Bears

View from the Moon: Bears win over Ravens has deeper implications than one game

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AP

View from the Moon: Bears win over Ravens has deeper implications than one game

Lots of ways to look at the Bears after their 27-24 overtime over the Ravens in Baltimore, the first road win for the Bears since late 2015. Taken in the context of a season still short of its halfway point, they didn’t exactly clarify definitively whether they’re a bad team with occasional good days, or a team that threatens to be better than expected.

Either way the Bears suddenly could find themselves being a meaningful factor in an NFC North that on Sunday saw the Green Bay Packers (4-2) lose Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone and a game to the Minnesota Vikings (4-2), and the Detroit Lions (3-3) crushed by the New Orleans Saints.

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The best perspective, one that in fact parallels and even rivals the growth and development of rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky for collective significance, may be that the Bears found a way to win.

To a bigger point, though, the crucial playmakers were overwhelmingly their own draft choices – Trubisky (8-for-16 passing, 113 yards, a touchdown, ZERO interceptions, 94.0 rating), running back Jordan Howard (36 carries, 167 yards), nose tackle Eddie Goldman (six tackles, one for loss), Adrian Amos (90-yard touchdown interception return), Kyle Fuller (three passes defensed, six tackles). Add in defensive end Akiem Hicks (three tackles, one sack) and you have a game won by players who represent the developing foundation of the franchise.

The growth of Trubisky is a prime directive for the 2017 season. But so is Goldman’s. And Howard’s. And Fuller’s. Because if Trubisky progresses but the core does not rise with him, the Bears will have a good quarterback and little more. The Saints and Archie Manning. Or using another position, Joe Thomas and the Cleveland Browns. More than Trubisky matters.

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A cliché, but critical for a team that too often found ways to lose, and this game was there for the losing, the Bears blowing an 11-point lead in the final four minutes.

But they didn’t lose. This is the fourth of their six games that the Bears were in position to win, offensively or defensively, on a final possession (Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Baltimore). When the Bears keep games close, they are 2-2. And in the two they lost – Atlanta, Minnesota – they were less beaten by the opponents by themselves with dropped passes (vs. Falcons) or mis-thrown ones (vs. Vikings).

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Trubisky is a sub-50-percent passer through his first two NFL games but a handful of his incompletions in Baltimore were very, very significant. They were indications of the decision-making that is the reason coaches turned to him. On a handful of occasions, Trubisky lofted passes that barely stayed in the field of play but were exactly what coaches want the rookie to do rather than force throws into too-tight windows

On Sunday he became the first of 11 rookie quarterbacks to beat John Harbaugh's Ravens.

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On the not-so-good side:

Coach John Fox had a team meeting early last week and it wasn’t pleasant. Insiders say Fox was fed up with the stupid football being played. The question, however, even after Sunday’s overtime win over the Ravens, in which the Bears squandered an 11-point lead with a little more than four minutes to play, is who was paying attention and who wasn’t. Because not everyone is getting it.

The defense forced and recovered a fumble in the first half and supplemented that with its first interception for 2017 when Bryce Callahan snatched a ball off the hands of Breshad Perriman and returned it 52 yards to set up the halfback touchdown pass by Tarik Cohen.

Trubisky and center Cody Whitehair have some shotgun-snap issues to resolve but the Bears had just two penalties through the first three quarters, neither on the offense. Then Zach Miller was flagged for holding in the fourth quarter and the first possession of overtime effectively was undone when Bobby Massey. Jordan Howard going out of bounds allowed Baltimore time in regulation occasioned flashbacks to Marion Barber.

Worse, special-teams breakdowns gave the Ravens 14 points, one touchdown when no one thought to touch down Bobby Rainey, who got up and completed a 96-yard kickoff return; and another when punt coverage allowed a 77-yard punt return to Michael Campanaro.

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Cornerback may be a priority in next year’s draft but Kyle Fuller continues playing suspiciously like a first-round defensive back (which he of course was). The Bears declined to pick up the fifth-year option on Fuller’s rookie contract last April – understandable given Fuller’s decline over the past two seasons – but no one should be surprised if the Bears make a play to retain Fuller with either an early extension or a push ahead of free agency 

Fuller delivered a textbook one-on-one tackle of 251-pound Ravens tight end Ben Watson and followed that later in Sunday’s second quarter with a pair of superb pass defenses to force Baltimore to settle for a field goal after a first-and-goal situation. And it was Fuller’s technically perfect coverage on Chris Moore that caused the deflected ball that went 90 yards the other direction on Adrian Amos’ first career interception

Prince Amukamara is on a one-year deal and Callahan is a restricted free agent. The Bears have a major positional need, and a chance to keep one of their own draft choices who’s now been three years in the Vic Fangio system.

Postcards from Camp: Bears Matt Nagy understands what coaching interns are going through

Postcards from Camp: Bears Matt Nagy understands what coaching interns are going through

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Dear Stacey –

Well, I wanted to be head coach of the Chicago Bears and here I am, in charge of my first training camp, worrying about everything from Mitch Trubisky’s RPO footwork to whether Kyle Long is going to fall off his bike sometime in the course of camp. Probably don’t need to worry about Kyle – he’s always so safe about everything, and it’s not like he’s had all kinds of surgeries or anyth-- ….oh, wait, nevermind…

Besides all of that, we’ve got six coaches here as part of the Bill Walsh diversity coaching fellowship. They’re seeing how we do things and helping us out, and this is special. Remember back in Philadelphia when Andy Reid brought me into this profession through that program? Now it’s 11 years later and here I am, and this really represents a little pay-it-forward for me – I can understand where these coaches are because that was me once upon a time. Somebody gave each one of us a break that helped us along the way so our staff is more than delighted to have these fellows here.

Everybody was really pleased that some of our top vets – Mitch Trubisky, Allen Robinson, Chase Daniel, others – came down to camp early when the rookies reported. The coaches didn’t order that, and it says something about what you hope is forming inside the locker room. The young guys see the No. 1 quarterback and the No. 1 wide receiver coming in early and it sets both a standard and an example. When your best players are your hardest workers, then you’ve really got some leadership.

The pads’ll be on tomorrow (Saturday) so we’ll start seeing hitting by the fronts on both sides of the football, which takes the speed of everything up a notch. I’m going to pay close attention to how everyone is performing but also to how they’re holding up physically – circumstances set up beautifully for us, with an extra minicamp because I’m a new coach, then an extra practice week to go with the extra game Aug. 2 for the Hall of Fame.

Hope you and the boys are getting all the Chicago arrangements in place. Now, if I can just find my sunblock before practice…

Your coach husband,

Matt

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In search of an empty sick bay

After the obvious workload entailed in installing a new offensive system and coaching regime, Matt Nagy’s No. 1 concern is injury, which has plagued the Bears on an annual basis since the 2012 departure of Lovie Smith. So while Mike Ditka and Dave Wannstedt once made no secret of their approach using epically physical practices as a means of culling the roster, Nagy has laid out a balancing act between physical practices and knowing when to back off.

“The biggest thing that any coach in the NFL will tell you is that you want to come out healthy,” Nagy said. “That’s a big one. So you have to know where you’re at on that one. You have to have some luck involved in that. There’s some unfortunate injuries and there’s some that happen for certain reasons. Health is the biggest concern for us.”

Sadly, some position competitions and lineup decisions are inevitably dictated by injuries. A season-ending leg injury to Kevin White in 2016 opened a starting job for Cameron Meredith, who’d been the No. 5 wideout on the depth chart. Meredith’s own preseason season-ender made Deonte Thompson a starter. Safety Adrian Amos had fallen from two-year starter to backup by this time last year, and only started again because Quintin Demps suffered a fractured forearm in Week 3.

If there is a major health positive right now, it is that three pivotal starters – linebacker Leonard Floyd, guard Kyle Long, wide receiver Allen Robinson – all approach the start of practices fully cleared. Those represent two Pro Bowl players (Long, Robinson) and one the Bears expect to be (Floyd).

“One of the traits we look for in players is durability and availability,” said GM Ryan Pace. “Leonard is a very talented player with a lot of natural pass rush ability. But in order for him to reach that production, he needs to be on the field. I know he’s worked a lot on his body, he’s worked a lot on his techniques, so we just feel that if he can stay healthy, the production’s going to be there.”

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Weather or not….

Matt Nagy’s first practice as Bears coach came under a cloud – literally – as the threat of rain and thunderstorms had the team waiting until the last minute to determine whether the session would be held on an outdoor field as planned or indoors at a gymnasium on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University.

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The outlook for Roquan Smith when he signs….

Training camp has begun without the presence of No. 1 pick Roquan Smith as his agents and the Bears work out contract details. Few expect a protracted impasse and Smith’s development may be delayed but unlikely denied. Smith had been cycled in with the No. 1 defense, as were a number of the top newcomers to the ’18 Bears. That process is expected to resume whenever Smith’s deal is concluded.

Extended holdouts are never positive, for either side, but are not necessarily career-impacting. Quarterback Cade McNown missed the initial 11 days of his first (1999) training camp, eventually started, but whether because of shoulder injuries or talent shortcomings, or both, never played to his status as the 11th-overall pick. Cedric Benson’s rookie season (2005) was dramatically undermined by his 36-day holdout, but he had two more seasons after that and needed a move to Cincinnati where he averaged more than 1,000 yards over four Bengals seasons.

Defensive end Joey Bosa missed the first four weeks of the Chargers’ 2016 camp, then missed four weeks with a hamstring injury, but came off of that to be named defensive rookie of the month for October and finish with 10.5 sacks and defensive rookie of the year honors.

 

Training Camp Daily: Maintaining the balance between physicality and health

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USA TODAY

Training Camp Daily: Maintaining the balance between physicality and health

It is Day 1 of practice in Bourbonnais. Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin and producer Paul Aspan discuss how Matt Nagy's desire for a physical camp reconciles with the No. 1 goal of all training camps: stay healthy.

Plus, why there are only two real questions for the Bears in this camp - and they both involve QBs. And Akiem Hicks is one of the best Chicago free agent signings ever...but let's slow down with the Legion of Boom comparisons in the secondary.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: