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Bear Country: Bye Week Report Card

As the Bears push on with their season, let’s take a look at where they are, as they take the week off ahead of their matchup with the New Orleans Saints.

Bearing Down At The Art Institute by John Bracken is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Bear Country: Bye Week Report Card


Estimated Reading Time: 9 Minutes

This has been a difficult week post the 24-21 defeat at the hands of the Oakland Raiders.

Alas, it’s time to move on.

The Bears enter their bye week with a record of 3-2 and tied for last place in the NFC North. It may be the perfect time for a bye with injuries to several key contributors.

The team has a key matchup next weekend vs. the New Orleans Saints (4-1). Until then it’s time for some bye week grades!

Head Coaching: C-

Reigning NFL Coach of the year Matt Nagy talked all offseason about installing the 2.0 version of this offense. Nagy was giving Mitch Trubisky the “keys to the car this season. While they recognized it would take time the goal was to transform Trubisky into the franchise quarterback and the offense into a top unit in the league. All of Chicago was excited about this and it seemed possible.

The results up to this point have been subpar.

Up to this date, Chicago’s offense has been bottom of the league. Nagy is calling his games like John Fox (This should give Bears fans nightmares). He is also showing a tendency to stick to the passing game whenever the team is trailing and completely ignoring the running game (i.e. vs. Packers, @ Raiders).

There are some signs of hope, however. Nagy was able to adjust his game plan in both weeks two and three. He didn’t give up on the run game when it was failing vs. the Broncos and unleashed Mitch Trubisky and the offense rightly vs. the Redskins. He was also able to motivate the team to come back from a 17-0 half time deficit vs. Oakland.

Some questions need to be asked: Is Matt Nagy able to call and/or scheme effective plays? Is he simply an awesome motivator who needs to give up his play-calling duties? Does he not have the personnel he needs to succeed? Time will tell.

OFFENSE

Quarterback: INC.

Most people would assume that this should be an F or D grade at the least. Fans have reason to believe their quarterback, Mitch Trubisky is heading into “bust” territory. Check out these stats provided by Kevin Fishbain and Adam Jahns from the Athletic:

“The simplest stat to illustrate how the passing game has gone backward is yards per attempt. Trubisky averaged 7.4 yards per attempt last year and is at 5.5 this season. A lot goes into that — protection, players getting open, yards after catch, etc. Another way to see it is how Trubisky has fared on intermediate-to-deep passes. Per Sportradar, he’s 12-of-32 for 231 yards on passes thrown 10+ yards in the air from the line of scrimmage. That accuracy (37.5 percent) ranks 32nd. His 60.8 passer rating is also ranked 32nd among QBs with at least 20 attempts of such throws, ahead of only Josh Rosen, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Luke Falk. A 7.2 yards-per-attempt mark on these throws ranks 34th ahead of only Rosen.”

It’s still too early in the season to completely make a judgment call on the quarterback. To his credit, Trubisky showed massive improvement from start to finish in 2018. He also showed improvement from games one to three this year before he got injured. This must be a point of encouragement moving forward. There also are other factors at play that show all of the offensive issues may not just be on his shoulders.

We are entering a point of his career where the narrative will be written on his term potential. The rest of the season is crucial.

Chase Daniel also deserves an incomplete. Daniel is nowhere near a long-term answer at quarterback. He is a serviceable spot starter who is more of a coach on the field vs an adequate quarterback. The Bears need to think long and hard about drafting a quarterback to back up and push Trubisky.

Running back- D +

The focus here is individual:

Mike Davis: (Inc.) Davis’ carries significantly decreased from game one to two likely due to the death of his father. He is a change of pace back who the Bears desperately need for the rest of the season.

David Montgomery (C+): The rookie has looked like a rookie so far this season. Montgomery has shown the ability to be the best 2-5-yard runner I have ever seen, while still showing hesitancy/too much patience in attacking small creases given to him by the offensive line.

Tarik Cohen (D): Teams have shut down Cohen ever since the Eagles playoff game last year. He has been stuffed nearly every time he runs the ball. The Bears may have to be more creative in his usage from here.

Wide Receiver: C +

Wide Receiver Allen Robinson deserves an A alone. He is now two years removed from an ACL injury and is looking like a true number one receiver totaling 31 receptions for 337 yards and 2 TD’s. Robinson has been a safety valve for both quarterbacks and has shown the ability to make the spectacular catch.

Aside from Robinson, Taylor Gabriel unfortunately ended up with a concussion vs. Washington after his three-touchdown game. Gabriel’s third-down consistency has been missed since then. Second-year receiver Anthony Miller has been a disappointment to date with several key drops, undisciplined play and communication issues with quarterback(s). There has also been little impact from year receiver Javon Wims (Open all the time!) and all-purpose weapon Cordarrelle Patterson in the passing game.

Tight End: F/ INC.

This is one of the biggest unrecognized issues in this offense. The Eagles (Zach Ertz), Chiefs (Travis Kelce) and Colts (Eric Ebron) all run very similar offenses that would not function properly without a tight end.

Well, Chicago’s tight end position seems to be broken. Tight end Trey Burton has 11 receptions for 57 yards on the season. He is clearly not healthy and can barely create separation from defenders. Outside of Burton, former second-round pick Adam Shaheen is heavy-footed and is having no impact in his third year. The team already views him as a bust as evident in recently signed tight end JP Holtz is getting many more snaps than Shaheen the past two weeks.

The team is already looking at 2020 draft prospects…

The team needs to fix this position soon.

Offensive Line: F

I have held back what I believe is the main issue for the offense.

This group has been a failure to date.

Offensively line coach Harry Hiestand didn’t like what he saw against the Raiders:

“After watching another three-and-out — including a one-yard loss on first down and a sack of quarterback Chase Daniel on third down — Hiestand spiked his hat into the synthetic turf at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and delivered a kick so impressive it would have made Cody Parkey envious.

To put this in perspective, the Bears have been called for offensive holding 12 times this season to a league-low 13 last season. The trends don’t get better as the team is on pace for over 48 sacks this season (13 total thru 5 games) compared to 39 last year

A little about all five starters:

Charles Leno Jr (who received an extension last season) has been awful to date. Leno has given up 8 penalties thus far for 69 yards. Leno continues to be beaten and bullied pre-snap causing two specific drive-killing penalties.

Guard Kyle Long has been a staple of the franchise since the 2013 season. He has been a team leader and captain enduring three coaches and multiple front offices changes. His time appears to be up:

He continually misses blocks, gets consistently pushed into the quarterback, and simply doesn’t look like himself. They need to shut him down for the year and his tenure with the Bears appears over.

Center James Daniels and Guard Cody Whitehair switched positions this offseason. This has been a huge transition for Daniels to be the “quarterback of the offensive line.” It’s possible this is a difficult switch for Whitehair as well as he was Trubisky’s center for two seasons and are best friends.

Right Tackle Bobby Massie is also not very good according to the following stat:

The running backs aren’t getting much room to run, the quarterbacks aren’t getting much time to pass and the coach isn’t getting enough time to properly run his plays. All positions cannot function properly without a functional line.

How the team fixes the line problem may define their season.

Watch this video for an idea of how bad the offensive line has been.

DEFENSE

Defensive Line: B

Khalil Mack deserves an A. He is close to leading the league with 26 pressures and 4.5 sacks, most of which happen while he is being held by 2-4 defenders.

Two key injuries have hurt this unit. Defensive star Akiem Hicks has missed time with hamstring and a potentially serious elbow injury. Up and coming second year player Bilal Nichols broke his hand and is stuck with wearing a club moving forward. The defense is not the same without Hicks.

The bigger issue? Linebacker Leonard Floyd.

Floyd exploded out of the gates for two sacks on opening night and has since been hot and cold. On the season, the 27-year old has just nine total pressures on the quarterback and two sacks. Right now, the Bears are slated to pay him $13.22 million in 2020. They need to think seriously about canceling that plan, especially when reserves Roy Robertson Harris (2.5 sacks and nine pressures this season) and Nicholas Williams (4 sacks) are performing at a high level.

Without much pressure up-front the rest of the defense will be exposed.

Linebackers: B+

The future success of the linebacker unit depends on 2018 first round pick Roquan Smith.

After dominating the first few games of the season, Smith was a surprising scratch about 30 minutes before the week four match up vs. Minnesota. The reason was “personal” and the whole team, including coach declined to say why. Cornerback Prince Amukamara may have given away the issue:

https://www.instagram.com/p/B3IqAkpA_sf/

This is worth monitoring moving forward as Smith’s play vs. Oakland left much to be desired.

Other than Roquan, Danny Trevathan has continued his stellar play and is the defensive leader. The Bears need to consider resigning him for defensive continuity. The unit has also been helped by great performances by both Nick Kwiatkoski (10 tackles, sack, forced fumble) and Kevin Pierre Louis (4 tackles) in the Minnesota game.

Defensive Backs: B

One of the biggest surprises this season (which has been completely under the radar) is the improvement of 30 year old cornerback Prince Amukamara.

The other cornerback, Kyle Fuller has not been as dominant as his pro bowl showing last year. He continues to play soft on any type of man coverage and quarterbacks continue to target him due to his weak man to man skills. Safety Haha Clinton Dix has been a pleasant surprise and showcased in his 2-interception revenge game at Washington.

Star safety Eddie Jackson has surprisingly been mediocre thus far. As Adam Jahns reports, Jackson hasn’t been the same:

“The All-Pro hasn’t made an interception yet this season. According to Pro Football Reference, he’s allowed 10 catches on 14 passes in coverage for 82 yards. PFR also has Jackson marked down with five missed tackles this season.”

How Jackson improves may be a key thing to watch in second half of the year.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-

The Bears seemed to have found their kicker! Eddie Pinero has been a warrior. The kid hit one of the biggest game-winning field goals in franchise history:

He also has seemed to overcome a pinched nerve in his knee to hit 8 of 9 field goals to date.

Punter Pat O’Donnell has consistently flipped the field averaging 47 yards a kick with a long of 75.

Both coverage units have been fantastic.

The only issue is the return game as Cordarrelle Patterson has done nothing to date.

FINAL GRADE: C

If the Bears won vs. Oakland this would be higher…

Moving forward the following things will define their season:

  • -O-Line improved play
  • -Trubisky development
  • -Their health on defensive line

It’s too early to predict their record but their upcoming schedule is brutal:

One game at a time starting with the Saints.

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