Bears

Bears' Week 2 in-foe: Bruce and the Birds

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Bears' Week 2 in-foe: Bruce and the Birds

What could've been?

At least until things kick off Sunday, Bruce Arians' return to Chicago - perhaps for the first time since being told to go home in the coaching interview process in January 2013 - will spur thoughts of where the Bears would be now had they chosen Arians over Marc Trestman.

As detailed by our own John Mullin following Phil Emery's firing last December, a reported "mock press conference" in the interview process, a desire to retain Rod Marinelli (instead of Arians' preference, current Jets head coach Todd Bowles), and then ignoring Marinelli's opinion after asking for it has gotten the Bears to where they are now. The Optimism Button has since been re-set with the Emery/Trestman tear-down coinciding with the franchise's next "swing" with Ryan Pace and John Fox. Arians has since won a second Coach of the Year Award and guided the Cardinals to a 22-11 record.

That includes a 1-0 mark this season after Carson Palmer became the first Cardinals quarterback to win seven straight games since Jim Hart, and 14 of his last 16 starts. In between, there was a second left ACL surgery within a decade. Arizona was 9-1 at the time Palmer crumbled last November, before finishing 11-5 when the signal-calling injuries became contagious.  But the 35-year-old eclipsed 300 yards in his return Sunday against the Saints while working without two of his projected starting offensive linemen; right tackle Robert Massie will serve the second of a two-game substance abuse suspension Sunday, and big ticket, nasty free agent Mike Iupati continues recovering from a preseason knee injury. April's first-round pick, D.J. Humphries, couldn't beat out Earl Watford to slide in for Massie. Arians looked to the Bay Area two off-seasons ago to sign Jared Veldheer away from Oakland to protect Carson's blind side.

[RELATED: Bruce Arians has no hard feelings at being passed over for Bears job]

The 31st-ranked rushing offense came back with Andre Ellington as its starter, but the third-year pro was again bit by the injury bug Sunday, suffering a knee sprain that's projected to keep him out the next two or three games. So Arians must choose between ex-2,000-yard rusher Chris Johnson and almost-as-fast third-round rookie David Johnson to pick up the slack. The latter returned a kick 43 yards Sunday before turning a short pass from Palmer into a "next-gear" 55-yard touchdown to seal the 31-19 victory.

Speaking of speed, 2014 third-rounder John Brown turned four of his five touchdowns as a rookie into game-winners a year ago. Then there's the youngest receiver to reach 700, 800, and 900 career catches, the now-32-year-old Larry Fitzgerald. After being virtually ignored following Palmer's injury, he led the Redbirds with six receptions for 87 yards Sunday. And as Michael Floyd works his way back from preseason finger surgery, Palmer worked tight end Darren Fells into the mix with a touchdown catch among his four grabs for 82 yards.

For as much praise as Bowles' defense got before he moved on, it's at least a statistical lie. The Cards finished 24th overall a year ago, 29th against the pass despite the great Patrick Peterson, the continued rise of Tyrann Mathieu and the presence of Antonio Cromartie, who went with Bowles to the Jets. Jermon Bushrod and Kyle Long will have to contend with arguably the top 5-technique in the league, 6-foot-8 Calais Campbell. Whether they can find a suitable replacement for Dan Williams (Oakland) remains to be seen.

[MORE: Grading John Fox's debut as Bears head coach]

Alex Okafor, after his stock slipped to the fourth round of the 2013 draft, is now the consistent presence in the 3-4 linebacking corps. Larry Foote retired and now coaches that group, which brought his former Steelers teammate Lamarr Woodley over after an underachieving, injury-shortened year in Oakland. That option was chosen over retaining current Bear Sam Acho by ex-linebackers coach James Bettcher, who took over as defensive coordinator. Arizona also rolled the dice with the talented Sean Witherspoon, who missed all of 2014 in Atlanta with a torn ACL, and drafted fellow-Mizzou alum Markus Golden in the second round, which is where they selected their other inside starter, Kevin Minter, in 2013.

Besides the threat of David Johnson returning kicks, special teams includes kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who hit his first 17 field goal attempts as a rookie last season. Then there's punter Drew Butler (Kevin's son), who was brought in as Pat O'Donnell's training camp relief in last year's Bears camp, and may have outperformed the sixth-round pick at the time. Butler wound up second in the league last year with 42 punts downed inside the 20.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Eddy Pineiro wins the Bears kicker battle, but the war is far from over

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Eddy Pineiro wins the Bears kicker battle, but the war is far from over

Chris Bleck, Sam Panayotovich and Jay Cohen join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- Eddy Pineiro wins the Bears kicker battle, but the war is far from over. Will he still be the kicker for Week 1?

6:00- Pro Football Focus says Mitch Trubisky is the 26th-best QB entering the season. Kap would like a word.

9:30- The guy discuss the Bears's punishment to Kyle Long for his practice fights and look back at life and career of Cedric Benson.

16:00- A trip to the Little League World Series did wonders for the Cubs. So after winning the last two on their road trip, are they back?

20:00- Jose Quintana has been on fire of late. Is he the Cubs' ace?

24:00- Eloy Jimenez leads AL rookies in home runs. With Vlad Jr. out, can he win the rookie of the year? Plus the guys discuss Dylan Cease's struggles and another big weekend for Luis Robert in Charlotte.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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PFF ranks Mitchell Trubisky as 26th best quarterback entering 2019

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USA Today

PFF ranks Mitchell Trubisky as 26th best quarterback entering 2019

No one denies that Mitchell Trubisky needs to continue developing as a quarterback to take the Bears to the next level.

What’s up for debate is how much he needs to improve, and the question will linger well into the 2019 season.

Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 quarterbacks entering the regular season, and they see the Bears quarterback with a lot of work to do.

Trubisky came in 26th, part of analyst Steve Palazzolo’s “Tier 4” of quarterbacks.

“There’s a disconnect between Trubisky’s statistical output and his throw-by-throw performance last season,” Palazzolo wrote. “In order to take the next step, Trubisky must improve his accuracy at 10-plus yards down the field and lower his percentage of uncatchable passes that ranked 31st out of 35 qualifiers.”

PFF did highlight his NFL-best rushing grade among quarterbacks and the value added from Matt Nagy’s offensive system.

But their snap-by-snap grading shows Trubisky needs to be more consistent with this throws, which Palazzolo believes is crucial for the Bears to sustain their success.