Bears catching Packers at best schedule point


Bears catching Packers at best schedule point

The Green Bay Packers crushed (12-4) most NFL teams they faced in 2014. Notable perhaps – and it is only a soft “perhaps” – is the fact that all four of their defeats came on the road, as did their playoff loss.

Again perhaps notable, the Packers have lost their last three season openers, which (again, “perhaps”) suggests that the best time and place to catch Aaron Rodgers and his Packers is early and away from Lambeau Field.

The Bears will have both of those criteria in their favor Sunday. How much else they have is a matter of conjecture, or as head coach John Fox says, why they play the game.

[MORE BEARS: Bears top three WRs listed as questionable heading into Week 1]

But the best time for a team with all-new schemes and coaches is probably Week 1, where the new guys have film on what they’ll face but the opponent hasn’t really seen the new schemes with new (Bears) personnel.

It’s a little different looking at them. it’s not really the same personnel," Rodgers said. "If you go down the list, there’s not really the guys you’ve played against, with the recent departure of [Tim] Jennings, peanut [Charles Tillman] being gone, and obviously [Brian] Urlacher and [Lance] Briggs. We have [Julius] Peppers now. So there’s really not a whole lot of guys who played over the years. it’s a different staff — coach fox and coach [Vic] Fangio, very well-respected and good football coaches. It will be a different adjustment period, as there was some adjustment when Lovie [Smith] was gone and they brought in Mel [Tucker].

Actually what the Bears do have is defensive coordinator Fangio, who was in that job with the San Francisco when the 49ers put Week 1 losses on the Packers to start 2012 and 2013. What the Bears don’t have, however, are the player components that Fangio had in San Francisco and what the Seattle Seahawks had last year when smacking down the Packers in Seattle in Week 1.

[MORE BEARS: Young Bears plan to 'shock the world' vs. Packers]

“Well, it’s a challenge,” Fangio said. “Obviously they’ve been pretty bad here for two straight years defensively. You know, we’ve made some changes, but that’s an on-going process. It’s not an overnight thing. You just have to keep building week-to-week. You know, not look at the season as whole, but look at it one game at a time, one series at a time, one play at a time and make your strides as you go.

“We’re a new group with a new system, so we’re limited that way. I may have coached against [Rodgers] in those games, but none of these [Bears] players did within this system. So we’re back to ground zero on that.”

“Ground zero” may be an upgrade from the Bears’ general starting point when facing the Packers. It is certainly better than the crater in which the Bears routinely found themselves after Green Bay debacles.

“Every single year is different,” said tight end Martellus Bennett. “Their team is different from what it was. Our team is different from what it was last year. Each matchup, you've got to take it with that year's matchup.

“It's not about who did what the year before or the year before because every single year everyone's getting better or guys are changing -- a different team every single year. So this is our first time going out with this team this year. Any game, this team is totally different. Even though we have some of the same people the team is totally different than what it was.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

And the winner is...

Until the Bears establish that they in fact can stay on the field with the Packers, it is impossible to pick the Bears straight-up. Until Jay Cutler establishes that he can both not lose a game and also actually win a game against an elite team, he can’t. There’s a reason (lots of them, actually) why he is a career 1-10 vs. the Packers and has the second-lowest passer rating (67.1) against Green Bay of any team he has faced more than once.

How good the 2015 Bears defense is will be some weeks or months to play out. It cannot be worse than what the Bears put on the field against Green Bay (twice) last year. Only two players (Jared Allen, Shea McClellin) who started for the Bears’ defense the first time the two teams met in 2014 are starting this game, and neither of those is in the same position. That is arguably a positive.

All of which means only what it means on Sunday. The Bears are catching Rodgers early before the Packers have film on them, but film only gets you so far.

Packers 27,  Bears 21

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Former first-round pick Kevin White hasn't caught a break -- or a touchdown -- through the first three years of his career. He has more season-ending injuries than 100-yard games and after an offseason focused on upgrades at wide receiver, White's future in Chicago beyond 2018 is very much in doubt.

Ryan Pace declined the fifth-year option in White's rookie contract, making this a prove-it year for the pass-catcher who once resembled a blend of Larry Fitzgerald and Dez Bryant during his time at West Virginia.

He's getting a fresh start by new coach Matt Nagy.

"He is healthy and he's really doing well," Nagy told Danny Kanell and Steve Torre Friday on SiriusXM's Dog Days Sports. "We're trying to keep him at one position right now so he can focus in on that."

White can't take all the blame for his 21 catches, 193 yards and zero scores through 48 possible games. He's only suited up for five. Whether it's bad luck or bad bone density, White hasn't had a legitimate chance to prove, on the field, that he belongs.

Nagy's looking forward, not backward, when it comes to 2015's seventh pick overall.

"That's gone, that's in the past," Nagy said of White's first three years. "This kid has a new future with us."

White won't be handed a job, however.

"He's gotta work for it, he's gotta put in the time and effort to do it," Nagy said. "But he will do that, he's been doing it. He's a great weapon, he's worked really hard. He has great size, good speed. We just want him to play football and not worry about anything else."

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

The Bears concluded their second round of OTAs on Thursday with the third and final set of voluntary sessions scheduled for May 29-June 1. Coach Matt Nagy is bringing a new and complicated system to Chicago, so the time spent on the practice field with the offense and quarterback Mitch Trubisky has been invaluable.

"We’ve thrown a lot at Mitch in the last 2 ½ months,” Nagy told Dog Days Sports’ Danny Kanell and Steve Torre on Friday. “He’s digested it really well.”

Nagy’s implementing the same system he operated with the Chiefs, an offense that brought the best out of Redskins quarterback Alex Smith. The former first-overall pick went from potential draft bust to MVP candidate under Andy Reid and Nagy’s watch.

Nagy admitted he and his staff may have been a little too aggressive with the amount of information thrust upon Trubisky so far.  It took five years to master the offense in Kansas City, he said, but the first-year head coach sees a lot of similarities between his current and past quarterbacks.

"These guys are just wired differently,” Nagy said when comparing Trubisky to Smith. “With Mitch, the one thing that you notice each and every day is this kid is so hungry. He wants to be the best. And he’s going to do whatever he needs to do. He’s so focused.”

Smith had the best year of his career in 2017 and much of the credit belongs to Nagy, who served as Smith’s position coach in each season of his tenure in Kansas City. He threw for eight touchdowns and only two interceptions during the five regular season games that Nagy took over play-calling duties last year.

Nagy said Trubisky has a similar attention to detail that Smith brought to the Chiefs’ quarterback room.

"Each and every detail that we give him means something. It’s not just something he writes down in a book. He wants to know the why,” Nagy said of Trubisky. “He’s a good person that is in this for the right reason. His teammates absolutely love him. It was the same thing with Alex [Smith] in Kansas City.”

A locker room that believes in its quarterback is a critically important variable for success, one that Nagy already sees exists in Chicago.

"When you have that as a coach and when you have that as being a quarterback, not everybody has that, and when you have that you’re in a good spot.”