Bears Week 3 in-foe: Lynch-pins lagging


Bears Week 3 in-foe: Lynch-pins lagging

There are three categories as to why the Seattle Seahawks are the reigning, two-time NFC Champions: They're the league's top overall and top pass defenses over that time, and were the top-ranked rushing team a year ago (fourth in 2013).

It's early, but they're 17th in total defense and 21st versus the pass the first two weeks, with a still-respectable 11th-ranked ground game (where the Bears ranked sixth entering Monday night). The Seahawks are the ones with the targets on their backs, dealing with the off-season hangover of the Malcolm Butler goal-line interception that denied a Super Bowl repeat and the contract wars that've bled into the regular season with the one star they haven't paid.

[RELATED - After losses to Packers and Cardinals, Bears are … what, exactly?]

It all figures to get better after losses in St. Louis and Green Bay when the Bears come to town Sunday, especially if Jimmy Clausen's at the offensive controls, the Chicago defense can't come up with stops and special teams can't assist in field position amidst the 12th Man's deafening din. We won't get into pre-snap penalties. Seattle recovered from a 3-3 start a year ago, and after the Bears, the Seahawks host Detroit, travel to Cincinnati, and hosts Carolina.

Earl Thomas is the only starting defensive backfield-mate from the last two years in the lineup right now with star cornerback Richard Sherman, who was made to look pedestrian by Aaron Rodgers Sunday night despite the absence of top target Jordy Nelson. Safety Kam Chancellor remains in holdout mode, 2.5 years after his most recent extension. Sherman and Thomas got their fresh money a year ago. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, running back Marshawn Lynch and quarterback Russell Wilson got fresh green this offseason. Dion Bailey's stepped in off the practice squad a year ago for Chancellor at safety. And the Cary Williams-Byron Maxwell free agency cornerback swap with the Eagles has hurt more than it's helped, while nickel back Jeremy Lane remains on the PUP List from his Super Bowl injuries.

Wagner is still flanked by Bruce Irvin and K.J. Wright in a terrific linebacking corps, while the pass rush rotation is still led by Michael Bennett, who wanted fresh paper himself despite spurning more cash from the Bears in March of 2014 to join brother Martellus in order to remain a Seahawk. The Wilson contract forced them to dump starting tackle Tony McDaniel, but former third-round picks Brandon Mebane and Jordan Hill have stepped in after going on injured reserve last season. Ahtyba Rubin was signed away from the Browns to add more inside push, and help Cliff Avril bookend Bennett to attack on the outside.

Kris Richard is the third coordinator in four years of that talented defense, after Dan Quinn (Atlanta) and Gus Bradley (Jacksonville) were rewarded with head coaching jobs.

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Offensively, though, the much-ballyhooed acquisition of Graham has been a disappointment (ready, Antrelle and Adrian?). One of the NFL's top receiving tight end has all of seven receptions for 62 yards, including one for 11 Sunday night at Lambeau Field (targeted just twice). The Seahawks sacrificed center Max Unger in the Graham deal and the offensive line he's left behind has looked ragged. Beast Mode Marshawn Lynch has been tamed with just 114 yards (3.5 average, one run of 20-plus), and the attack has been most dangerous with Wilson moving and improvising, rather than pounding Lynch, much to his mom's chagrin. Doug Baldwin's 14 receptions lead Wilson's wideouts.

On special teams, the Bears' struggling kickoff coverage unit has to deal with rookie waterbug Tyler Lockett, whose 22.5-yard return average was 10th in the league entering Monday. His 21.1-yard punt return average (with a touchdown) ranked second in the NFL.

**Join Chris, Dan Jiggetts, and "Bears Insider" John Mullin Wednesdays on Comcast SportsNet for "Bears Huddle, brought to you by Verizon Wireless."  They'll further preview Sunday's matchup in Seattle, and let you in on the news conferences of John Fox and Vic Fangio, as well as locker room interviews**

Matt Nagy describes Aaron Rodgers’ literal attempt to get first leg up on 2019 Bears

Matt Nagy describes Aaron Rodgers’ literal attempt to get first leg up on 2019 Bears

A year after finishing 6-9-1 and seeing the Bears win the NFC North, the Packers find themselves in an unfamiliar role in the division: hunter, not the hunted.

Green Bay very well could win the NFC North in 2019, though they’ll have stiff competition in the division in the Bears and Vikings. Thus, the Packers need to do what they can to get a leg up on the competition.

Enter Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers and Bears head coach Matt Nagy were two of the many sports celebrities to compete in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship Tournament in Nevada from July 12-14. Thursday, Nagy recalled a prank Rodgers pulled on him at the event.

“So we're all in there and I'm scrambling to get in the back and stand up, and there’s about 100 guys sitting down in the back row,” Nagy said. “As I’m walking, all of a sudden, I trip.

“I kind of catch my knee. Somebody is sitting down. I look back. Someone stuck their knee out to trip me. I look back, and (Rodgers is) just sitting there and he’s just staring at me laughing, giving me this grin.”

Okay, so Rodgers tripping Nagy doesn’t actually give the Packers a leg up on the Bears entering the 2019 season. However, it sure is a fun way to kick off the latest rendition of the rivalry, as the two teams square of on Sept. 5 to open the NFL season. Plus. Nagy took the whole thing in stride.

“I just looked at him, and all I thought about is: ‘This is going to be fun,’” he said.

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Allen Robinson is looking like a true No. 1 receiver. Can he break the Bears' 1,000-yard drought?

USA Today

Allen Robinson is looking like a true No. 1 receiver. Can he break the Bears' 1,000-yard drought?

Here’s a fact that feels surprising every time it’s brought up: Allen Robinson is still in his mid-20s, turning 26 on Aug. 24. 

This is a guy who’s entering his sixth season in the NFL, having debuted while Marc Trestman was still Bears' coach. He’s four years removed from his 1,400-yard, 14-touchdown explosion with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but is also two years removed from the torn ACL that wound up ending his career there. 

As he enters his second season with the Bears, the difference from Year 1 to Year 2 has been noticeable. 

“I look like a totally different player,” Robinson said. 

That statement runs deeper than in just how he’s played over the course of the Bears’ preseason practices. He was able to grow his rapport with Mitch Trubisky during OTAs — a year ago, he wasn’t participating in those — and no longer has to focus on rehabbing his knee to get back on the field. 

But how Robinson looks even goes beyond his connection with Trubisky or his health. Cornerback Prince Amukamara practiced against Robinson when the pair were in Jacksonville in 2016, and said the receiver he was then isn’t the receiver he is today — in a good way. 

“He was real good in Jacksonville, and I feel like he’s better now,” Amukamara said. “I feel like in Jacksonville he really just went up and got the ball, they threw him a lot of jump balls. But now he’s running routes, he’s very crafty, he changes his tempo and he just seems very polished right now. He makes our jobs harder on defense.”

Amukamara pointed out that, of course, Robinson can still go up and snag those jump balls. Trubisky’s confidence in Robinson’s go-up-and-get-it ability grew in 2018, and is stronger entering 2019’s season. 

“I have a lot of confidence within myself, with me and him's chemistry,” Trubisky said. “And just being on the same page, if I put it up in his area 12 is going to come down with it.”

But it’s clear Robinson is more than a jump ball guy to Trubisky. The Bears can use him in a number of different ways, and the detail he puts into his routes and his ability to read coverages makes him a threat anywhere on the field. 

Similarly encouraging: Robinson and Trubisky are seeing things the same way. 

“I think for me and Mitchell I think we’ve done that a lot, being able to see whether it’s the breaking angle out of a route or stuff like that,” Robinson said. “I think, for us, we got a chance to rep a lot of that and to be on the same page — like if the corner plays it like this or if they run this kind of pressure or whatever it may be.”

Coach Matt Nagy said he’s observed Trubisky’s trust in Robinson being “a lot higher” than it was a year ago, too. 

“(Robinson) understands coverages,” Nagy said. “I think that separates the good wide receivers from the ones that become great. He has that next-level awareness. When you have that and you put the 'want' into how bad he wants it with his quarterback, that's where it's gonna be fun to see what those guys, how they connect this year.”

The Bears haven’t had a receiver eclipse 1,000 yards since 2014, representing the longest drought in the NFL. This is an offense, though, that believes in its ability to spread the ball around to a number of weapons, from Robinson to Taylor Gabriel to Anthony Miller to Trey Burton to Tarik Cohen to Cordarrelle Patterson to David Montgomery, etc. Not having a 1,000-yard receiver — sorry, fantasy football players — wouldn’t necessarily be viewed as a bad thing inside Halas Hall. 

Yet Robinson will enter 2019 with the best shot at hitting that mark, as he did four years ago. He stood out more than any other receiver during training camp, looking like a go-to guy for Trubisky if the offense is in a tight spot. That’s what he proved to be in the final seconds of January’s wild card loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, in which he dominated the final 20 minutes and made two critical catches that set up what could’ve been a game-winning field goal with time expiring (we all know what happened after that). 

So whether or not Robinson has a three or four-digit receiving yards total feels less important than the continuation of his development into a reliable, trustworthy target for his quarterback at any time in a game. And from what we've seen over the last month, that's what he'll be for Trubisky in 2019. 

“He's pretty much winning,” Trubisky said. “When it's one-on-one, the ball is going to 12 and he's unstoppable when he can go like that."

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