Bears

How Moon's 10-6 prediction on 2015 Bears schedule came to be

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How Moon's 10-6 prediction on 2015 Bears schedule came to be

Chatting with ProFootballTalk.com legend Mike Florio on NBC Radio’s “PFT Live!” Wednesday morning was a good chance to noodle over how a call of 10-6 could possibly be made for a Bears team coming off a two-year death spiral that ended with five straight losses and its 5-11 final count. (One good friend in the business suggested that I made my picks while in a marijuana shop. Let the record show that I have been in Florida most recently and absolutely nowhere near Colorado or Washington. Just in case you were wondering.)

The topic of the day, the week really, is the Bears’ schedule. Florio wondered if there was a wave of civic angst over the Bears getting such a difficult start to the season, with Green Bay, Arizona and Seattle their first three games. While that’s a load of a work order for a team starting out with a new head coach, my take is that the norm for thinking on the Bears is that there’s so much negativity still raging from last season, that most folks don’t think it matters when the Bears would play the Packers, Cardinals or Seahawks; they’ll lose anyhow.

Mike threw out that it might be better for a team beginning over with a new coaching staff and new players to open with easier games and build some cohesion and momentum. My take was a little different.

[MORE BEARS: Bears open 2015 with three straight teams from ’14 playoffs]

The Bears are putting out an enormously changed team, particularly on defense. With someone as accomplished as head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, the absence of film on the “new” Bears may be to their advantage. They won’t reveal a lot in preseason, so let Aaron Rodgers figure it out starting on Sept. 13.

I’ve gone against the easy flow that says the Bears under Fox will be every bit as bad as the Bears under Marc Trestman.

I just don’t see it. Both qualitatively and quantitatively, I just don’t see it.

“Coaching” is the qualitative

The qualitative part is Fox. At age 60, he wasn’t going to just take a job to have a job, and he wasn’t going to take an irreparable situation and invest years on a rebuild at this point in life.

[MORE BEARS: Bears' 2015 regular season schedule released]

More to the point, when he has taken over train wrecks (Carolina 2002, Denver 2011) he had them back on the rails in two years or less. Similarly, successful veteran coaches taking over teams routinely effect immediate improvement – Bruce Arians in Arizona, Jim Caldwell in Detroit, Andy Reid in Kansas City. Fox fits with that group and has achieved major turnarounds not once, but twice.

Players are the quantitative

But the quantitative part is no less part of the “10-6” thinking. The Bears project to have not only a radically different defensive scheme with Fangio’s 3-4. They also project to have as many as eight new starters on defense, including every member of the front seven with the possible exception of Jeremiah Ratliff, and even he would be starting at nose tackle instead of three-technique if he finishes the preseason ahead of Ego Ferguson on the depth chart.

Pernell McPhee had more sacks (7.5) in 2014 than any Bear and McPhee played only about half the Baltimore Ravens snaps. Antrel Rolle even at 32 is immediately the best safety the Bears have had since Mike Brown was in his prime a decade ago.

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McPhee and Rolle also bring Super Bowl rings with them, and both are part of position groups that the essence of complimentary. McPhee is part of a pass rush that portends a large upgrade for the entire defense. And Rolle’s veteran presence and excellence anchor a secondary that does nothing but help buy time for McPhee and the rush to get home. And how much does Rolle project to help the development of Kyle Fuller at cornerback?

Here’s the overall:

For no team in the 25 years of my covering the Chicago Bears has the “whole” been so much less than the sum of its parts. And in no case have I concluded that so much of the fault lay with the head coach and staff. Players on the field are absolutely the core of the game. Trestman, Aaron Kromer and Mel Tucker didn’t throw an interception or give up a touchdown. But their “turnovers” bordered on epic.

A criticism of military generals is that they too often are preparing to fight the last war. Similarly, viewing the ’15 Bears through the prism of ’14 is like looking at anything through a prism – the view is warped.

Bears confirm OLB Leonard Floyd underwent surgery to repair fracture in right hand

Bears confirm OLB Leonard Floyd underwent surgery to repair fracture in right hand

Bears head coach Matt Nagy confirmed to reporters on Monday that OLB Leonard Floyd underwent surgery to repair a fracture in his right hand he sustained in the first quarter of Saturday's 24-23 preseason win over the Denver Broncos.

The good news is, the Bears are optimistic that Floyd will be available to play in Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers. The bad news is, he'll likely have to play with a cast on until his injury fully heals.

"I don't think it's going to be healed, I think he's going to have to end up playing through it," Nagy said. "It might require something in regards to having a cast or a club-type deal. There's been evidence of guys that have had that and been productive, so that's what we're hoping." 

TE Adam Shaheen, who suffered a right ankle sprain on the first drive of the game, is still being evaluated and it's unclear whether or not he'll be ready by Week 1.

"We're not sure there yet," Nagy said. "We're hoping. We'll probably know more later today after the tests come back."

Bears position battles: Do the Bears have enough talent at outside linebacker?

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Bears position battles: Do the Bears have enough talent at outside linebacker?

The Bears didn’t immediately know the severity of Leonard Floyd’s hand injury following Saturday’s 24-23 preseason win over the Denver Broncos, but merely the fact that it happened brought to the fore a concerning question. 

What do the Bears do without their ostensibly No. 1 pass rusher?

Last week, we wrote that Floyd is the most important member of the Bears’ defense in 2018, but for that to be the case, he has to be able to stay on the field. And that hasn’t been part of his resume — Floyd missed four games his rookie year due to concussions and six games last year thanks to freak knee injury. Not only do the Bears need Floyd to be productive, they need him to be healthy, too. 

The best-case for the Bears is that Floyd’s hand injury won’t lead him to miss any time once the regular season starts Sept. 9. But in the event Floyd does have to miss time, there’s a wide-open competition to see who will start next to Sam Acho in Green Bay. And that’s where we’ll start our review of where some key position battles stand after the Bears’ third preseason game:

1. Outside linebacker: Isaiah Irving vs. Kylie Fitts vs. Aaron Lynch vs. Kasim Edebali vs. Elijah Norris

Irving didn’t do much on Saturday, and neither did Fitts, who didn’t record a pressure or a sack on 16 pass rushing snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Lynch didn’t play against the Broncos and hasn’t practiced since suffering a hamstring injury the first day of camp. The Bears took a one-year flier on Lynch back in March to see if reuniting him with Vic Fangio — his defensive coordinator his rookie year with the San Francisco 49ers — would nail a low-risk, high-reward type addition, but the injury issues that plagued him the last two years haven’t gone away. His Week 1 roster spot is hardly assured, and the Bears will have to see him at least practice, if not play, before they determine if he’s worth keeping on cut-down day. 

But that being said, this group of outside linebackers looks underwhelming. Irving has flashed at times, and so has Fitts, but neither has produced in the last two preseason games (Irving missed the Cincinnati game with an injury). 

Edebali could be a guy to watch in this battle, though. He had a sack on Saturday as well as a pressure and a tackle for a loss, and as recently as 2015 had five sacks with the New Orleans Saints. But the 29-year-old only played 102 defensive snaps last year with the Broncos and Lions and needed to try out to make the Bears back in May. Could he be a diamond in the rough? Sure. But counting on him, or Norris — an undrafted free agent — to be a significant part of this outside linebacker rotation could be dangerous. 

The Bears were already likely to be looking at acquiring another outside linebacker, either by trade or waiver claim, before Floyd’s injury. Depending on the severity of it, those efforts may have to be doubled. 

2. Center: Cody Whitehair vs. James Daniels

The Bears haven’t characterized this as a true competition yet, and until further notice remain committed to keeping Whitehair at center. A poor center-quarterback exchange that led to a safety on Saturday was the fault of Mitch Trubisky (“I just dropped it,” he said) and otherwise Whitehair’s snaps were not a problem. 

While the Bears may seem a little hard-headed regarding Whitehair sticking to center, this coaching staff is going to play the five best offensive linemen it has in Week 1. If Harry Hiestand believes his offensive line will be better off with Daniels at center and Whitehair at left guard, instead of Whitehair at center and Eric Kush/Earl Watford at left guard, then that’s how this thing will shake out. 

This coming week will be telling for the Bears’ Week 1 plans. If we see Daniels all of a sudden elevated to the first team offensive line, that’s probably the combination of five we’ll see rolled out in Green Bay. The Bears need to establish continuity up front, preferably by kickoff on Saturday. 

3. Defensive end: Jonathan Bullard vs. Roy Robertson-Harris vs. John Jenkins vs. Bilal Nichols vs. Nick Williams

With Akiem Hicks held out, all five of these players got some run with the first-team defense on Saturday. 

Robertson-Harris had another strong game, recording a sack on which he used his length and strength to stay with Broncos guard Ronald Leary and stretch his arm out to bring quarterback Case Keenum to the ground. He was credited with half a sack, too, and for what it’s worth he leads all defensive players with 3 1/2 preseason sacks and is second with six hurries. The impact he’s made this preseason has pushed him from being a rotational piece to, potentially, being a Week 1 starter. 

The Bears like Bullard’s steady play and his ability to play anywhere on the defensive line, and while Robertson-Harris could be in a position to start over him, he should play plenty this year. 

That leaves, likely, two open spots down the depth chart for the remaining three defensive linemen here (Jenkins, Nichols, Williams). Nichols has two sacks and three hurries, not that the fifth-round pick was ever really on a roster bubble, but that production has confirmed some of the things the Bears saw in him coming out of Delaware. Jenkins has played all over the place but would be a natural replacement for Eddie Goldman should something happen to the fourth-year nose tackle. That leaves Williams as, likely, the odd man out here if the Bears choose to keep six defensive linemen. 

4. Cornerback: Marcus Cooper vs. Doran Grant vs. Kevin Toliver II vs. Michael Joseph vs. John Franklin III

As things stand right now, four cornerbacks are locks for the Week 1 roster: Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Bryce Callahan and Sherrick McManis. LeBlanc is probably on the roster, and had a solid game Saturday despite fielding two punts inside the five-yard line (Nagy wasn’t too worried with that after the game, saying LeBlanc was only returning punts because of lack of bodies to do so). 

So that leaves, realistically, one spot open for five guys. It was worth noting Grant and Toliver were the first two cornerbacks to come in off the bench, and both got some reps against the Broncos’ first-team offense. Rookie wideout Courtland Sutton burned both of them, with Sutton drawing a pass interference foul near the goal line on Grant and then beating Toliver on a quick strike up the seam for a touchdown. 

Toliver, though, led the Bears in snaps played and gave up one yard after the three catches he allowed. Cooper didn’t play, while Joseph did and recorded six tackles. 

This is a battle that’ll likely come down to the last preseason game, or be pre-empted by a waiver wire transaction on cut-down weekend. The edge right now may be to Toliver, depending on how Ed Donatell and Vic Fangio grade his performance on Saturday. 

5. Wide receiver: Marlon Brown vs. Javon Wims vs. Bennie Fowler vs. Tanner Gentry vs. DeMarcus Ayers

It’s worth noting that Brown received plenty of work with the first-team offense on Saturday, though his only catch (a 30-yarder) came with Chase Daniel in the game. The 6-foot-5, 214 pound Brown does have some special teams experience in his career and caught seven touchdowns for the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted rookie in 2013, but hasn’t played in the NFL since 2015. 

Wims still may have the upper hand in this group just based on him being a draft pick, but more than likely this spot will come down to who 1) Has the biggest upside as a receiver and 2) Can successfully contribute on special teams. Production on Saturday between Wims, Fowler and Gentry was relatively equal, while Ayers missed the game due to an injury. Like the cornerback battle, this will go down to the last week of preseason, most likely.