Cleaning out the notebook for the Bears stretch run ...
How to judge Matt Barkley
The hyper-analysis of Matt Barkley and his performance against the Tennessee Titans is amusing if only for the amount of it. Maybe the excitement traces to his being a fourth-round draft choice in 2013, so maybe this is another Kirk Cousins (2012) or Dak Prescott (2016). And this is after one game, for a guy that Bruce Arians didn’t think enough of to hold onto in Arizona last September.
I was told that the Bears have developed a more than a dozen permutations of how their quarterback situation could unfold in the months following this season. Those include draft choices, veterans (like Brian Hoyer) — supposedly even one with Jay Cutler — and this is with the personnel department still scouting college quarterbacks with an intensity level one scout said was the most intense he’s ever seen.
Barkley is still in the general classification of “camp arm,” a guy teams carry in the offseason to take some of the reps. Speculating on whether he suddenly played his way into one of those Bears scenarios is beyond a waste of time right now, since his output last Sunday (54 attempts, 28 completions) wasn’t too far short of his entire NFL production up to that point since he left USC (65 throws, 36 completions, including the six in his cameo against Green Bay).
But the guy does deserve more credit than some are giving him. Barkley, while one of the more obvious let’s-wait-and-see Bears guys in recent memory, did complete seven passes of 12 yards or longer on those last two drives, including three on the final drive when the Titans were playing for their game lives, not merely going rope-a-dope and supposedly conceding everything short. With the Bears trailing 27-14, the Titans went three-and-out and the Bears had the football at the Chicago 31 with more than six and a half minutes left. Then from the Chicago 35 with two minutes left.
One thing that will make Barkley difficult to firmly critique is that the Bears now play four straight defenses ranked no better than 13th in yardage allowed and 15th in scoring defense. Minnesota is looming out there in the top three, but that’s not until the calendars turn.
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O-line OK through season-long upheavel
Offensive line coach Dave Magazu is doing something with his group. The Bears started the first six games with the same five starters, left to right: Charles Leno, Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long and Bobby Massie.
They have not started the same five in any two consecutive games since then. Only Leno and Whitehair have started all 11 games.
Yet the Bears are No. 5 in rushing average and respectably tied for 10th in sacks allowed, all in spite of rarely playing with a lead.
With Daniel Braverman up, who sits?
The addition of rookie wide receiver Daniel Braverman to the 53-man roster raises an interesting question: Who sits?
The Bears went against Tennessee with five wideouts active — Josh Bellamy, Cameron Meredith, Eddie Royal, Deonte Thompson and Marquess Wilson — plus three tight ends. All the wideouts except Royal committed egregious drops. Coach John Fox has never been one to just summarily cut someone for physical mistakes, but unless the Braverman promotion was to step in for Royal (dealing with a toe injury), someone is likely going to pay a price for poor play.