2015 Grades: Bears inside LB was low-impact virtually all year


2015 Grades: Bears inside LB was low-impact virtually all year

Pass rushing by individuals was effective in spots, although multiple sacks came from linebackers (Lamarr Houston, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young) in de facto roles as ends as the Bears were schemed by multiple opponents into heavy use of nickel personnel.

McPhee’s knee problems through a wet blanket over one of the franchise’s key offseason moves, with McPhee flashing with six sacks and 10 tackles for loss even with a balky knee that should improve after offseason surgery and him dropping a few pounds to play at a lighter weight. But McPhee was an emotional leader even in his diminished physical state, and he was voted a team captain as an indicator of his leadership.

“He brings it, Pernell brings it every day,” said Sam Acho. “He brings it to practice on Mondays, on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays even on Tuesdays our off days he watches film and you can tell that he watches film because when we get out to practice he almost knows the plays that are coming before they come.”

[MORE BEARS GRADES: Running backs ¦ Secondary ¦ Receivers]

Willie “Don’t call me a linebacker” Young figures in the plans and Houston joined Young in any consideration for comeback player of the year.

“He’s picked up the outside linebacker, in my opinion, very well,” said coach John Fox. “Was it different for him? Yes, because he spent the early part of his career with his hand in the dirt consistently. He still does a lot of that for us as far as playing an end in the 4-3 and we’re in the 4-3 probably more than we are in the base, because of nickel and substitute defenses… .

“He’s definitely got the ability to do it. I think he’s done a good job and I think he’ll just continue to improve.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

But the Bears have a decision to make on Houston and his cap hit of nearly $7 million next season. Do not look for the Bears to have Houston back at that price, but Young has another year on his contract and has emerged as a team leader.

Acho failed to provide a single sack, was respectable in handful of games but was too often invisible as an edge rusher or stout at the point.

Inside linebacker was low-impact virtually all season and projects to be one of the most overhauled group on the roster. Christian Jones and Shea McClellin were day one starters but failed to flash enough for what aspires to be an elite defense, coordinator Vic Fangio’s support of McClellin notwithstanding. John TImu and Jonathan Anderson provided some depth but are not starter-grade linebackers. The position will be a priority in the 2016 draft.

Moon's LB Grade: D

Studs and Duds: Pineiro shines, Trubisky struggles in Bears' Week 2 win

Studs and Duds: Pineiro shines, Trubisky struggles in Bears' Week 2 win

The Chicago Bears notched their first win of the 2019 season with Sunday's victory over the Broncos, but it wasn't easy. Despite another strong showing from Chuck Pagano's defense, Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky struggled for the second week in a row to generate consistent production and points.

But all that matters is the end result, and Eddy Pineiro's thrilling 53-yard game-winning field goal injected life into a fanbase that was ready to hit the panic button.

Here are Week 2's Studs and Duds.

Stud: K Eddy Pineiro

Few kickers dealt with as much pressure this offseason as Pineiro, who's been under the microscope since the team's first minicamp as part of the Bears' kicker competition. Maybe that pressure helped him Sunday when he blasted a game-winning 53-yard field goal straight through the uprights. Pineiro is kicking with confidence, and now his teammates have faith in him to win games. Chicago no longer has a kicker problem. In fact, Pineiro's quickly become one of the strengths of the team.

Dud: QB Mitch Trubisky

Is it fair to criticize Trubisky after he made a clutch throw on the game-winning drive to set up Pineiro's kick? Yes, it is. Other than that one big-time throw, Trubisky once again looked more like a middling backup quarterback operating Nagy's offense than a franchise passer who was selected with the second overall pick. He completed 16-of-27 passes for 120 yards with no touchdowns (or interceptions. His production through two games has been atrocious; he's connected on just 58.3% of his passes and has a QBR of 65.0. Trubisky needs a get-right game against the Redskins on Monday Night Football; otherwise, the quarterback situation in Chicago will become a real problem.

Stud: RB David Montgomery

Montgomery's impact on Sunday's win over the Broncos extended way beyond his box score. He finished the game with 18 carries for 62 yards and a touchdown, good for 3.4 yards per carry. His YPC average isn't spectacular, but it took a hit after successive goaline carries failed. He was much more productive than that stat line suggests. Montgomery ran hard, he was decisive and he will only get better as the Bears continue to feed him the ball.

Dud: RB Mike Davis

On the other end of the running back spectrum was Davis, who finished Week 2 with just one yard on three carries. And even though he only touched the ball three times, it felt like he was on the field way too much. The Bears need more Montgomery and less Davis at this point, as the veteran RB has struggled to show he can be more than just a backup in 2019.

Stud: OLB Khalil Mack

Mack finally recorded his first sack of the season and could've had a few more if he wasn't victimized by the second week of holding penalties. A player as gifted as Mack will force offensive linemen to get desperate, and he's doing that early in 2019. Mack has been a dominant force beyond just his pass rush in 2019. He's playing strong against the run and is a massive reason why Chicago's given up just 24 points over two games.

Dud: Matt Nagy

The Bears offense looked out of sorts for the second week in a row, and maybe it's because it was the second-straight game Chicago faced a strong defensive team. Week 1's game against the Packers was arguably Nagy's worst as a play-caller, and while Week 2 was a more balanced attack, Chicago looked out of sync and underprepared once again. Is it Nagy? Is it the quarterback? Either way, it has to get fixed. Quickly. 

Stud: ILB Roquan Smith

Smith is off to a hot start in 2019 and led the Bears in tackles with 13 against the Broncos. He's a sideline-to-sideline terror and is quickly becoming the team's most valuable defensive starter other than Mack. He'll have a chance to shine in the national spotlight in Week 3 against the Redskins on Monday Night Football.

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Drew Brees injury: Bears likely to face Saints without Brees in Week 7

Drew Brees injury: Bears likely to face Saints without Brees in Week 7

The Chicago Bears got into the winning column Sunday with their miraculous last-second victory over the Denver Broncos, 16-14,  thanks to the right leg of kicker Eddy Pineiro. 

Pineiro's 53-yard strike with time expiring exorcised the Cody Parkey demons from Halas Hall and may have been exactly what was needed to jumpstart the 2019 season, one that includes a difficult stretch of games from Weeks 7 through 11.

The Bears will face the Saints (Wk 7), Chargers (Wk 8), Eagles (Wk 9) and Rams (Wk 11) in a five-game run that will probably determine whether this team makes the post-season. One of those games may have just become much more winnable, however.

Saints QB Drew Brees suffered a torn ligament in his throwing thumb against the Rams in Week 2, one that will require surgery and is expected to keep him sidelined for at least six weeks.

Assuming the timetable for his return is accurate, that puts Brees back on the field around Week 8 or 9; the Bears welcome the Saints to Soldier Field in Week 7.

While no one wants to see a player -- especially one of Brees' stature -- suffer an injury, it's certainly a change in New Orleans' lineup that will benefit Chicago and increase their odds of surviving that brutal mid-season run of games.