Bears

Bears look to solidify culture change in rematch with Redskins

Bears look to solidify culture change in rematch with Redskins

One of the foundation principles that John Fox sought to shore up when he took over as coach was the football character and culture of the Bears. The positive culture of Lovie Smith and leaders like Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher had been replaced by the internal malaise under Marc Trestman and players like Brandon Marshall and others.

The losing has not ended, but the losing mentality has, with players now looking forward to next year but with an eye toward using the final two games of this dismal season as last chances to reinforce the mentality.

“The only thing positive is that we’ve got two more games and we can go and try to make a positive statement out of that,” said linebacker Pernell McPhee, one of the foundation pillars of the internal attitude shift.

Making that statement at the expense of the Washington Redskins would have a certain resonance if only because of what happened against Washington last year, a loss coming one week after a blown opportunity to reach .500 with a last-second field goal against the San Francisco 49ers. That kick missed and so did the game-tying attempt in the final two minutes against Washington, taking with it hopes for turning around Fox’s first Bears season.

That game helped Washington to an NFC East title and the playoffs. This year Washington is scrapping for a wild-card slot, putting the Bears in the role of potential spoiler on top of their goal of continuing their own progress toward a winning internal culture.

The Bears will be doing all of this with five of their top six 2016 draft choices (Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, Nick Kwiatkoski, Deon Bush, Jordan Howard) starting. That might be due in part to injuries, but they are learning from McPhee, Akiem Hicks, Willie Young and others how to be NFL football players, and Saturday is another referendum on the qualitative aspects of this Fox team as much as the quantitative elements.

That the Bears have shown an emerging competitive character doesn’t win games by itself. But if that is absent, so will the wins be.

“There are no moral victories. Let’s make that clear,” Fox said. “And I have said that. But I think when things aren’t going well, it’s a small fraternity of people. Players. Coaches. Everybody who does it for a living. I think there’s a pride and respect that guys watch video every single play. Different angles. So I think I’ve been proud of the way we’ve given our effort and the focus and how they’ve stuck together.”

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And the winner is ... 

The biggest specific challenge for the Bears is to shake off the late breakdown in pass defense that cost them the chance for an upset of the Green Bay Packers. Kirk Cousins is not the quarterback that Aaron Rodgers is (though this season he and Rodgers are about even in passer rating), but the Washington receiver group is arguably better overall than Green Bay’s. The Packers have three receivers with more than 40 receptions; the Redskins have six.

“You have DeSean (Jackson, 49 catches), you have Pierre (Garcon, 71), you have Jordan (Reed, 61), you have the young guy (Jamison) Crowder, (64),” cornerback Tracy Porter said. “So we have a task set up for us.

“We have young guys. We have new pieces that are coming in, so it’s going to be another task like it’s been every week. Collectively, this group is probably one of the tougher groups collectively that we’re going to go against. It’s not just one receiver in particular is going to provide a challenge. All of them have their own unique assets that they bring to the table.”

But the Bears with Matt Barkley have played a succession of playoff-grade teams even through a final possession. The Bears are one of only six teams in the top 15 in both offense and defense, and that balance is will finally benefit from some long-overdue takeaways.

Bears 21, Washington 17

View from the Moon ’16 record: 8-6

6 players the Bears should focus on at the 2020 NFL Combine

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USA TODAY

6 players the Bears should focus on at the 2020 NFL Combine

The 2020 NFL Combine kicks off this week as 337 draft hopefuls will be poked and prodded in Indianapolis with all 32 teams in attendance.

The Bears are without a first-round pick once again this April, but it doesn't mean this week's event is any less meaningful. In fact, it's an even more important part of the evaluation process for GM Ryan Pace, who will be tasked with finding potential starters in the second round and beyond.

Here are six players the Bears are likely to keep a close eye on over the next several days.

Harrison Bryant, TE, FAU

Bryant profiles as an ideal fit for Matt Nagy's offense with his combination of receiver traits in a tight end's body. While he's a far cry from Travis Kelce, he'll provide Nagy with the kind of versatile pass-catcher who will be an instant mismatch against opposing linebackers and safeties. His stock is on the rise after a strong performance at the Senior Bowl, and if he runs well in Indianapolis, he'll be a strong candidate for the Bears at No. 43 overall.

Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton

Trautman, like Bryant, had a big week of practices at the Senior Bowl and quickly shed the small-school label. He was more than comfortable going up against top senior competition and established himself as one of the top tight ends at the all-star game. He scored 14 touchdowns in 2019 and has the kind of smooth athleticism the Bears are looking for at the position. The combine is bigger for Trautman than most; he has to prove his speed and agility is among the NFL averages (or better) to completely silence the small-school chatter.

Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia

Hall was considered a lock for the first round after the 2018 season, but his decision to return to Virginia for his senior year hurt his stock a bit. An unfortunate midseason ankle injury ended his year early and as a result, he's been a victim of the out of sight, out of mind syndrome. He can change all that with a good showing at the NFL Combine. The Bears have a bigger need at cornerback with the release of Prince Amukamara than they did at the start of the offseason, so it's a position group that will rank high on their wish list. Hall is a strong second-round prospect who brings some safety upside, too.

Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

Gladney is one of this year's top cornerback prospects and he may end up as a first-round pick once the dust settles. But there's always that supposed first-rounder who slides into Round 2; Gladney could be that guy. If he experiences the kind of draft-day fall that Greedy Williams (Browns) experienced last year, the Bears will be in a position to strike. Remember: Williams was projected as a first-round cornerback and arguably the best cover guy in the country but slid to No. 46 overall because of tackling and other concerns. Gladney, while not possessing as many of those red flags, could end up in Chicago's second-round range.

Hakeem Adenji, OL, Kansas

Adenji isn't an early-round prospect and that shouldn't change over the next several days. But he is a long-armed and experienced starting offensive tackle who could eventually find his home inside at guard. The Bears won't have a chance at any of the blue-chip offensive linemen in this year's class, so players like Adenji are the ones Pace has to focus on. His maximum upside may be as a swing offensive lineman in the pros, which has value especially with how injuries have hit Chicago's offensive line in recent years.

Matt Peart, OT, Connecticut

Unlike Adenji, Peart is a prototype offensive tackle prospect because of his physical makeup. He has great length and movement skills that both project favorably as a potential starter on the outside. Peart could find himself in the Day 2 range come draft weekend, which means the Bears would have to spend a second-round pick on him if they don't trade back or into the third round. That may be a bit rich for Peart's skill set. If he happens to slide into the early portion of Day 3, Chicago would have to be all-in, even in a trade-up scenario.

Under Center Podcast: The charmed life of Jay Glazer

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: The charmed life of Jay Glazer

When a guy gets Sylvester Stallone, Guy Fieri and Al Pacino in the same room you have to discuss why and how. Laurence Holmes is joined by NFL insider Jay Glazer to discuss how crazy Jay's career has been, plus an added bonus of Kyle Long stopping by for added fun.

(2:33) - Glazer's MMA style training schedule

(7:00) - Kyle Long joins the podcast

(10:14) - Stories of Jay's work with his Vets and Athletes program

(14:44) - How did Jay end up at Sylvester Stallone's house

Listen here or in the embedded player below.

Under Center Podcast

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