Bears

Bears need to pressure Colts QB Andrew Luck, but exactly who’s going to do it?

Bears need to pressure Colts QB Andrew Luck, but exactly who’s going to do it?

Pressure the quarterback. One of the “keys” to just about every NFL game and obviously the case for the Bears going against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.

But as of the close of practice Friday, of the seven Bears credited with all or part of a sack in 2016 — and the Bears have just six total sacks, only five teams have fewer — four of them were unable to go through a full practice:  Leonard Floyd, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan, Willie Young. Floyd (calf) did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and Goldman is down with a high-ankle sprain, and neither are expected to play. Trevathan is listed as questionable but is playing with a hard plastic guard on his surgically repaired thumb and his effectiveness remains to be seen.

With Goldman and Trevathan out against the Lions and Floyd down for most of the second half, coordinator Vic Fangio used a veritable swarm of defensive backs against Matthew Stafford rather than weaken his back-seven trying to force a pass rush. 

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The Colts have lost the three games this season in which Luck was forced to throw 40 or more times. The Lions, Broncos and Jaguars defeated the Colts in part by sacking Luck a combined 13 times — he’s been sacked a league-high 15 times through four games —  although the Lions pulled out their win by virtue of an Indianapolis defensive collapse that allowed Stafford to move the Lions into winning-field-goal range in three plays in the closing seconds.

The question for the Bears is how much their game planning is affected by simply not having enough healthy pass rushers to pursue a big quarterback.

“It does a little bit,” Bears head coach John Fox said. “You have to be ready for a lot of different things as far as other positions being ready, whether you need to pressure a little bit more if it’s not coming home with your typical four-man rush. So this game is about adjusting. It’s no different this week than any week prior.”

Chicago Bears Free Agent Focus: Case Keenum

Chicago Bears Free Agent Focus: Case Keenum

The Bears have been connected to all of the big-name free agent quarterbacks this offseason. General manager Ryan Pace is expected to add competition for the starting job in free agency or the 2020 NFL draft after incumbent and former second overall pick, Mitch Trubisky, regressed mightily in his third season last year.

But rather than focus on players like Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and even Marcus Mariota, it makes more sense to pay close attention to the next tier of free agent passers who could offer a potential upgrade from Trubisky while not necessarily creating shockwaves through Halas Hall upon signing.

One quarterback who fits that description perfectly is Case Keenum, the journeyman starter who's entering his 10th season in the league. 

Keenum is coming off of back-to-back forgettable seasons with the Broncos and Redskins, but it wasn't long ago when he was one of the better storylines in the NFL after leading the Vikings to 11 wins in 14 starts in 2017. He threw for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions that year and earned himself a respectable two-year, $36 million contract with Denver in 2018. His tenure as a Bronco lasted just one season (he finished 2018 with a 6-10 record) and his time as the Redskins starter was short-lived in 2019. He started just eight games for Washington.

For his career, Keenum's completed 62.4% of his passes and has thrown 75 touchdowns compared to 47 interceptions.

Keenum's resume isn't overly impressive, which is why he's a great fit for what Pace should try to accomplish over the next two months. He has to find a competent starter who can take advantage of everything else the Bears have going for them (namely, a championship-caliber defense) and who can be aggressive enough on offense to score enough points to win the close games. Keenum proved in 2017 that he can do that, especially when he has a good supporting case around him.

Keenum also qualifies as a solid bridge quarterback in the event Trubisky crashes and burns in 2020. At 32 years old, he's young enough to keep the starting job for a couple of seasons while Chicago attempts to find a younger long-term answer under center. 

Last but not least, he's going to be cheap. He didn't have a good year in 2019, and he was making just $3.5 million with the Redskins. There will be a limited market for his services this March, which means the Bears should be able to land him at a backup's salary despite his starter's upside. And that matters, especially for a team that's trying to free up salary cap space for other positions of need along the offensive line and secondary.

Keenum won't move the needle much for Bears fans in March, but landing a player of his caliber could ultimately be the difference between the Bears missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season and making a deep playoff run.

Former CFL star Tre Roberson has chance to emerge in Bears' secondary

Former CFL star Tre Roberson has chance to emerge in Bears' secondary

The Chicago Bears' decision to release veteran cornerback Prince Amukamara has created a void in the starting lineup on defense, one that recent CFL free-agent signee Tre Roberson will be given a chance fill. The Bears are expected to add more candidates for the job over the next couple of months, but Roberson (who was courted by nine teams this offseason) will have his shot.

“I just feel real comfortable there,” Roberson told Bears All Access about why he chose Chicago. “When I came on my visit to the Bears, my workout just felt like I was at home. They made sure I was real comfortable in every aspect of the trip. I just feel like a great place to be is close to home. I’m from Indianapolis, so it’s not too far away.

"We’ve been to Calgary, so it’s a long way from home. So I just feel like it was the best place for me, and I feel like I can help the organization get to the next level, which is winning the Super Bowl.”

Roberson's two-year, $1.235 million deal is a low-risk, high-reward transaction for GM Ryan Pace. At worst, Roberson turns into a contributor on special teams and a solid depth cornerback. But if the Bears catch lightning in a bottle and Roberson emerges as a legitimate and reliable starting cornerback, his contract will turn into one of the biggest bargains in the league.

Roberson had 10 interceptions during his two seasons in Canada, including seven in 2019. He was considered the top CFL free agent making the jump to the NFL this offseason and was rewarded with the most lucrative contract a Canadian League star has received since Cam Wake.

Kyle Fuller and Buster Skrine (slot) have two of the three cornerback gigs locked up, and Kevin Toliver will likely get the first crack at replacing Amukamara (assuming the Bears don't add a veteran free agent this March). Even if they select a rookie early in the 2020 NFL draft, Toliver should have the first opportunity to prove he belongs in the starting lineup. He logged 175 snaps in 2019 and looked like an ascending talent.

By the time the regular season rolls around, however, it could be Roberson who goes from starting in Calgary to lining up as a starter in Chicago.