Bears

While Bears held on to football, they just didn’t do enough with it

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While Bears held on to football, they just didn’t do enough with it

The Bears had exactly one turnover through four preseason games, a total of 220 plays. That was an interception of a Jimmy Clausen pass late in the second quarter of the win over the Indianapolis Colts. After averaging a turnover every 35 or so plays in 2014, reducing turnovers was the most stressed point by Bears new offensive coaches this entire offseason, and with issues on both offense and defense coming into the regular season, calling Jay Cutler a “game manager” looks to be high praise, and important.

It’s been only practice and preseason, and Cutler played just 80 total snaps through preseason. Meaning: Cutler played about 1.25 games (NFL teams averaged 64 plays in 2014), so it doesn’t qualify as a statistically significant sample size.  But if Cutler and quarterbacks and offensive players were turning the ball over repeatedly, it would be cause for concern. The fact that they’re not rates as some sort of improvement.

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The other shoe, however, is doing something with the football while you’re not giving it away, and that hasn't dropped for the 2015 Bears. The No. 1 offense didn’t score a touchdown on any of those 80 Cutler snaps.

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The points in the Bears’ 24-0 win over the Cleveland Browns in preseason game four weren’t scored by the No. 1 offense on Thursday, and the shutout wasn’t posted by the No. 1 defense. But coach John Fox in fact made winning in preseason a step in the process of changing the culture of negativity that descended over the Bears through the two years of coach Marc Trestman and GM Phil Emery.

The result was a 3-1 preseason record, the first time since 2012 that the Bears have won three practice games. They didn’t make the playoffs that year, or the two previous times (2009, 2007) but you when rebuilding a culture as well as refitting all three phases of the game, no step is really insignificant.

“I think with a new staff, it’s probably a little more critical because you are teaching new schemes,” Fox said. “So you do try to take advantage of everything, because they are learning something new. They’re going to be competing against guys who have been doing it for a minute in their respective schemes.

[MORE: Impact plays forcing Bears to make difficult decisions with roster cuts]

“This game is only fun when you win. When you’re competitive, you compete with everything, including preseason.”

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Easily overlooked late in a meaningless game was a play made by “Swamp Monster” Terry Williams, the 6-foot, 322-pound undrafted rookie nose tackle (and is that a perfect name for a nose tackle or what?).

Williams started and played the entire game against the Browns and had enough left in his fuel cell to record a tackle-for-loss late in the fourth quarter. Conditioning issues can undo players but Williams, obviously playing for a job somewhere in the NFL, was still bringing it late in a statement that helped his roster chances somewhere.

[ALSO: Willie Young's comeback from Achilles injury continues]

And that could be unfortunately very relevant for the Bears. Eddie Goldman is returning from a concussion (and that return isn’t official or assured until he lines up against the Green Bay Packers). Jeremiah Ratliff is out for three games with a suspension and has missed 54 percent of all games over the past three years with a variety of injuries.

The Bears slid Will Sutton in at the nose and Sutton continued a very solid preseason, playing his way from bubble to lock. But neither Sutton nor Ego Ferguson top 295 pounds, meaning the Bears could be in the market for a stout widebody, even as insurance.

Sports Illustrated predicts Bears will finish last in NFC North in 2019

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USA Today

Sports Illustrated predicts Bears will finish last in NFC North in 2019

If not for upset Colts fans following the retirement of Andrew Luck, the Twitter mentions of Sports Illustrated writer Andy Benoit would be a war zone of angry Bears fans who read his NFL predictions for the 2019 season.
In the latest print edition of the magazine, Benoit projects Chicago to finish 7-9 this year — last in the NFC North.
https://twitter.com/EikeyX/status/1165415967905787904
His NFL predictions don’t have a web version as of yet, but he sees the Minnesota Vikings winning the division and taking the No. 3 seed in the playoffs at 11-5. The Green Bay Packers finish second at 10-6 with a wildcard spot, and even the Detroit Lions end up ahead of the Bears at 9-7.
https://twitter.com/jbleiweis12/status/1165020706721214467
Benoit’s analysis is based on expecting a step back from Chicago’s defense that led the NFL in 2018. He also foresees “mixed results” from Mitchell Trubisky during his second season in Matt Nagy’s offense.
Benoit ranks the Bears quarterback, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends all outside of the top 20 position groups in the NFL, with the offensive line ranking 10th. He still likes the front seven as the best unit in the league, but he sees the secondary as average at No. 17.
He’s not the first analyst to forecast regression for the Bears this season, but not many have gone as far to put them at the bottom of the division after last year’s 12-4 breakout.
The pitchforks and torches may fly off the shelves faster than Sports Illustrated magazines in Chicago this week.

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Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano ‘will forever be a huge Andrew Luck fan’

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USA Today

Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano ‘will forever be a huge Andrew Luck fan’

The entire NFL is still reeling from the Andrew Luck’s bombshell decision to retire from football.

The story that overshadowed the Bears third preseason game in Indianapolis has the whole league reacting to the bold move from one of the most talented quarterbacks in the game.

Former Colts head coach and current Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano issued a statement Sunday on the player he drafted No. 1 overall in 2012.

“Our friendship extends well beyond player-coach and I wish him, his beautiful wife Nicole and their growing family nothing but the best,” Pagano said. “I will forever be a huge Andrew Luck fan.”

Pagano and Luck combined to go 43-27 over five seasons together. The head coach saw his quarterback through abdomen and shoulder injuries that eventually cost him the entire 2017 season and led to Pagano’s departure.

Luck, of course, was by his coach’s side when he battled Leukemia in 2012.

The quarterback’s retirement ultimately comes down to his health, and Pagano knows better than anyone how Luck battled through issues the last seven years.