Bears

Still think Bears absolutely had to have Moss or T.O.?

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Still think Bears absolutely had to have Moss or T.O.?

Monday, Dec. 27, 2010
9:05 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Cleaning out the notebook the day after....

Spot-on

CSNChicago.com colleague and friend Jim Miller, who has been beyond question the most insightful and thorough analyst of quarterback Jay Cutlers play over the last two seasons, takes a quality look at what the Jets game revealed about the play of Cutler and the overall offense in the context of a Super Bowl prospect.

Jim, who knows, oh, just little bit about NFL quarterbacking (check out the 2001 Bears sometime), gets inside the way Cutler attacked the Jets defense. And Jim looks at the things, like pass protection and the wide receivers (T.O. who?), that make the strongest case for the Bears being a whole lot more than just a lucky team at this point of 2010.

And along that line, a good friend and former Big Ten player (and a Bear doubter in the early 010 going) texted me after Sunday with a simple message: That is one good football team. I am a believer.

The Bears may stumble in the playoffs. Someone always does. But this is indeed a good football team. And whats easy to overlook is the fact that on that offense, the quarterback, wide receivers and offensive line are just starting to be what theyre going to be before theyre all finished.

Rex-ing

One of the top national writers on hand for Sundays game (name withheld because it was casual conversation among friends) looked beyond the nonsense in New York and directly at the bizarre fake-punt call that was the point at which that game nosed over and started down for the Jets.

What he saw was the first glimpse of the end of Rex Ryan in New York. The schtick wont be enough was his observation, meaning that as likeable and entertaining as Ryan is, the coaching gaffes will count for far more in the wrong direction and ultimately be his undoing."

Rashied Davis, the Bears special teamer who broke up the Mark Sanchez pass on that play, didnt disagree that some element of arrogance could have played into Ryans decision. Not only on that play, but on the whole business of kicking to Devin Hester, another stupid call after a week of bogus feigning fear of the greatest returner in NFL history, and then tugging on Supermans cape. Bad idea.

From watching HBOs Hard Knocks, he seemed like an arrogant guy, Davis said. So we thought they would kick it to Devin, because all week he was saying Were not going to kick to Devin. But he loves his special teams.

Last laugh I

Anybody really think a couple of Bears assistants havent totally enjoyed the last two weeks?

First theres Mike Tice savoring the second blowout win over the Minnesota Vikings, the team that fired him as head coach via press release in the locker room after a loss.

And now there is Mike Martz, who was fired by Mike Singletary after 2008 when Singletary was in as San Francisco 49ers coach. Singletarys colorful tenure ended 15 games into this season when he was bounced after another highlight sideline scene (for all the wrong reasons) and more poor play.

Martzs season is going along quite nicely, thank you very much.

One head-shaker of full-circle irony here is that Singletarys final deal-killer was his in-game handling of a quarterback situation and his successor could be Jim Harbaugh, whos working wonders at Stanford. Singletary is one of the coaches from the Mike Ditka tree (Ron Rivera, Leslie Frazier, Harbaugh, Ken Margerum) and it was Ditkas bombastic in-game handling of a quarterback situation in 92 that led to his ultimate ouster.

The quarterback back in 92: Jim Harbaugh.

Last laugh II

They wont make a public spectacle of it because thats just not how they and their coach are, but anybody happen to notice what Bears wide receivers did Sunday against perhaps the top cornerback tandem (Darrelle RevisAntonio Cromartie) in the NFL?

Darryl Drake has quietly and very firmly backed his guys ever since the start of last year when the group of Johnny Knox, Hester, Earl Bennett and Devin Aromashodu (with a sprinkling of Rashied Davis) was coming together amid major public doubts.

Anybody still think the Bears absolutely had to have Terrell Owens or Randy Moss?

Flexing

Sunday's Bears-Packers game at Lambeau Field has been moved to a 3:15 p.m. start.

Checking in

We wont have our regular CSNChicago.com chat tonight at 7 p.m. because I need to get in-studio to finish off our Top 10 of 2010 highlights for the Bears (OK, OK, I know, I have a face for radio...).

But well toss around some Bears thoughts on Chicago Tribune Live at 5:30 p.m. And for those of you downstate, well pick it up at 4:40 p.m. on WFMB-AM SportsRadio 1450 as usual this afternoon.

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.

Another day, another reason why Bears won the Khalil Mack trade

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USA TODAY

Another day, another reason why Bears won the Khalil Mack trade

Oh, now this is a doozy.

As if it wasn't obvious enough already, the Bears absolutely won the Khalil Mack trade over the Raiders. Not only did they acquire the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year, but they did so when the rival Green Bay Packers were also interested. Based on a recent revelation from Packers president Mark Murphy, the extent to which the Bears won the trade is greater than we may have realized. 

In an interview with 105.7 The FAN, Murphy revealed a unique reason as to why the Raiders chose the Bears over the Packers.

"Well the whole Khalil Mack thing. It's not that we didn't try," Murphy said on Thursday. "We were aggressive. We wanted to sign him. I think, ironically, the Raiders took the Bears offer because they thought they would be a better draft pick."

As it turned out, the Packers had a higher first-round pick (No. 12 overall) than the Bears (No. 24) in 2019. This very well could change in 2020, but for the time being, let's get this straight.

Not only did the Bears acquire one of the best (if not the best) defensive players in football, but:

-Their trade package was highlighted by what should be two late first round picks (assuming the Bears remain a playoff team in 2019), and
-Acquiring Mack kept him out of Green Bay.

Talk about absolutely winning a deal. In the end, the Bears have a three-time All-Pro (2015-16, 2018) pash rusher entering his age 28 season. The Raiders and Packers surely cannot say the same thing.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Why what 'Run DMC' does catching passes in training camp will be a big clue for how good the Bears' offense will be

Why what 'Run DMC' does catching passes in training camp will be a big clue for how good the Bears' offense will be


How much better Mitch Trubisky will be is the defining question for the 2019 Bears. But we won’t begin to know the answer to that question until September — it’s not something that’ll be easily discernible during training camp practices in Bourbonnais or a handful of snaps in preseason games. Those can sometimes produce false positives and false negatives.

The Bears believe in Trubiskiy, of course, and you’ll likely hear Matt Nagy and players laud their quarterback’s growth over the coming weeks. But belief is one thing; tangible production is another. And we won’t truly get to see that growth until the night of Sept. 5 at Soldier Field. 

But there are a few things to look for in Bourbonnais that could clue us in that a big-time leap is coming for No. 10. We’ll begin this mini-series leading up to the start of training camp next week with this: Better success from running backs catching passes on first down. 

It’s a narrowly specific angle, but one that carries plenty of weight. Consider this excerpt from Warren Sharp’s 2019 Football Preview:

“First down has long been perceived as a running down. In 2017, the league-wide average run-pass split on first down was 47-53. It was 50-50 last season, but that was still well below the 59-41 league-wide split on all downs. Yet passing to running backs on first down is significantly more effective.

“In 2018, there were 6,248 running back rushing attempts on first down. They averaged 4.5 yards per carry, minus-0.01 Expected Points Added per attempt, and a positive play rate of 41.3%. When teams threw to running backs on first down, they averaged 6.02 yards per target, 7.8 yards per receptions. 0.08 EPA per attempt — slightly more efficient than the average of all passes regardless of down at 0.05 EPA — and a positive play rate of 52.3%.”

The larger point here (especially if your eyes glazed over some of those numbers — which, we promise, make sense) is this: Scheming more throws to running backs on first down is an area in which almost every team in the NFL can improve. It's worth noting the Kansas City Chiefs' most effective play on first-and-long in 2018, per Sharp, was a pass to Kareem Hunt. 

And the good news is the Bears re-worked their running back room in a way that could optimize their success throwing the ball to David Montgomery, Mike Davis and Tarik Cohen on first down. 

The 2018 Bears simply didn’t have the personnel to do that regularly or successfully.

Jordan Howard was only targeted nine times on first-and-10, catching five passes for 42 yards. All nine of those targets were short throws, either to the left (two), middle (one) or right (six), and Trubisky had a passer rating of 83 on those attempts. Meanwhile, Howard carried the ball 128 times on first-and-10, averaging 3.7 yards per carry and only generating nine first downs (the NFL average for rushing attempts on first-and-10 in 2018 was 4.7 yards per carry). 

Cohen was, roughly, the inverse of Howard’s numbers: He caught 30 of 37 targets for 241 yards (6.5 yards per target) and generated seven first downs through the air, but averaged just 3.2 yards on his 46 rushing attempts with four first downs. Neither player was particularly balanced in these scenarios: Howard was mildly ineffective running the ball and not a threat catching it; Cohen was largely ineffective running the ball but was a threat catching it. 

And for the crowd who still believes Nagy wasn’t willing to establish the run: The combined rushing attempts on first-and-10 of Howard, Cohen, Benny Cunningham and Taquan Mizzell totaled 182; the combined pass attempts by Trubisky and Chase Daniel in that down-and-distance was 176, per Pro Football Reference’s play index. 

The Bears, in 2018, averaged 5.5 yards per play on first-and-10, tied for 24th in the NFL. Yet only three teams — the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts — averaged fewer yards-to-go on third down than the Bears’ mark of 6.9. That’s a sign of Nagy’s playcalling prowess and the talent on this offense, and it’s not a stretch to argue an improvement of first-and-10 success will have a significant impact on the overall success of the Bears’ offense. 

So back to the initial point about passes to running backs in these situations: The Bears believe both Montgomery and Davis have some untapped potential as pass-catching running backs. Montgomery caught 71 passes in college at Iowa State, while Davis was targeted the most by the Seattle Seahawks in 2018 on first down (17 of 42 targets). Cohen, of course, is already an accomplished pass-catcher. 

The “Run DMC” backfield needs to have more success carrying the ball on first-and-10 than last year’s group did, of course. But if you’re in Bourbonnais or watching a preseason game, keep an eye out for how effective the Bears are at passing to their running backs — especially if those passes travel beyond the line of scrimmage (another inefficiency noted by Warren Sharp's 2019 Football Preview). 

If you start seeing Montgomery making defenders miss after catching a pass, or Davis looking fluid with the ball in his hands, or Cohen breaking off some explosive gains — those will be significant reasons to believe in Trubisky and the Bears' offense in 2019. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.