Bears

Bears' shot at No. 1 seed still alive after Saints win

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Bears' shot at No. 1 seed still alive after Saints win

Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010
1:57 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Well, from the Chicago Bears, thank you very much, New Orleans Saints.

Drew Brees rallying the Saints for a win over Atlanta (only the second GeorgiaDome loss for Matt Ryan) gave a little more life to the Bears outside shot at the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Saints and Falcons still need to both lose next weekend, which is a collective longshot because both are home, but anything that tilts the Bears toward playing the Green Bay game like it matters, the better for the Bears.

As I alluded to Monday, the Bears definitely benefit from a bye but not necessarily when they coast with resting starters in their final games of seasons. What that does is give certain key starters a de facto three-week break from intense prep, since the week before the last game isnt spent with the pedal all the way down if you know youre not playing. Thats just human nature. And then you have the actual bye week, and then finally comes the get-back-to-work.

You have to like the Bears chances in any case. And if Carolina and Tampa Bay can trip up Atlanta and New Orleans next Sunday, who knows?

Interesting perspective

FoxSports.com NFL vet and good friend Alex Marvez was in town for the Jets game (and some good jazz with Cyrus Chestnut at The Jazz Showcase awesome!). He also took an interesting look at the improbable Bears, improbable perhaps only because of some of the second-chance guys that have been instrumental in whats happened this season in Chicago.

Consider the number of key figures that have reinvented or re-started themselves as part of this Bears team: Mike Martz, Rod Marinelli, Greg Olsen (a new way of looking at his play), Jay Cutler, others. As Alex notes, not a lot was expected from this team but part of that was because of perceptions, and some very important individuals made some very important changes.

Rostering

It probably wont happen but putting tight end Desmond Clark on the active roster for Green Bay makes some sense. No one has caught more passes (36) lifetime vs. the Packers. Greg Olsen is next with 22 and Clark and Olsen have combined for 5 TD catches against the Packers...

Deal-watching

The three-year contract for defensive tackle Matt Toeaina sets in place a nice solid piece of the future on the defensive line, much as Israel Idonijes contract and extension did in 2006, even before Idonije emerged as the end he is now. The Toeaina pact give the Bears an obvious alternative to Tommie Harris, who isnt likely to be back after this season and likely just needs a fresh start for himself...

Two other contract situations warrant monitoring. Center Olin Kreutz is the only game in town at that position for the Bears and hell be back with a short-term deal. And Matt Forte, whos now the first back in franchise history to total 1,400 all-purpose yards his first three seasons, is up after next season. Look for the Bears to lock him up long-term before he goes to camp in what could be a very lucrative contract year if they dont.

What Forte and the offensive line have done since the off week, along with Jay Cutlers No. 1 conversion rate on third-down passes (54.7 percent), is have Forte averaging 4.7 yards per carry and stand No. 7 in the NFL with 810 total yards from scrimmage.

Huh?

The Bus was always the one that got away for the Bears, who could have drafted him in 1992 and solved running back issues for a long time. But Jerome Bettis as an analyst is a little harder to solve.

Bettis posits the Eagles as the best team in the NFC because of how theyre winning, variety of weapons, the usual stuff. What makes Bettis analysis a little bizarre is his citing the one Eagle blip as the loss to the Bears in Chicago, which he calls arguably the toughest NFC venue.

Really? The venue where the home team lost three times this season, twice to dud teams? And then theres the Georgia Dome, where Atlantas loss Monday to the Saints was exactly the second defeat the Falcons have suffered there in Matt Ryans career.

As I always stress, I have no rooting interest in the Bears (other than when they make my predictions look clairvoyant), but between Bettis proclamation and NFL guru Peter King ranking the Bears No. 7 on his power list, below the Eagles (No. 3) and tied with the Packers, two teams the Bears defeated, its hard to argue with Bears claiming they really dont get a fair share of respect.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Pro Football Focus: Bears have NFL’s best run defense entering 2019

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USA Today

Pro Football Focus: Bears have NFL’s best run defense entering 2019

Pro Football Focus doesn’t seem to expect much regression for the Bears defense, at least when it comes to run defense.

PFF analyst Mike Renner ranked every team’s ability to stop the ground game, heading into 2019, and Chicago remains on top.

The team retained its entire front seven, top-to-bottom, with the exception of Sam Acho, who spent most of last season on injured reserve anyway.

One of the biggest keys, in Renner’s analysis, is Akiem Hicks, who was among Pro Football Focus’ top performers in the running game.

“The former Saint is proving himself one of the best free agent additions in recent memory,” Renner wrote. “His 13.3 run-stop percentage was the second-highest figure of any interior defender in the NFL last season.”

The Bears allowed the fewest rushing yards and rushing touchdowns of any defense last season, and the 3.8 yards per attempt they gave up was fourth best.

With the whole gang back together for 2019, the team is in a great spot to run it back under Chuck Pagano.    

Projecting what the Bears' 53-man roster will look like

Projecting what the Bears' 53-man roster will look like

The Bears will begin training camp next week without many significant position battles — outside of kicker, of course — which stands as an indicator of how strong a roster Ryan Pace has built. But that doesn’t mean there won't be some intriguing decisions to be made in a month and a half, especially involving depth at some critical positions. 

So here’s a pre-training camp stab at projecting what the Bear’s 53-man roster will look like on the night of Sept. 5:

QUARTERBACKS (2): Mitch Trubisky, Chase Daniel
Missing the cut: Tyler Bray

These two guys are locked in, leaving Tyler Bray to likely return to the practice squad for another season. 

RUNNING BACKS (4): Tarik Cohen, Mike Davis, David Montgomery, Kerrith Whyte Jr. 
Missing the cut: Ryan Nall

Cohen, Davis and Montgomery are roster locks, leaving Whyte and Nall to compete for, likely, just one spot on the roster. Matt Nagy praised Nall during OTAs, and he could become a versatile option with the ability to play some fullback, but we’ll give the last spot to Whyte given his speed and the Bears’ focus on that trait in the offseason. 

WIDE RECEIVERS (6): Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley Ridley, Marvin Hall
Missing the cut: Javon Wims, Emanuel Hall, Taquan Mizzell, Tanner Gentry, Jordan Williams-Lambert, Thomas Ives

Robinson, Gabriel and Miller are locks, while Patterson’s contract structure ($5 million guaranteed, all in 2019) and Ridley’s draft slot (fourth round) easily get them on the team, too. That leaves Javon Wims, Marvin Hall, Emanuel Hall and a handful of others to compete for what probably is only one more spot on the 53-man roster. There’s not much separating those three heading into training camp, though Emanuel Hall’s sports hernia surgery sidelined him during OTAs, putting him a little behind the curve. Wims is the incumbent here but didn’t get on the field much in 2018, while Marvin Hall played a little with the Atlanta Falcons over the last two years. We’ll give the edge to Marvin Hall for now based on his speed and meager experience, but also with the knowledge that the Bears’ sixth receiver likely won’t be active on game days unless of an injury. 

TIGHT ENDS (5): Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, Bradley Sowell, Dax Raymond
Missing the cut: Ian Bunting, Jesper Horsted, Ellis Richardson

If Burton has to begin training camp on the PUP list, will he be ready for Week 1? Can Shaheen stay healthy for a full season? Those are perhaps the two biggest questions needing answers not only for this unit, but for the Bears’ offense as a whole. Burton’s 11th-hour injury prior to the Bears’ playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles limited how dynamic Nagy’s offense could be, while Shaheen’s preseason injury meant the Bears were ineffective when using 12 personnel during the regular season. The Bears need better depth behind Burton and Shaheen — Braunecker is a reliable special teamer with flexibility to play both the “U” and the “Y” spots, but can more much-needed depth emerge from a converted offensive lineman (Sowell) and a handful of undrafted free agents (Raymond, Bunting, Horsted, Richardson)? We’ll give Sowell (at the “Y” behind Shaheen) and Raymond (at the “U” behind Burton) the spots for now, but both will have to earn their way onto the roster during training camp. 

OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Charles Leno, James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long, Bobby Massie, Rashaad Coward, Ted Larsen, Alex Bars
Missing the cut: Cornelius Lucas, Joe Lowery, T.J. Clemmings, Blake Blackmar, Marquez Tucker, Jordan McCray, Sam Mustipher

The Bears moved Sowell to tight end thanks, in part, to their confidence in the development of Coward — a converted defensive lineman — to take over as their swing tackle in 2019. He’s still under construction as an NFL offensive lineman and will have to beat out a handful of challengers, including a five-year NFL reserve in Lucas, but Coward has the edge for a roster spot. The interior reserves are less clear, though: Larsen was brought back in free agency but only has $90,000 guaranteed on his one-year deal, while Bars played for O-line coach Harry Hiestand in college but is coming off an ACL/MCL injury that led to him going undrafted in April. Any of the other reserves could make a push, or the Bears could look to add interior depth on cut-down weekend. For now, though, Larsen, Bars and Coward make the most sense to slide behind the same starting five the Bears had to end 2018. 

DEFENSIVE LINE (6): Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris, Jonathan Bullard, Nick Williams
Missing the cut: Abdullah Anderson, Jalen Dalton, Daryle Banfield, Jonathan Harris

This is the Bears’ deepest unit, with the only battle to see who will make the roster and wind up inactive on game days, as Williams was for all but two games in 2018. 

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (5): Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Aaron Lynch, Isaiah Irving, Chuck Harris
Cut: Kylie Fitts, Mathieu Betts, James Vaughters

Irving flashed during 2017’s and 2018’s preseasons, and might need to do so again to secure his spot on the Bears’ 2019 roster. But consider this an open battle for reserve roles behind Mack/Floyd/Lynch: Irving has the inside track to one spot but will have to earn it; while whoever flashes the most from the Harris/Fitts/Betts/Vaughters group should get another. We’ll go with Harris here — maybe Mack can take his fellow Buffalo alum under his wing during training camp. 

INSIDE LINEBACKER (4): Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Nick Kwiatkoski, Joel Iyiegbuniwe
Cut: Josh Woods, Jameer Thurman, Kevin Pierre-Louis

Woods might be as close to the bubble as anyone on defense, and could force his way on to the roster with a strong preseason and a commitment to special teams. But with Kwiatkoski a reliable backup and he and Iyiegbuniwe being core special teamers, it’s hard to see Woods beating out any of those four for a spot right now. 

CORNERBACK (6): Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Buster Skrine, Kevin Toliver II, Duke Shelley, Sherrick McManis
Cut: Stephen Denmark, John Franklin III, Michael Joseph, Josh Simmons, Clifton Duck, Jonathon Mincy

There should be a strong competition among the reserve outside corners on this roster, with Toliver having the best shot but needing to fend off the raw athleticism of Denmark and Franklin as well as the talent of Joseph, who stuck on the practice squad last year after going undrafted out of Division III Dubuque. Shelley flashed during OTAs and minicamp during the spring and looks likely to wind up on the 53-man roster. While McManis worked at safety some during the spring, we’ll include him among the cornerbacks for now. 

SAFETY (4): Eddie Jackson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson
Cut: Doyin Jibowu

Barring injury and a more permanent move to safety for McManis, there’s little that’ll change in this unit between now and Week 1.

SPECIALISTS (3): Greg Joseph (PK), Pat O’Donnell (P), Patrick Scales (LS)
Cut: Elliott Fry, Eddy Pineiro, John Wirtel

Surprise! While the battle between Fry and Pineiro will dominate the headlines in Bourbonnais, the “winner” isn’t guaranteed to be the Bears’ Week 1 kicker. So not only are those two competing against each other, they’re competing against the field, too. In this scenario, the Cleveland Browns keep fifth-round pick Austin Seibert and cut Joseph, who made 17 of 20 field goals (with a long of 51 yards) for them in 2018. The Bears could try to swing a trade for Baltimore’s Kaare Vedvik here, too. The larger point, though, is this: Pace may have to look outside the organization for his Week 1 kicker, and there will be some talent — like Joseph — available if he does.