Bears

Bears offense piling up yards but seems to have lost its compass

Bears offense piling up yards but seems to have lost its compass

The game-changing mistakes of the Bears offense in the loss to the Indianapolis Colts – Jordan Howard’s first-quarter facemask penalty at the Indianapolis goal line, Cameron Meredith’s lost fourth-quarter fumble, Brian Hoyer’s failure to spot Alshon Jeffery open in the Indianapolis end zone – deserved their prominent focus in a six-point Bears loss.

But something else – actually something elses, plural – is simply not making sense.

The offensive movement – 522 yards – was the fifth-highest total in franchise history. It was also a completely hollow stat, coming in the one game of those top five that was a loss. The offensive yardage has increased every game — 258, 284, 390, 408 and last Sunday’s 522. Also hollow, since the record is 1-4.

The Bears’ franchise receiver (Jeffery) is in a cluster of pass-catchers ranked 49th in targets (31), tied with Eddie Royal and one ahead of Zach Miller.

Beyond individual specifics, however… .

Philosophically, coordinator Dowell Loggains has stated the intention of adhering to a run-based offense, expected to produce a balance more run-oriented even than the 47-percent ratio under Adam Gase. John Fox has a preference for ball control, and the talk of the offseason was of a running-back-by-committee approach.

Yet through the first five games of 2016, with a quarterback transition, an offensive line still forming and health issues at receiver, the Bears have fallen to 1-4 with offensive play calling in the line with some of the most disastrous breakdowns in recent seasons.

Hitting the low points

The offense’s relegation of franchise wideout to a peripheral player even in the passing game is one thing. The relegation of the supposed foundation of the offense – running the football – to its current state borders on the bewildering.

Despite multiple situations of trailing in games by a touchdown or less, Loggains and the offense for the year are running the football just 33.6 percent of its plays. For perspective: That falls below some of the lows in recent Bears history.

In 2010, Mike Martz ran the football 33.7 percent of the time through the first six games with Jay Cutler before a bloodletting at the off week in which coach Lovie Smith, whose defense was holding the season together, ordered an expanded role in game-planning for the offensive-line coach and restructured around the offensive line and Matt Forte.

In 2013, Marc Trestman tilted away from the winning Smith formula of 2012 (47 percent) and dialed back to 39.9 percent run. The following year the offense completely lost its compass and ran on just 35.3 percent of its plays.

Defenses can obviously dictate what offenses will do. But the reverse is also true and the Bears have operated seemingly without a commitment to much of anything, or anyone.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Colts conundrum

Against the Colts, the Bears trailed 16-13 at halftime with Hoyer throwing 16 times and the Bears running 11. While barely over 40 percent run, it was balanced compared to Loggains’ second half: 35 plays, eight runs (30.6 percent).

Matters spiraled precipitously down in the fourth quarter. The Bears took a 23-19 lead on a drive that had three Howard runs vs. five passes, before a check-down flip to Howard went for a 21-yard touchdown.

After the Colts scored to go back up by three points, the first Bears snap was a throw to Meredith, who fumbled to set up a Colts field goal.

At that point, with 2:28 remaining and a situation where a balanced drive could consume time on the way to a winning TD, Loggains called eight straight pass plays (one nullified by a Bobby Massie holding infraction to set up a third-and-15) – zero runs.

Even without his 57-yard run in the first half, Howard averaged 4.3 yards per carry. Howard had carries of four, 12 and six yards on the Bears’ go-ahead drive of 96 yards, yet never saw the football again after his catch-and-run score.

Second-guessing is always easy, with or without hotdogs, and Fox looked at the offensive progress after the Indianapolis loss and has no alluded to the minimalist run game.

“Anytime you put up 525 yards, there's some good things,” he said. “I think our demise has been the collection of points. We made two drives down there early in the game and come away with 6 points instead of 14 and those are big swings, especially on the road against an explosive team like an Andrew Luck-led Indianapolis Colts team, so I think that was really our bugaboo and over the last few weeks.

“I think we've gotten better at moving the ball offensively, distributing it. I think our timing's been better, all in all though we still need to capitalize on more points.”

Projected lineups for Eddie Jackson’s charity softball game

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USA Today

Projected lineups for Eddie Jackson’s charity softball game

Eddie Jackson is hosting a charity softball game this Saturday, June 15th at Schamburg Boomers stadium at 5:05pm. It’ll be offense vs defense so let’s take an early look at what these lineups might look like for both teams.

Defense

1. Eddie Jackson

Has home run hitting ability in the leadoff spot and a flair for the dramatic. This rising star puts the pressure on the opposing pitcher from the very first pitch. Plus it’s his game, so of course he’s batting first.

2. Kyle Fuller

Tied for the NFL interception lead in 2018, Fuller’s combination of speed, instincts and film study  at the top of the lineup helps set the table for the big bats.

3. Akiem Hicks

As Ed O’Bradovich said at the 100 year celebration this past weekend, Khalil Mack “is a man-eater, but (Akiem Hicks) is the man who makes it happen.” It’s long been said you put your most important hitter in the 3-hole.

4. Khalil Mack

The quintessential cleanup hitter. Who else would you want in this spot?

5. Danny Trevathan

Provides world champion protection behind Mack in the likely event that the opponent tries to pitch around #52.

6. Roquan Smith

Just when an opponent think they’ve gotten thru the heart of the lineup, the 2018 rookie who came up just shy of Brian Urlacher’s franchise tackling mark is there to “break a man,” as he said right after his Bears intro press conference.

7. Ha-Ha Clinton Dix

Sliding this new addition into the 7-hole takes some of the pressure off of him to make an immediate impact, while also trapping pitchers into thinking they might get a break against a guy who has shown big play ability in the past.

8. Bilal Nichols

One of the most underrated players in the entire league is perfectly fine lurking at the bottom of the order. A second cleanup hitter, he’s happy consistently performing and making his teammates better. Everyone in this lineup knows how valuable he is.

9. Leonard Floyd

Still in a bit of a prove it spot, but if he consistently plays the way he’s shown shown flashes of, he could not only be dangerous in this spot, but he could climb up the lineup pretty quickly.

10. Prince Amukamara

Veteran who knows he’s there to do a job and turn the lineup over. His speed and ball skills make him a threat.

11. Buster Skrine

Another newcomer, let’s see what he’s got at the bottom of the order.

Offense

1. Taylor Gabriel   *Anthony Miller

We can all agree there’s no reason for Miller, a guy who dislocated his shoulder multiple times to be swinging a bat amiright?? Miller has the Willie Mayes Hayes swag you want from the leadoff man when healthy tho.

As for ‘Turbo’ Taylor Gabriel, of course you’re putting a guy who’s been clocked at 23 mph at the top of the lineup.

2. Tarik Cohen

Perfect spot for the swiss army knife of the offense. Could lay down a bunt and beat it out, move the runner, or even hit one to the gap and clear the bases.

3. Mitch Trubisky

The obvious spot for the leader of the offense and Akiem Hicks’ pick (outside himself) to win the home run derby part of this event. Let’s just hope he breaks out the punky QB headband and sunglasses look again this weekend.

4. Kyle Long

The most veteran member of the offensive line is there to protect the QB. Whether or not he’s even in the lineup, if anyone goes high and tight on # 10, better believe they’ll answer to #75.

5. Cody Whitehair

Some more muscle in the middle of the order. Has made it clear he’s good with moving around the lineup if the coaches think it’s best for the team.

6. Allen Robinson

Based on what we saw in the playoff game, he could be on his way to putting up big numbers anywhere in the batting order. Definitely a guy you want up late with the game on the line.

7. Charles Leno

Flies under the radar at one of the most important positions in football. If a pitcher thinks he’s in the clear after getting past Robinson, Leno will be there to throw a big block into that thinking.

8. Trey Burton / Adam Shaheen

When healthy, they provide some pop towards the bottom of the lineup. Let’s have Anthony Miller ready as the designated runner if these guys can get on base.

9. Bobby Massie

The ultimate team guy as he showed by signing a team friendly deal to stay in Chicago much earlier in the offseason than he had to.

10. James Daniels

As the new man in the middle on the offensive line, the burden falls on him to turn the lineup over and set the table for the speedy top of the order.

11. Mike Davis

Good spot to start for this new addition. Could easily see him towards the top of the lineup if he produces the way Matt Nagy & company thinks he can.

The defense has been ahead of the offense for pretty much the entire Pace/Nagy regime. But if Matt Nagy is involved, there’s sure to be no shortage of hidden ball tricks, squeezes and other trick plays with awesome names, so I might have to give a slight edge to the offense in this game.

The Bears are on summer break for the next 5 weeks. So what exactly will they be up to?

The Bears are on summer break for the next 5 weeks. So what exactly will they be up to?

For the second time in 2019, a field goal attempt sent the Bears on vacation.  

This time it was off the feet of Eddy Pineiro and Elliot Fry, both hitting kicks that wrapped up the team’s three days of veteran minicamp. Don’t tell them there weren’t stakes, either.

“They both nailed two 40-yard’ers down the middle so our guys got out of gassers, which was nice,” said Matt Nagy. “So if you heard any cheering, that’s why. Our guys think I’m nice and that if they would’ve missed it, they weren’t going to run anyway. But they were going to run.” 

And now, the Bears go on vacation for the next five weeks -- as mandated by the NFL -- before heading down to Bourbonnais in late July to start the highly-anticipated Year 2. 

What happens next depends on who you ask. For the Bears’ outside corners, coincidence or not, it’s off to bask in the arid heat of southwestern summers. 

“I like to go down to Arizona, where I’m from, and train at my high school,” Prince Amukamara said. “I’m probably not going to do any traveling, but I’ll train and probably get my mind off it a little bit.” 

“I like to get away somewhere a little bit quieter,” Kyle Fuller added. “I go to Arizona ... I play a lot of golf. That’s really it.” 

If you can believe it, Fuller won’t be the only professional football player hitting the links during his down time. For wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, who just recently picked it up, the next month or will be all about tinkering his swing. 

“I'm going to do a lot of golfing this little break,” Gabriel said. “I'm decent, I'm not that good, not just yet. Just two months in, give me a little time.” 

The sense around Halas Hall (and realistically most of the NFL’s other halls) is that the next five weeks will act more as a mental break than a physical one. For example: defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano requested that his unit watch just one hour of film per day. After two weeks of practices in which, on more than one occasion, Nagy had to tell the team to dial back the intensity, the goal is now to find whatever mindset is needed before The Grind starts. For some, that means radio silence. 

“Right now I'm about to go into my shell and I'm going to be hard to reach and hard to talk to,” said Akiem Hicks. “The only person that gets through is Mom.” 

Not everyone will go MIA, though. Trey Burton will stick around Lake Forest while he continues to rehab and get treatment for a sports hernia surgery he underwent this offseason. Mitch Trubisky has no plans to take it easy, either. 

“I’m not thinking about going home, I’m thinking about getting out here to practice in a little bit,” he said. “This is what I love to do, this is what we look forward to do.

“For me, you get to relax and take care of your body for a little bit, but I’m always thinking about football.”

For others, it means soaking up the much-needed time around loved ones that can prove to be elusive for 8 months of the NFL year. Eddie Jackson goes home to Florida to train with “the guys I started with, from when I was little.” Matt Nagy eschews his Bears visor for his Dad Hat, which presumably is also a visor. 

“I personally think it’s important that I make sure I’m still a good dad, a good husband, and during the season you don’t get any of that,” Nagy said. “And that’s your obligation. We’ll be going some places with my family and I’ll put football aside for a little bit, because that’ll make me better if I do that, and better in the season.”