Bears

Bears sign veteran offensive lineman Bradley Sowell

Bears sign veteran offensive lineman Bradley Sowell

The Bears bolstered their offensive line on Tuesday with the signing of Bradley Sowell to a one-year contract.

Sowell, 27, was the Week 1 starter at right tackle for the Seattle Seahawks last season. He appeared in 10 games and made nine starts for the Seahawks in 2016.

Sowell spent 2013-15 with the Arizona Cardinals and appeared in all 48 games during his tenure with the team, making 12 starts at left tackle in 2013.

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Sowell was originally signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Mississippi in 2012. He was waived after not making the final 53-man roster and was later signed by the Indianapolis Colts.

Sowell is the second offensive lineman the Bears have signed since the NFL Draft concluded. On Monday the Bears agreed to terms with veteran interior lineman Taylor Boggs to a one-year deal.

For the Bears' tight ends, there remains an adamant belief that a turnaround is coming soon

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USA Today

For the Bears' tight ends, there remains an adamant belief that a turnaround is coming soon

Matt Nagy has never been shy about the role tight ends play in his offense. The evidence is plain to see: Trey Burton is one of the team’s ‘adjusters,’ a label used for the handful of players that the Bears’ offense relies most-heavily on. Drafting Adam Shaheen with the 45th overall pick in the 2017 Draft is another example. 

Complimenting one with the other was supposed to open up the offense, with Burton operating as the “U” and Shaheen playing more of the traditional “Y” role. Instead, through the first quarter of the season, the pair has combined for 18 catches and 107 yards. Neither have found the end zone yet, and the longest reception from either of them has been 11 yards. 

“I wouldn’t say they’re playing poorly,” Bears’ tight end coach Kevin Gillbride said on Tuesday. “... but I don’t think we’re playing great. I think that we do have improvements to make. But again, I do like where their heads are at. They understand exactly where they need to improve, and how it’s going to help our team win.” 

The production needs to improve, but with the additions of Cordarrelle Patterson, Mike Davis, and David Montgomery, there are a few more mouths to feed this season. 

“We’ve added a lot of weapons as well,” he said. “You’ve got to find that groove as an offense as well. I think as an offense we’re still figuring that out. But there are a lot of people to deliver the football to. And that’s never a bad thing, you know.” 

Some of Burton’s issues are still health-related, as he’s working to feel normal again after dealing with groin issues all offseason. Coaches have been pleased in recent weeks with how Burton’s looked in practice, and feel the unit as a whole isn’t far from the production that’s been expected from them. 

“It’s hard to really put into quantitative terms,” he said. “But it might just be the speed with which we’re running our routes, the way that we’re getting in and out of breaks, the way we’re finishing on the backside of a zone scheme. The better footwork and pad level on a front side of a play. There’s a number of different things that have improved.” 

One byproduct from the unit’s lack of production has been gameday opportunities for J.P. Holtz, who has seen his snap count go (modestly) up in each of the last two games. For a group that’s looking for any type of spark, Holtz’s contributions in both the pass and run game haven’t gone unnoticed. His 16-yard reception against the Raiders was a season-high from a Bears’ tight end. 

“Adding JP to that mix has helped,” Gillbride said. “He’s shown up as far as having catches and things of that nature, because of toughness he’s shown in the running game that have now led to open completions. I mean, that’s the reality of it. It really is all interwoven.” 

It’s been an undoubtedly disappointing start to the season, and Gillbride has had to spend time in meetings making sure that his guys know how close to breaking through the group is. They’ve addressed their shortcomings as a whole, and through the last couple weeks have spent time focusing on the little moments that could have, as he said, turned a “two-yard run into a 40-yard run.”

“It’s not as far off as everyone’s making this out to be,” he added. “It’s really not.”  

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Khalil Mack is PFF's No. 1 pass rusher through Week 6

Khalil Mack is PFF's No. 1 pass rusher through Week 6

The Bears will be without one of their most important players on the team for the foreseeable future with the news that Akiem Hicks is headed to injured reserve, but fortunately for Chicago, this roster has enough talent on defense to survive the loss.

Khalil Mack, of course, leads the way. If the Bears can string together a bunch of wins over their final 11 games, Mack is having the kind of season that ill garner a few MVP votes. Pass rushers on Super Bowl contenders are at least worthy of the MVP discussion, and according to Pro Football Focus, no pass rusher is having a better year than Mack through six weeks of the 2019 season.

1. Khalil Mack, EDGE, Chicago Bears

Mack has been a force off the edge for the Bears in his second season in Chicago and leads all edge defenders with a 91.5 PFF pass-rushing grade through six weeks. From 191 pass-rushing snaps, he has racked up five sacks, two hits and 21 hurries.

There's more pressure than ever on Mack to perform now that Hicks is expected to be out until at least Week 15. Hicks has been Chicago's second-best sack artist since Mack's addition in 2018, and with little reason to believe OLB Leonard Floyd is capable of filling the pass-rush void, it's on Mack to continue playing like Superman. 

Mack, more than any player in the NFL, is capable of answering that challenge.

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