Bears

Bears in-foe: Examining the Washington Redskins

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Bears in-foe: Examining the Washington Redskins

Too bad John Fox wasn't back in a first-year time warp from 2011. A 5-7 record and a battle for first place in a division would feel quite comfortable, since his 8-8 start in Denver worked out well (the Broncos won the division and a playoff game).

The difference four years later in the NFC North is that it finds him three games behind, in third place - unlike 5-7 Washington, which still holds the top spot in the wretched NFC East via tie-breaker despite Monday Night's wild 19-16 home loss to Dallas. Fifty-eight minutes of snoredom turned into an exhilarating final two minutes, which keeps the NFL the popular thing that it is. With both teams coming off gut-wrenching home losses, neither will be in a particularly cheery holiday mood. Just don't ask what to expect, especially with the Bears 1-5 at home and Washington 0-5 on the road.

Offense

RG-Who? The second overall pick in 2012 who set a rookie quarterbacking standard in 2012 - leading the franchise to its only winning record since 2007 (and only non-last place finish) has had nothing but health and compatibility issues since Jay Gruden took over as head coach in 2014. Reconstructive knee surgery, dislocated ankle, two concussions. Gruden got tired of waiting. Enter Kirk Cousins, at the risk of owner Daniel Snyder's wrath and Gruden's job security.

 

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But Cousins (a fourth-rounder in 2012, the same year Griffin was picked) has clearly taken over the signal-calling reins. RGIII is now "III-String" behind Colt McCoy. Cousins ("You like that?! YOU LIKE THAT!!") has taken control, especially after leading a comeback from a 24-0 home deficit versus Tampa Bay in Week 7 to a 31-30 win. The Michigan State product has been amazing at home (75.2 completion percentage, 11 touchdowns, no interceptions). He'll try to start fixing his 6:10 touchdown-to-interception ratio on the road Sunday on the lakefront.

Alfred Morris (a sixth-rounder from that 2012 class that made an immediate impact) continues to produce, albeit at a more conservative clip. 2015 third-rounder Matt Jones is a tank (6'2, 231), but the combo averages only about 3.5 yards a clip, though both have home run abilities. 

The DeSean (Jackson) Drama from Monday Night was the mercurial wideout in a nutshell. He missed two months after a shoulder injury in the opener but in his fifth game back, tried doing too much on a late punt return that turned into a fumble and go-ahead touchdown with 1:14 left. Thrity seconds later, he caught the tying touchdown pass. He and Pierre Garcon will present an upgrade in challenges to Tracy Porter and Kyle Fuller from the 49ers' receiving corps. Complicating matters is tight end Jordan Reed, whose 58 catches and six touchdowns lead Washington, despite missing two games with a concussion.

D.C. invested up front by selecting Iowa's Brandon Scherff fifth overall this past April, and sticking the former Iowa tackle at guard, stabilizing the right side, while three-time Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams remains a rock on the left side.

Defense

It was tough to truly evaluate Washington's defense against the Romo-less Cowboys, yet it still found a way to lose for just the second time at home. The Redskins came in ranked 22nd overall in defense, but let's remember San Francisco was 29th. Sunday's game turned into the ninth in 12 games the Bears managed two or fewer offensive touchdowns.

The reason Jarvis Jenkins is in Chicago is because Rod Marinelli's son-in-law, Joe Barry, signed Fox's former run-stuffer in Denver, Terrance Knighton, and former Bear Stephen Paea in free agency. Jason Hatcher rounds out the front, but he's been disappointing from a production standpoint since coming over from Dallas prior to last season. Chris Baker's been most effective rotating in with five sacks.

Ryan Kerrigan is the pass-rushing stud on the outside edge (6.5 sacks this year, 13.5 last year, 44.5 in his fifth season in which he's never missed a start). 2014 second-rounder Trent Murphy's starting to click on the other edge with another sack Monday night. Will Compton and Keenan Robinson do their jobs inside, ranking second and third in tackles, respectively.

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The real interesting storyline comes in the secondary. With Chris Culliver recently placed on injured reserve, DeAngelo Hall is back in the starting lineup. The last time the Bears made the playoffs in 2011, Hall picked off Jay Cutler four times at Soldier Field (including one returned for a touchdown). They yapped at each other a few times since, though the 2013 encounter was quiet in D.C. before Cutler's groin injury. Opposite corner Bashaud Breeland had 12 passes defensed going into Monday night's game, while free safety Dashon Goldson was with Vic Fangio for his first two years in San Francisco before departing via free agency. 

Let's not also forget Fangio chose between the Bears and Washington for their respective defensive coordinator vacancies, and chose the Bears.

Special teams

Releasing Kai Forbath early in the season was a bit of a surprise, but replacement kicker Dustin Hopkins has gone 21-of-24, with those three misses nothing under 40 yards. Ex-Bear Tress Way was a "camp leg" who turned into one of the league's best punters (left-footed too) in 2014 and has picked up where he left off. More concerning for the Bears coverage units is that both Jeremy Ross and Andre Roberts have returned kicks for touchdowns this season.

Former GM says Matt Nagy will lose his job if Bears don't trade for QB

Former GM says Matt Nagy will lose his job if Bears don't trade for QB

There have been some strong takes on Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky over the last 24 hours, but none have been stronger than former NFL general manager Mike Lombardi's.

Lombardi, who now contributes to The Athletic, has always been a harsh critic of Trubisky. He's never believed in the former North Carolina product's ability to become a franchise quarterback and has taken often taken shots at the Bears' signal-caller.

And while Lombardi's never-ending lamenting of Trubisky sometimes comes across as agenda-driven, it's hard to dismiss his negativity at this point. Trubisky hasn't given Bears fans much ammunition to defend him. Now, with the offense hitting rock bottom against the Saints in Week 7, Lombardi is at it again.

This time, he has coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace in his crosshairs.

"If the Bears don’t make a trade for a quarterback, Nagy will lose his job within a year, and the team will never reach its full potential," Lombardi wrote on Monday. "That is not a mere guess, but a statement that has been backed up by NFL history and the experience of being in the NFL for so long.

"Making a trade might be hard internally because General Manager Ryan Pace has put his career on the line by making the move to bring Trubisky to Chicago. He traded assets to move up one spot in the draft, and it will be hard for him to admit that Trubisky cannot play. But he cannot let his ego get in the way of doing what is right. Teams cannot solve a problem if they don’t admit they have one, and Pace needs to stop lying to himself and others about his evaluation of Trubisky. The time has come." 

Suggesting that the Bears should make a trade for a quarterback before the deadline isn't the worst idea, especially because Chicago's defense is good enough to lead the team to the playoffs if there's a halfway competent quarterback under center. But it's a massive and ridiculous leap to suggest Nagy and Pace's jobs will be lost if they don't make a trade this season. Remember: Nagy was the NFL's Coach of the Year in 2018; he isn't on the hot seat. And while Pace certainly will have egg on his face for missing on Trubisky if the third-year quarterback doesn't develop (quickly), there's no reason to assume he won't get another offseason or two to get it right.

The more likely scenario, if Trubisky does, in fact, bottom out, is that Pace and the Bears will sign one of the veteran free-agent quarterbacks who will hit the open market next offseason. Players like Andy Dalton, Teddy Bridgewater and Marcus Mariota, while not world-beaters, would represent an upgrade at the position. Nagy just needs a guy who can be his Alex Smith; a game-manager who can score enough points to assist the defense. Any one of those three fit that description.

Perhaps the Bears missed on Trubisky. Maybe he'll turn it around. But to suggest Nagy and Pace won't get another swing at the position, together, is nothing more than a fiery hot take.

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With running game, Nagy makes plea for patience: "I know we need to run the ball more. I’m not an idiot"

With running game, Nagy makes plea for patience: "I know we need to run the ball more. I’m not an idiot"

Matt Nagy brought a whoooole bunch of positive energy to his Monday morning press conference at Halas Hall. 

"First of all, you will never pull me down," he said. "That's number one. Never. You won't do it. Second of all, you'll never pull our team down. It doesn't matter what we're going through. It'll never happen. Not under my watch. That's just not how we roll."

The coach's trademark brand of endless, enthusiastic optimism took a hit after Sunday's humiliating loss to New Orleans. The Bears were outclassed by a short-handed team, at home, coming off the bye week. They set the record for fewest run attempts in Bears' history. After the game Nagy said they were going to "sit in it" that night, and from the sound of his answers on Monday morning, that hadn't ended yet. 

"I know we need to run the ball more. I’m not an idiot," he said. "I realize that. Seven rushes and the minimum amount of times, I totally understand that."

"You need to do it. I never go into a game saying I want to throw the ball 54 times. I would love to go into a game and say I want to run the ball 54 times. But that hasn’t happened. This is what I have to answer to.”

You've read it all already; things are bleak. They're the 30th ranked team in every rushing category except for the ones they're ranked 29th in. Against the Saints, the Bears handed the ball off to wide recievers the same amount of times (2) they gave it to David Montgomery. No one got more rushes than Tarik Cohen (3), who said after the game that he doesn't really even consider himself a running back – and is often scouted as a reciever by opposing coaches, according to Nagy. 

"... nine catches for 19 yards, you know, that’s not where we want to be," he said. "And it’s unacceptable for all of us. We’re definitely searching right now. There’s no doubt about it. But as I said, so last night you deal with the emotions, you watch the tape last night, you see where you’re at and now for us we can’t hang on to what just happened.  We’ve got to fix it and we’ve got to understand and be aware that offensively we’ve had some bad performances now." 

Nagy knows he and the Bears are out of excuses, and having to say the same thing every Monday morning for the last month is clearly eating at him. And while there may be some more reliance on Trubisky or Mike Davis' legs (from the sounds of it, mainly the former), there's probably still an element of patience involved. (I know, I'm sorry. Please lower your voice.) 

"Right now we’re not having productive plays in the run game any way you look at it," Nagy said. "But I want positive plays. I want plays — and part of the patience is that as well. There’s no doubt about it, there’s gotta be more patience.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.