Rookie Enderle believes he's ready to play Sunday


Rookie Enderle believes he's ready to play Sunday

In his coaches opinions, Nathan Enderles future may not be quite at hand. But as to whether he is ready to step on an NFL field as soon as next Sunday in Minnesota, Enderle doesnt hesitate.

Yeah, I am, he said Thursday.

Quarterbacks are supposed to be confident. Enderle is. And there is one big reason why Enderle, who is working like a No. 2 quarterback this week, is considerably more ready and confident now than even as recently as two weeks ago.

Josh McCown.

Hes going to be a good one, that guy, McCown told, nodding toward Enderle.

Long after practice again Thursday, after coaches and teammates, including Caleb Hanie, had gone in and practice equipment was being broken down, McCown and Enderle were still doing passing drills inside the Walter Payton Center.

But Enderle, the only player to be on the Bears 53-man roster all season and play in no games, wasnt the quarterback. He was the tight end. And the wide receiver. All the wide receivers, in fact.

Studying and working off a sheet of paper on the turf, McCown went over different routes, adjustments and decisions, then positioned Enderle to run the routes while McCown went through the play fakes, sometimes from a simulated direct snap, sometimes working from the shotgun. If the pass or the connection was a little off, McCown placed Enderle precisely where the throw was supposed to be caught and threw the pass again.

McCown knows the drill and the real benefits for both players: He played some wide receiver under coordinator Mike Martz back when the two were in Detroit.

Even just running the routes gives me a better idea of depths and understanding why they do certain things and run the routes, and that makes me a better quarterback, Enderle said.

Quarterbacks know all the routes but its good for me to know how theyre run, their landmarks and when they adjust and when they dont. Plus, it helps me stay in shape.

Whither Hanie?

Coaches said to put no stock in the fact that Hanie is not putting in the extra drill time. But where McCown is playing for a job opportunity next year and Enderle is assured of coming back for 2012, Hanie will not be. Hanie did not play in Green Bay and is not expected to get on the field in Minnesota.

Enderle, however, is another matter. If he in fact is not as ready as he believes he is, it ultimately reflects on a lack of player development by coordinator Martz and quarterbacks coach Shane Day.

The Bears are starting McCown because he gives them the best chance to win while at the same time giving them more of a body of work to evaluate for next season.

At this point, Enderle is the obvious play for next season. And if his work ethic even late in week 17 of a lost season is any indication, he may be the best chance to win after McCown as well.

He thinks hes ready, in any case.

Bears offense still believes in its potential after another uneven showing

Bears offense still believes in its potential after another uneven showing

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The product the Bears currently are isn’t the one Ryan Pace set out to assemble in April of 2017. He didn’t trade up to draft Mitch Trubisky, then hire Matt Nagy, then splash plenty of cash and draft capital on supporting talent just for a best-case outlook that’s more in line with what this franchise has been than what it could be. 

For now, that’s fine. The Bears are 2-1 and atop the NFC North after a come-from-behind 16-14 win over the Arizona Cardinals Sunday at State Farm Stadium thanks to one of the NFL’s best defenses, not a dynamic, potent offense.

“We can’t keep leaning on (the defense) for everything to bail us out of these situations,” running back Tarik Cohen said. “We have to start finding our identity, as coach Nagy says, and just start playing for ourselves and play with pride.”

The Bears’ offense isn’t close to where it needs to be, or believes it can be. But as long as the wins are coming, and players and coaches see week-to-week improvement — hey, it could be worse, right?

“You could say it’s a good sign, but at the same time if we can cut those inconsistencies out and just play like we can play and execute, I feel like we’ll be dominant,” wide receiver Taylor Gabriel said. “And we should be a playoff team once the offense gets clicking.”

For Bears players and coaches, it’s not a question of “if” the offense will get going — it’s when, as Gabriel said. But there haven’t been many signs that this is a group on the verge of a breakout; instead, if it looks like a work in progress, and plays like a work in progress…it’s a work in progress.

To wit, on Sunday: Mitch Trubisky missed a number of deep shots, including two that could’ve gone for touchdowns on a drive that ended with a chip-shot field goal. He turned the ball over twice and should’ve been picked off by Cardinals safety Tre Boston on an ill-advised throw two plays before Jordan Howard plunged one yard for the Bears’ only touchdown of the game. Trubisky was bothered by the Cardinals’ exotic blitzes early (“I thought we were in Singapore for a minute,” quipped offensive lineman Kyle Long, impressively coming up with an exotic locale on the spot) and wasn’t consistently accurate throughout the game.

But what Trubisky doesn’t lack, as his teammates explained, is self-confidence even as things may not be going as well as he’d like.

“I told him during the game, this is all a part of your story,” running back Benny Cunningham said. “When you’re playing 10 years and you’re one of the best quarterbacks in this league, you’ll remember these moments that kind of made you who you are. He was, the whole way, smooth sailing. He understood the situation, just keep playing.”

And for what it’s worth, when the Bears needed three points, Trubisky helped deliver those three points with a 14-play, 59-yard drive that ended with Cody Parkey’s game-winning field goal.

“We’ve had really three games that’ve come down to the wire,” wide receiver Allen Robinson said. “At the end of the day in certain situations from Game 1 to Game 2 to Game 3, in certain situations we needed to get points we’ve been able to do that.”

In the immediate aftermath of a game, there aren’t a lot of answers from the locker room as to how the Bears can reach their offensive potential beyond some general platitudes about ironing things out, or something like that (and that’s okay, without the benefit of film review). But the feeling among offensive players is that they can and will be better, and will eventually repay the defense for all the work that group has done to get them atop the NFC North in the nascent stages of 2018.

“It’s a good formula,” Cohen said. “It works from time to time. But I feel like it’d be a way better formula if offense, defense and special teams played great coming out.”

Bears defense bends, then snaps back and breaks Cardinals in third straight dominant performance

Bears defense bends, then snaps back and breaks Cardinals in third straight dominant performance

In a Bears championship season a long time ago, one in which the Bears’ defense ruled the NFL, that unit was trotting off the field after a stop and the offense coming on, when defensive end Ed O’Bradovich snarled at the offense, “Just try to hold ‘em.”

Matters are far from that in 2018 but while the Bears offense struggles to find its stride and identity, the other side of the football has established both, underscored in a 16-14 win on Sunday over the Arizona Cardinals in which the Bears defense allowed first-quarter mistakes and 14 Arizona points, then shut the Cardinals down with 120 yards over seven scoreless possessions, four ending in Bears takeaways.

“They feel like they can be in a different league of their own,” coach Matt Nagy said after his defense held a third straight opponent to fewer than 300 yards of offense.

As readers of this space know, the ancient James Bond axiom on occasion is invoked: once is chance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.

So it was in Sunday’s win that the Bears defense for the third straight game generated at least four sacks and linebacker Khalil Mack delivered a sack and forced fumble. For the third straight game the Bears allowed less than 75 rushing yards, holding Arizona to 53 after giving Seattle 74 and Green Bay just 69.

“Three weeks in a row now, they’ve done some special things,” Nagy said.

Enemy action indeed. With an arrow squarely pointing in an upward direction.

The defense that collapsed in the fourth quarter against Green Bay and allowed the Seattle Seahawks back into last Monday’s game with touchdown drives of 75 and 99 yards in the fourth quarter closed down on the Cardinals. Arizona rolled to 101 yards in the first quarter.

“Our defense was not used to that,” Nagy said. “We haven’t been giving up those plays.”

Then… nothing.

“We just rallied the guys together,” said Mack, with four sacks on the season, tying for team-high with five solo tackles, one for a loss and a forced fumble. “In those situations you just know you can’t let the offense score any more points.

“The way we rallied was very positive.”

The unit had little to no impact pressure on Bradford in the first quarter, during which he beat the Bears for TD passes of 35 and 21 yards, both times exploiting coverage mismatches and mistakes. Bradford found tight end Ricky Seals-Jones running loose in what appeared to be a breakdown five plays into Arizona’s first possession and Seals-Jones completed the 35-yard play untouched. The score came two plays after wideout Christian Kirk turned a short toss into a 30-yard gain.

One play after the Arizona defense had forced a Mitch Trubisky fumble, the Cardinals got running back David Johnson in space against linebacker Danny Trevathan. Bradford’s touch pass to Johnson for 21 yards gave Arizona a 14-0 lead and their final points of the game.

The defense sacked Bradford twice in the second quarter, including one in which defensive lineman Akiem Hicks forced a fumble that the Cardinals recovered. It also allowed zero net yards while forcing three punts.

The group was just getting started. On Arizona’s first four possessions of the second half:

  • Safety Eddie Jackson intercepted Bradford at the Chicago 33, from where the Bears offense scored a touchdown on a Jordan Howard run
  • Cornerback Sherrick McManis, pressed into service at nickel back in a shuffle necessitated by Prince Amukamara’s hamstring injury, intercepted Bradford at the Arizona 44, from where the Bears scored on a Cody Parkey field goal
  • Mack forced a Bradford fumble, recovered by linebacker Danny Trevathan at the Chicago 16
  • Cornerback Bryce Callahan intercepted rookie Josh Rosen, the latter making his NFL debut as Arizona made a change looking for a final spark

Jackson “added” a pick-six with 22 seconds remaining but the interception was nullified by an offside call on Mack.

The offense was able to score 13 points off the Arizona turnovers, opportunities not lost on members of a unit looking to catch up to teammates currently in that “different league of their own.”

“They have our back,” said wide receiver Allen Robinson.