Bears scrimmage gives strong early hints on strategy, personnel


Bears scrimmage gives strong early hints on strategy, personnel

What coach John Fox intended to serve as an unofficial fifth preseason “game” – about a dozen full-hitting plays for each of the three offensive and defensive units – revealed a Bears defense that is ahead of the offense, for the day anyhow, and perhaps a few other 2015 “indicators.”

The structure of the scrimmage/practice, in which only quarterbacks were not to be tackled, put the No. 1 offense against the No. 2 defense and No. 2 offense against the No. 1 defense. The third-stringers on both offense and defense had each other. Typically in camp the No. 1’s are matched up with their corresponding 1’s, the 2’s vs. 2’s and so on. The change expands the matchups for purposes of evaluation.

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The offense was without starting tailback Matt Forte and the defense without rush linebacker Pernell McPhee, both held out by coaches’ decision. But even without two of the projected linchpins on either side of the football, several strong impressions were possible coming off Saturday’s annual Family Fest practice in Soldier Field:

Think “balance”

Coach Fox stated that the Bears would run the football and coordinator Adam Gase provided a solid indication that balanced football will indeed be the design.

The No. 1 offense ran 11 plays, wasn’t terribly effective overall (26 yards by unofficial count), but even without Forte, Gase ran the football on six of those snaps.

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Quarterback Jay Cutler threw five passes, completed only one (a 12-yard toss to wideout Eddie Royal after a Cutler rollout), and did not have Alshon Jeffery for the scrimmage. But Cutler continues to be interception/turnover-free in any 7-on-7 or “team” session this training camp. Reducing turnovers was THE focus of Gase and coaches this offseason and the significance of progress here cannot be overstated.

“We’re getting to know him, he’s getting to know us,” Fox said. “He’s worked at it hard on everything we’ve asked and we’ll just keep evaluating these game-type conditions.”

Running back “committee” forming

Jacquizz Rodgers, whose workload ramped up substantially through last week, is quietly building a case for himself as the No. 2 running back, leaving rookie Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey battling for a No. 3 spot.

Rodgers was handed the ball on two of the first three plays, and Langford, running with the No. 1’s, carried three times as well.

“[Rodgers] is a guy I’ve seen on tape, competed against him, great teammate, fine young man,” Fox said. “He’s built low to the ground [5-foot-6], does have power along with speed and quickness.”

Special teams is a tipping point for players not in starting units, and Langford was drafted in this year’s fourth round in part because of his prowess on special teams.

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller has quickly become a fan favorite on social media. He has the confidence and swagger found in most top wide receivers and it comes through on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Miller was one of 40 players in attendance at the 2018 NFLPA Rookie Premiere where he not only learned about the business and marketing side of football, but also suited up in his Bears gameday uniform for the first time. Of course, he shared the moment on Twitter:

Panini America, a sports collectible company, snapped a picture of Miller with fellow rookie receiver Calvin Ridley (Falcons) and quarterback Mason Rudolph (Steelers):

Miller has become something of a standout for the Bears despite not playing a single snap. He's expected to have a big role in an offense that has several new pieces and roles that are up for grabs.

Miller will compete with former first-round pick Kevin White and free-agent addition Taylor Gabriel for reps opposite Allen Robinson. Miller has the necessary skill set to play as both an outside receiver and in the slot which should give him an even greater opportunity to be on the field quite a bit.

The Bears first three draft picks are all vying for starting jobs in 2018. Roquan Smith (first round) is a lock to start next to Danny Trevathan and James Daniels (second round) will start at guard. Miller should make it three-for-three in a draft class that could end up the best of Ryan Pace's tenure.

Ryan Pace ranked among bottom-third of NFL general managers

USA Today

Ryan Pace ranked among bottom-third of NFL general managers

Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace is having what many believe is his best offseason since taking the job in 2015, but after three seasons and only 14 wins, he needs a big year in 2018 to justify the confidence ownership has in him. 

According to a recent breakdown of all 32 general managers, Pace ranks among the worst decision-makers in the league.

No. 23: Ryan Pace, Chicago Bears

There’s only so much you can accomplish in one spring. The problem is that Pace let himself accumulate so many needs to begin with. He needs Trubisky and Nagy to springboard a fourth-year turnaround. 

The rankings didn't include six new GM hires, which makes Pace's positioning even more troubling.

Even though the Bears haven't seen wins on the field, Pace has done a solid job through three draft classes and appears to have the right coaching staff in place. His first hire, John Fox, was a calculated move by a rookie general manager to have an experienced football guy to lean on. Now, several offseasons later, the team is starting to take on his identity.

Despite all the talent Pace has added through the draft and the slow but steady transformation of the team's overall culture, it's a win-now business and if his blueprint doesn't start producing more wins than losses, it will be hard to justify more time and patience for his plan to develop.