Chicago Bears: Week 11 takeaways, quick tidbits, and more

andy dalton, bears

Currently, in the middle of a five-game losing streak, the Chicago Bears now look ahead to week 12 for a Thanksgiving Day matchup against the Detroit Lions. But first, let’s recap week 11.

1) There are two players of the game in this one, both on defense. Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith kept the Bears in this one, especially with the defense missing Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, and Eddie Jackson. Props to Quinn for turning in such a monstrous performance with 3.5 sacks, five tackles, three TFL, and four QB hits. Smith had 17 tackles on the afternoon, the most by a Bears linebacker since 2009.

2) Regarding Justin Fields, who has bruised ribs, the Bears have a decision to make. If it were in Fields hands, he’d be dressing up on Thursday afternoon against the Lions. Ultimately, with seven games remaining, the Bears should play it safe with Fields and sit him in a meaningless game. Give the future of the franchise a little over 10 days to get right before the Arizona Cardinals come to town on December 5th. It’s better for the Bears to have Fields healthy for the final six games of the season, a stretch that includes playing the Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, and Minnesota Vikings (twice).

3) The Bears got away from the running game early in this one and it showed. Khalil Herbert had just one carry for zero yards while David Montgomery had 14 carries for 58 yards, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Keeping the ball out of the Ravens’ hand should’ve been a goal of the Bears but Chicago failed to do so consistently throughout the afternoon. The Bears coaching staff needs to realize that neither Fields nor Andy Dalton can fully the offense, which means knowing your limitations of what skill position players can and can’t do is vital when it comes to offensive philosophy.

4) At times, it may not have looked like it but wide receiver Darnell Mooney had a game. Mooney’s quickly establishing a reputation as a big-play threat in the Bears offense. With five receptions for 121 receiving yards, averaging 24.2 yards per reception, the second-year wide receiver made his presence felt all afternoon, especially on a 60-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andy Dalton.

5) This was what you could consider the Marquise Goodwin breakout game. Goodwin added to the Bears’ explosiveness on offense, with four receptions for 104 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown pass to give the Bears the lead late in the fourth quarter. This game needs to serve as an example of how the Bears can continue to utilize Goodwin moving forward.

6) The Bears struggled to execute consistently but another issue is playing good situational football. Matt Nagy needs to understand the Bears aren’t getting the job done right now and much of it is due to coaches being able to react in situations. An example of this is when the Bears burned a timeout with 1:41 left to go in the fourth quarter after failing to convert a two-point conversion.

7) The Bears also struggled to get off the field on third down in this game. Baltimore was 7-for-16 on Sunday afternoon, with the game’s biggest play coming on a 3rd-and-12 where Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley hit wide receiver Sammy Watkins for a 29-yard gain with just 0:33 left in the fourth quarter. The Bears defense has struggled to consistently get off the field on third down this season and it’s only going to get harder over the final seven weeks of the season with Mack being out.

8) Speaking of giving up a big gain on 3rd-and-12, guess what? The Bears’ secondary isn’t very good without Eddie Jackson but Jaylon Johnson had a nice showing. Second-year CB Kindle Vildor got rocked all afternoon while Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson were beaten as a result of miscommunication. The entire unit needs an overhaul in 2021 with just Jackson and Johnson guaranteed to start.

9) What does this loss mean for the Bears? Well, Chicago’s final seven games are against NFC North opponents. But understand the Bears were on the outside looking playoff-wise heading into week 11. This latest loss digs the Bears even deeper into a hole that’s getting harder to get out of.

10) For the rest of the season, nothing matters for the Bears except seeing what sticks on the wall for 2022 and beyond. Essentially, for the Bears, 2022 has already started despite 2021 not being over yet. The Bears’ future is already on the roster in Fields but the front office needs to figure out who’s staying in 2022 in an effort to build around Fields. That means taking a hard look at players and more importantly coaches.

Chicago Bears: Wednesday injury report a major concern

On Wednesday afternoon, the Chicago Bears released their first injury report in nearly two weeks ahead of Sunday’s home matchup against the Baltimore Ravens. For a team that’s currently in the middle of a four-game losing streak, the Bears’ first injury report of the week wasn’t encouraging, with key starters on both offense and defense being injured.

Heading into a crucial matchup against the Ravens, the following Bears starters are injured: Akiem Hicks (ankle), Khalil Mack (foot), Eddie Jackson (hamstring), Allen Robinson (hamstring), Danny Trevathan (knee), Darnell Mooney (foot), and Alec Ogletree (ankle).

Of the names listed above, only Mooney and Ogletree were limited in practice on Wednesday, while the rest of the names were listed as did not practice. Looking at Hicks, Mack, and Jackson, the Bears’ defense would be short-handed on all three levels. Mack provides a stable presence as a pass rusher and tone-setter, while Jackson has covered up many holes in the Bears secondary throughout 2021.

The injuries to Mooney and Robinson are concerning for the development of rookie quarterback Justin Fields. While the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft has continued to develop chemistry with both wide receivers, Mooney’s connection with Fields is more important. As Fields continues to develop, Mooney is currently the only WR slated to be on the roster in 2022, with Robinson set to hit free agency in the upcoming offseason.

Other injuries to monitor include running back Damien Williams (knee), tight end J.P. Holtz (concussion), and kicker Cairo Santos (elbow). While Williams, was limited in practice on Wednesday, Holtz and Santos were full participants. This means it’s more than likely both Santos and Holtz will be ready to go in Sunday’s contest against the Ravens. Chicago could merely be precautionary and choose not to have Williams dress, especially with the emergence of rookie running back Khalil Herbert, who has burst onto the scene in 2021.

The Bears will release two final injury reports on Thursday and Friday ahead of Sunday morning when the inactives list will be announced just over an hour before kickoff.

Assessing the Chicago Bears at the trade deadline

Ryan Pace, bears

As soon as 3:00 pm CST hit on Tuesday afternoon, the 2021 NFL trade deadline has officially with the Chicago Bears opting to make no moves, further cementing the front office’s belief that the 2021 roster is good enough to compete for a playoff spot. To note, Bears general manager Ryan Pace has made just one trade in his seven-year tenrue

The annual winner or loser mantra is back when it comes to the NFL trade deadline. Ultimately, with the Bears opting not to sell, the question needs to be asked: Are the Bears losers at the trade deadline?

For a team that’s struggled through the first eight games of the 2021 regular season, key players on the Bears roster such as wide receiver Allen Robinson and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks were the subject of trade rumors, as was running back David Montgomery, who has been on injured reserve due to a sprained knee.

How one views the Bears moving forward by making no moves is certainly a point of contention. One viewpoint is Pace is confident in the Bears roster and ready to continue compete in 2021. The other viewpoint is the Bears didn’t sell because the market was dry but Chicago wants to keep the roster intact for Justin Fields development.

The 11th overall pick certainly needs as much talent on the roster to continue being successful but the Bears also needs to understand selling assets in 2021 could’ve been key for the Bears to build around Fields in 2022 and beyond.

Robinson and Hicks could’ve been shipped off for mid-round picks, which would’ve beefed up Chicago’s limited trove of day two and three draft picks. With no first or fourth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Bears will once again be tasked with making the most of limited draft capital.

The Bears unwillingness to ship off players with expiring contracts shouldn’t go unnoticed. For now, Pace continues to hope every domino will fall in the right direction and the Bears sneak into the playoffs. However, if not, Pace will need to dig the Bears out a hole that was created by the much-lambasted general manager.

Chicago Bears: Holes apparent in week eight loss

Trevis Gipson, bears

In what was deemed a very winnable game for the Chicago Bears in week eight at home, the Bears struggled, failing to put together a complete game in all three phases. Chicago averaged 4.8 yards per play, with rookie quarterback Justin Fields rushing for a 22-yard touchdown on fourth-and-one to give the Bears some life.

The Bears season isn’t necessarily over but Chicago has now lost three straight games to NFC opponents. Since week six, losses to the Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and now San Francisco 49ers have put the three win Bears on the outside looking in, in the context of a playoff spot.

Sunday afternoon was an eye-opening moment for the Bears as a whole. Through the first seven games of the season, the assumption was that Chicago featured a solid defense while the offense would struggle. Sunday afternoon proved to be different.

The 49ers gashed the Bears’ defense throughout the second half, with multiple throws down the middle of the field late in the fourth quarter. Chicago simply wasn’t playing with enough speed on the defensive side of the ball to warrant slowing down the 49ers’ offense. The Bears pass rush failed to generate any sacks, even with Khalil Mack out

Mack’s absence leads to an important question regarding Akiem Hicks and Robert Quinn, both of whom failed to record a sack on Sunday. How much of Hicks and Quinn’s success in 2021 is the result of Mack’s presence? Mack may not always pad the stat sheet but his impact was felt on Sunday afternoon.

The Bears offense did show signs of life but there wasn’t enough. It’s clear that the Bears aren’t a very good team around Fields, with the inability to execute prevalent from the wide receiver, tight end, and offensive line.

The Bears have a long way to go before being relevant again. Fields provides hope for the future but Chicago’s holes were visible on Sunday afternoon for a team that has struggled mightily in 2021.

Chicago Bears: Will short-handed defense rebound in week eight?

Trevis Gipson, bears

With the Chicago Bears returning home in week eight to take on the San Francisco 49ers, there is a high likelihood that Chicago is without pass rushers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn. Add in a groin injury for defensive lineman Akiem Hicks and Chicago’s defense could be missing three integral pieces from its front seven.

If Hicks, Mack, and Quinn don’t suit up for the Bears, Chicago will need to rely on depth to beat San Francisco, who is averaging 22.5 points per game, good for 19th in the NFL. While the Bears defense allowed just three points in the second half of week 7 in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, another noteworthy stat from week 7 is that Chicago also failed to record a sack for the first time all season.

The Bears are hoping to redeem themselves in a big way on Sunday afternoon. A win against the 49ers on the heels of a solid defensive performance before what is expected to be a tough road matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers would be a confidence booster heading into the bye week.

“You know, that’s part of this NFL, is, it’s a long season and that was week seven and obviously the result wasn’t what we wanted from a team perspective and certainly from a defensive perspective,” said defensive coordinator Sean Desai via the Bears official YouTube channel. “But having said that, there’s also some things that we can build off of, off that tape. And there’s some things of swarm and particularly in the second half where the guys play with tremendous energy and good technique and fundamentals that we’re going to continue to build on.”

Chicago will need to get creative when it comes to putting together a good enough game plan. Can cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor forget a shaky performance where both defensive backs allowed a combined four passing touchdowns while the front seven gets back to sacking quarterback? A win could certainly alter the trajectory of the Bears season.

Takeaways from Chicago Bears training camp: Friday August 6th

Friday morning saw the Chicago Bears kickoff the first of what will be three practices wearing pads heading into the weekend. After another day at training camp, here are some quick observations heading into the weekend:

  • If I had to pick a winner today, it’d be the defense. Friday marks the first of three padded practices for the Bears going into the weekend and the defense was clearly more fired up compared to the offense. Defensive coordinator Sean Desai has added some life to a defense that many seemed to be writing off throughout the offseason. 
  • Also, it’s getting harder and harder to evaluate where the Bears’ OL is really at compared to the Bears’ defense, especially with the injury bug stinging the OL. Offensive tackles Larry Borom and Lachavious Simmons are being evaluated for concussions, per multiple reports. The hope is that Teven Jenkins recovers fast enough with the Miami Dolphins coming to town for joint practices and a preseason game very soon. 
  • Former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was present in the building. Early on, there was some speculation that the Bears hired him in a consultant role, especially after the Eagles fired him at the start of the offseason. Pederson was on the practice field talking to Dalton and Foles, but Pederson was just visiting his old friend Nagy. 
  • Does anyone else find it completely odd that QB Nick Foles said on Tuesday that he’s a better version of himself compared to years past and yet Foles had multiple interceptions in practice today? Seriously, that’s got to be a bad look for Foles, who didn’t exactly dice up the third-string defense today. 
  • The pads were on today and the intensity was on another level. Akiem Hicks was clearly having lots of fun out there.
  • Won’t lie, CB Kindle Vildor had himself a strong day and continues to make a push for the starting CB2 job opposite Jaylon Johnson.
  • Both quarterbacks had really strong days today. Dalton will continue to be QB1 until the coaching staff decides to make a switch but Fields’ progress cannot be overlooked as there was noticeable improvement today.
  • This running back room, even with Tarik Cohen out continues to impress. Damien Williams and Khalil Herbert made some plays in practice today, making RB one of the best positions on the team throughout training camp.
  • Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin had another strong practice. He could be WR3 in this offense pretty soon.

 

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The Chicago Bears defense is feeling rejuvenated going into 2021

After attending my first official Chicago Bears training camp practice this offseason, one major takeaway regarding the Bears defense is the whole unit feeling rejuvenated heading into 2021. Watching from the sidelines at Halas Hall, energy was apparent for a unit that has regressed over the last two seasons.

Chicago knows that heading into 2021, the defense will once again need to perform at a high level as the Bears offense develops an identity. When general manager Ryan Pace called the Bears defense “the strength of our roster”, he was referring to marquee players such as Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson, Roquan Smith, and Akiem Hicks.

As the Bears prepare for the 2021 regular season, first-year defensive coordinator Sean Desai has earned praise from players like Mack and Smith, generating excitement about how good the Bears can be in 2021.

“He has some of those same qualities like Vic (Fangio),” Mack said via the Bears official YouTube page. “Like just understanding the players’ strengths and understanding how the simpler, the better.”

As the Bears continue to prepare for the 2021 regular season, the goal isn’t just to play at a high level each week but to best the unit in the NFL, especially considering much of the same core was on the roster in 2018, when Chicago led the NFL in nearly every defensive category.

“What you can control is what you can control,” Mack said. “But what you bring to the table, we gotta bring it all to the table and be what we know we can be. And that’s a great defense. Of course we’re not satisfied with the result last year, so it’s work to be done.”

Through three days of training camp, it’s become clear that the Bears defense is set to have a big turnaround in 2021, one that will start due to Desai’s ability to connect with players while putting players in a position to succeed.

31 questions to Bears camp: Will Desai maximize defensive talent?

The Chicago Bears opted to promote from within this offseason at the defensive coordinator position, giving Sean Desai the reigns. Desai, who’s been with the Bears organization since 2013 will now be tasked with getting Chicago’s defense back to the top, after two years of statistical regression.

In many ways, one could argue that Chicago’s defense is at a crossroads heading into 2021. Core players like Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, and Danny Trevathan are getting older, while younger players like Jaylon Johnson and Roquan Smith continue to emerge, giving Chicago hope for the future.

Desai has been praised by players this offseason, being labeled as a bright, young mind, who’s going to allow playmakers to flourish.

“I think Sean is one of the brighter young minds in the game so to have him as my defensive coordinator, I definitely understand what he can bring to the table,” Safety Tashaun Gipson said via the Bears official YouTube channel. “And with the talent he got on defense, it’s going to be a beautiful thing to see.”

Desai has made it clear he’s got a major vision for Chicago’s defense, one that will emphasize physicality, toughness, strength, and playing fast, elements that are essential for top NFL defenses to possess. Talents like Mack, Hicks, and Smith should be given additional opportunities to make plays, putting the Bears offense in a position to succeed.

“The good thing about our teaching philosophies is that we try and make sure guys know multiple spots,” Desai said via the Bears official Youtube page. “That helps us on gameday with the depth and that’s been a philosophy of mine and our defensive staff since the beginning.”

As Chicago continues to prepare for the 2021 season, a major defensive revival seems to be in the cards for Chicago’s defense, especially because a young, innovative mind like Desai has taken the reigns of a defense that many believe can still play at a high level, despite multiple starters above the age of 30.

31 questions to Bears camp: Is lack of DL depth a concern?

When the Chicago Bears report to training camp later this month, defensive line is a position that will look vastly different. A positional group that’s been led by names like Akiem Hicks over the last few years lost DL coach Jay Rodgers this offseason. Veterans Mario Edwards Jr. and Bilal Nichols will also return, despite the future of Eddie Goldman being uncertain.

Rodgers departure alone is a cause for concern, as he oversaw the development of names like Roy Robertson-Harris and Brent Urban, two names that overperformed throughout their tenure with the Bears. Both Robertson-Harris and Urban departed via free agency this offseason.

Depth for the Bears on the defensive line currently includes Angelo Blackson, Sam Kamara, LaCale London, Mike Pennel, and Khiyris Tonga. Only Blackson and Pennel have appeared in NFL games before, with Kamara, London, and Tonga being rookies or undrafted free agents.

In addition to depth being a concern, age is also another factor not being discussed enough. Nichols may be just 24 years old, however, Hicks, the undisputed leader of the position will be 32 years old in November and is set to be a free agent in 2022.

The importance of a good defensive line is simple: Defensive lineman eat up double teams, freeing up linebackers and edge rushers to make plays, while also giving the secondary more time in coverage. In the Bears context, that means names like Khalil Mack, Roquan Smith, and Eddie Jackson will have additional opportunities to make plays.

It’s possible that Blackson or Tonga emerge rather quickly but Chicago knows that on paper, this group looks a tad bit weaker compared to last year, which could impact the performance of the defense. The lack of depth is still a cause for concern, especially for a group that many viewed as being a major strength on the Bears defense, something that could change very quickly in the early parts of the 2021 season.

Revamped Chicago Bears defensive line will face challenges in 2021

The Chicago Bears defensive line has been as good as any in the NFL over the last few years. Led by Akiem Hicks, the Bears have boasted a unit that’s generated consistent pressure, collapsed pockets, and blown up plays before they even develop. Depth has been a theme for the Bears over the last few years as well. Behind Hicks, the Bears have found solid rotational players like Roy Robertson-Harris, Mario Edwards Jr., and Brent Urban. Solid contributors like Eddie Goldman and Bilal Nichols have emerged as well.

Chicago now heads into 2021 with a new-look defensive line. Hicks will be 32 years old in November and Goldman is set to return but opted out last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nichols logged 16 starts last season, racking up five sacks, 40 tackles, and seven tackles for loss. Mario Edwards Jr. emerged as a pleasant surprise last season with four sacks and six quarterback hits.

Behind Hicks, Goldman, Nichols, and Edwards Jr. are players who have never taken a snap for the Bears. Angelo Blackson was signed in free agency. Thomas Schaffer, LaCale London, Daniel Archibong, and Khyiris Tonga are all undrafted free agents. With the departures of Robertson-Harris and Urban this offseason, Chicago lost depth.

The challenge Chicago faces is getting the most out of a positional group that’s getting older but also has some unknown commodities. Hicks, Goldman, and Nichols will form a formidable trio but when it’s time to step up, what will Blackson, Edwards Jr., London, Archibong, and the rest of the group do?

“My mentality here is just to come in and work and to compete,” Tonga said via the Bears official Youtube channel. “I think we’ve been doing that the past couple of days. Just showing speed, elusiveness, being able to be quick on my feet.”

Depth will be tested throughout the season for the Bears. If a key contributor like Hicks or Goldman goes down, the Bears need to be confident that players like Tonga and Blackson can compensate enough. The Bears are simply hoping that an aging defensive line does just enough to allow the rest of the defense to flourish.