Cody Whitehair

And now, a very scientific debate into just how fair all the Bears' Madden Ratings actually are

And now, a very scientific debate into just how fair all the Bears' Madden Ratings actually are

It’s Madden Rankings Day, which can be a blessing I guess but certainly feels like mostly just a curse. You can see where each and every Bears player landed right here, or just take a look at this here tweet: 

Now let’s quickly break this down into tiers, going from Fair to Debatable to Honestly What Gives Madden: 

FAIR 

Khalil Mack (99) - Extremely fair! 

Eddie Jackson (91) - Inarguably fair! 

Eddie Goldman (85) - Most likely fair! He does not get much love because Akiem Hicks happens to be like, one of the most underrated defensive tackles in football, but Eddie Goldman is a starting caliber player. We’ll allow it! 

Leonard Floyd (77) - Probably fair! Floyd grades out in the mid-to-high 80’s when it comes to Speed, Acceleration, and Agility, and sags behind a bit when it comes to Awareness and Strength; that’s sort of always been the book on him. If he finishes the season at a 77, though, it probably didn’t go well. But for now, this feels fair.

Eddy Pinerio (66) - Fair for no reason other than the Bears’ kicking battle probably deserves a D. Sorry, Eddy. 

DEBATABLE 

Mitch Trubisky (75) - I get it - being told the starting QB of the team you root for may not be all that good is personally insulting on the highest level. It’s rude, and honestly how dare they. Did they even watch certain halves of Bears games?! Like Floyd, if Trubisky finishes the season at his current rating, Year 2 went sideways. 75 *does* seem to shortchange him a bit, but there’s also a pretty good argument to be made that this is right on. One might call it debatable! 

Roquan Smith (81) - He lead the team in tackles! And started in 14 games this season as a rookie! It’s the Awareness score (77) that’s keeping him in the low 80’s, which doesn’t seem accurate. 

Anthony Miller (75) - I get that he was hurt, but 75?! His Awareness (75) and Strength (68!) drag down what are otherwise high 80’s, low 90’s across the board. This blog boy’s personal opinion is that Anthony Miller is extremely for real and could easily end up as Madden’s highest-rated Bears WR when the season’s done. 

HONESTLY WHAT GIVES MADDEN 

Akiem Hicks (87) - Honestly what gives Madden? On the surface, 87 is not a bad score, and I have 18 years worth of report cards that would be happy to back that up. But Akiem Hicks is a 90+ player. Speed and Agility scores in the 60’s brings down his average, neither of which seemed to play a huge role in limiting his Pro Bowl level production. 87 for Hicks might be the most scoff-worthy score of them all. 

Cody Whitehair/James Daniels (81/77) - They’re viewed as the future of the Bears’ line, but realistically are way more the present. They’re also listed at the wrong positions, which, eye roll. I know that these aren’t entirely updated to reflect the present but come on guys, this switch was common knowledge back in March. Honestly Madden what gives?

Dax Raymond and Chase Daniel having the SAME rating (63) - Nothing against Dax, who will hopefully be terrific. But, mannnnn, that is disrespectful. An undrafted rookie getting the same ranking as a 9-year veteran who is, by most measures, considered one of the better backup QBs in the NFL. He’s certainly paid like it. 63! Put some respect on his name, Madden. What gives.

Bears eye position changes in search for improved depth on offense

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USA Today

Bears eye position changes in search for improved depth on offense

The Bears will try to address one of their more glaring weaknesses — tight end depth — by giving longtime offensive tackle Bradley Sowell some work at tight end in the coming weeks of practice at Halas Hall. 

Sowell, a reliable backup swing tackle the last two seasons with the Bears, was targeted twice as a receiver in 2018 — first, on a nearly-intercepted Mitch Trubisky pass against the New England Patriots, and second on the famous “Santa’s Sleigh” touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams. He also got some work as a fullback in the Bears’ Week 17 thumping of the Minnesota Vikings. 

“We felt like at the ‘Y’ position we could use some more depth,” coach Matt Nagy said. “It’s something we talked about at the end of the season. We discussed it and now we’re giving him a chance.”

Nagy’s assessment of the Bears’ “Y” (in-line) depth is accurate, if not even undersold. The athletic 6-foot-7, 312 pound Sowell will have a chance to be a backup to Adam Shaheen, who has missed 13 games in his first two years due to a string of injuries. Reserve tight end Ben Braunecker can play both the “Y” and “U” positions, and the Bears have a handful of undrafted free agents (led by Utah State's Dax Raymond) competing to catch the eye of the coaching staff in the coming weeks. 

The Bears’ offense struggled with two tight ends on the field last year, especially in Shaheen’s absence as Dion Sims played himself out of the league. It’s far too early to tell if adding Sowell to the tight end mix will help, but at this point, the Bears think it’s worth a shot. 

“He’s shown it repetitively in practice that he has the athletic ability, the hands, he’s very smart, he knows how to block and all that stuff,” Nagy said. “So let’s test it out and see. When I tell you he’s all-in, he’s all-in.”

Center of Attention

As expected, the Bears indeed will flip James Daniels and Cody Whitehair on the offensive line, with Daniels sliding to center and Whitehair to left guard. 

“We feel comfortable with it, so again, this is the time to test it out and see,” Nagy said. “It’s hard right now because we don’t have pads. So, we’ll get into training camp and see how that goes. But I feel pretty good about it.”

Daniels exclusively played left guard during last year’s regular season, with the Bears opting to hold steady with Whitehair at center for the third consecutive season. Whitehair, though, was drafted as a guard back in 2016 and only moved to center after the last-minute signing of Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton. Daniels, too, starred as a center at Iowa and did get a smattering of preseason snaps there before fully committing to playing guard his rookie year. 

The change is the only planned one on Harry Hiestand’s offensive line, which returns every primary starter from 2018 (Daniels, Whitehair, Charles Leno, Bobby Massie, Kyle Long). Perhaps the most significant change for this group, then, will be losing Sowell as its backup tackle. 

Windy City: Smoke Out?

Taquan Mizzell will work as a wide receiver during OTAs, with the now-former running back trading in No. 33 for No. 11 but facing an uphill battle to make the Bears’ roster. 

Mizzell does have a decent track record as a pass-catcher dating back to his college days at Virginia, but it’ll take a massive effort for the third-year player to crack into a crowded receiver room that already has a competitive battle brewing between Javon Wims, Marvin Hall and a group of undrafted free agents. 

While it’s too early to grant rookie running back Kerrith Whyte Jr. a roster spot, shifting Mizzell out of the picture does appear to create a clearer path for the seventh-round pick to stick with the Bears this fall. 

Bears notes: Are James Daniels, Cody Whitehair headed for a position swap?

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USA Today

Bears notes: Are James Daniels, Cody Whitehair headed for a position swap?

PHOENIX — Matt Nagy hinted Tuesday the Bears could have James Daniels and Cody Whitehair swap positions on the interior of their offensive line, moving Daniels to center and Whitehair to left guard. 

It was a noticeable change in tone from Nagy about where both those players may best fit on the offensive line. In the days and weeks after the Bears drafted Daniels in the second round of 2018’s NFL Draft, Nagy was adamant Whitehair would stay at center despite Daniels starring at that position while in college at Iowa. Whitehair, while being a steady presence at center for the last three seasons, began his pro career as a guard before a last-minute switch to center after the Bears signed Josh Sitton a few days before the 2016 season began. 

“We’re kind of in the middle of that right now looking at how they played at those particular positions — not just those two, but everybody,” Nagy said. “And so we’re going to stay open to that and if we feel like it’s going to be better to switch somebody we’ll do that, and if we don’t then we’ll stick with where we’re at.”

If the Bears do execute that switch, it would represent the only change to their starting offensive line from 2018. All five regular starters are returning this year, with Daniels and Whitehair being joined by tackles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie and guard Kyle Long. 

Harry Hiestand’s group was one of the league’s best pass-protecting offensive lines, though the Bears frequently struggled to run the ball with any consistent success. Perhaps swapping Daniels and Whitehair could be a way to help generate improvements on the ground. 

Organized Team Attendance 

Nagy said the Bears expect all their players to show up for the team's offseason program, which begins April 15, and into OTAs in May. Only one player — wide receiver Anthony Miller (shoulder) — who expected to participate in the voluntary shorts-and-helmets practices of OTAs. 

Nagy cited that 100 percent attendance as another sign of the strong culture permeating Halas Hall. 

“They’ll be there,” Nagy said. “Again, that’s who we are. I’m not worried about one guy not showing up.”

Comp Pick USA

The Bears haven’t been awarded a compensatory draft pick — given to teams who, essentially, lose more important players than they sign in free agency — since 2009, but that could change in 2020 with Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan landing sizable contracts with the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos, respectively. 

Part of the Bears’ comp pick drought has been because of an aggressive approach to free agency. The team could’ve, perhaps, received a 2018 comp pick after losing Alshon Jeffery to free agency in 2017, but instead signed Mike Glennon, Prince Amukamara, Markus Wheaton, Dion Sims, Quintin Demps and Kendall Wright, among others. 

The other issue has been, simply, the Bears haven’t had many good players recently. And when their own good players did become free agents, the team’s roster wasn’t healthy enough to let them sign elsewhere, nor was their cap maxed out to prevent them from being brought back. 

That changed in 2018, and the departures of Amos and Callahan, as well as guys like Josh Bellamy, Kevin White, Eric Kush and Bryan Witzmann signing elsewhere, could help trigger an end to that comp pick drought. OverTheCap estimates the Bears could receive fourth- and fifth-round picks for Amos and Callahan, though Pace cautioned that the formula to determine the awarding of those picks is complicated and subject to change. 

Still, as the Bears move forward, the top of their roster — Mitch Trubisky, Eddie Jackson, etc. — will get more expensive. And staying competitive while allocating a significant amount of cap space to a few players is massively helped by drafting well. Adding a few comp picks in the future will give the Bears more spins of the wheel as they look to add cheap, productive talent to their roster. 

“We kind of knew going into free agency that was a possibility,” Pace said. “Now there’s things that take place and they’re even talking about tweaking some of the — the equation’s complicated enough. One of the things I think is those guys have to be on those teams for 10-plus games, for example, so you’re never really set until the season unfolds. 

“But it’s something we’re mindful of. I think a lot of the good clubs, you see the Rams doing it, they figure out a way to take advantage of that system and for us the key is to continue to draft well and we’ll be in a position for these compensatory picks.” 

London Calling

While Nagy said he hasn’t made any decisions yet on the Bears’ travel plans for their game in London against the Oakland Raiders, it sounded like he’s leaning toward having his team have a shorter across the Atlantic Ocean. Nagy cited the Kansas City Chiefs’ trip to London in 2015 — when he was the team’s quarterbacks coach — for which the team left the United States for England on Thursday, held a practice Friday and played the game Sunday. 

Other teams have opted to leave earlier and hold more practices in England. It’s worth noting that Doug Pederson — the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator in 2015 — had the Philadelphia Eagles fly to England the Thursday before their Sunday game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in 2018. 

Nagy said he wants to allow his players some time to soak in London, but that certainly won’t be the primary goal of the trip. 

“It'll be 90 percent football and just a sprinkle (of other activities),” Nagy said. “We're over there on a business trip, that's why we're there. But at the same time it's great culture for the guys to see and be a part of and some guys have never been over there. That's a part of life. If you can balance it and make sure you do it the right way, I'm good with that.”

Lastly, the best thing we saw this week...

… By far was Andy Reid’s Bitmoji, which Nagy shared with a group of Chicago-based media during the league’s coaches breakfast Tuesday morning. Specifically, the Bitmojis we saw were of Reid's character in a Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirt and him chowing down on a sizable stack of pancakes. 

Nagy, too, has a Bitmoji, and lamented the social media platform not having a visor option to put on his avatar, which looks like this: