Bears

Bears to meet with Ole Miss DL Robert Nkemdiche, SIU QB Mark Iannotti

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Bears to meet with Ole Miss DL Robert Nkemdiche, SIU QB Mark Iannotti

As part of their quest for a backup to develop in the pipeline behind Jay Cutler, the Bears reportedly hope to meet within the next couple of weeks with Southern Illinois quarterback Mark Iannotti, in addition to scheduling a visit with Mississippi defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche as part of the run-up to the draft in four weeks.

The Bears also were in attendance at the workout for linebacker/defensive end Victor Ochi out of Stony Brook. Ochi, 6-foot-1, 246 pounds, is a smallish pass rusher who flashed during the East-West Shrine game and has been projected as high as the second round this year.

[MORE BEARS: Depth-charting where the Bears' needs still remain]

Iannotti, from Schaumburg, received an invite to meet with the Bears, according to About Inspired Athletes and the Daily Egyptian. Over the past two seasons after transferring to SIU from Eastern Michigan University, Iannotti threw for 46 touchdowns, completing 65 percent of his passes, and rushed for 12 more scores.

Nkemdiche has been rated a first-round talent but comes with character concerns tracing back to an incident this year when he admitted to being drunk after falling out of a hotel window in Atlanta. The Bears are one of 14 teams scheduled to meet with Nkemdiche, per NFLDraftBible.com.

Because of inconsistent production at Ole Miss, Nkemdiche has slipped from a top-five prospect to perhaps the second round, which the 6-foot-3, 294-pound defensive lineman understands, or says he does.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

“There are times I didn’t finish,” Nkemdiche said at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. “I was lazy on some plays at times, but I told [NFL teams] I’m going to keep growing as a player. I’m going to keep learning how to finish and keep becoming more of a student of the game and just focus on being the best NFL player I can be.”

The Bears and the NFL turn onto final approach for the draft every year about this time, following up group and private pro days with meetings.

Is Bears “D” in “football shape?” Lacking ability to finish? Fourth-quarter fades raise questions

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USA Today

Is Bears “D” in “football shape?” Lacking ability to finish? Fourth-quarter fades raise questions

During the critical fourth-quarter Oakland Raiders drive for a game-winning touchdown, one former Pro Bowl’er and NFL observer remarked to this writer that he was surprised to see a lot of hands on hips and mouth-breathing by members of the Bears defense – two common signs of being gassed.

Critiquing conditioning – or lack of – is problematic the way judging pain tolerance is. And if the Raiders score were an isolated incident, the question likely doesn’t come up.

But something is amiss. While the Bears defense remains among the NFL’s best, at least statistically, a shadow of concern is falling over the defense and its ability to close out games that it has within its reach.

The Bears held fourth-quarter leads over Denver and Oakland and allowed go-ahead touchdowns. They were rescued by Eddy Piñeiro’s 53-yard field goal in the final second. No such rescue in London.

Fully half of the eight touchdowns scored by Bears opponents in 2019 have come in fourth quarters. (The Bears themselves have not scored a single TD in any fourth quarter this season, but that’s a separate discussion.) By contrast, last season the defense did not allow a fourth-quarter touchdown in any of the final five regular-season games.

The temptation is to look only at the numbers, which are in fact positive. Even with the 24 points the Raiders scored against them in London, the Bears ranked second only to New England in scoring stinginess (13.8 ppg.) and fifth in yardage allowed (312 ypg.).

But the Bears have 17 sacks as a team; only three of those have come in fourth quarters.

Opposing quarterbacks have passed at an 81.3 rating in first halves; they are throwing at a 91.4 clip in second halves.

The defense has allowed 16 first downs in first quarters; 21 in seconds; 20 in thirds.

In 2019 fourth quarters, 34 first downs allowed.

Pulling the camera back for a wider view, extending back to include the disturbing 2018 playoff loss:

Vs. Philadelphia
Eagles drive 60 yards in 12 plays and nearly 4 minutes to score game-winning TD with :56 remaining. Cody Parkey’s double-doink overshadows fact that Bears defense forces Eagles into only two third downs and allows winning score on a fourth down.

Vs. Green Bay
With the Chicago offense sputtering all game and in need of a short field, Packers go on a 10-play, 73-yard drive that consumed 6:33 to set up a field goal to go up 10-3 deep in the fourth quarter.

At Denver
Inept Broncos offense scores 11 points in the fourth quarter to overcome a 13-3 Bears lead, driving 62 yards in 12 plays, converting two fourth downs and a two-point conversion. Denver’s second-half drives: 41 yards, 56 yards, 84 yards, 62 yards.

Vs. Washington
Bears build 28-0 lead before one of NFL’s worst offenses scores a pair of largely meaningless second-half TD’s.

Vs. Minnesota Vikings
Drive 92 yards in 13 plays for TD before Bears stiffen to stop two-point PAT and next Minnesota possession.

Vs. Oakland (London)
Raiders win game with 92-yard drive that includes fourth-down conversion on punt fake run despite Bears leaving No. 1 defensive unit in, anticipating fake.

Guess which highly-paid NFL kicker is only making 58% of his field goals?

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USA Today

Guess which highly-paid NFL kicker is only making 58% of his field goals?

Remember that time when the Bears tried out like 47 kickers and put them through a wide variety of arbitrary tests all while fan favorite Robby Gould was using the team's desperation as leverage to become the NFL's highest-paid kicker? Classic! 

It's been like three months since those totally-sane summer days, and reader, things have not gone so hot for Gould: 

Meanwhile, Eddy P is not only 8/9 on the season, but is already well on his way to becomming a fan favorite. We're already calling him Eddy P! After 5 games! 

That said, we won't truly know if the Bears made the right decision until Piñeiro beats out several Hall of Famers -- including someone credited for literally starting the NFL -- on the path to winning an offseason bracket-style fan vote.