Bears

Will the Bears line up Cordarrelle Patterson at running back more in 2020

Will the Bears line up Cordarrelle Patterson at running back more in 2020

The Bears' running game is a mess. They know it. I know it. You know it. David Montgomery probably knows it. Kyle Long definitely knows it. 

So what happened? Why didn't Montgomery click like the Bears thought when they traded up for him? ("Could we have helped him last year by getting him the ball more? Yes. Absolutely," Nagy said from the combine on Tuesday.) And why did Tarik Cohen set career-lows in rushing yards (213), yards per attempt (3.3) and touchdowns (0!)? 

"It’s hard to put one thing on that," Ryan Pace added. "I know [Cohen's] mindset is to come out and have a strong upcoming season. It’s hard because there’s a lot of players that feel like they need to be better. Me as a GM, us as coaches, we all need to be better, and I know Cohen will be motivated." 

So what's one answer? Cordarrelle Patterson, come on down! The Bears brought in Patterson to be a swiss army knife and in the first season of his two-year contract, only used him to open their letters. The plan for 2020, apparently, is a little more multifaceted. Can fans expect to see more Cordarrelle Patterson: Bears Running Back when the team opens camp in late July?

"Yeah, that’s a guy Matt and I have talked about just making sure we’re maximizing his talent," Pace said. "Obviously he’s an explosive, talented player. That can be at running back, receiver, returner. We’re going to make sure we’re getting the most out to that player because he’s too talented not to."

RELATED: Pace confirms Bears are talking about an extension for ARob

Patterson was used sparingly as a runner in 2019, finishing the year with 17 rushes for 103 yards. There is *some* precedent for a heavier on-ground workload, though, as Patterson ran the ball much more frequently (48 times) and a tad more successfully (228 yards) with New England in 2018. Pace pointed to that versatility when asked about the team's running back plans for this winter. 

"We’re comfortable there," he said. "We’re always looking to get better in every room but I think they all bring different things to the table. They all have different flavors and styles. That’s a well balanced room.

"We like the group we have right now. I think Tarik, when he's rolling, it gives us a scatback. We call it a joker back. And then David, with his ability to break tackles and run with power, and then as we talked, about, you know, maybe sprinkling in Cordarrelle Patterson some and his explosiveness. So, and Ryan Nall, we like Ryan Nall a lot. We like our running backs. That doesn't mean we can't continue to add to the room, but I think right now we have a lot of different flavors there that all feed off each other."

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: Bears' QB competition confirmed by Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Bears' QB competition confirmed by Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace

It's a Friday edition of SportsTalk Live. Host David Kaplan is joined by David Haugh, Patrick Finley, and KC Johnson.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy confirm that there will be an open competition for starting quarterback between Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky. The guys wonder how open it will actually be. Meanwhile, Nagy says he can sense Trubisky is a fierce competitor. The panel wonders if competition will elevate his play and make him better.

The Bulls have officially begun their search for the new executive to lead their basketball operations. Bulls Insider KC goes through the potential candidates. Haugh and Finley wonder how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect their search and ability to land a big name. And what about Jim Boylen's future? KC says it will ultimately be up to the new person in charge but reminds everyone how much Boylen is liked by the current front office.

Later, former NFL coach Dave Wannstedt joins Kap on the show from Florida. Wanny dissects the Bears quarterback competition and explains why the pressure will always be high on Mitch no matter what. They also talk about new tight end Jimmy Graham's impact on the offense and pass rusher Robert Quinn's impact on the defense. And what's Wanny up to during quarantine? He tells Kap the shows he's binge-watching and gives his review of "Tiger King". 

0:00- There will be an open competition for the Bears starting quarterback job. Does either QB have an advantage? Will competition make Mitch a better quarterback? Also, how much better does Robert Quinn make the defense?

8:00- The Bulls have begun their search for the new head of their basketball operations. KC goes through some of the candidates. Plus, the panel discusses what this means for Jim Boylen's future, John Paxson's role in the search and his future role in the organization.

16:00- Dave Wannstedt joins Kap on the show. He talks about Mitch's chances to win the QB competition and his chances to keep the job throughout next season. Plus, they talk about Jimmy Graham's role in the offense, Robert Quinn's impact on the defense and Wanny gives his honest review of "Tiger King".

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Why Nick Foles is the clear favorite for Bears' starting quarterback Week 1

Why Nick Foles is the clear favorite for Bears' starting quarterback Week 1

Calling a quarterback battle an “open competition,” as Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy did Friday, leaves that comment open to interpretation. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that Nick Foles is going to emerge from that competition as the Bears’ starting quarterback. 

The Bears are not going to hand Foles their QB1 job — he’s not even going to take the first snaps of the competition. Those will go to Mitch Trubisky, the incumbent here. Foles will have to win the job, and there’s a chance he won’t. I’m not ready to call the Bears’ quarterback competition for Foles before a single practice is held. 

But for Trubisky to win the job, and not Foles, the Bears will have to not only see the 2017 No. 2 overall pick out-play his challenger during training camp. They’ll have to convince themselves it’s not a mirage, and that the last three years of inconsistent-at-best tape aren’t a mitigating factor against a guy who threw for 373 yards as the MVP of a Super Bowl. 

“I think when we say open competition, this is a open competition, they’ve both been told that and I think it’s the best way to do it,” Pace said. “I think the good thing is honesty and transparency with both players as we go through it. We want what’s best for the Chicago Bears. It’s as simple as that.”

The quote that really stands out to me, though, after Friday’s hour-plus of teleconferences with Pace, Matt Nagy, Nick Foles and Robert Quinn is an old one from February. It’s Nagy talking at the NFL Combine in February about wanting Trubisky to know the offense better than he does. It felt like a challenge to Trubisky at the time; it felt like an even greater challenge when Foles — who has experience running versions of the Bears’ offense in Kansas City and Philadelphia — was brought in. 

Essentially, the Bears told Trubisky through their words and actions: If you don’t know the offense to the level we want, we have a guy in place who does, and he'll take your job. 

Foles has a working knowledge of the Bears’ offense, one Nagy figured could get him through a game right now if need be. But there are plenty of different things the Bears do on offense compared to the Chiefs and Eagles (insert your own joke here about those offenses, most importantly, being better). There will be a learning curve for Foles to know Nagy’s offense better than Nagy, especially with the expectation of no OTAs or spring minicamps.

But Foles did an excellent job of explaining why a quarterback needs to know the offense better than its playcaller, one which resonates after watching so many Bears games spiral offensively in 2019. 

“I think if I can (know) this offense just as good, if not better, than the coaches,” Foles said, “when you step in the huddle, then you're able to face adversity better because there's gonna be times when Nagy calls the play and it's a different defense than it should be and it's up to the quarterback to change it.”

The Bears can try to simulate that adversity in practice, but also have a couple years’ worth of information that Trubisky can’t pull out of it. If everything is equal on the practice field, wouldn’t the Bears choose the guy who they hope can fix things in the middle of a game, rather than the guy who’s shown he can’t?

“This is a kid (Foles) who’s been through a lot of different situations,” Nagy said. “He’s been a Super Bowl MVP, he’s been in pressure moments and he understands a lot of the things that we’re looking for.”

Again, the Bears have not named Foles their starter. He carries a lower cap hit in 2020 than Trubisky, meaning the Bears will be okay financially with him being a backup. Trubisky could be sparked by the mere presence of Foles into being some version of the guy Pace hoped he was getting three years ago. 

If that’s the case, Foles may never play a down for the Bears in 2020. That’s actually the team’s best-case scenario. It’s what the Bears — and Bears fans — should be hoping for. 

But realistically, the odds are in Foles’ favor to be QB1 in Week 1. This franchise knows what Trubisky can do. A lot of Nagy’s coaches, including Nagy himself, know what Foles can do from past experiences working with him. And that gives an advantage to Foles. 

So if, in the absence of actual sports to gamble on right now, you’re looking for a safe bet: Take Nick Foles to be the Bears’ starting quarterback in Week 1 of the 2020 season. 

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