Just because the Bears and Lovie Smith didnt go deep into the postseason doesnt mean the search for his successor wont.Look for the stream of news, near-news and faux news to go on for a while as far the Bears coaching search. General manager Phil Emerys stress of the word thorough says that this will not be a hurried process.The last time the Bears rushed through a head-coaching search was 20 years ago when Dave Wannstedt was the hot get and Michael McCaskey made landing Wannstedt a mission statement. Dont look for brother George pushing Emery to follow the same methodology.Candidate-watching: One with a Cutler connectionColleague Dave Zangaro at CSNHouston.com is busy with a playoff team this week but shot me a note regarding an intriguing name in the coaching spectrum:Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison.Dennison cant be talked to about jobs until either the Texans are eliminated from the playoffs or during the off-week before the Super Bowl. And he rightly brushed off head-coach questions this week.But heres the intriguing deal with Dennison: He may have arguably the best resume of any candidate under consideration.He was Jay Cutlers offensive coordinator in Denver when Cutler was having his one Pro Bowl season. That was under Mike Shanahan and with Jeremy Bates as quarterbacksreceivers coach, so Cutler was raised by committee.More to the overall, Dennison was a linebacker with the Broncos for eight seasons. Then he was the Broncos special-teams coach, offensive line coach and coordinator before joining former teammate Gary Kubiaks staff in Houston.If youre keeping score, that would be experience in all three on-field phases of football. And given the development of Matt Schaub along with the 2011 scramble with Matt Leinart and T.J. Yates after Schaub was injured, Dennison is nothing if not anadapter.Dont put the name into the Bears mix just yet. There are enough of those swirling around. But if working with Cutler is a job requirement, Dennison is the only coordinator whos still coordinating after time with Cutler.
It's long been rumored, but on Wednesday things became a bit more official: the NFL will reportedly cut the 2020 preseason in half:
2020 preseason has been cut in half, per source. Post coming at PFT.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) July 1, 2020
Week One and Week Four will be the preseason weeks that are scrapped, per source.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) July 1, 2020
Updated NFL preseason schedule:— Field Yates (@FieldYates) July 1, 2020
July 28: Nearly all NFL teams report to training camp
23 day acclimation period begins
Preseason Week 1: August 20th-24th
Preseason Week 2: August 27th-31st
September 10th: Chiefs vs. Texans. The games begin 🏈.
Shortening the preseason has been a topic of conversation around the league for a while now, but a new urgency has been attached to the idea because of the ongoing the COVID-19 pandemic. As states continue struggling with rising infection rates, beginning the season on time looks more and more unlikely. The NFL has already altered their season schedule to accomodate for a delayed start or early-season interruption.
It's especially bad news for the Bears, who were planning on using all four preseason games to determine whether Nick Foles or Mitch Trubisky would win the starting quarterback job. Without half their preseason games (they'd lose games against Cleveland and Tennessee), things obviously become much trickier.
In talking to various trusted football minds around the NFL recently, two common thoughts come up when discussing Bears rookie pass rusher Trevis Gipson:
1. He should have been drafted in the fourth round.
2. He was playing out of position at Tulsa.
It’s very possible that the latter impacted the former. The Bears traded up in the fifth round to draft Gipson at No. 155 overall and they’ve been very decisive with their plan for him – he’s going to be a 3-4 outside linebacker in Chicago.
Many of the “tweener” pass rush prospects in the NFL Draft play in different fronts in college than they do when they transition to the NFL. In Gipson’s case, he played in a three-man front at Tulsa, but was used more as a five-technique on the line of scrimmage. With the Bears, he’ll be in a base 3-4 defense, but playing a different position on the edge.
You don’t have to watch a lot of tape to understand why Bears general manager Ryan Pace and defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano want to use Gipson on the edge. At 6’6 ⅜” and 261 pounds, he has an 81 ¼” wing span that can’t be taught and his lengthy frame doesn’t give him a lot of leverage when he lines up in tight spaces on the line. He’s better off using that length on the edge and, in my opinion, his best college tape came when he was lined up wide.
Realistic rookie expectations: Gipson is a bit of a project because he’s switching positions and he certainly hasn’t been helped by COVID-19 shutting down offseason practices. But the Bears aren’t asking him to start right away. They have Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn to rush the passer. Gipson has the talent to contribute as a rotational player and perhaps he can provide an occasional spark off the bench. His college production doesn’t lie. Gipson had 12 sacks and 24 tackles for loss in his final two seasons at Tulsa.