Bears

Moon: Bears defense can stop Vick

Moon: Bears defense can stop Vick

Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010
12:45 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Dropped in for the weekly chat with Mac and Spiegs on The Danny Mac Show on WSCR-AM 670 a little while ago and theres no shortage of things to visit on when something like the Michael Vick Experience is coming to town.

But I threw out with the guys the fact that while Vick is leading the NFL with a passer rating of 108.7, and has thrown 11 TD passes vs. zero INTs, this is a player who has never had a full-season rating above 82 or a completion percentage even as high as 56.

Vick may indeed be nothing like the athlete he was in those sometimes-erratic years but he is not going to go through 2010 without an interception, nor completing 63 percent of his passes. The Bears are good enough defensively to trouble Vick into mistakes and my early guess is that he will give the Bears one or two on Sunday.

Spiegs raised the specter of the Philadelphia defense, which has gotten totally short shrift amid VickMania. Check the next item here in the blog for why the Eagle defense vs. Jay CutlerMike Martz may be the bigger key to the outcome.

Well talk again next week and Danny wondered if well be talking about the 8-3 Bears or the 7-4 Bears preparing for a trip to Detroit. I dont feel overly good about making a call against an Eagles team that has been increasingly solid as this season has worn on but I like what the Bears have been doing defensively with gap integrity, which is the absolute needed for dealing with Vick.

Early call: Bears in a surprisingly low-scoring game against Philadelphias 28.4-ppg offense.

Ominous numbers

CSNPhilly.com colleague Reuben Frank has some analysis that should seriously concern the Bears. Reuben notes that the Eagles were among the NFLs poorest at stopping the run through the first quarter of the season but have since been one of the best at stopping what has become a critical part of the new Mike Martz offense.

Philadelphia was giving up 139 rushing yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry through its 2-2 start. Over the last six games the Eagles have allowed only 74 yards per game and 3.6 per carry. Just for purposes of comparison, the Bears defense that has drawn so many plaudits of late has given up an average of 78.7 over its last six games.

As notable inside the numbers, Reuben points out that the run-committed New York Giants, who average 32 rushes per game, gave up running the ball in last Sunday nights loss to the Eagles and ran the ball just three times in the second half.

The Bears have run the ball 30-plus times in the last three games, a rare stretch for a Martz offense. The Bears stayed with the run despite modest per-carry success against Miami, Minnesota and Buffalo whether Martz and Mike Tice, whose input is more than apparent in the game plans and execution, have the resolve to stay with the run against an elite run defense might be the key to the Bears keeping Michael Vick in an Eagles cape on the sideline rather than the Superman cape hes suspected of wearing on the field
Face time

Looking forward to sitting in with William Jackson on Bears Blitz today at 5 p.m. Billy Jack is a long-time football guy and always good to swap thoughts with.

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.

Bears roster lacks veteran cut candidate

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USA Today

Bears roster lacks veteran cut candidate

The Bears battle for the 53-man roster doesn’t have many contentious positions entering training camp.

Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy brought back largely the same roster from their breakout 2018 season, finding replacements for the few players gone in free agency.

Outside of kicker, the entire starting lineup is pretty much set for Week 1, and the main competitions to stick with the team are at the bottom of the depth chart.

It leaves the roster with no notable veterans that stand out as candidates to be cut. ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson was asked to name one for an article, and he couldn’t come up with any.

He mentioned Taquan Mizzell, who made the move from running back to wide receiver this offseason, but as Dickerson pointed out “Mizzell is hardly a well-known commodity around the league.”

Former third-round pick Jonathan Bullard hasn’t lived up to his draft status, but the Bears have seemed comfortable keeping him around in a backup role.

The Bears roster has very little fat to trim. The only other player who could potentially qualify is cornerback Sherrick McManis, since the team has so many young players at his position, but he’s been working at safety to increase his value, and he’s one of the team’s best special teams contributors.

The trim down from the 90-man roster shouldn’t have too many significant surprises, which is why so much of the attention this offseason continues to go to the kicker position.

Alex Bars is ready to take his shot with Harry Hiestand and the Bears

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USA Today

Alex Bars is ready to take his shot with Harry Hiestand and the Bears

Alex Bars was cleared to practice last week, allowing him his first chance to put on a helmet since tearing his ACL and MCL Sept. 29 while playing for Notre Dame. The undrafted guard was able to participate in veteran minicamp, allowing him to shake off some rust before his real push for a roster spot begins in training camp next month. 

Many speculated Bars would’ve been as high as a mid-round draft pick if not for that devastating knee injury. It didn’t take the 6-foot-6, 312 pound Bars long, though, to decide where he wanted to go after not being picked in April’s draft. Call it the Harry Hiestand effect. 

Bars played under Hiestand’s tutelage at Notre Dame from 2014-2017, and said he always wanted to wind up with the Bears to work with his former coach — just as 2018 top-10 picks Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey hoped to as well. 

“I remember talking about that, because they both wanted to play for him,” Bars said. “They understand where he can take you and how phenomenal a coach he is, so they both wanted that. And I’m just the same way.”

While Nelson transformed the Indianapolis Colts’ playoff-bound offensive line and McGlinchey showed plenty of promise with the San Francisco 49ers, the reunion of Bars and Hiestand carries some intriguing possibilities for the Bears. Bars has always had upside — he was a four-star recruit out of Nashville in 2014 — and getting to work with Hiestand may be the best way to tap into that potential. 

“He knows me very well, I understand his technique very well,” Bars said. “So having that connection, that player-coach connection all four years through college is huge.”

Hiestand called Bars after his injury last fall and offered some words of encouragement, which only furthered Bars' wish to play for his former college coach in the NFL. 

"That meant everything," Bars said. "He cares so much off the field as well as on the field. That’s who he is."  

Bars wasn’t able to participate in OTAs or rookie minicamp, but Hiestand doesn’t see that as putting him in a tough spot to make the Bears' 53-man roster. And there will very much be an opportunity for Bars to make a push during training camp, given 10-year veteran Ted Larsen only has $90,000 in guaranteed money on his one-year contract. 

It may not be the more eye-catching roster battle during training camp, but the Bears hope they can find interior offensive line depth through competition in Bourbonnais. And Bars, now cleared to practice, will get his shot. 

“He’ll have the chance because he’s smart, he understands the technique, he knows what to do,” Hiestand said during OTAs, when Bars hadn’t practiced yet. “He’s learning the offense even though he’s not doing it. But when we put the pads on that’s when you make or don’t make the team.” 

It’s often unfair — yet far too easy — to place high expectations on undrafted free agents. For every Cameron Meredith or Bryce Callahan who gets unearthed, there are dozens of anonymous players who struggle to stick on an NFL practice squad. 

But Bars is among the more important undrafted free agents on the Bears given his connection with Hiestand and the position he plays. While Kyle Long is healthy, he hasn’t played a full season since 2015, underscoring the Bears’ need for depth on the interior of their offensive line in the immediate future. 

And the Bears would save a little over $8 million against their 2020 cap if they were to make the difficult decision to cut Long in a year. If Bars develops into the kind of player plenty in the NFL thought he could be before his knee injury, that would make releasing Long a little easier to swallow at Halas Hall. 

For now, though, Bars is just hoping to make the Bears. Anything else is a long ways away.

“I’m excited to be here, thrilled for this opportunity and it’s all about productivity,” Bars said. “Just need to be productive and prove you belong on this team.”

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