Bears

First career sack was a chore for Bears rookie Jonathan Bullard

First career sack was a chore for Bears rookie Jonathan Bullard

It was a “welcome to the NFL, rookie” moment for Jonathan Bullard.

The rookie Bears defensive end managed to get through the Indianapolis Colts’ protection of Andrew Luck, and Bullard, whose pass-rush prowess at Florida was key to the Bears grabbing him in the third round, was primed for his first NFL sack.

Not so fast.

“(Teammates) were saying how hard he is to tackle, and I was holding on to one leg and he was in the pocket so he couldn’t throw it away,” Bullard said, laughing. “I knew somebody was going to have to come help me and he’d eventually fall.”

Luck did fall, Bullard got the sack, but the 29-23 loss to the Colts was not quite how Bullard had planned this moment.

“It definitely felt good to break the ice,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you feel happy about it but I mostly want the win. But I’m proud of myself for going out and producing.”

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Amid some of the Bears’ struggles on defense — 25 points allowed per game through the 1-4 start — Bullard has begun to produce. One tackle in each of the first two games, two solo stops at Dallas, then three solo tackles, two for loss and his sack, at Indianapolis.

“He’s getting there,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “He played some last week. I hope to be able to play him some more. He had an injury there for the two previous games which limited his snaps but he got (16) last week roughly and hopefully he can continue to get that much and maybe more if he warrants it.”

Bullard and Leonard Floyd were high draft picks primarily as major boosts for a pass rush that showed flashes with Lamarr Houston, Pernell McPhee and Willie Young last year but not enough not enough times.

Houston is done for the season with a knee injury. McPhee is yet to play this season following offseason knee surgery. And Young, with three sacks at Indianapolis, is the lone true pass-rush threat. More is needed from Bullard, in addition to Floyd getting on and staying on the field, which he too often hasn’t.

Bullard’s role has been projected to be as a defensive end in the base 3-4.

“(Bullard is) not quite the size that those (interior) guys are,” Fangio said, referencing Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks and Mitch Unrein. “He's a guy that's got a little bit more quickness. He's a guy that we hope can be in our mix and rotation and be a guy that comes and plays a fair amount in every game just filling in.”

Bears Inactives: Khalil Mack, Allen Robinson active for Bears vs. Patriots

Bears Inactives: Khalil Mack, Allen Robinson active for Bears vs. Patriots

Bears fans can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Chicago will have two of its top injured play-makers back on the field to take on the New England Patriots.

The teams announced their inactives for the game, and both Khalil Mack and Allen Robinson were good to go.

Mack missed two days of practice this week with the ankle injury he suffered against the Miami Dolphins and was questionable for Week 7. He was able to participate on a limited basis on Friday, and evidently that was enough for him to give it a go at Soldier Field.

He likely won’t be at 100 percent, but he’ll have a more favorable matchup facing the Patriots’ backup right tackle LaAdrian Waddle. Starter Marcus Cannon was ruled out this week with a concussion.

Robinson was also questionable with a groin injury that limited his week of practice. He was an unexpected addition to the injury report his week as his injury didn’t appear to affect him against the Dolphins,

He’s Mitchell Trubisky’s most-targeted receiver this season, and he'll be relied on against a New England defense that’s known for throwing a lot at young quarterbacks.

(Too) Bold Predictions: A big day for the Bears' running backs

(Too) Bold Predictions: A big day for the Bears' running backs

You've stumbled into (Too) Bold Predictions, a weekly column that is exactly what it sounds like! Here, we'll take nuanced, well-researched information and use to make wildly improbable predictions. Analysis! 

 

J.J. Stankevitz 

1. Jordan Howard will have his first 100-yard game of the year.
Hear me out: This happens if Bill Belichick’s strategy is to drop seven or even eight defenders into zone coverage, forcing Mitch Trubisky to make good decisions and fit passes into tight windows against a secondary that’s the strength of the Patriots’ defense. Or...Matt Nagy recognizes what’s in front of him and pounds the ball to Howard 15-20 times with plenty of success. Belichick, too, was extremely complimentary of Tarik Cohen on a conference call with Chicago media this week, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Cohen is the guy the future Hall of Fame coach tries to take away. Either way, it’s also worth noting here the Patriots allowed Kerryon Johnson to become the first Detroit Lions running back to have a 100-yard game since 2013 (!) in Week 2. And Howard still has shown flashes this year, like the 34 yards he gained on consecutive carries in overtime against Miami. 

 

2. Danny Trevathan or Roquan Smith will make a big play when it counts.
Given how good the rookie running back combo of Sony Michel (67 carries, 236 yards) and James White (23 receptions, 198 yards) has been recently, a lot of the Bears’ defensive success will hinge on the inside linebacking play of Trevathan and Smith. Trevathan has had an up-and-down year, playing outstanding ball in Weeks 2 and 4 but having some issues against the likes of David Johnson and Kenyan Drake/Frank Gore. Smith’s athleticism stands out but he’s still growing into Vic Fangio’s defense. Sunday will be a major test for both of them, and if the Bears are to win, it may come down to one of these two guys making a big-time play: A forced fumble, interception, run stuff on third down, etc. For the sake of a bold prediction, I’ll go with Smith making a play at the end of Sunday’s game that stands as the first big moment of the rookie’s pro career. 

 

Cam Ellis

1. Tarik Cohen's performance will garner the attention of national media 
Last Sunday night, Kansas City's Tyreek Hill had seven catches for 142 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged almost 21 yards per catch, thanks in part to a 75-yard touchdown score late in the 4th. The Patriots' defense clearly had no answer for Hill's speed. Now Cohen isn't a carbon copy of Hill, but he plays a similar role in the Bears' offense that Hill plays for the Chiefs. New England's linebackers lack and real speed -- especially on the outside -- which obviously bodes well for Cohen. Belichick is notoriously for creating game plans that take away the other team's best offensive players, but with the personell he has on defense, it's going to be tough to matchup with Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton, AND Cohen. The guess here is that Robinson and Gabriel have quiet games, but Cohen runs circles around the Pats. 

 

2. The Bears and Pats are tied heading into the 4th quarter
For a team with aspirations of an NFC North title (and more) this shouldn't be a bold prediction, and yet, it kinda feels like it? After a slow start to the season, the Patriots' offense have scored at least 38 points in each of the last three games. This Bears defense is the best they'll have played yet, so I don't expect them to get anywhere close to 38 today, especially with how the defense played last week in Miami. I think New England comes out of Chicago with a win, but the Bears will play them closer than people are predicting. A Cody Parkey-Stephen Gostkowski battle royale could be in play.