Bears

No accolades, but Bears offense still jelling just fine

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No accolades, but Bears offense still jelling just fine

Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010
4:40 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

No member of the Bears offense was voted to the NFC Pro Bowl roster. No giant surprise there, given that the unit ranks 30th in yardage, 18th in points per game and has absolutely been pantsd in a number of national games before putting 40 on the Minnesota Vikings in a game played after most votes were in.

The Bears scored one TD in each of the Miami and New England games, had more sacks than points against the Giants, and have been out-gained in five of their 11 wins. Not impressive.

But the Chicago offense right now is the quintessential case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. And that is a very good thing.

Matt Forte is averaging 4.7 yards per carry over the last eight games. Only LeSean McCoy in Philadelphia, Jonathan Stewart in Carolina and Tampa Bays LeGarrette Blount have averaged more. Forte and McCoy are the only backs in the NFC with 900 rushing and 400 receiving yards and Forte is poised to join Walter Payton as the only Bears with 1,000 rushing and 500 receiving yards in the same season.

The Bears have converted 46.3 percent of their third downs in the past eight weeks. The only teams ahead of them (New Orleans, Green Bay, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, New England) are all in or near the playoffs. The reason: Jay Cutler is the NFLs best in third-down passes completion percentage for first downs (92.1) and in percent of overall attempts completed for firsts (54.7).

When the Bears played the Green Bay Packers the first time, only center Olin Kreutz and left tackle Frank Omiyale were starting in those positions, and Omiyale was making his first start there. Roberto Garza was out of position at left guard, and the right side consisted of Lance Louis at guard and Kevin Shaffer at right tackle.

When Cutler met with the media Wednesday, the subject of Pro Bowl never came up, maybe because the only Bears on the all-star roster were from defense or special teams. But you have the distinct feeling that the Bears could not care less about things like Pro Bowls at this point.

We dont really want to take a step back as a team or as an offense the way we have played the last couple games, Cutler said. Were kind of putting things together. We want to keep that going.

Obviously you cant take the last eight games and treat it like its own separate season.

Or can you? The Packers, who had two members of their offense (tackle Chad Clifton, receiver Greg Jennings) selected and three others named as alternates, are looking at the Bears exactly that way.

I think overall, theyre just starting to jell and come together, said linebacker Clay Matthews, one of three Pro Bowlers on the Green Bay defense. Obviously, Cutler has got a nice little rhythm going. Knox continues to make big plays. Obviously, Olsen at tight end and Forte has really got it going. I think more so than them changing, theyre really jelling. I think thats the biggest difference is theyre on a roll.

And that is a whole lot more important than being on a Pro Bowl roster.

Ouch

Kudos to Jay Glazer, FOXSports.coms NFL maven and good friend of View from the Moon (Glaze IDd the Bears as the NFC darkhorse team back when we hooked up in Bourbonnais) on breaking the 50,000 fine Brett Favre was tagged with by the NFL for failure to cooperate in the Jenn Sterger mess and investigation (http:tinyurl.com29666xz).

Glaze notes that the fine wasnt for violating a policy but for non-cooperation. Not exactly the Al Capone to Alcatraz for income tax evasion, but you get the idea.

Welcome thoughts

Compliments to a few of you for thoughts, even ones I disagree with, on recent columns. Geeman215 thinks staying healthy is the key through this final regular-season game vs. my point that the Lovie Smith Bears have stumbled badly when they phone in their last game. Gee notes that this isnt Rex Grossman were talking about, as we were in 2006. But Id just note that Grossman had more 100 passer ratings (seven) than Jay Cutler has this season. He wasnt the Bad Rex that ran off the rails in subsequent seasons. My point is that this team needs to stay focused and not take an excessive amount of time off before its playoff game.

dcrutch15 weighed in with an intriguing prospect for a Bears wide receiver: Plaxico Burress. Burress was one of three players the Bears were prepared to take in the 2000 draft (plus Thomas Jones and Brian Urlacher) at No. 9, whoever was left, and that turned out to be Urlacher after Pittsburgh grabbed Burress.

Burress is serving time for weapons charges and even managed to shoot himself in the leg. But hell be eligible for parole in early 2011 and I like dcrutchs alluding to Michael Vick as a successful rehab story.

Burress, like Vick, could well have been humbled by his fall and may be a superb low-risk gamble on a towering wideout who caught a Super Bowl-winning touchdown pass.

The comments are always welcome. Always enjoy things you all notice.

Kaping if off

Today is All-Kap All The Time Day here at "View from the Moon" where I spend more time with good buddy David Kaplan than his family does. Ill do a little talk-back (Kap considers it back-talk, but hey, he just doesnt like being sassed) on Comcast SportsNets Chicago Tribune Live at 5:40 p.m. and give Kap a chance to make his prediction for the score of the Bears-Patriots Super Bowl.

Then Ill visit with Kap on WGN-AM 720 a little after 8 p.m.

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.

Ryan Pace says Bears are 'exploring every avenue' to upgrade tight end

Ryan Pace says Bears are 'exploring every avenue' to upgrade tight end

Bears general manager Ryan Pace didn't come across as a guy willing to go down in flames with his decision to sign tight end Trey Burton back in 2018 when he met with the media at the NFL Combine on Tuesday. Instead, he confirmed the Bears will be heavily invested in the tight end market this offseason, both in free agency and the 2020 NFL draft.

"We’re looking at it in free agency and the draft," Pace said of this year's available tight ends. "It’s deep in different areas. That’s an area of focus for us, I don’t think that’s a secret. This offense, a lot of it goes through the tight end, so we’re exploring every avenue."

It's hard to envision a scenario where Pace would be willing to travel down the big-money free-agent path again, but Falcons pass-catcher Austin Hooper could be too tempting to pass up.

Atlanta confirmed on Tuesday Hooper will be allowed to test the open market, and if he ranks high enough on Pace's wish list, we could be setting up to see a $10 million per year offer. It may seem like a waste of resources to tie that much money up in the tight end position (he and Burton would cost the Bears close to $20 million in 2020), but they experienced just how limited Matt Nagy's offense is without a capable playmaker at the position. Hooper would fix that.

The cheaper alternative for Pace to upgrade at tight end would be the draft, where several quality prospects will be on the board when the Bears pick at No. 43 and No. 50 overall. Players like Purdue's Brycen Hopkins, FAU's Harrison Bryant and Notre Dame's Cole Kmet could all be available when the Bears are on the clock, and all three of them would represent a marked uptick in talent for the depth chart.

Pace is being logical and rational when it comes to his evaluation of the tight end group. It's especially impressive considering the top two options currently on the roster -- Burton and Adam Shaheen -- were hand-picked by him and cost Chicago a top-of-the-market free-agent deal and a high draft pick (second round, 2017). 

Pace has a great opportunity to right his wrongs at tight end over the next couple of months.

How Matt Nagy's 'urgency' could foreshadow a Bears quarterback change

How Matt Nagy's 'urgency' could foreshadow a Bears quarterback change

INDIANAPOLIS — The Bears don’t look likely to sign or trade for a true starter to replace Mitch Trubisky, and Ryan Pace made clear he expects the 2017 No. 2 overall pick to be his starter in 2020. 

Let’s add an addendum to that, though, based on something Matt Nagy said: Just because Trubisky begins 2020 as the Bears’ starting quarterback does not mean he’ll hold on to that gig for the whole season, or even for half a season. 

In talking about the need to find an offensive identity in 2020, Nagy offered a response that leads you to believe job security won't be close to where it was in 2019:

“We got to figure out what our identity is and that's going to be an objective for us,” Nagy said. “And then last year you heard me say, sometimes it takes five or six weeks. I feel like personally that's always the case, but there's a sense of urgency for us going into this year. It needs to happen sooner.”

It needs to happen sooner. What happens if Trubisky doesn’t show any improvement through the first three or four games of 2020, and the Bears’ offense is lacking an identity at the end of September?

If there truly is a sense of urgency to find solutions on offense, then the Bears should consider something they didn’t last year: Changing quarterbacks. 

Chase Daniel was not on the roster to push Trubisky for playing time. He was brought in for his knowledge of the offense as “a little bit of an assistant coach,” as Nagy put it. The Bears figured surrounding Trubisky with as many resources as possible would help him thrive in Nagy’s complex offense. 

What the Bears need — and have indicated they want — is more competition in their quarterback room. That does not necessarily mean, again, luring someone like Teddy Bridgewater to Chicago to start. 

But it does mean adding someone to the roster who at least has a chance to be a better option than Trubisky, if Trubisky doesn’t show any improvement. 

Case Keenum could be that guy. Marcus Mariota, too (although Mariota sharing agents Bruce Tollner and Ryan Tollner with Trubisky could complicate any interest in him the Bears might have). Maybe there’s a trade to be made for Andy Dalton after all, if the Cincinnati Bengals are willing to bend to make the money work. 

A free agent signing along those lines and/or a draft pick — it doesn’t have to be a second rounder, either — would put someone on the roster who could be viewed as a legitimate replacement for an ineffective Trubisky. 

“If you're not creating competition around your whole roster, you're not pushing your own guys,” Nagy said.

The Bears didn’t do that at quarterback the last two years. 

But all signs are pointing to that changing in 2020. And while that may not mean an immediate change at starting quarterback, it means a switch during the season could become a real possibility. 

“If we all think that that’s what we want from (Trubisky), from last year, we’re fooling ourselves,” Nagy said. “He knows that and we know that. 

“But at the same time, we need to be real. What’s around him? And that’s where we’re at. I know it’s hard sometimes for all of us to understand that, and you see what’s going on with the instant gratification now, but there is a process for us. I do know that Mitch is very hungry. 

“He understands that we want him to play better, he understands that we want to coach better. So now we cannot worry and dwell about what happened last year. If you do that, you get stuck in the mud. We can’t do it. 

“It’s a clean slate. Now we’ve gotta get better for this year.”

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