Bears

An Angelo strength: Backup QBs

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An Angelo strength: Backup QBs

With Josh McCown expected to be named this week as the Bears game-15 starting quarterback (I just want to be available if they do call my number, just be ready to go, McCown said), the Bears are hoping that he proves to be a surprise continuation of a Bears pattern under GM Jerry Angelo.

There is in fact one position that Angelo has been consistent in addressing very well in his tenure as Bears general manager: Back-up quarterback.

Angelo arguably has had better luck solving the No. 2 spot than the No. 1 job.

The carnage of the four Caleb Hanie starts has obscured the fact that in the last decade, Angelo has regularly put pieces in place at the linchpin second-level position that have produced not only wins, but occasional playoffs. Angelo has had suspect results in the draft, but he has regularly assembled a roster with a proven veteran backup quarterback.

One primary personnel change over the past two years may account for the current QB problems. More on that later.

Consider (by offensive coordinator):

The John Shoop Time

2001 Starter: Shane Matthews Backup: Jim Miller
Matthews is injured in the week-two game against Minnesota. Miller leads the Bears to a 13-3 finish.

2002 Starter: Jim Miller Backup: Chris Chandler
Injuries throughout the offense and defense derail the season. Chandler, with injuries of his own, finishes 2-5 as a relief starter with a passer rating of nearly 80.

2003 Starter: Kordell Stewart Backup: Chandler, rookie No. 1 Rex Grossman
Behind an offensive line with Steve Edwards and Aaron Gibson at tackles, nothing at QB goes real well in a 7-9 season, Dick Jaurons last.

The Terry Shea Interlude

2004 Starter: Grossman Backups: Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel, Jonathan Quinn
Grossmans ruptured ACL in game three starts QB freefall. Quinn had played for Terry Shea. Krenzel a draft choice, Hutchinson never mind.

Enter: Ron Turner

2005 Starter: Grossman Backup: Kyle Orton
Grossman goes down early, rookie Orton operates down-sized offense of new coordinator Turner. Bears finish 11-5 and in the playoffs.

2006 Starter: Grossman Backups: Brian Griese, Orton
Even with Orton, Bears add Griese but Grossman stays healthy.

2007 Starter: Grossman Backups: Griese, Orton
Grossman starts three, gets hurt. Griese starts six, gets hurt. Grossman starts four, gets hurt. Orton goes 2-1 in final three.

2008 Starter: Orton Backup: Grossman
Orton starts 15, Grossman one. Orton tries to play through ankle injury, Bears come up a half-game short of playoffs.

2009 Starter: Jay Cutler Backup: Hanie
Turner and Cutler clash, QB struggles but stays healthy. Hanie mops up in Cincinnati, Baltimore blowouts.

The Martz Waltz

2010 Starter: Cutler Backups: Todd Collins, Hanie
Mike Martz lobbies through the offseason for a veteran backup, Bears bring Collins off the NFL shelf for 1 million, three relief nightmares. Hanie nearly salvages NFC Championship game.

2011 Starter: Cutler Backups: Hanie, McCown, Nathan Enderle
Martz OK with Hanie as No. 2, Cutler goes down vs. San Diego with Bears 7-3, assessment of Hanie turns out to be in error.

Trying a few things

McCown has been expected since Sunday to replace Hanie after the latters latest failure to get the offense into any sort of rhythm or state of momentum. Ironically, neither would be playing if Angelo had his way.

The Bears attempted to regain Orton after he was waived by the Denver Broncos; the Kansas City Chiefs claimed him first. A call had been made to former St. LouisBaltimore quarterback Marc Bulger, whod played for Martz but turned down the offer to come out of retirement.

The Bears also had looked at securing Matt Moore after he was let go by Carolina last year but Moore opted for the No. 2 job in Miami.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

Chris Emma, Matt Zahn and Gabe Ramirez join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh joins the panel to discuss the Bulls’ terrible defensive performance as well as Zach LaVine’s impressive season debut.

11:35- Khalil Mack is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Can the Bears pull off the upset against Tom Brady?

23:50- NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran joins Kap to talk about how New England views the Bears and discuss how Matt Nagy’s team can exploit the Patriots’ weaknesses.

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

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Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears in line to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack participated in the Bears’ final practice of the week on Friday, clearing the way for the edge rusher to play Sunday against the New England Patriots. 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier Friday that the Bears expected Mack, who hasn’t missed a game in his career, to play after suffering an ankle injury early in Week 6’s 31-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Mack is officially questionable for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. 

Mack had little interest in discussing his ankle with the media on Friday, passing on answering questions about his readiness for New England. Coach Matt Nagy, though, said he thought Mack “looked pretty good” during practice on Friday. 

Mack didn’t record a sack against Miami and was held to just one pressure, per Pro Football Focus. The Dolphins’ gameplan was to commit plenty of resources to stopping Mack, but he wasn’t effective even when he had one-on-one pass rushing opportunities as the game went on. 

“He was (affected),” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I can't put a percentage on it, but he definitely was.”

Having Mack available — even if he’s not full strength — will be critical for the Bears’ defense to have a chance at keeping Tom Brady from lighting up the scoreboard. The key for the Bears will be to generate pressure on the 41-year-old quarterback without blitzing, which is something Fangio’s defense was successful at prior to Sunday’s wacky loss to the Dolphins. 

Brady’s passer rating is 138.4 when he’s blitzed, per Pro Football Focus, while when under pressure his rating is 87.2. That’s still pretty good, but it’s worth noting that all of the six interceptions he’s thrown this year have come when he hasn’t been blitzed. And only one of the eight sacks he’s taken has come when he’s been blitzed. 

The point being: If the Bears feel like they have to start blitzing to generate pressure, they can expect Brady to pick them apart.  

“You could say all of that but ultimately (Brady’s) a gamer,” Mack said. “He’s going to take those hits, and you gotta be able to deliver them but also have coverage over the top. It’s going to be real important for us.” 

The good news for the Bears, perhaps, is that New England’s tackles have struggled at times this year. Left tackle Trent Brown has allowed 17 pressures in 234 pass blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus (about one in every 14 snaps). And starting right tackle Marcus Cannon is out with a concussion, giving way for backup La’Adrian Waddle, who’s allowed eight pressures in 78 pass blocking snaps (about one in every 10). 

So the opportunities will be there for Mack, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and the Bears’ pass rush to affect Brady on Sunday.

A bigger injury concern?

While cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) was a full participant in Friday’s practice and will play Sunday, slot corner Bryce Callahan suffered an ankle injury during Thursday’s practice and did not participate Friday. He’s officially questionable for Sunday. 

Callahan “did his ankle,” Nagy said, toward the end of Thursday’s practice, and he felt worse as the day went on. Nagy characterized Callahan’s absence from Friday’s practice as “precautionary.”

Callahan’s availability may be more of a pressing concern than Mack’s, given how well the Patriots’ offense has played since slot receiver Julian Edelman returned from a four-game suspension to begin the season. While his numbers aren’t eye-popping (11 catches on 16 targets, 111 yards, 1 TD), New England’s offense has scored 38 and 43 points in his two games back. 

“Brady has always had a guy in the slot that he’s comfortable with; whether it be (Wes) Welker, (Danny) Amendola or Edelman,” Fangio said. “It’s a big part of their offense. They haven’t missed a beat, but I really think it’s helped their offense and played a big part in them basically averaging 40 points in the last three weeks. I really appreciate and respect how good of a player he is and has been.”

If Callahan isn’t available, Sherrick McManis could be the next man up at slot corner.