Bears, John Fox using preseason games for more than just evaluations


Bears, John Fox using preseason games for more than just evaluations

INDIANAPOLIS — Word inside Halas Hall is that coach John Fox has made it clear that in addition to improvement and evaluations, he also wants wins this preseason, believing that those games represent a chance to start changing a culture of negativity and losing that had taken hold inside the Bears over recent seasons.

Fox considers winning to be in no small part about attitude; same with losing. He is not waiting until the regular season to push for wins and in the process eradicate any stench of losing from Halas Hall.

Coaches have not radically altered allocation of playing time for starters in preseason games; preseason will always be about evaluation. But the Bears are 2-0, and the mood upgrade from last year through the locker room is palpable. And Fox never had a sub-.500 preseason in four Denver seasons, all Broncos playoff years.

Not that 2-0 starts necessarily foreshadow regular-season success. The Bears started 2-0 last preseason, too. Before that, 2-0 in 2007, when they missed the playoffs.

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But Fox is not the first to target preseason as part of a culture makeover.

When Dennis Green took over in 1992 as coach of the Minnesota Vikings, he explicitly said that the Vikings would play to win their preseason games because believed they needed to relearn being a winning team. Green drove the Vikings to his first objective of a 4-0 preseason goal and then to 11-5 in the regular season, shaking loose from the ennui of 6-10 and 8-8 finishes before Green.

Not that it always works. Jimmy Johnson had done some of the same as Dallas Cowboys coach. In 1989 the Cowboys went 3-1 in preseason with the only loss coming in overtime. That team went 1-15.

But players have talked positively of the personality change Fox and staff have wrought on and off the field. That wasn’t happening in the early months of the previous regime.

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One inescapable conclusion, based on things said and on general manager Ryan Pace’s history with New Orleans, is that all members of the Bears’ opening-day 53-man roster are not on the current depth charts.

From various conversations, the Bears are expected to recruit and add upgrades and/or depth from the cut from 90 to 75 after Game 3 and from 75 to 53 after Game 4.

Wide receiver and inside linebacker have been suggested as the likely target areas — receiver because of how thin on experience the group is, and inside linebacker because Jonathan Bostic and Mason Foster have not flashed the way coordinator Vic Fangio is used to seeing inside ‘backers pop (not that either was going to be confused with NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, but you get the point).

Predicting the value of Roquan Smith's rookie contract with Bears

Predicting the value of Roquan Smith's rookie contract with Bears

Chicago Bears first-round pick Roquan Smith remains unsigned, a situation that prior to the rookie wage scale would've been cause for concern. With contracts now based on slotting, or where a first-round pick is selected, there's little reason or room for agents to haggle over terms. A holdout isn't expected.

There have been some exceptions to this general principle, however. Joey Bosa, who was selected with the third pick by the Chargers in 2016, held out until August 29 over offset language and his signing bonus. So, while a holdout for Smith is unlikely, it's not impossible.

Assuming he agrees to a contract on time, here's what the terms of his deal should look like, according to CBS Sports:

2018 Cap Number: $3,349,485
Signing Bonus: $11,517,940
Four-year value: $18,477,168

If the numbers are correct, Smith will have the 17th-highest cap hit for the Bears in 2018, according to Spotrac. By comparison, Danny Trevathan has a $7.15 million cap hit this season.

Drafting well is critical for long-term success. If a general manager misses on first-round picks, the cap consequences mount over time. Consider Kevin White, the seventh-overall pick in 2015. He has zero touchdowns in his pro career but has a $5.27 million cap hit this year. Leonard Floyd, the team's first-rounder in 2016, has a $4.30 million cap hit and Mitch Trubisky, last year's second pick overall, is $6.59 million. Pace's four first-round picks, when counting Smith's expected deal, are four of the top-17 paid players on the payroll even though none of them have the production to back it up.

Smith, however, is as close to a bust-free prospect as the Bears have drafted in Pace's tenure. He was considered one of the best pure football players in the entire 2018 draft class and will start immediately alongside Trevathan as a rookie, assuming he's under contract in time to contribute in Week 1.

Which Bears have the highest player rating in Madden 19?

Which Bears have the highest player rating in Madden 19?

The time has come to start counting down to the release of Madden 19. The most popular football video game franchise of all-time is set to release in early August and as is a tradition with the weeks leading up to the game appearing on store shelves, leaks about features and player ratings have started.

Here are the highest rated Bears players in this year's edition:

Adrian Amos leads the way with an 88 rating, followed by Akiem Hicks (85) and Allen Robinson (85). 

Chicago's offense received a 75 overall rating, which should result in a significant challenge for Bears fans trying to score virtual points later this summer. The defense, however, will be stout, coming in with an overall rating of 81. Amos and Hicks have a lot to do with that.

Ratings are subject to change due to injury. Madden 19 is scheduled for release on August 10.