View from the Moon: Bears not slipping into disarray like handful of others around NFL

View from the Moon: Bears not slipping into disarray like handful of others around NFL

Still sorting through impressions, perspectives, whatevers of the 2016 Bears and John Fox.

The fact that the Bears have for the most part remained competitive, focused and playing with professional intensity through a dismal season doesn’t ultimately mean much in a business which has only one true measure of success – winning. But events elsewhere in the NFL suggest that maintaining an even strain amid losing is an exception rather than the rule.

The Minnesota Vikings will take on the Bears Sunday in Minneapolis having fragmented in a loss last Saturday to the Green Bay Packers, with indications that players ignored coaches’ (including head coach Mike Zimmer’s) instructions in what could only politely be called insubordination. Zimmer and players have since claimed “miscommunication” as a lock-step explanation, but Zimmer’s comments after the game – “somebody decided they wouldn’t do that,” referring to not following the game plan for defending Packers wideout Jordy Nelson – suggested more than just “miscommunication.” Zimmer later went so far as to fault himself for being “too honest” after the game.

Subsequent reports suggested that the mutiny lasted only a series or two, and Zimmer will talk Wednesday via conference call with the Chicago media. Whatever that situation, the Vikings started the season 5-0, still stood 7-6 and in NFC North contention, then delivered double-digit losses the past two weeks to miss a postseason that appeared to be theirs, even sans Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Kalil and others.

Rex Ryan was fired on Tuesday, maybe doing the popular but underachieving coach a favor given the quagmire the Buffalo Bills have become. Ryan got to AFC Championship games his first two years coaching the New York Jets, then hasn’t had a winning season in the six since. He left with players complaining in his wake that his systems were too complicated, and noting that the unit supposedly his specialty had gone from No. 4 the year before he was hired to the bottom half of the league.

New York Jets players said that some of them were looking past this season as this year, their second under coach Todd Bowles, was winding down and unraveling. Pro Bowl defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson said after last week’s 41-3 loss to New England that wide receiver Brandon Marshall “should be embarrassed.” And the New York Post mused afterwards that owner Woody Johnson uncharacteristically may have stayed away from the Patriots game because he was tired of watching his team be uncompetitive.

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No one is happy at Halas Hall. But “uncompetitive” wouldn’t be an overall Bears descriptor even with backups at times in as many as half the starting spots on both sides of the football.

For as well as the sometimes-makeshift Bears offensive line has played this season, tackle projects as one of the top three need areas along with quarterback and cornerback. This is not a simple swipe at Charles Leno Jr. or Bobby Massie, just a look around at what is working around the league.

Right now 10 teams have clinched playoff spots. Of those, seven have left tackles selected in the first rounds of drafts. And one of the others – Pittsburgh – used No. 1’s at center and guard in recent drafts.

The Bears have a No. 1 in Kyle Long at left guard, an elite veteran in Josh Sitton at left guard, and a budding star in Cody Whitehair, a No. 2 this year, at center. What they don’t have, following the NFL template, is “elite” at either edge position, and it is a spot that hasn’t been addressed by the Bears before the fifth round in a draft since 2011, and it didn’t work then (Gabe Carimi, No. 1) or the time before that (Chris Williams, No. 1, 2008).

Missing Cutler? Who’d’a thunk it?

If the Bears appeared to regress in 2016 from where they were at the end of their 6-10 first year under Fox, one obvious reality is that the Bears had Jay Cutler in the best full season of his career, relatively turnover-free, for 15 starts. This year’s edition had Cutler Interrupted (starting two games, miss five, play a few, then done for the year), then Brian Hoyer briefly, followed by Matt Barkley, with about the norm for results when a team loses its No. 1 quarterback for extended periods.

The 2013 injury riddled Green Bay Packers were slumped to 0-4-1 in games after Aaron Rodgers was injured on the Shea McClellin sack. They did recover to reach the playoffs with Rodgers returning to hit Randall Cobb over Chris Conte in Game 16 that season.

Cutler appeared to regress this season, returning to his high interception percentage and middling completion percentage. But amid all the IR’s, none stands as big as Cutler’s in what is likely his last season in Chicago.

Mitch Trubisky jersey sales trending in right direction

Mitch Trubisky jersey sales trending in right direction

Positive press about the Chicago Bears' offseason is having a strong impact on the jersey sales for the team's highest-profile player, Mitch Trubisky.

According to Dick's Sporting Goods, Trubisky's No. 10 is the fifth-most popular jersey among offensive players over the last 30 days. He's No. 6 among all players, regardless of position.

The Bears' offseason has been full of superlatives since their aggressive approach to free agency. The signings of Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel put the spotlight on Trubisky and the potentially surging passing game. The second-round selection of Anthony Miller and word of Kevin White's offseason emergence has turned positive momentum into higher-than-anticipated expectations for Trubisky this season.

For Chicago to have any chance at meeting those expectations, Trubisky, who's entering his first full season as a starter with a new head coach and offensive system, has to thrive. Fans must be confident that he will, considering the investment they're making in his jersey.

Trubisky ended his rookie season with four wins in 12 starts, throwing for 2,193 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He completed 59.4 percent of his passes. He should have a much more productive season in 2018 with his new arsenal of skill players and an innovative coaching staff, led by coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.

These four Bears will be featured on 'Meet the Rookies' series

These four Bears will be featured on 'Meet the Rookies' series

The Chicago Bears will kick off the fourth season of "Meet the Rookies" on June 25, a series that profiles four of the team's 2018 draft picks for a behind-the-scenes look at their journey to the NFL.

The four-episode series will air on at 7:00 p.m from June 25 - 28 and will feature one rookie per night. 

Monday's episode will cover the Bears' first-round pick, Roquan Smith. Selected with the eighth-overall pick, Smith is expected to become an instant-impact player on defense. He's expected to make an impact off the field, too, as a high-character leader. Smith's linebacker-mate Joel Iyiegbuniwe is the focus of Tuesday's episode, with Anthony Miller (Wednesday) and James Daniels (Thursday) rounding out Season 4.

For a deeper dive into what's in store in "Meet the Rookies," check out this description.