Bears

Bears showing prove-it theme with Alshon Jeffery that worked with Jay Cutler

Bears showing prove-it theme with Alshon Jeffery that worked with Jay Cutler

The Bears of general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox have been comfortable with prove-it scenarios in their year-plus in Chicago. Indications are growing that they’re leaning toward another one with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.

By way of perspective: When Pace took over as Bears general manager a year-and-a-half ago, he hired Fox, and Fox in turn brought Adam Gase with him from Denver as his offensive coordinator. What ensued was a detailed, under-the-radar scrutiny of Jay Cutler, with Gase reaching out to Cutler’s former coaches for their perspectives, among other vettings of the incumbent quarterback.

Neither Fox nor Pace publicly expressed more than tempered positive feelings about Cutler, even with the organization on the hook for a significant amount of money because of the contract given Cutler by former general manager Phil Emery. Chairman George McCaskey stated that the new staff would not be constrained by money if the decision was to move on without Cutler, whose contract still was decidedly not to the liking of the revamped organization, sources have told CSNChicago.com.

Proceeding with restraint and reservations yielded results for a new staff feeling its way with what Emery had declared a “franchise” and “elite” quarterback. Working with Gase and then-quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, now Cutler’s offensive coordinator, Cutler produced the best statistical season of his career.

Now the Bears appear to be following a similar theme with Jeffery (who actually is a “franchise” wide receiver and has the signed tag to prove it). Not that the Bears aren’t down with Jeffery, just not to the degree he envisoned, and perhaps the Bears would be offering if Jeffery had been a gameday “show” more often than he was in 2015.

The Bears placed their franchise tag on Jeffery in late February, and the fourth-year wideout signed the deal that guarantees him $14.6 million for this season. The tag gives the two sides until July 15 to reach a multi-year contract, after which point the tag is Jeffery’s 2016 contract.

Pace has expressed what has sounded like gradually lessening optimism that a long-term deal would be negotiated. The staff was comfortable with Jeffery’s recent injury issues that cost him about half of last season, at least comfortable enough to consider a new contract — with reservations, the kind that come with talking an expensive contract with a player who missed nearly half the preceding season.

Concurrently, Jeffery has been a no-show for all of the Bears’ offseason programs or practices, working out on his own, first in California, lately in Florida.

Jeffery’s absence points to the obvious, that a deal to his liking, in the Dez Bryant/Demaryius Thomas range of $14 million-to-$15 million range per year, has not reached near completion. Matt Forte played through his tag season. Jeffery will play for his (players don’t skip $14.6 million), and the continued absence even from voluntary sessions says that is the anticipated short-term resolution.

Unfortunately, irrespective of tags, if there is one unofficial indicator of contract problems, it is the no-show.

With two years left on his contract at the time, Thomas Jones employed it in 2006 before then-general manager Jerry Angelo agreed to work at trading him after the following season (which Angelo did). Forte no-show’d in 2011 after he received the franchise tag that offseason, then signed a four-year deal next offseason after Emery succeeded Angelo.

Martellus Bennett, with two years remaining on his Bears contract, skipped voluntary sessions last offseason. He eventually honored his contract, then was traded to New England this offseason.

Just one glitch in the skip-workouts thinking: Jones got new paper from the New York Jets after Angelo dealt him there. Bennett did get himself traded to New England, but the Patriots haven’t done any more in the way of giving him a new deal than the Bears did. He’s still signed through 2016, still due $5.1 million this season. Maybe he envisions getting more balls from Tom Brady than he did from Cutler, but if he’s counting on more than Rob Gronkowski, good luck with that.

Thomas Jones tweets plan to fix Bears' struggling offense

Thomas Jones tweets plan to fix Bears' struggling offense

It didn't take Thomas Jones long to become a fan-favorite during his tenure with the Bears, which spanned three seasons from 2004-2006.  Jones, who was the seventh overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft, resurrected his career in Chicago with back-to-back seasons over 1,200 rushing yards in 2005 and 2006.

So, when he speaks about how to improve the offense through the running game, coach Matt Nagy and the rest of Chicago's offensive staff should at least give it a listen.

Technically, Jones tweeted his plan to repair the Bears' struggling offense. But, the point remains.

"Nagy should learn the history of the Bears," Jones tweeted. "When they've won in the past it's because they ran the ball 1st! The fans & the makeup of the Bears is blue-collar. Hard-nosed, physical fundamental football. Limit turnovers, chew up the clock & let the defense get you the ball back.

"And where is their fullback? How can you run the ball in Chicago without a fullback in the game? When u have a fullback in the game the linebackers know they have to strap up their helmets. It's going to be a physical game & some of them don't want that. Can't make it easy for them."

To be fair, fullback is a nearly extinct position in the NFL. But Jones' suggestion runs deeper than that; the Bears need to at least appear like they want to run the ball in order to make the defense respect the threat of a running game.

"They NEVER try to establish the run which puts all of the pressure on a young QB who is still learning & trying to figure out who he's going to be in this league," Jones said. "The O line won't get into any rhythm if they don't run block enough & the defense can only hold up for so long."

According to Jones, Mitch Trubisky isn't ready to be the centerpiece of Chicago's offense just yet.

"Mitch is too young to have all of that pressure on him at once. He's talented but he's not ready yet. You have talented backs & an incredible defense. The O Line just needs to gain confidence run blocking in real-time. They have to establish a running game or things won't change."

Jones drew on some experience from the 2005 season when the Bears kept things pretty basic for then-rookie quarterback Kyle Orton, who enjoyed some moderate success that year. He also chimed in on the Trubisky vs. Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson debate.

"Everyone matures at different times in the NFL. He's not those other guys so comparing him to them isn't going to help them win games right now. Establish a run game & take pressure off of him. Simplify the offense by giving him basic pass plays like we did with Orton in 05."

So how do the Bears get their offense back on a winning track? You guessed it: run the ball!

"It's not a old times sake thing. It's football. Every winning team establishes some sort of running game. Even if it's running back by committee or a running QB. The more tired a defense is from having to chase & tackle the more mental mistakes they're going to make.

"Which gives you a higher chance to win the game. When you run the ball you can take more chances throwing the ball downfield, running specialty plays such as screens and reverses. The defense can't just lay their ears back because they know they can get gashed at any time."

Head over to Jones' Twitter page to follow along with his complete Bears breakdown. It's pretty epic and is a great reminder of just how passionate he is about this team, this city, and winning.

Power Rankings Roundup: The free fall continues, and the NFC North is really good

Power Rankings Roundup: The free fall continues, and the NFC North is really good

The Bears' two-game losing streak is doing them no favors in The Web's power rankings, but even pessimistic reviews haven't totally sold them off yet (thanks defense!). What's a bit more daunting, however, is how quickly the other teams in the NFC North are rising. Some fun road games ahead huh?? Here's what they're saying: 

NFL.com –– #15
Trubisky is clearly pressing as the pressure mounts on his shoulders. He's taken a big step back in his third season ... how long can Matt Nagy stand by the former No. 2 overall pick?

ESPN.com –– #16
The Bears no longer resemble a playoff team -- not with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. Chicago's offense ranks 30th in total yards per game, 30th in yards per play, 28th in passing yards per game and 28th in rushing yards per game.

CBS Sports –– #16
Their offense is woeful at times and just won't allow them to win many games. The defense hasn't been as good the past two games either, which makes Sunday's game against the Chargers a must-win for both teams.

Sports Illustrated –– #17
Maybe Matt Nagy isn’t a cure-all. Maybe the defense is feeling the weight of carrying the offense and starting to crack (36 points to a backup QB with two weeks to prepare at home). Or maybe, just maybe, this team was never that good in the first place.

Bleacher Report –– #13
To say that the Bears are having issues offensively is an understatement. In Mitchell Trubisky's first game back from injury, he had fewer than 100 passing yards into the final quarter. Chicago had seven carries for 17 yards on the ground—for the game.

Chicago Tribune –– #18
Classes in Offense 202 need to be canceled. Nearly all the students are failing miserably. That’s reality when the Bears have yet to total 300 yards of offense in a single game. High-powered offenses will come close to that total in a good half.

Sporting News –– #19
When the Bears don't play good defense and can't run the ball, they're in trouble, because it puts games on the right arm of Mitchell Trubisky. They have a few schedule breaks coming up, but they need their third-year QB to play a lot better for that to matter.

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