Bears

Bears position duels ramping up heading for Indy

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Bears position duels ramping up heading for Indy

One bit of fallout from the first preseason game — any preseason game, really — is inevitably a bit of position-shuffling. In the case of Bears’ game against the Miami Dolphins, some of that shuffling was in process even before kickoff.

Note: The Bears have shown so many personnel lineups through practices that it would be difficult to definitively declare starters, particularly in the front seven, without knowing the exact defensive call or situation.

Safety has been a position the height of turmoil for much of the past decade for the Bears. It hasn’t settled down all that much, even without Chris Conte and Major Wright around.

Antrel Rolle was among the priority offseason signings, and he is ensconced at one safety spot. The other one has seen Ryan Mundy, who was second in tackles for the 2014 Bears and tied for team high in interceptions (four), go from starter to behind Brock Vereen, back to No. 1 and then back to backup (with Vereen) as rookie Adrian Amos came off a strong Miami game and into the starting lineup. For now.

“We thought enough of him to draft him,” coach John Fox said. “I think he's had opportunities just like all the other safeties to play and be evaluated and make plays. He's earned where he is.

“I don't know if that's the way it'll stay. It's not where you start the race, it's where you finish it. He's earned that, and we'll go from there.”

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Sam Acho and Pernell McPhee were the outside linebackers with the No. 1 unit for much of the early camp. But Jared Allen was No. 1 on the first depth chart and started against the Dolphins.

Then Acho delivered the best defensive performance — sack, tackle for loss, quarterback hit, interception, pass defensed — and was back in the mix with the apparent No. 1’s this weekend.

“Training camp is a time for evaluation; every practice, every game, every scrimmage is evaluated, so this is just the beginning of the evaluation process,” Acho said.

“It’s not about starting. At the end of the day, it’s about being productive. As a player I want to be productive, and then everything will take care of itself.”

Under Center Podcast: What will we learn about the Bears against the Patriots?

Under Center Podcast: What will we learn about the Bears against the Patriots?

On this week's Under Center podcast, JJ Stankevitz and John “Moon” Mullin look at how Bill Belichick and New England will attack Matt Nagy and the Bears on Sunday, and if Mitch Trubisky can get to the point where he can reliably lead a late-game scoring drive like Tom Brady is so good at doing.

You can listen to the whole thing here, or in the embedded player below: 

 

Mitch Musings: Trubisky progressing as he preps to face the gold standard of QBs

Mitch Musings: Trubisky progressing as he preps to face the gold standard of QBs

 Tom Brady has been credited with 54 game-winning drives in his Hall of Fame career, five of which have come in Super Bowls — all five Super Bowls he and Bill Belichick have won. 
 
To put it another way: Brady has engineered a game-winning drive in 18 percent of his regular season and playoff starts, while he’s only lost 22 percent of his career starts. 
 
“He just has this mentality that at the end of the game, they’re going to win because of him,” coach Matt Nagy said. “He’s going to make a special throw.”
 
The expectation for Brady is that he’s going to put together a fourth quarter comeback or a game-winning drive if given the chance. It’s not like he’s a markedly better quarterback in those close-and-late situations — in fact, his lowest passer rating by quarter comes in the fourth. But that rating is 94.2; his career rating is 97.4. Effectively, he’s the same quarterback. 
 
That baseline level of success is, undoubtedly, something for which Mitch Trubisky is striving. But the Bears’ rookie isn’t there yet, as evidenced by his career splits:
 
Fourth quarter: 86/151 (57 percent), 6 TDs, 6 INTs, 71.2 passer rating, 6.0 yards/attempt
Overall: 309/491 (63 percent), 18 TDs, 11 INTs, 86.7 passer rating, 7.0 yards/attempt
 
That factors in 2017, of course, and Trubisky’s numbers from that season aren’t as relevant as the overall experience he gained. There’s a much smaller sample size in 2018, but the fourth quarter downturn is still present:
 
2018 fourth quarter: 22/34 (65 percent), 2 TD, 1 INT, 94.1 passer rating, 7.4 yards/attempt
2018 overall: 113/161 (70 percent), 11 TDs, 4 INTs, 105.6 passer rating, 8.1 yards/attempt
 
The good news, perhaps, is that the gap is closing. That’s an area of progress the Bears needed, and still need, to see in 2018. Trubisky completed eight of 11 passes for 141 yards with a touchdown — and an interception in the end zone — on Sunday in Miami, and very well could’ve been credited with a game-winning drive had Tarik Cohen not fumbled near midfield with under three minutes remaining.
 
But the touchdown he threw to Anthony Miller, too, could’ve been a game-winner had the Bears’ defense not immediately given up a 75-yard touchdown on Miami’s ensuing drive.
 
“We’re continuing to grow and that’s one of those clutch plays that you have to make as an offense to help out the defense and put the team in a good position to win games and it was a big moment and I think a big area of growth for our offense and myself as a quarterback,” Trubisky said. “We’re just gonna have to continue to grow and make those types of plays to be able to give ourselves a chance to win every week.” 
 
Reid It and Weep?
 
The last three times Andy Reid, or an Andy Reid disciple, has faced the Patriots, their team has scored 40 or more points. Reid and Nagy teamed up to drop 42 on New England in 2017’s season opener, and Doug Pederson — Reid’s offensive coordinator prior to Nagy — put up 41 to win Super Bowl LII. On Sunday, Reid’s Chiefs scored 40 in a three-point loss in Foxboro. 
 
Maybe that matters on Sunday at Soldier Field, maybe it doesn’t. But for Trubisky, that Nagy had that success a year ago against New England “for sure” gives him a confidence boost. 
 
“I think coach Nagy knows this opponent very well,” Trubisky said. “I mean, he studies as much tape as anyone throughout the week and he’s had success against this team, so that definitely gives me confidence, and it’s just me and him continuing to communicate and being on the same page. He’s given me a lot of confidence that we’ll be able to move the ball and put up points against these guys this weekend. 
 
“So we just got to continue to take care of the football, be smart, while staying aggressive, but it definitely gives confidence knowing that coach Nags, that he knows these guys pretty well and has had success in the past, but we still got to go out there and do our jobs because the past success doesn’t determine future success. You still got to go out there and execute on the field and we know that.”
 
Belichick is a master of taking away what an opponent does best. But a common thread between those Chiefs and Eagles teams is having multiple weapons, to the point where taking the best one away isn’t a deterrent to scoring. The Bears may not have the same pick-your-poison roster as the Chiefs, who still put up 40 points despite New England muting Travis Kelce’s production on Sunday. 
 
But Trubisky and this offense might be trending that way, if Sunday’s 28-point second half against a good Miami defense is any indication. 
 
One Last Time To Not Count Out Touchdown Tom
 
Back to Brady for one final thought here: Trubisky was seven years old when Brady won his first Super Bowl back in 2002. The Bears’ quarterback probably doesn’t have much memory of an NFL in which Brady hasn’t been regarded as the most successful quarterback in the league.
 
Sunday will mark Brady’s final trip to Chicago in his career, unless he winds up quarterbacking another team (highly unlikely) or playing until he’s 49 (extremely unlikely). While he and Drew Brees and Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger still may have a few good years left in them, and Aaron Rodgers certainly has more than a few good years left, it feels like the quarterbacking torch is finally being passed from those veterans to a young, exciting group of passers like Carson Wentz, Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes. Trubisky could be part of that not-quite-established-but-close group, too, if what he’s done in the last two games turns out to be sustainable. 
 
So for Trubisky, getting to compete against Brady on Sunday comes as a special opportunity. 
 
“I admire his competitiveness and just following his journey and what he’s had to overcome to be able to get where he’s at,” Trubisky said. “It’s very admirable and doing it this long, this well over a long period of time is pretty incredible. So you always look at that. And what they’ve been able to do. As a quarterback you’re judged by how many games you win and he’s been successful at that as well, so obviously he’s one of the best to do it. And it’s cool to watch his film as well as many other guys over the years, pick up anything you possibly can. Yeah, he’s had a lot of success so you definitely look at what kind of traits he has to be able to lead his teams to that many wins over a long period of time. 
 
“Is it cool? Yeah, for sure. But I think it’s just a testament to him of how he’s been able to do it for this long and still be that successful. And he’s just really been able to push the limits at what can be accomplished at this position and how everybody looks at it. He’s really taken this thing to new levels and it’ll be cool to compete against him on Sunday.”