Bears

What you need to know from Bears-Titans: Mike Glennon is your Week 1 starting quarterback

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USA TODAY

What you need to know from Bears-Titans: Mike Glennon is your Week 1 starting quarterback

NASHVILLE — Mike Glennon, in completing 11 of 18 passes for 134 yards with a touchdown Sunday afternoon against the Tennessee Titans, ended any discussion of who the Bears’ starting quarterback will be Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons. It’s him.

Does that mean Glennon is guaranteed to be the team’s starting quarterback for the entire season? No. But Glennon was confident and poised in the pocket early, assuredly leading a first quarter 96-yard scoring drive which included a trio of third-down completions to Kendall Wright. It was the kind of drive, with the kind of passes thrown by Glennon, the Bears envisioned when they signed him back in March.

Glennon’s production waned after Cameron Meredith’s gruesome leg injury, though, with just three completions in eight attempts for 34 yards. He missed linking up with Deonte Thompson at the end of the first quarter for what could’ve been a touchdown (Thompson was open), but didn’t make any egregiously bad throws, as was the case against the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals earlier this month.

Said Glennon last week of his Week 3 goals, which he went on to accomplish: “I think ultimately, be kind of the commander on the field. Get the ball in the playmakers’ hands. Get a lot of completions. Protect the football. And put together a few scoring drives.”

If Glennon’s first half was the best-case for him, that’s fine — not great, but fine. And if this is the Glennon that shows up Week 1, the Bears can feel confident in their plan to let Mitch Trubisky slowly develop and ultimately force his way into a starting job.

Mitch Trubisky showed his age

This sequence of events during Trubisky’s second drive with the first-team offense was a reminder that the rookie quarterback still is, well, a rookie: The Bears burned a timeout to avoid a delay of game, Trubisky tripped and put the ball on the ground (the Bears recovered), and then nearly was picked off. He completed a 13-yard pass to Thompson on third-and-long, but then took a delay of game penalty on fourth-and-short to back the Bears into a punt.

That came on the heels of a three-and-out to begin the second half on which Trubisky sailed an incompletion to Wright and threw high to White (the ball tipped off White’s fingers, for what it’s worth).

But the physical talents of Trubisky weren’t marred by his early sloppiness: He found undrafted rookie Tanner Gentry off play action for a gorgeous 45-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter (against the Titans’ backup defense, but it still was an outstanding connection). His final line was good, too: 10/15, 128 yards, 1 TD.  

The bigger issue, though, was with Trubisky’s operation of the first-team offense. That’s the kind of stuff on which he still needs to improve, and it was apparent on Sunday.

Cameron Meredith’s injury is a massive blow

Meredith’s torn ACL, as reported by Pam Oliver on the Fox broadcast of the game, is a significant blow to a Bears offense that already needed to see more out of its pass catchers. Meredith showed the most reliable connection with Glennon in practice from Day 1 of training camp, and looked to be ascending a year after leading the Bears with 66 catches for 888 yards.

During Glennon’s prior preseason struggles, the Bears stressed the entire offense needed to do better in addition to Glennon. Someone has to catch the ball on this team. Kevin White, the former seventh overall pick who’s still working his way back from a pair of debilitating injuries, will be under more pressure to produce.

Getting back Markus Wheaton, who hasn’t practiced much due to an appendectomy and broken finger, will help, as would reliable play from veterans Kendall Wright and Victor Cruz (if Cruz makes the team). Deonte Thompson probably has a better chance of making the team now, too, as does Zach Miller, though Adam Shaheen’s inclusion on special teams was probably a signal his spot was fairly safe already.

The Bears have two weeks to see if someone can step up to fill Meredith’s production. Otherwise, even if Glennon proves to be reliable, the offense may not be without help around him.

Briefly

— Once again, the Bears’ defense put together a solid game. Akiem Hicks and Willie Young notched sacks, and Tennessee’s first-team offense didn’t score against the Bears’ first-team defense. The only blemish was Eddie Jackson, Quintin Demps and Cre’von LeBlanc failing to tackle Taywan Taylor on a third-and-31 the Titans wound up converting. While the secondary still has some question marks, that’s now three good games by the Bears’ defense this preseason, which backs up the low-key optimism that’s came from this group for the last few months.

— Jeremy Langford, playing his first preseason game of 2017, played a little better than his final stat line showed (five carries, 18 yards; two receptions, 19 yards). He’s probably not on the roster bubble with Ka’deem Carey undergoing wrist surgery, but could’ve been in trouble if he didn’t show much on Sunday. He did, and remains a valuable backup to Jordan Howard.

— Cruz caught a pass with the first-team offense after Meredith’s injury, but while with the backups dropped a pass from Trubisky — who impressively evaded pressure and scrambled outside the pocket — that hit him in the chest. He’s one to keep an eye on next weekend when rosters are reduced to 53.

Tom Brady to meet with other teams in 2020 free agency

Tom Brady to meet with other teams in 2020 free agency

Let the games begin! After spending his entire NFL career at Gillette Stadium with the New England Patriots, Tom Brady is entering free agency. Per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, Brady is open to talks with other teams for what is to be his last contract of his playing career. Brady has been a staple of the Patriots franchise for 19 years. There are young New England fans who haven’t ever been alive during a time without Brady under center. The Patriots are certain to undergo changes in the future, with many wondering how much longer Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick will be at the helm of the organization, so it is understandable to see Brady ready to explore his options.

At 42-years-old, Brady has been telling those close to him that, unless he is sidelined by injury, he anticipates playing until age 45. Brady is also excited at the prospect of mentoring a young quarterback so that whatever organization he plays with during his final NFL stint, it is set for success after he retires. The question for Bears fans is, could that young quarterback be Mitch Trubisky?

After an uninspiring season, there is much talk about creating some competition at QB for the three-year Bears starter. Some healthy competition could drive Trubisky to play like the draft pick that Ryan Pace hoped he would be. The Bears are currently in the bottom-five of salary cap space in the NFL, meaning they would have to do some serious budgeting to be able to afford Brady, but fans will have to wait and see what Pace intends to do this off-season after a disappointing 2019 campaign.

La Canfora reports that it would “extremely surprising” if Brady were to agree to a new deal with the Patriots before free agency begins in March. There have been other reports of the Brady family moving to Connecticut (still technically in New England, but a move nonetheless) and a deep clean of Giselle Bündchen’s suite at Gillette Stadium, indicating that Brady is indeed ready to move on. We will all just have to wait and see where Brady will end up in 2020. 

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Which of these 2 Titans free agents should the Bears consider signing?

Which of these 2 Titans free agents should the Bears consider signing?

The Tennessee Titans' 2019 campaign should provide Bears fans with hope that Chicago's underachieving year can quickly turn around in one season, assuming GM Ryan Pace makes calculated decisions to protect the team from another regression.

Tennessee's trade for quarterback Ryan Tannehill was the kind of chess move that allowed the Titans to give Marcus Mariota one more season to prove he's the franchise quarterback so many draft experts predicted he'd be, while also making sure the team could still compete if he failed. Mariota didn't take advantage of that opportunity, and he was out of the lineup for good by Week 7.

But Tannehill doesn't deserve all the credit for the Titans' breakout on offense. Two other players, both of whom will be unrestricted free agents in March, deserve some attention and potentially an offer from the Bears in free agency: Running back Derrick Henry and offensive tackle Jack Conklin.

RELATED: Top 30 Free Agents of the 2020 NFL Offseason

Henry ran for a league-leading 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns in 15 games and would probably be the 2019 NFL MVP if it wasn't such a quarterback-tilted award. In fact, an argument can be made that Henry is the engine behind Tannehill's success. With so much attention paid to stopping the 250-pound workhorse, play-action and downfield opportunities were easier to complete. Tannehill did, after all, complete over 70% of his passes in 2019.

Imagine if Mitch Trubisky had the luxury of handing the ball to a player like Henry 25 times per game. His job would become, well, easy. And this isn't to suggest running back David Montgomery can't be an effective bell-cow back who can rumble for 1,250 yards. But Henry is an elite player who will remain at or near the top of the league's running backs for the next few seasons.

Will Ryan Pace pay nearly $14 million per season for a running back? It seems highly unlikely considering the limited salary-cap space the Bears have and the pressing need to add a Tannehill of their own. If Henry's asking price drops a bit, then who knows. But assuming a team with a lot of money to spend is willing to pay up, the Bears would be better served looking elsewhere.

So what about Conklin? Chicago needs an upgrade along the offensive line and while Charles Leno, Jr. and Bobby Massie have proven to be adequate starters during their careers, Conklin was at one time considered one of the NFL's top young tackles before injuring his knee in the 2017 playoffs.

He returned to form in 2019 and was graded as the 15th-best tackle in the league by Pro Football Focus. Compare that to Leno, Jr. and Massie, who graded 86th and 65th respectively.

According to Spotrac, Conklin's projected market value is $15 million per season, which is a little bit higher than Henry but is also for a position that is much harder to fill. 

The Titans declined Conklin's fifth-year option last May and as a result, he's going to cash-in on the open market. Tennessee may end up using the franchise tag to keep him, which would all but eliminate him from consideration for the Bears.

If, however, both Conklin and Henry are allowed to flirt with new teams, it seems pretty clear that Conklin would be the better use of funds. Sure, Henry would be a lot of fun to watch pound opposing defenses into submission, but Montgomery has the potential to be the same kind of fan-favorite. Conklin, on the other hand, is a clear upgrade over Leno, Jr. and Massie, and would provide more long-term returns for the money, too. 

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