Bears

No surprise Kelly is on Bears' radar

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No surprise Kelly is on Bears' radar

It was funny reading reports Wednesday night concerning Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. They were, to quote Pro Football Talk, almost spontaneously and simultaneously about the Philadelphia Eagles being interested in Kelly for their vacant head coaching position. The Eagles' interest was so piqued that they interviewed Kelly following the BCS Championship game. As I stated before -- and tweeted out more than a month ago -- Kelly was on NFL radars. A coach with one losing record in 23 years of coaching does not go unnoticed.

MORE: Miller: Kelly, Saban among possible Bears candidates

But all of a sudden the media was caught with their pants down regarding a candidate they did not take seriously. Now reports have Kelly returning to South Bend. This, of course, is after Kelly during the week, leading up to the game, stated his only interest was Notre Dame. Love him or loathe him, Kelly has won wherever hes coached; that is why he is of NFL interest.
Speculation runsamokin the media, where reporters were quick to link the Browns, Bears, pretty much any head coaching vacancy on the planet to Kelly as most teams seem to interview the same candidates. Its called slap-it-out-there journalism and hope it sticks. It normally is camouflaged as fact with an unidentified source to provide validity because, is anyone really going to check anyway? The writer sure isnt going to reveal any source.
As I have written before, Bears GM Phil Emery is not a newbie to scouting players and coaches. There are plenty of files regarding both. The Bears, and every other NFL team, have walked weekly through the Irishs door in South Bend, Cincinnati, or Central Michigan to scout players and coaches. General managers and scouts are present every college weekend to scout talent of interest. It is not regulated just to the young men running around on the field. How coachs delegate, their decision making, and sideline demeanor is all scouted, assessed, and filed.
An NFL presence is even greater if universities are located in proximity of an NFL team. For instance, the Bears are in proximity to Northwestern, Illinois and Notre Dame. They have had plenty of opportunity to converse with Kelly, along with the Cleveland Browns, who are also within proximity and searching for a new head coach. Contact for interest and interviewing a candidate are two completely different actions.
For instance, Jon Gruden is still the number one coaching candidate on my Chicago Bears head coaching list. No one in the media has indicated Gruden as a serious candidate. After all, interviewing only seems to be what counts among the media. I wonder if Grudens been contacted though...hmm...

First and Final Thoughts: Does anyone really know what to expect this Sunday?

First and Final Thoughts: Does anyone really know what to expect this Sunday?

Not unlike Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky, it's Year 2 of First and Final Thoughts. Insider JJ Stankevitz and producer Cam Ellis talk about what's on their minds between games.

Final Thoughts on the Bye Week 

J.J. Stankevitz: The Bears had a lot of soul-searching to do in their off week, specifically among offensive players and coaches not named Allen Robinson. But more important than anything else will be improvements on the offensive line — better protection and run blocking will go a long way toward helping this offense operate more effectively in the Bears’ final 11 games. That means better play from left tackle Charles Leno and center James Daniels, as well as counting on Rashaad Coward/Ted Larsen/Alex Bars to be better at right guard than a less-than-100-percent Kyle Long was. 

Fix the O-line and a lot of problems will be solved. Don’t and it could diminish how much better Mitch Trubisky is — if he is at all — upon  coming back. 

Cam Ellis: I'll be curious to see where the Bears' bye week preparation show up first. Between the offensive line, an uninspiring run scheme, absent tight end production and no real answers at quarterback (but otherwise it's fine!), they've got to start somewhere.  Is it fixing the run game in hopes that it takes the burden off Trubisky's return? Or is it getting Trey Burton: The Adjuster involved earlier? Speaking of getting the ball earlier, Anthony Miller lightly lobbied for a higher workload, which may not be a bad idea either. This is why they pay Nagy the big bucks, but man, coaching in the NFL seems kind of hard. 

First Thoughts on Week 7 

Stankevitz: I’m going to expand on this more later in the week, but New Orleans’ defense looks like a tough challenge for Trubisky to face in his expected return Sunday. 2018 first-round edge rusher Marcus Davenport is third in the NFL in pass rushing efficiency, generating a pressure once every 13.7 snaps (behind only Nick Bosa and Khalil Mack). Cam Jordan is one of the better defensive linemen in the NFL and doesn’t always get his due for how good he is. 

So New Orleans has an excellent defensive front, one that will take sound technique and strong communication for the Bears’ O-line to block. And then there’s cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who’s shut down the likes of Amari Cooper, Mike Evans and DJ Chark over the last three weeks. His lock-down presence — he travels in zone coverage to take out a team’s best receiver — allows the Saints to not need to always play a safety over the top, leading to extra men in the box to stop the run. 

So Trubisky will have his hands full on Sunday. It’s not like the Saints have an elite defense, but it’s good, and looks like a bad matchup for the Bears’ offense. 

Ellis: To almost directly contradict J.J., I actually think there are yards to be had against a Saints defense that ranks 13th in pass defense DVOA, ninth in yards per play and has allowed five plays of 40+ yards (T6). Marshon Lattimore's had a great month, but his season-long coverage numbers are more good than great. An average pass defense will be more than enough if the Bears' offensive line plays as poorly as it did in London, but if for some reason the combination of Rashaad Coward, a bye week breakthrough, and Taylor Gabriel makes everything snap into place, I think the Bears could move the ball better than people expect.

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Four Bears who need to improve over final 11 games of 2019

Four Bears who need to improve over final 11 games of 2019

Chicago Bears fans entered the 2019 season with expectations that, admittedly, may have been a bit too high. After last year's 12-4 finish, NFC North title and what should've been at least one playoff victory, it's easy to understand why. The defense was returning all of its key pieces and the offense was set to emerge in Year 2 under Matt Nagy.

And while a 3-2 start certainly isn't the end of the world, the Bears haven't looked like a team that can realistically win a Super Bowl. Sure, the defense is championship caliber, but the offense is nowhere close. 

But that was all pre-bye week. Is it fair to demand better results now that the coaches and players have had some time to step back and evaluate what's worked (and what hasn't)? Absolutely.

In order to really feel good about this team's chances at a Super Bowl run in 2019, a handful of players need to step their game up.

Here are four of those guys:

QB Mitch Trubisky

Trubisky represents the Bears' 2019 season perfectly. He's the classic case of in-season play not living up to the preseason hype. But, much like this team in general, he can quickly flip the narrative into a positive one if he gets off to a hot start in Week 7 against the Saints and over the next five weeks in general.

Trubisky is expected to start Sunday after injuring his shoulder in Week 4 against the Vikings, an injury that forced him to miss Week 5's loss to the Raiders. His absence was felt in London; backup quarterback Chase Daniel wasn't atrocious, but he showed he isn't the kind of player who can elevate his teammates and finish a rally. Trubisky has proven he can be that guy — at least, in spurts — and now has to put this offense on his back, carry it to more production, points and victories.

Statistically, Trubisky could be worse. He's completing over 65% of his passes, and while his yardage and touchdown totals aren't the kind that fantasy football owners desire, he's kept the Bears above water. It's time for him to turn the corner and start proving to Nagy and this fanbase that Chicago can win games because of him and not just because of the defense.

WR Anthony Miller

Miller was supposed to be the Bears' breakout star on offense. He was supposed to challenge wide receiver Allen Robinson for targets. He was supposed to be a touchdown-scoring playmaker. Instead, he has just eight catches for 80 yards and no touchdowns through five games. He's on pace for just 256 receiving yards this season. This, from a player the Bears invested a second-round pick in in 2018. 

Miller flashed his playmaking ability in Week 5 when he hauled in four passes for 52 yards against the Raiders. But he hasn't eliminated bone-headed penalties and still appears, at times, like he lets his emotions get the best of him. Miller has to mature as a route-runner and he needs to maintain a team-first attitude between the lines in order to reach his full potential. If he falls behind wide receiver Javon Wims in the pecking order after the bye, concern for his role in this offense moving forward is very, very real.

The Bears need Miller to emerge as an explosive after-the-catch mid-level target for Trubisky. Otherwise, the offense won't come anywhere near reaching its potential.

LT Charles Leno, Jr.

Leno has been one of the most consistent and reliable Bears players over the last few seasons, but he's off to a rocky start in 2019. He has Chicago's fifth-lowest grade on offense (via Pro Football Focus) and has been penalized a team-high eight times. Aside from Kyle Long, Leno's been the worst offensive lineman in the run game, too.

There's no reason to worry that Leno has suddenly regressed to a fringe starter. Sometimes, players go through a slump. But the left tackle is one of the most important positions on offense, and the Bears need theirs to be better down the stretch.

OLB Leonard Floyd

Week 1 seems like a long, long time ago for Floyd. He registered two sacks in the opener and it felt like we were finally seeing the emergence of the former first-round pick's pass-rushing upside. Now entering Week 7, Floyd is still sitting on two sacks.

To be fair, Floyd has been his usual solid self. He's playing sound football against the run and in coverage, but edge defenders will always be judged by how often they get to the quarterback. With each passing week, Floyd continues to cement his reputation as just-a-guy in that department.

A breakout from Floyd would put the Bears defense in a tier of its own over the final 11 games. In fact, if he can be that double-digit-sack guy to complement Khalil Mack, Chicago's defense will be of the quality that can win a Super Bowl with or without above-average play from Trubisky.

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