Bears

It's official: Bears are a running team...for now

327844.jpg

It's official: Bears are a running team...for now

Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010
Posted: 4:25 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

If you think the notion of the Bears becoming a running team was just a figment of Lovie Smith's imagination, not so -- it's true. At least for November.

The Bears had 136 rushing attempts and 121 pass plays (attempts plus sacks) for their four November games and were second in the NFL in run ratio, keeping it on the ground 52.9 percent of the time (56.3 of San Diego's plays were runs).

Not coincidentally, the Bears trailed only New Orleans and Green Bay in third-down conversions with first downs picked up on 31 of 59 "money" downs. Defensively, no unit is allowing a lower percentage of conversions than the Bears' 30.6.

The Bears defense is at No. 2 behind only Pittsburgh in the latest Aikman Ratings, the standard the Bears use for measuring defenses because of its inclusion of many different factors. Julius Peppers has 8 sacks and 4 forced fumbles in five career games against the Lions.

The honorable Jay Cutler

Jay Cutler's four TD passes and 146.2 passer rating in the win over Philadelphia has earned him another nomination as FedEx Air player of the week. Cutler won the award after week one when he completed 23-of-35 passes for 372 yards against Detroit.

In four career games against the Lions, Cutler has completed 66-of-103 passes, posted a 110.1 rating and thrown eight TD passes vs. just one INT.

His teams (Denver, Chicago) are 18-0 when Cutler puts up a passer rating above 100.

Nice

Comcast SportsNet President Jim Corno is being honored with a prestigious "Top Regional Player in Cable Award" at the CableFAX 100 event Dec. 9 in New York. Jim also was inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame this year.

Like what Comcast is doing in sports programming, digital and more? It starts at the top. Nice going, Jim.

Yikes I

Things have reached the point in the Motor City where Detroit Free Press writer Dave Birkett is doing a Monday look at where the Lions may or should be looking in next year's draft. The Lions are out of any playoff thought and at 2-9, you can forgive their fans for finding some Saturday games of more interest than the ones on Sunday.

For the draftniks out there, Dave notes that Carolina at 1-10 would pick first in this Wednesday's NFL draft, Detroit would have the No. 2 and Cincinnati, also at 2-9, comes in at No. 3, followed by Buffalo and Dallas.

Yikes II

Colleague Ray Didinger with CSNPhilly.com suggested today that hyped-out Eagles fans should relax and that there is no reason to panic. Good advice, Ray, because if you think Chicago can overreact to a Bears win or loss, consider the radio caller Ray cites:

"I should've known better," the man ranted. "This isn't a Super Bowl team. It isn't even a playoff team."

Well, all righty, then. ...

Stop a second ...

Walking back to my mother's cancer station at Advocate Lutheran Center for Advanced Care today during the Tuesday treatment, I passed a station where a young mother, maybe early 30s, was in the chair receiving her chemo IV. Her daughter, a little cutie probably 5 years old, was holding her hand.

My Mom is 85 and doing pretty well. So I've got a couple prayers I probably won't need for her, and I think I'm going to send 'em down the hall. If you've got one or two you're not using, there's someone somewhere who could use the kind thoughts, healing energy and support. That'd be a sweet Christmas gift that's never too early to give.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

3 things 2020 Bears will need to repeat 2018’s success

3 things 2020 Bears will need to repeat 2018’s success

The first two years of the Matt Nagy era can be boiled down to this: First, a tremendously fun year in which the Bears blew past expectations; and second, a tremendously un-fun year in which the Bears fell short of expectations.

So what will 2020 be closer to: The unbridled joy of 2018 (until the last kick of the wild card round), or the numbing disappointment of 2019 (despite still winning eight games)?

To answer that question, we should start by laying out some expectations for 2020. Broadly: The Bears should compete for a spot in an expanded seven-team playoff field. More narrowly: The Bears’ offense should be, at worst, league-average – about where it was in 2018. And the defense, led by a mauling pass rush, should be one of the best in the NFL even without Eddie Goldman.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Bears news and analysis.

But how do the Bears get 2020 to feel more like 2018 than 2019? Here are three key factors:

The tight end question

Trey Burton did not miss a game in 2018’s regular season, and the Bears’ offense was better because of it. While Burton’s numbers weren’t eye-popping (54 catches, 569 yards, 6 TDs) his steadiness at the “U” tight end spot allowed the Bears’ offense to create mismatches, especially with Tarik Cohen.

Burton never was healthy last year, playing poorly in eight games before landing on injured reserve. The Bears didn’t have quality depth behind Burton, and the “Y” spot was a disaster. The lack of any good tight end play wasn’t the only reason why the Bears’ offense cratered in 2019, but it might’ve been the biggest reason.

The starting point to the Bears’ offense in 2020 is, certainly, figuring out who’s playing quarterback. But the Bears need Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet and Demetrius Harris to be the fixes their tight end room sorely needs. Just average play from those guys will help the Bears’ offense be closer to what it was in 2018 (which, again, was merely good enough), if not better.

MORE: Where Cole Kmet stands as Bears get to know their rookies

And if the tight end room is a disaster again? It might not matter who starts at quarterback.

Good luck and/or good depth

The 2018 Bears were incredibly lucky in dodging significant injuries early on. Adam Shaheen began the year on IR but returned in November; Kyle Long went on IR after Week 8 and came back Week 17. Depth pieces like Sam Acho and Dion Sims were lost, sure, but the Bears did well to make their absences footnotes to the season.

Even when slot corner Bryce Callahan was injured in Week 14, veteran special teamer Sherrick McManis did incredibly well in his place. Eddie Jackson’s season-ending injury in Week 15 was the most costly, as the Bears missed him in that wild card game against Foles and the Eagles.

But overall, the Bears were both lucky in terms of staying healthy and good in terms of replacing those injured guys in 2018.

The Bears saw some depth shine in 2019 – specifically defensive lineman Nick Williams and inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski – but even still, the defense struggled to dominate without Hicks on the field. And the aforementioned tight end position was a disaster without a healthy Burton. Long never was right, and the offensive line without him (or veteran backup Ted Larsen) never was either. Taylor Gabriel’s off-and-on availability due to multiple concussions hampered the offense, too.

2020 inevitably will be a year of attrition not only for the Bears, but for the entire NFL. In addition to avoiding football injuries before and during the season, teams will have to avoid COVID-19 outbreaks in their facilities. Training and personal responsibility can go a long way in avoiding injuries and illness, but it’ll take a lot of luck, too, for teams to stay mostly healthy.

MORE: Fragility of 2020 season constantly on Bears players' minds

The teams with the best depth will have the best chance of making the playoffs. Will the Bears be among that group? Maybe. But a shortage of draft picks in recent years might be costly. We’ll see.

Betting on pressure

The Bears had one of the best defenses of the last decade in 2018 because of, first and foremost, outstanding coverage from its secondary. The ability of Fuller/Jackson/Callahan/Adrian Amos/Prince Amukamara to disguise their coverages confused most opposing offenses, who by the way also had to deal with Hicks pushing the pocket and Mack marauding off the edge. Hicks and Goldman opened up gaps for Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith to snuff out any attempt at establishing the run. It was a perfect formula.

The 2019 Bears’ defense took a step back not only because Vic Fangio (and defensive backs coach Ed Donatell) left for Denver, but because of player attrition, too. Last year’s defense was good, but not great.

The formula for the 2020 Bears’ defense won’t be the same as it was in 2018, though. The signing of Robert Quinn, coupled with jettisoning Leonard Floyd, hints at a defense predicated on a dominant pass rush. Holes in the secondary were addressed on the cheap, be it with Jaylon Johnson or Tashaun Gipson.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. A trio of Mack/Hicks/Quinn seems impossible to contain. If the Bears’ defense re-emerges as one of the best in the NFL, it’ll be because those three guys lead the way in putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.  

SUBSCRIBE TO THE UNDER CENTER PODCAST FOR FREE.

Mitch Trubisky, of course, was dubbed Bears' biggest liability in 2020

Mitch Trubisky, of course, was dubbed Bears' biggest liability in 2020

Mitch Trubisky's tenure in Chicago since being the second overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft hasn't been great. It hasn't been terrible, either. It's been a blend of good and bad which has led to an incomplete picture of who he is as a quarterback entering his fourth year in the league. It's the main reason why the Bears traded for Nick Foles; Trubisky can't be trusted (yet) to be the unquestioned starter for a team that on paper has playoff potential.

The fact that Trubisky can't be trusted contributes to the narrative that he's the team's biggest liability. Even if he wins the Bears' quarterback competition, will he really have the unconditional confidence of his coaches and teammates? Will Bears fans have the kind of faith in Trubisky that fans of other contenders have in their quarterbacks? Probably not. There's no reason why they should. Trubisky hasn't been consistent enough through nearly three seasons as a starter to deserve that level of trust.

According to a recent breakdown of every team's biggest liability, it was Trubisky, of course, who took the title for the Bears.

If new Chicago Bears quarterback Nick Foles can beat out Mitchell Trubisky and play well in 2020, the Bears might be a playoff team. If he cannot, Chicago might be looking at a lost season.

While the Bears roster is very talented, Trubisky has been anything but a steady presence under center. He has struggled to push the ball down the field—he averaged just 6.1 yards per attempt in 2019—and has limited what head coach Matt Nagy is able—or perhaps, willing—to do on offense.

Chicago ranked 29th in passing yardage last year and declined Trubisky's fifth-year option this offseason.

If the Bears are again one-dimensional, they're going to find it difficult to be relevant in the tough NFC North.

I ran a poll on Twitter that asked Bears fans who they prefer as the starting quarterback with just over one month to go before the season kicks off. The results were predictably close, but the nod went to Foles (56%). It feels safe to assume a big reason why fans hope Foles ends up QB1 is because of his proven track record in big moments. Even if he's a boring player with a limited regular-season ceiling, he has ice in his veins during the game's biggest moments. He's steady. He's consistent. He's pretty much the anti-Trubisky.

Is it fair to say Trubisky is a liability? Of course, it is. If he fails, the Bears will be set back for several seasons. Even if Foles salvages the team's short-term outlook, the long-term success of the franchise depends on Trubisky living up to his scouting report and becoming a franchise quarterback. And there just isn't enough evidence to prove he's capable of doing that.

If we don't know by now whether Trubisky can turn the corner and be a top-tier starting quarterback in the NFL, it's probably safe to say he can't. 

 

SUBSCRIBE TO THE UNDER CENTER PODCAST FOR FREE.