Bears

Mullin: NFC North makes a statement in Week 1

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Mullin: NFC North makes a statement in Week 1

Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011
Posted: 2:25 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
Around the NFC North

The first game weekend was an NFC North statement, if there are really such things. The Bears, Lions and Packers all hung losses on the best of the NFC South, and the Lions win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was on the road. Add the Vikings near-upset of the AFC West favorite Chargers (San Diego trailed until 5 minutes to play) and the North acquitted itself very, very well....

Matthew Stafford was exactly as expected in the win over Tampa Bay, with 305 passing yards. What was even more impressive was the passer rating of 118.9, meaning efficiency with not many turnovers (1 INT), and he had a 9.24-yd. average per attempt....Coach Jim Schwartz was incensed at some of his players for stupid plays, but a key here is that the Lions of the last decade always made stupid plays. They just werent good enough to overcome them....

Minnesota will be better, not necessarily good since adding quarterback Donovan McNabb. But the Vikings wont get much better unless McNabb can give them more than 39 passing yards, as he did at San Diego. Probably a blip, but theres a reason why Andy Reid and Mike Shanahan werent concerned about letting him go....

Around the schedule

The Bears had the good fortune last season of facing some teams missing key players and that will be the case Sunday with the Saints. Wide receiver Marques Colston will be out for at least the next month with a broken collarbone suffered in the Green Bay game....

Lovie Smith has never lost to the New Orleans Saints in four meetings, all from 2005-2008. The Dick Jauron Bears teams lost three straight to New Orleans (2000-2003, with the 2002 game being played at the University of Ilinois while Soldier Field was being built onto. The contest was moved over to LSUs Tiger Stadium because of the damage wrought by Katrina....

Cam Newton made the Carolina Panthers headlines with his 422 passing yards, a rookie record. But the Panthers also lost the game and, worse, lost Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jon Beason from a defense that already was among the NFLs worst....

Around the NFL

Hot starts, anyone? Exactly four quarterbacks finished 2010 with passer ratings of 100 or better Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Michael Vick. The first weeks games produced 12, and neither Rivers nor Vick were among em.

Usual stuff

Brian Urlacher had 10 tackles, an interception, recovered fumble taken in for a touchdown, a tackle for loss and a pass deflection. For some linebackers playing against that Atlanta Falcons offense, that would be a career game.

Not for Urlacher. Not even his best game against the Falcons.

Urlacher was named NFC defensive player of the week after the Oct. 7, 2001 game in Atlanta in which he had 8 tackles, a sack, an interception of Vick, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble and a 90-yard TD return of a fumble (Vick didnt catch him). Urlacher wasnt interested in numbers or history after Sundays game.

"We won the game, thats all I care about, Urlacher said. Stats, this and that, you can have all that. There were a lot of questions about our team coming into the season. We are starting 1-0. We just need to keep going.

Important stuff

The annual coat drive run by Bears head equipment manager Tony Medlin is getting underway and will run through Dec. 4 with various drop-off points at Jewel-Oscos in the Chicago area. More than 25,000 coats were distributed last year but the goal is higher for 2011 and has a special target.

Sometimes you look around and see kids without a coat and we definitely want to stress that, for kids, Medlin said.

The drive is a joint effort by the Bears with Jewel-Osco, the Salvation Army and William Meyer Movers. For more information, including if you need a coat, check the teams website Chicagobears.comcommunity or call 773-205-3636.

Its a great thing that Tony does, said Urlacher.

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.

Pro Football Focus: Bears have NFL’s best run defense entering 2019

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USA Today

Pro Football Focus: Bears have NFL’s best run defense entering 2019

Pro Football Focus doesn’t seem to expect much regression for the Bears defense, at least when it comes to run defense.

PFF analyst Mike Renner ranked every team’s ability to stop the ground game, heading into 2019, and Chicago remains on top.

The team retained its entire front seven, top-to-bottom, with the exception of Sam Acho, who spent most of last season on injured reserve anyway.

One of the biggest keys, in Renner’s analysis, is Akiem Hicks, who was among Pro Football Focus’ top performers in the running game.

“The former Saint is proving himself one of the best free agent additions in recent memory,” Renner wrote. “His 13.3 run-stop percentage was the second-highest figure of any interior defender in the NFL last season.”

The Bears allowed the fewest rushing yards and rushing touchdowns of any defense last season, and the 3.8 yards per attempt they gave up was fourth best.

With the whole gang back together for 2019, the team is in a great spot to run it back under Chuck Pagano.    

Projecting what the Bears' 53-man roster will look like

Projecting what the Bears' 53-man roster will look like

The Bears will begin training camp next week without many significant position battles — outside of kicker, of course — which stands as an indicator of how strong a roster Ryan Pace has built. But that doesn’t mean there won't be some intriguing decisions to be made in a month and a half, especially involving depth at some critical positions. 

So here’s a pre-training camp stab at projecting what the Bear’s 53-man roster will look like on the night of Sept. 5:

QUARTERBACKS (2): Mitch Trubisky, Chase Daniel
Missing the cut: Tyler Bray

These two guys are locked in, leaving Tyler Bray to likely return to the practice squad for another season. 

RUNNING BACKS (4): Tarik Cohen, Mike Davis, David Montgomery, Kerrith Whyte Jr. 
Missing the cut: Ryan Nall

Cohen, Davis and Montgomery are roster locks, leaving Whyte and Nall to compete for, likely, just one spot on the roster. Matt Nagy praised Nall during OTAs, and he could become a versatile option with the ability to play some fullback, but we’ll give the last spot to Whyte given his speed and the Bears’ focus on that trait in the offseason. 

WIDE RECEIVERS (6): Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley Ridley, Marvin Hall
Missing the cut: Javon Wims, Emanuel Hall, Taquan Mizzell, Tanner Gentry, Jordan Williams-Lambert, Thomas Ives

Robinson, Gabriel and Miller are locks, while Patterson’s contract structure ($5 million guaranteed, all in 2019) and Ridley’s draft slot (fourth round) easily get them on the team, too. That leaves Javon Wims, Marvin Hall, Emanuel Hall and a handful of others to compete for what probably is only one more spot on the 53-man roster. There’s not much separating those three heading into training camp, though Emanuel Hall’s sports hernia surgery sidelined him during OTAs, putting him a little behind the curve. Wims is the incumbent here but didn’t get on the field much in 2018, while Marvin Hall played a little with the Atlanta Falcons over the last two years. We’ll give the edge to Marvin Hall for now based on his speed and meager experience, but also with the knowledge that the Bears’ sixth receiver likely won’t be active on game days unless of an injury. 

TIGHT ENDS (5): Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, Bradley Sowell, Dax Raymond
Missing the cut: Ian Bunting, Jesper Horsted, Ellis Richardson

If Burton has to begin training camp on the PUP list, will he be ready for Week 1? Can Shaheen stay healthy for a full season? Those are perhaps the two biggest questions needing answers not only for this unit, but for the Bears’ offense as a whole. Burton’s 11th-hour injury prior to the Bears’ playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles limited how dynamic Nagy’s offense could be, while Shaheen’s preseason injury meant the Bears were ineffective when using 12 personnel during the regular season. The Bears need better depth behind Burton and Shaheen — Braunecker is a reliable special teamer with flexibility to play both the “U” and the “Y” spots, but can more much-needed depth emerge from a converted offensive lineman (Sowell) and a handful of undrafted free agents (Raymond, Bunting, Horsted, Richardson)? We’ll give Sowell (at the “Y” behind Shaheen) and Raymond (at the “U” behind Burton) the spots for now, but both will have to earn their way onto the roster during training camp. 

OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Charles Leno, James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long, Bobby Massie, Rashaad Coward, Ted Larsen, Alex Bars
Missing the cut: Cornelius Lucas, Joe Lowery, T.J. Clemmings, Blake Blackmar, Marquez Tucker, Jordan McCray, Sam Mustipher

The Bears moved Sowell to tight end thanks, in part, to their confidence in the development of Coward — a converted defensive lineman — to take over as their swing tackle in 2019. He’s still under construction as an NFL offensive lineman and will have to beat out a handful of challengers, including a five-year NFL reserve in Lucas, but Coward has the edge for a roster spot. The interior reserves are less clear, though: Larsen was brought back in free agency but only has $90,000 guaranteed on his one-year deal, while Bars played for O-line coach Harry Hiestand in college but is coming off an ACL/MCL injury that led to him going undrafted in April. Any of the other reserves could make a push, or the Bears could look to add interior depth on cut-down weekend. For now, though, Larsen, Bars and Coward make the most sense to slide behind the same starting five the Bears had to end 2018. 

DEFENSIVE LINE (6): Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris, Jonathan Bullard, Nick Williams
Missing the cut: Abdullah Anderson, Jalen Dalton, Daryle Banfield, Jonathan Harris

This is the Bears’ deepest unit, with the only battle to see who will make the roster and wind up inactive on game days, as Williams was for all but two games in 2018. 

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (5): Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Aaron Lynch, Isaiah Irving, Chuck Harris
Cut: Kylie Fitts, Mathieu Betts, James Vaughters

Irving flashed during 2017’s and 2018’s preseasons, and might need to do so again to secure his spot on the Bears’ 2019 roster. But consider this an open battle for reserve roles behind Mack/Floyd/Lynch: Irving has the inside track to one spot but will have to earn it; while whoever flashes the most from the Harris/Fitts/Betts/Vaughters group should get another. We’ll go with Harris here — maybe Mack can take his fellow Buffalo alum under his wing during training camp. 

INSIDE LINEBACKER (4): Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Nick Kwiatkoski, Joel Iyiegbuniwe
Cut: Josh Woods, Jameer Thurman, Kevin Pierre-Louis

Woods might be as close to the bubble as anyone on defense, and could force his way on to the roster with a strong preseason and a commitment to special teams. But with Kwiatkoski a reliable backup and he and Iyiegbuniwe being core special teamers, it’s hard to see Woods beating out any of those four for a spot right now. 

CORNERBACK (6): Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Buster Skrine, Kevin Toliver II, Duke Shelley, Sherrick McManis
Cut: Stephen Denmark, John Franklin III, Michael Joseph, Josh Simmons, Clifton Duck, Jonathon Mincy

There should be a strong competition among the reserve outside corners on this roster, with Toliver having the best shot but needing to fend off the raw athleticism of Denmark and Franklin as well as the talent of Joseph, who stuck on the practice squad last year after going undrafted out of Division III Dubuque. Shelley flashed during OTAs and minicamp during the spring and looks likely to wind up on the 53-man roster. While McManis worked at safety some during the spring, we’ll include him among the cornerbacks for now. 

SAFETY (4): Eddie Jackson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson
Cut: Doyin Jibowu

Barring injury and a more permanent move to safety for McManis, there’s little that’ll change in this unit between now and Week 1.

SPECIALISTS (3): Greg Joseph (PK), Pat O’Donnell (P), Patrick Scales (LS)
Cut: Elliott Fry, Eddy Pineiro, John Wirtel

Surprise! While the battle between Fry and Pineiro will dominate the headlines in Bourbonnais, the “winner” isn’t guaranteed to be the Bears’ Week 1 kicker. So not only are those two competing against each other, they’re competing against the field, too. In this scenario, the Cleveland Browns keep fifth-round pick Austin Seibert and cut Joseph, who made 17 of 20 field goals (with a long of 51 yards) for them in 2018. The Bears could try to swing a trade for Baltimore’s Kaare Vedvik here, too. The larger point, though, is this: Pace may have to look outside the organization for his Week 1 kicker, and there will be some talent — like Joseph — available if he does.