Bears

(Too) Bold Predictions: Big games for Leonard Floyd, Kevin White

(Too) Bold Predictions: Big games for Leonard Floyd, Kevin White

You've stumbled into (Too) Bold Predictions, a weekly column that is exactly what it sounds like! Here, we'll take nuanced, well-researched information and use to make wildly improbable predictions. Analysis! 

 

J.J. Stankevitz 

 

1. Leonard Floyd has a breakout game.

A year ago, Floyd had a monster game against Sam Bradford, dropping the then-Minnesota Vikings quarterback twice, one of which went for a safety. Floyd does the same on Sunday, recording his first two sacks of the season in his first game not playing with a club on his right hand. A reason for that optimism: Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries allowed 10 pressures in 70 pass blocking snaps in Weeks 1 and 2. This should be a good matchup for Floyd, and without the club on his hand, he takes advantage of it. We'll say the "breakout" game is at least two sacks and five total pressures.

 

2. Mitch Trubisky will hit multiple shots downfield.

Trubisky missed Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson on Monday night on throws that could've backed the Seahawks' defense off the line of scrimmage. Connecting on those deep shots is critical for freeing up more room for Jordan Howard, especially against a Cardinals defense that's had success stopping the run (3.6 yards/carry, sixth in the NFL). But the Cardinals' defense has been gouged through the air, allowing 9.8 yards per attempt (31st). Trubisky will complete two deep throws in the Bears' first two drives, which will lead to a much easier path for offensive success on Sunday.

 

Cam Ellis

 

1. Tarik Cohen will take one to the house.

 Cohen hasn't contributed too heavily to the offense yet, though you could make that argument for just about anyone not named Allen Robinson. That's less the case on special teams: after averaging 9.38 yards per return last season, Cohen's  jumped up to 17.17 this year (though it's still a bit early to be taking averages seriously). It's part of why the Bears have the 5th-best special teams according to Football Outsiders' S.T. DVOA. In honor of Devin Hester and the Bears' 2006 comeback in Arizona, my bet is that Cohen, who landed on the NFL All-Pro team last year for punt returns, breaks the game open with a  touchdown of 50+ yards. 

 

2. Kevin White will tie his career high in catches 

After playing 12 snaps in Week 1 (12%), White only played two snaps (3%) against the Seahawks in Week 2. Arizona has the 30th-ranked pass defense, per Football Outsiders, so there's going to be plenty of eating to go around. With all eyes on Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, Kevin White -- should he play -- is going to get a lot of one-on-one matchups. White snagged six catches in games against Dallas and Detroit in 2016, and he'll resurface for at least one game against one of the league's worst pass defenses. 

 

NFL Mock Draft: Bears add pass-catching TE in 2nd round

NFL Mock Draft: Bears add pass-catching TE in 2nd round

Get used to the Bears being connected to just about all of the top tight end prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft as the mock-draft season kicks into high gear.

The latest mock draft from the Draft Wire is no exception. In this two-rounder, the Bears snag Washington tight end Hunter Bryant at No. 43 overall.

Here's how Bryant's game profiles, via The Draft Network's scouting report:

Hunter Bryant should be a dynamic receiving threat at the NFL level. Bryant brings excellent quickness, run after catch skills and versatility to a flex tight end role. Plugging Bryant into a traditional inline role will water down his receiving skills — he's best working off the LOS or as a flexed slot receiver who can serve as a H/W/S mismatch for opposing defenders. If Bryant it put in such a flex role, look for early production and long-term starter status in the pros. 

Sure sounds like the kind of player the Bears could use in the passing game, where the entire tight end depth chart combined for just 44 catches last season. Trey Burton led the way with 14. It was a brutal year at the position.

Naturally, adding a playmaker who can expand Matt Nagy's playcalling toolbox is a critical 'must' for Ryan Pace this offseason, and a prospect like Bryant could be an ideal fit.

In Round 2 of this mock draft, the Bears add Ohio State linebacker Malik Harrison. Like tight end, linebacker will be an area of need depending on what happens with free agents Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski. It's likely that one of them will return, but even with Trevathan or Kwiatkoski back in the fold, the Bears have to add depth behind the starters. Will they address that need as early as the second round? Probably not, especially with pressing needs along the offensive line and in the defensive backfield.

If, however, Harrison does end up being the pick, the Bears would be getting a strong run defender who doesn't project as an every-down player at this point in his evaluation. He's likely to slide into the third round, if not later.

Should the NFL’s playoff changes mean the Bears should be more aggressive in a quarterback trade or free agent signing?

Should the NFL’s playoff changes mean the Bears should be more aggressive in a quarterback trade or free agent signing?

If the NFL’s proposed collective bargaining agreement is ratified, seven teams from each conference will make the playoffs in 2020— a change that will immediately alter the league's player movement landscape in the coming weeks and months.

Under the proposed structure, the Los Angeles Rams would’ve been the NFC’s No. 7 seed in 2019, with the 8-8 Bears finishing one game out of a playoff spot (really, two games, given they lost to the Rams). But as the Tennessee Titans showed last year, just getting into the dance can spark an underdog run to a conference title game. The vast majority of the NFL — those not in full-on tank mode — should view the potential for a seventh playoff spot as a license to be more aggressive in the free agent and trade market as soon as a few weeks from now.

So, should the Bears look at this new CBA as reason to be more aggressive in pushing to acquire one of the big-name quarterbacks who will, or could, be available this year? After all, merely slightly better quarterback play could’ve leapfrogged the Bears past the Rams and into the playoffs a year ago.

The prospect of Teddy Bridgewater or Derek Carr or Andy Dalton representing that upgrade feels tantalizing on the surface, right?

But the CBA’s addition of a seventh playoff team does not, as far as we know, also include an addition of significantly more cap space available to teams in 2020, even if the salary cap has increased 40 percent over the last five years. An extra $25 million is not walking through that door to add to the roughly $14 million the Bears currently have in cap space, per the NFLPA’s public salary cap report.

So that means every reason we laid out why the Bears should not make a splash move at quarterback remains valid, even with the NFL lowering its postseason barrier to entry.

The Bears’ best bet in 2020 remains signing a cheaper quarterback like Case Keenum or Marcus Mariota (who shares an agent with Mitch Trubisky, potentially complicating things) and banking on roster improvements being the thing that gets them back into the playoffs. Adding a quarterback for $17 million — Dalton’s price — or more would hamstring the Bears’ ability to address critical needs at tight end, right guard, inside linebacker and safety, thus giving the Bears a worse roster around a quarterback who’s no sure bet to be good enough to cover for the holes his cap hit would create.

Does it feel like a good bet? No, and maybe feels worse if it’s easier to get in the playoffs in 2020. But a Trubisky-Keenum pairing, complete with a new starting right guard to help the run game and more than just Demetrius Harris to upgrade the tight end room, is a better bet than Dalton or Bridgewater and a worse roster around them.

Also: This new playoff structure will tilt the balance of power significantly toward the No. 1 seeds in each conference. The last time a team made the Super Bowl without the benefit of a first-round bye was after the 2012 season, when the No. 4 seed Baltimore Ravens won the title. Otherwise, every Super Bowl participant since hasn't played on wild card weekend. 

So while the Bears may become closer to the playoffs if the new CBA is ratified, they won’t be closer to getting a No. 1 seed. And that holds true even if they were to find a way to sign Tom Brady.

Getting in the playoffs can spark something special. But the Bears’ best path back to meaningful January football still involves an inexpensive approach to addressing their blaring need for better quarterback play. 
Is it ideal? No.

But it’s far less ideal to be in this situation three years after taking the first quarterback off the board with 2017’s No. 2 overall pick. 

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