Bears

Ray McDonald release creates big 'now what?' problem for Bears

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Ray McDonald release creates big 'now what?' problem for Bears

When the Bears signed former San Francisco 49er Ray McDonald, concurrent with adding Jarvis Jenkins from the Washington Redskins last March, the Bears appeared to have set in place two-thirds of the down-linemen component of their developing 3-4 scheme. McDonald was a starter, period.

Now the Bears face the unenviable task of filling in a gaping hole that they’d hoped was set. They drafted only one defensive lineman, and Eddie Goldman is the presumptive starting nose tackle. They did sign undrafted defensive tackle Terry Williams, but Williams (329 pounds) also is a nose tackle.

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Which all conspires to leave the Bears short a starting member of the “3” in 3-4. But they have options, two in fact. Coincidentally, both were tentatively ID’d as nose tackles by GM Ryan Pace back at the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this year.

What’s significant now is that one, or both, may be starting, just not at nose tackle.

One is Jeremiah Ratliff, who already had been talked about as an end rather than nose tackle, given his age (34 in August) and size (305 pounds).

The other is Ego Ferguson. Perhaps also coincidentally, Pace said immediately after the draft that the Bears already had looked extensively at Ferguson as an end in the 3-4.

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“We’ve talked about that a lot,” Pace said. “We project [Ferguson] as really nose and end. He can be both for us. So we don’t have him set at one position right now. He can be a nose or an end. He has position flexibility there, too.”

The depth chart also includes lightly used Brandon Dunn, undrafted last year out of Louisville, who made the Bears’ practice squad and moved onto the 53-man roster in November.

And Will Sutton, under some roster pressure simply because he is undersized and less suited to two-gapping systems, projects to get perhaps a longer look for a roster suddenly without one key figure at the top.

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

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USA TODAY

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

The Bears were not at their best against the New England Patriots on Sunday. They made plenty of mistakes on all three phases and gave Tom Brady too many opportunities to control the game.

It wasn’t all bad from Chicago, though. Trey Burton emerged as a new favorite weapon of Mitchell Trubisky, and the tight end was the Bears’ highest-graded player in the game by Pro Football Focus.

Burton had a career high 11 targets, nine catches and 126 yards with a touchdown, giving Trubisky a 144.7 passer rating when targeting his top tight end.

Seven of Burton’s targets and six of his catches traveled 10 or more yards in the air, according to PFF.

Defensively, safety Adrian Amos led the pack with a 74.6 overall grade. He did not miss a tackle after missing a career-high five last week, and he allowed only one catch for eight yards against the Patriots.

On the bottom of the scale, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd received the second-lowest grade of his career (38.9 overall) for his performance. He did not record any pressure on the quarterback in 13 pass rushing snaps, and he allowed two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in coverage against running back James White.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a career-low grade as well at 44.9 overall. He was clearly limited by his groin injury, targeted five times with one catch for four yards and a dropped pass.

Overall, the Bears were able to stick with one of the top teams in the AFC while also leaving a lot of room for improvement. It’s a step in the right direction from where Chicago was in recent seasons.

NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Jags, Eagles, Bears all see stock fall

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USA Today

NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Jags, Eagles, Bears all see stock fall

Take a look over the NFC landscape and try to find me a team that can compete with the Rams. 

Packers? Held back by Rodgers' knee and Rodgers' coach. Saints? Might not even win their own division. Washington? Does Alex Smith really scare anyone in the playoffs? 

The Rams have one of the easier paths to the Championship Round/Super Bowl that we've seen in some time. Will it likely stay that way? Probably not. But there's a difference between parity and mediocrity and right now the NFC is toeing the line HARD. 

Outside the NFC's "elite", how did your team do this week? 

You can take a look here and see where they landed.