Bears

Ex-Bear Anderson knew who not to hit

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Ex-Bear Anderson knew who not to hit

Mark Anderson landed in the NFL with a splash: runner-up in defensive rookie of the year voting after 12 sacks in just situation duty as a pass rusher.

When he got to the New England Patriots, he understood why he was there: to tackle quarterbacks. All but one.

If I touched Tom Brady I would be out of there the next day, Anderson said, laughing. I never hit him. But when I came here, kind of like in my rookie year, I wanted to show the team what I could do. I love the system. Its fun right now.

It was definitely fun for Anderson again in 2011 as he signed with New England last Aug. 5 and tied for the team high with 10 sacks. Actually it was more than fun; it was a career rebirth after he had gone from his lofty rookie results (including a Super Bowl trip) to being handed Alex Browns starting job to being cut as his production declined to miniscule.

After the Bears released Anderson in 2010, he had a brief stop with the Houston Texans. Not a high point, more like a stopover, he said.

Then New England called and didnt have to ask twice, particularly with the impression Bill Belichicks made on Anderson. Call it a touch of awe.

He knows everything, Anderson said, shaking his head. He knows about players from other teams. He knows about backups on other teams. He knows weaknesses and tendencies. You have to admire a guy like that. He knew my strengths and weaknesses before I joined the team.

Things did not end well in Chicago for Anderson, although there is no rancor or bitterness in his tone, only a little sadness, as he recalls times there. He still stays in touch with former teammates Anthony Adams, Adewale Ogunleye and Tommie Harris and still holds coach Lovie Smith in the highest possible regard.

Coach Smith and coach Belichick are similar in that they are both players coaches, Anderson said. They know when it is time to work and they know when it is time to rest your guys...

Chicago was a good experience because I learned a lot. I learned what to do and what not to do. I learned how to approach certain situations. I used what I learned in Chicago and Houston to help me when I came here. It has worked out for me.

Revisiting Jimmy Graham's contract after George Kittle, Travis Kelce extensions

Revisiting Jimmy Graham's contract after George Kittle, Travis Kelce extensions

The tight end market has officially been reset. 

George Kittle (49ers) and Travis Kelce (Chiefs) each inked massive new extensions on Thursday that will make them the highest-paid players at their position by a wide margin.

Kittle signed a five-year, $75 million extension while Kelce put pen to paper on a four-year, $57 million deal.

Suddenly, Jimmy Graham's two-year, $16 million deal doesn't seem so bad. Then again, you get what you pay for, right?

Graham joins the Bears after a 2019 season in Green Bay that totaled 38 catches for 447 yards and three touchdowns. Compare those numbers to Kelce, who had 97 catches for 1,229 yards and five scores in 2019, and Kittle, who had 85 catches for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns, and it's easy to understand why they're nearly doubling Graham's annual average salary.

Does Graham have enough left in the tank to justify his $8 million per year paycheck? He's earning more than players like Jared Cook (Saints) and Darren Waller (Raiders), who each flashed more playmaking upside than Graham in 2019.

The good news for the Bears is that they'll be out of the tight end market for a while, assuming second-round pick Cole Kmet lives up to his scouting report. He'll be a cheap starter on a rookie contract for the next four seasons.

Hopefully, we'll be talking about Kmet as one of the highest-paid players at the position when his second deal rolls around. Until then, it's Kittle and Kelce who rule the tight end universe.

Bears were among worst teams on fourth-down decisions last season

Bears were among worst teams on fourth-down decisions last season

Matt Nagy's reputation for being an innovative offensive mind took a hit last season when the Bears finished the year ranked 26th in passing yards, 27th in rushing yards, and 27th in total touchdowns.

To make matters worse, Nagy was also among the league's worst decision-makers on fourth down, according to Pro Football Focus.

PFF used the following qualifiers to evaluate which teams made the most of their fourth-down situations last year:

To these aims, we looked at all fourth-down plays in the first three quarters during the 2019 season that met the following criteria: 1) there were four or fewer yards to go for a first down or a touchdown, and 2) the expected points when going for it were higher than when kicking a field goal (with 35 or fewer yards to go to the end zone) or punting (36 or more yards)

The Bears whiffed on 75% of their fourth-down calls and left 12 additional points on the board, according to PFF's metrics.

Chicago lost two games by three points or less in 2019, so it isn't like Nagy's failures on fourth down prevented this team from winning 12 games. That said, could the Bears have reached nine or even 10 wins and been in a better position to make the playoffs had they flipped fourth downs into points? It's possible.

There's another factor that has to be considered that extends beyond Nagy's playcalling, however. Let's face it, He didn't have the players needed to attempt fourth-down conversions with confidence. Mitch Trubisky was barely watchable and David Montgomery didn't get much help from his offensive line. The offense ranked as low as it did for a reason; it just wasn't very good.

I'd expect some positive regression with the Bears' fourth-down efficiency in 2020, which should mean more points and maybe, just maybe, more wins.

 

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