Bears

Bears Grades: Timu leads impressive day from LBs

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Bears Grades: Timu leads impressive day from LBs

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the NFL’s No. 2 rushing offense, with tailback Doug Martin second in rushing and fourth in total yards from scrimmage. The Bears held the Bucs to 104 total yards, which in fact was an accomplishment against a team averaging 141.5 ground yards per game and runs the football 46 percent of the time despite a losing record.

John Timu marked his second NFL start by recovering a Doug Martin fumble in the second quarter. The offense was able to turn the takeaway, the Bears’ first fumble recovery in four games, into a go-ahead field goal. Timu came up with a second Martin fumble in the Tampa Bay end during the third quarter after John Anderson met Martin head-on with a textbook tackle in the hold, knocking the football loose at the Tampa Bay 23.

“Each week is a big emphasis on taking the ball away,” said Timu, who was tied with Christian Jones for team-high tackles (6) on initial stat reports. Jones also had a hit on Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston. “If we can do that as a defense, it’s creating more possessions for the offense, the chance of winning just goes up. The more we can do that, the better we are as a team.”

Pernell McPhee was able to bull-rush right tackle Demar Dotson back into Winston for a third-down sack in the second quarter, ending a possession deep in Tampa Bay’s end and forcing a punt that gave the Bears’ offense field position.

McPhee finished with 4 tackles, two for loss, and added a second hit on Winston.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

The defense was without middle linebacker Shea McClellin, still recovering from a concussion in the Minnesota game, and the loss was filled by Jones, back after a week on the inactive list. The condition of McPhee remained an issue, with the rush-linebacker not starting but playing in spots, alternating with Lamarr Houston and Willie Young at the edge spots.

“It was real important,” McPhee said. “I don’t want to go into the offseason with double digit losses. So it’s something at least positive we say at least we didn’t go in with double-digit losses. It’s something we can build on, especially ending the season with two wins. Of course we’ve got to go get the one next week, but that’s just going to be something to build on, momentum and strive for the best next year.”

Moon's Grade: A-

Even without practicing, Allen Robinson is making a strong first impression with the Bears

Even without practicing, Allen Robinson is making a strong first impression with the Bears

Before Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey met with the media on Wednesday, Allen Robinson was curious what his position coach would say about him in public. 

“I just told him, I don’t know you,” Furrey quipped. “Who’s Allen Robinson?”

Furrey, of course, knows who Robinson is. But the point behind that joke is that Furrey, the Bears’ court wide receivers coach in four years, is still getting to know all of his receivers — let alone the one who hasn’t participated in a practice yet. For all the positivity that's easy to find around Halas Hall these days, the Bears' biggest offseason acquisition hasn't taken a rep yet. 

The good news for the Bears, of course, is that Robinson’s past play speaks for itself. He combined for 153 catches, 2,883 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015 and 2016, and has been adamant he’ll return to that high level of play when he’s cleared to practice. The Bears were confident enough in Robinson’s medicals to guarantee him a little over $25 million in March, per Spotrac, about a month before they let Cameron Meredith sign with the New Orleans Saints largely over medical concerns (Meredith’s torn ACL was viewed as more serious than Robinson’s, in short). 

So the getting-to-know-you phase for Furrey and Robinson is largely taking place off the field in the meeting rooms of Halas Hall. 

“What a great young man,” Furrey said. “He’s come in here, obviously, rehabbing and doing all those things. But he’s alert, he comes to meetings, he’s ready to go. Really, really smart, you can tell that from the beginning and he’s a professional.”

What Furrey, in particular, likes about Robinson is that he’s an “alpha,” but is far more than all talk and no action. 

“And a lot of times that alpha talks a lot and they don’t really put it out there,” Furrey said. “He kind of has that alpha quietness to him. He understands what’s going on, you can look at him and you just kind of get that feel of he has a great understanding of how to approach this game at this level. Obviously he’s been highly successful for a couple years with some big numbers, but he doesn’t act like that. He’s still hungry, he wants to learn, and I think he’s got a chip on his shoulder, which is a good trait to have too. So we’re excited about that.”

The expectation all along has been for Robinson to be cleared to fully participate in training camp practices. So while coach Matt Nagy said last week Robinson is “ahead of the game,” that may not mean he takes part in the final round of OTAs next week or veteran minicamp the first week of June. 

But while Robinson can’t prove himself to his new coaches on the field yet, he’s doing the right things off the field to make a positive first impression. 

“He knows you gotta come in early, he knows you gotta be the last one to leave, he knows you gotta study,” Furrey said. “It doesn’t matter five years in, six years in, you gotta take notes. It doesn’t matter if you hear it 10 times, you just gotta keep taking notes. He’s been really good at that, and I’ve been really impressed with that. I’ve been able to get on the field with him a little bit, just kind of throwing some balls to him, and I didn’t know he was that big. But obviously we’re excited for it to happen out there.” 

Protection Issues: Bears O-line ranked 21st in NFL

Protection Issues: Bears O-line ranked 21st in NFL

Mitch Trubisky has been set up for a huge season in 2018 with all the firepower the Chicago Bears added on offense. Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Trey Burton will give the second-year quarterback a variety of explosive targets to generate points in bunches.

None of the headline-grabbing moves will matter, however, if the offensive line doesn't do its job. 

According to Numberfire.com, the Bears' starting five could be the offense's Achilles heel. They were ranked 21st in the NFL and described as poor in pass protection.

Last year, the Bears ranked 26th in Sack NEP per drop back and 23rd in sack rate. These issues were especially apparent after Trubisky took over. In the games that [Kyle] Long played, their sack rate was 8.2%. It was actually 7.2% in the games that he missed. They struggled even when Long was healthy.

The Bears added Iowa's James Daniels in the second round of April's draft and he's expected to start at guard alongside Long. Cody Whitehair will resume his role as the starting center, with Charles Leno, Jr. and Bobby Massie at offensive tackle.

If Long comes back healthy and Daniels lives up to his draft cost, they should be a good run-blocking team from the jump. But Long has played just 18 games the past two years and is entering his age-30 season, so that's far from a lock. On top of that, the pass blocking was suspect last year and remains a mystery entering 2018.

The biggest addition to the offensive line is Harry Hiestand, the accomplished position coach who returns to Chicago after once serving in the same role under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. He most recently coached at Notre Dame and helped develop multiple first-round picks. He's going to have a huge impact.

The good news for the Bears is they weren't the lowest-ranked offensive line in the NFC North. The Vikings came in at No. 25. The Packers checked-in at No. 13, while the Lions were 16th.