Bears

Bears' offseason rivalry report: Detroit Lions

Bears' offseason rivalry report: Detroit Lions

Now that we're three weeks removed from the NFL draft, and the main moves in free agency are in the books, it's perhaps time to take a step back and check out some of the additions and subtractions from the last time the Bears met the Lions and Packers and Vikings. 

There are numerous sites and odds and articles that say while the Bears will be improved from their 6-10 finish last season, it may not translate into an improved position in the 2016 NFC North standings. At best, they could leap the Lions, but they still aren't on the level of the Packers and Vikings.

What we do know is John Fox and his staff have plenty of new parts to work with, especially on defense, where it's been primarily an offseason of addition, not subtraction. Akeem Hicks and Jonathan Bullard could be new bookends for Eddie Goldman in the base 3-4. There's little argument that Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman will be an upgrade at inside linebacker from last season's carousel of inexperience. They added speed off the edge in top draft pick Leonard Floyd. And while there weren't any splash additions in the secondary via free agency, they've added depth, athleticism (but yes, nothing more than potential) to compete with the incumbent defensive backs that position coach Ed Donatell will try to mold into quick-impact assets, as he did with Vic Fangio in San Francisco.

The questions on offense are a little deeper: Coordinator Adam Gase is gone. So are playmakers Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett. Hopefully part of that will be offset by Kevin White. But can Jeremy Langford and Jordan Howard combine (behind what they hope is an improved offensive line) to provide what Forte did so well for eight seasons? If Zach Miller can remain healthy, that's one less concern. But history shows that's a big "if."

We'll start our three-part series in Motown, where Jim Caldwell was left twisting in the wind as head coach until Bob Quinn was finally named general manager and settled on another chance for Caldwell and his staff.

Detroit Lions

Additions of note: WR Marvin Jones, WR Jeremy Kerley, RB Stevan Ridley, T Taylor Decker (2016 first-round pick, No. 16 overall), C Graham Glasgow (2016 third-round pick, No. 95 overall), G Geoff Schwartz (2016 seventh-round pick, No. 241 overall), DE A'Shawn Robinson (2016 second-round pick, No. 46 overall), DE Wallace Gilberry,  LB Jon Bostic, S Miles Killebrew (2016 fourth-round pick, No. 111 overall)

Subtractions of note: WR Calvin Johnson, RB Joique Bell, G Manny Ramirez, DE Jason Jones, CB Rashean Mathis, S James Ihedigbo, S Isa Abdul-Quddus

Another expected subtraction, though not yet official, is that of their leading tackler, Stephen Tulloch. They've kept him on the roster long enough to give him his bonus, but contractual issues have led him to be a no-show, with his camp saying his days in Detroit are over, and coaches and management mum on the issue.

They will get stud linebacker DeAndre Levy back from injury, and Ihedigbo lost his starting safety spot opposite Glover Quin late last season to Abdul-Quddus, a special teams standout who gave the position an upgrade when he was promoted. Ihedigbo remains a free agent.  Kinnebrew's a hard-hitter and is expected to be given more than an opportunity to win the job versus two free agent backups who were brought in, Rafael Bush and Tavon Wilson.

But this is Ziggy Ansah's defense now, and if Robinson rotates in on the line regularly, with or in place of Haloti Ngata, it may be an interesting watch the next several years since the Bears traded down from a pick they could have used on the Alabama star. Another second-round trade down later, they picked guard Cody Whitehair.

It seems a long shot that Bostic can force out Tahir Whitehead and Josh Bynes to play with Levy at linebacker.

Offensively, Ridley replaces Bell to mix in with sophomore Ameer Abdullah in the Lions' never-ending attempt to establish a running game (ranked an average of 25th the past four seasons). But no one replaces Megatron. It's easily the biggest impact loss within the division (though Bennett and Forte fans might make a 2-for-1 argument). 

So the Lions went out and paid a premium for the biggest free agent wideout in Jones (65 catches, four TD's in Cincinnati), while hoping Kerley can add depth opposite Golden Tate, and 2014 first-rounder Eric Ebron can make an even bigger jump from the step forward he took last year. 

And let's not dismiss Theo Riddick's effectiveness in the passing game (as the Bears can attest). Eighty receptions isn't shabby.

Of course this all revolves around how well Matthew Stafford can be protected, and if that line can help spring the running game. They've invested in LT Riley Reiff, RG Larry Warford, C Travis Swanson, and G Laken Tomlinson over the first three rounds in the past four drafts. 

Reiff's headed into a contract year following a pedestrian first four seasons, and Swanson's been a disappointment. Warford is Pro Bowl-caliber, and while there's still hope 2015 top pick Tomlinson can prove his status, he was bumped from the starting lineup during the season by current Bear Manny Ramirez. 

Thus, three of their top five picks last month were on O-Linemen (Decker, Glasgow, and fifth-round guard Joe Dahl).

Next: Green Bay

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

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USA TODAY

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.

That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.

After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.

Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.

The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.

You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.

History.

That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.

If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.

It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.

A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.

Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.

Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

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USA TODAY

Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

On Thursday, Brian Baldinger released another video clip on Twitter for his #BaldysBreakdowns series, this one praising the recent play from Bears QB Mitch Trubisky.

Baldinger states that Trubisky is "making some kind of jump", referring to how impressed he was with Trubisky's play when compared to his rookie season. 

In the video Baldinger explains in the video how you expect franchise QBs to make a big leap from year one to year two, and a big part of that leap for Trubisky is being unafraid to make aggressive throws downfield.

Baldinger highlighted a play where Trubisky hit Taylor Gabriel 47-yards down the field, choosing to trust his wideout after he hit him with perfect ball placement despite tight coverage. He continued this theme later on in the video, showing Trubisky's TD strike to Allen Robinson, which was whipped right past a Dolphins defender. 

But Baldinger's video wasn't exclusively compliments for Trubisky. He discussed Tarik Cohen's effectiveness as a pass-catcher, saying that you "can't cover him" and comparing him to a Ferrari with his ability to go from first to fifth gear "about as fast as anybody."

He ended his video by showing Trubisky punishing the Dolphins for a blown coverage, hitting rookie Anthony Miller in stride for a 29-yard TD. Baldinger's point in including this clip was to show Trubisky's improved recognition, as he may not have spotted the blown coverage last year. Noticing when and how to take advantage of defensive sloppiness is one of the many things that seperate a "franchise QB" from a stopgap, and Trubisky is trending in the right direction. 

If Baldinger's breakdown is any indication, we should expect Trubisky to keep his incredible momentum rolling when the Bears take on the New England Patriots on Sunday. New England is 3rd worst in the league in passing TDs allowed, giving up 15 scores through the air in six games.