Bears

Should the Bears start Tyler Bray in Week 12 if Mitch Trubisky can't play?

Should the Bears start Tyler Bray in Week 12 if Mitch Trubisky can't play?

Who would've thought entering Week 12 of the 2019 season there would be a legitimate conversation about whether quarterback Tyler Bray should start in place of an injured Mitch Trubisky? Even with a healthy Chase Daniel on the roster?

Bray, 27, has one career regular-season pass attempt (back in 2017) and has bounced from the Bears roster to the practice squad several times since joining the team in 2018. He's been a solid preseason player, however, and finished this summer with an 85.8 rating after completing nearly 62 percent of his passes for 608 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

With Trubisky's status for Week 12 up in the air after suffering a hip pointer in Sunday night's loss to the Rams, former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt is calling for Bray -- not Daniel -- to be the starter.

"I would play (Bray), I truly would," Wannstedt said Tuesday on The Score's Mully & Haugh Show. "I would not waste a game or two with Chase Daniel, I wouldn't. I would play this young kid and see if he can do anything, because he played good in the preseason in my opinion."

Chicago's loss to the Rams dropped their record to 4-6 on the year. They have a 1 percent chance to make the playoffs. Maybe it really is time to see what Bray has to offer.

"Playoff team, I'd go with Chase if Mitch couldn't play. No playoff team, I'd play the young kid," Wannstedt said.

At this point, why not? The Bears have nothing to lose and we know Daniel doesn't have a future under center in Chicago. Bray may not either, but at 27 years old, he could at least audition to be the team's long-term backup even if GM Ryan Pace moves on from Trubisky.

If there's a week to throw Bray into the lineup it's Week 12 against the Giants, whose secondary is downright atrocious. He'll at least have an opportunity to build some confidence, even if it will be short-lived.

It's a sad reality for Bears fans who had such high hopes in September. 

Roquan Smith's 2019 had ups-and-downs, but it ends with more optimism than ever

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USA Today

Roquan Smith's 2019 had ups-and-downs, but it ends with more optimism than ever

Roquan Smith’s season is over. 

During his Monday morning press conference, Matt Nagy announced that Smith did in fact tear a pectoral muscle and will be placed on injured reserve. 

“[It’s] unfortunate for him,” Nagy added. “He’s really putting together a good year. But he’ll bounce back and that’s that.” 

Not only did Smith’s injury come at the worst possible time for the Bears – two of their last three games are against NFC North rivals on the road – but the injury ends what was the best extended run of play in the second-year linebacker’s career. He'll undergo surgery to fix the muscle, and the timeline for his return is still unclear. 

“I really thought you felt him – especially here in the last several games – really turning it on, really playing fast,” Nagy said. “He’s always had that – every play that he gets, every game that he plays, for the rest of his career, he’s only gonna get better and better in my opinion.”

Comparing his two seasons on paper would suggest that Smith regressed after a Pro Bowl-caliber rookie season, but that doesn't tell the whole story. It's remarkable that he may still finish the season as the team leader in tackles, not to mention the fact that he was on pace to eclipse last season's stats. He would have needed a few more big games, but going into Thursday night, Smith had logged double-digit tackles in four of his last five starts, including a career-high (16) in their Thanksgiving win just a week before. He finishes 2019 with 100 tackles, two sacks and one interception in 12 games played.

“One thing you can say about Roquan is he will run sideline to sideline,” Akiem Hicks added. “I mean, he just has a pair of wheels on him that just won't stop. That's one of the things that separates him is he can get anywhere you need him to be, whether it's coverage or chasing a running back in the flats. It's pretty impressive.”

Nagy and the Bears talked at length on Monday about the ‘ebb and flow’ of an NFL season, especially as it pertains to younger players. He was quick to dismiss the idea that the mysterious-now-bordering-on-infamous personal absence, which caused Smith to miss Week 4’s win over Minnesota, in any way negatively affected how the organization views Smith’s year-to-year progress. His toughness has never been questioned – Prince Amukamara admitted that he was pretty confident Smith tore the muscle several plays before he came out – and coaches have been pleased with how he stepped up as a leader, especially in Danny Trevathan’s absence. 

“Well last year, coming in missing training camp and then being a rookie with an experienced defense – that can be challenging and he did a good job,” Nagy said. “Then coming into this year, you could sense his personality – you could see it extend a little bit more. You could see the relationships he had with those guys. You could see Danny Trevathan really take him under his wing and that was very important. So he's a guy that's really been growing …” 

And now the Bears head into the three straight weeks of playoff games that aren’t playoff games with Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis as their starting inside linebacker duo. It’s a far cry from what the envisioned in Bourbonnais, but Kwiatkoski has earned himself more money every week, and as his top-grade performance against the Cowboys showed, KPL is no slouch either. Pierre-Louis is in line to make only the second start of his six-year career when the Bears head to Lambeau Field on Sunday. 

“Once again, it’s just going back to knowing your ‘Why,’” Pierre-Louis said. “Why you grind each week, why you do the drills, why you go through the reps in practice. It’s times like this when you lean on your brothers. Ro’s down right now, and he’s going to need us for moral support…

“We have the right pieces. I just have to make sure that I do my job, and the rest of the team is going to have my back.” 

WATCH: Matt Nagy mic'd up during Bears' win over Cowboys

WATCH: Matt Nagy mic'd up during Bears' win over Cowboys

Bears coach Matt Nagy has maintained a steady and calm demeanor throughout the 2019 season, one which has fallen short of expectations in Chicago and around the NFL. But his team's current three-game winning streak has kept postseason hopes alive, even if just barely. 

And while Nagy may fill postgame press conferences with a bunch of cliches and coach-speak, his on-field personality is a better reflection of the former quarterback he actually is. 

Nagy was mic'd up for the Bears' Week 14 win over the Cowboys and it's easy to see why he's been able to keep this team together despite such a trying season. Other locker rooms might have fractured under the pressure that comes along with failure. Not Chicago's. And it's in large part due to the culture Nagy's created.

Here's a sneak peek into what's led to Nagy's 19-10 record through nearly two seasons on the job:

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