of a challenge.”

When it was suggested to Nagy that he allow the media to be present to scrutinize every turn of the competition, he referenced one of 2018’s more interesting moments": “Well, that’s actually not a bad thought. Yeah, put the helicopter up there. That’d be good.” 

Right now, the Bears have two kickers on their roster, neither of whom have kicked in an NFL game: Redford Jones and Chris Blewitt (Nagy said of the latter kicker’s seemingly-unfortunate last name, with a grin: “It’s French and it's Blue-Ay"). He’s not sure if the Bears have their 2019 kicker on their roster right now, leaving open the possibility for a free agent, draft pick and/or undrafted free agent to be acquired between now and the first week of September. 

The Bears don’t want to overload their 90-man roster with kickers and take up an unsustainable number of spots during preseason practices. So if the Bears do add more players at that position, it may be just one, though it can also be a fluid situation. Nagy cited his old team, the Kansas City Chiefs, picking up kicker Harrison Butker on waivers after cut-down day in 2017, with Butker going on to make 90 percent of his field goals in the last two years. 

Butker, though, also can serve as a lesson in a different way, given he was released by the Carolina Panthers prior to joining the Chiefs. Nagy said he doesn’t want to dismiss Jones or Blewitt before putting them through a competition and have them wind up finding success elsewhere. 

“What if you have that guy?” Nagy said. “That’s how we gotta — everybody else says oh, no one knows who these guys are and they never kicked in a game but hell, I never coached in a game last year. … Somebody needs an opportunity. So wouldn’t that be terrible if we had two guys on our team right now that could be great kickers that we had and we let go or we did this — so we gotta give them an opportunity. Now that’s the fun part and it is, for sure, it’s a touchy situation because of what happened in the playoffs and because of the history of our team.”

Cody Parkey’s infamous missed game-winner in the Bears’ playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles will always be the undercurrent to whatever competition lies ahead. He was supposed to be the solution to the Bears’ inconsistent kicking game, the kind of guy who could make the big kick and earn the $9 million the team guaranteed to him last March. The pain and sting of Parkey’s double-doink won’t go away even as fans do pack Soldier Field in a few months. 

All the Bears can do, though, is give themselves the best chance to get it right. They haven’t got “it” right, though, in a long time. But there’s an acknowledgement that they have to get this kicking thing solved, otherwise another promising season could end with more pain and frustration. 

“We won’t know the answer until we go through some things, and who knows between now and training camp, who knows about anything,” Nagy said. “I wish I could tell you guys more. I don’t know. We’re just trying to make everybody else know that we know how important it is. You gotta make the kicks. That’s it. You gotta make the kicks. And so however we can put ourselves in the best position to make it happen, we’ll do that.” 

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

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USA TODAY

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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Legendary sportscaster Chet Coppock dies after car crash

Legendary sportscaster Chet Coppock dies after car crash

Legendary Chicago sportscaster Chet Coppock died on Wednesday due to injuries sustained in a car crash last week, his daughter confirmed in a post on Facebook. He was 70 years old.

"His passing is untimely, unexpected and painfully sad, but all we can do at this time is remember how lucky we were to have such a unique and creative trailblazer help shape into the adults we know he was so incredibly proud of," Lyndsey Coppock wrote.

MORE: NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan remembers Coppock and the impact he had on his career.

We'll have more reaction to Coppock's tragic passing later in the day.